The Death of John Lennon
I have always loved music. My dad had a great stereo system and tons of vinyl. I remember listening to a lot of bands, seeing the Moody Blues in concert, and eventually discovering the Beatles.
Something about the Beatles always intrigued me. I couldn’t put my finger on it then and don’t know if I can now. I just know that I listened to a LOT of Beatles. I remember at one point comparing everything else I heard to the Beatles, and my Dad saying: “Stop thinking Beatles.” But I didn’t want to.
I heard about the mystery surrounding the Paul is Dead rumors, and that if you played songs backwards you would hear things. I already knew about playing things backwards and hearing things from playing with my American Printing House for the Blind four-track tape recorder, the big metal one, people blind since the eighties will know exactly the machine I mean. I worried that people would consider it “devil music,” and thought that I had to take care, so clandestinely recorded Magical Mystery Tour onto a cassette for further experimentation. This just made me even more curious about the Beatles.
I have always loved the song Revolution Number Nine. I remember recording the White Album onto cassette some time later. I guess I didn’t worry about people finding out, or perhaps I figured I’d just do it with Mom there so nobody else would know. Anyways, I left to go do something, and the record got stuck in a groove during the song. The needle kept skipping back over a short segment in the already surreal collage, probably driving my Mom crazy. When I came back, she had stopped the recording. I eventually got it on a crappy tape and thought I had obtained a precious jewel. That song sounds novel even now.
A year or two later, I discovered that a lot of people must like the Beatles, because two radio stations had weekend shows dedicated to them. One, Ticket to Ride, played Beatles music for hours. The other, the Beatles: the Days in their Lives, chronicled their entire career through their music and interviews. This got my attention and I listened faithfully, now completely drawn in, and finally getting some context. This probably happened around age nine.
I felt sad when the Beatles broke up, but the series continued chronicling each of the members’ solo careers. I figured out that John Lennon didn’t like violence and wanted peace. After all, he sang that song, Give Peace a Chance. That made sense to my young mind. I didn’t think the story would ever end, you don’t think about that when young, but it did. The series ended with John Lennon’s assassination.
I remember feeling stunned. I couldn’t understand how someone who loved peace could get killed in a violent act. Even then I understood the gross contradiction. I felt sad the whole day. Not only did John Lennon get murdered, but a favorite radio series which had run for months had come to an end. I think a part of my childhood did as well. I called my friend Tony to tell him the horrible news about John Lennon. “He must have been a good man.” he replied.
It probably seemed cute to some that a kid would feel so profoundly moved upon hearing of the death of John Lennon, but it didn’t feel cute to me, and on the thirtieth anniversary of his death I can still recall that day for me very clearly. Of course I don’t remember the actual day, that would have made me around three, but I know others do. I can’t even imagine.
We would probably have a lot more to talk about had Lennon survived. He would have certainly had something to say about the Wikileaks controversy. Power to the people! I also wonder what he would have thought about digital music. Would he have clung to an outdated model, or would he have embraced this new model? Would he have cared that someone can download a ten album discography of his in a half an hour? What creative ways would he have thought of to use the Internet? Would he have left America and gone back to England by now, fearing the increasing police state? What would he have done in response to the wars going on now? How would he have affected our collective spirit? We will never know. We only know that he continues to move us thirty years later. People will know the name John Lennon for hundreds of years, unless of course we undergo a massive solar catastrophe and lose all our records of this age. I wonder what he would think about that. Turn me on, dead man!