Today is John Entwistle’s (the bassist of The Who) birthday. Happy birthday John Entw– IT’S JOHN LENNON’S BIRTHDAY! Happy birthday to you / happy birthday to you / happy birthday dear John / happy birthday to you! I’m currently wearing my John-in-New-York tee, and am listening to John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (digging ‘I Found Out’!).
If John were still here with us today, he would be 74. I wonder what he would be like? I often love to imagine what he would say about the sad, war-torn state of the world at the moment, what he would say about the poppy, auto-tuned “music” released. Would he have written with Paul again? Would he have developed his Double Fantasy style of music? What would he think of the internet? What advice would he have for budding musicians/writers such as myself? I guess we’ll never know… But today is not a day to be sad over the way John was taken from the world — I’ll save that for the 8th of December. Today is a day to celebrate John’s life, and remember his incredible achievements. So instead of writing a long essay on John, and becoming all sad and depressed, I’ll make a list. A list of some of the reasons of why I love the guy so. Of course, not everything will be covered — I think I could fill the entirety of the Harry Potter books with all my reasons! (Not that I’ve read Harry Potter…) If you’ve got any other reasons, or you just want to write about John, feel free to do so in the comments! So here we go:
- First of all, John was nothing short of an amazing lyricist. In fact, ‘amazing’ is an understatement. Only John could write the beautiful lyrics of ‘Across The Universe’, or bare his soul to the world as he did in songs such as ‘Help!’, ‘I’m A Loser’, ‘Nowhere Man’ and ‘Yer Blues’. Only John could write the complete nonsense of ‘I Am The Walrus’. And that’s the thing. Only John could do it.
- But John was not just a genius at lyrics — the actual MUSIC he wrote is utterly incredible, too. Though he stereotypically was the rocker of The Beatles (i.e. ‘Revolution’), many of his songs feature beautifully complex, tender melodies, of which an undereducated Beatles fan would assume were the creation of Paul. Take a listen to ‘Good Night’, ‘Julia’, ‘Norwegian Wood’, ‘In My Life’ (in my opinion, that story about Paul writing the melody of ‘IML’ is rubbish) — a few examples of many. How beautiful are the melodies? And his solo career, too — ‘Love’, ‘Mother’, ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’, ‘Look At Me’. Ditto. To quote John on the melody of ‘Love’: “It’s a beautiful melody and I’m not even known for writing melody.” Too true.
- His voice. John had one of the most amazing voices the music industry will ever see. He could do anything, from a tender, acoustic ballad like his parts in ‘A Day In The Life’ and ‘Dear Prudence’, to raw, emotional rock like ‘Mother’ and ‘Well, Well, Well’. He had an astounding range, too — reaching from a C2 (two Cs below middle C) to a C#6 (two Cs ABOVE middle C). Wow. I can just get to one C above middle C, and I’m a girl.
- Despite what people love to say, John was an amazing guitarist. Rhythm guitarist, in particular. If you, too, play rhythm guitar, you’ll know how damn impossible the rhythm part to ‘All My Loving’ is to play, but then there’s ‘I’m Looking Through You’ and ‘Norwegian Wood’ (don’t ask me how he played that) and ‘Help!’ and ‘A Day In The Life’ and just about every song he fingerpicked.
- And, yeah, he was a pretty minimalistic lead guitarist, but who can forget the opening crunch of ‘Revolution’? The catchy solo of ‘Get Back’? The slide work of ‘For You Blue’? And if he did play the ‘Hey Bulldog’ solo (nobody’s sure whether it’s him or George), that’s really accomplished. And he supposedly did my beloved Zeppelinesque guitar work on ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’!
- Other instruments he could play and/or played on his/The Beatles’ records: mouth organ (harmonica), piano/organ, bass, drums, saxophone, percussion in general… Impressive, huh?
- He was hysterically funny. Everyone knows he was the Witty Beatle, but how many people have seen this in action? Listen to the beginning of the Blackpool Night Out performance of ‘Help!’, or read one of his books. I’ve only flicket through my dual copy of In His Own Write/A Spaniard In The Works, and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard! Imagine what actually reading the book will be like… 🙂
- He was really intelligent. He supposedly had an IQ of ‘well into the 150s’. To give you an idea of how high this is, an IQ of 130+ means you are a part of the 2% of the population who are gifted. 140 or above is near-genius. I don’t know how true what I read was, but I can actually believe it. I love listening to him talk, and the words he uses. I just love the way he used the English language, full stop.
- He wasn’t afraid to speak his mind. Whether it be in the form of a song (‘Woman Is The Nigger Of The World’, ‘Imagine’, ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’) or a statement in an interview (the ‘Bigger Than Jesus’ thing was just John commenting on religion), he said what he thought.
- Although many disagree with his political views, being the leftist I am, I second them wholly. I agree with him over his views on peace and feminism and revolutions. His views in the ’70s, anyway. And before you go around calling ‘Imagine’ hypocritical, I think he was asking us to imagine a world with peace and no religion and no possessions, not asking us to give away absolutely everything we own. My take, anway.
- Although numerous people (I’m looking at you, Albert Goldman and your large cult of followers) seem to think that John was a cruel, heartless bastard, people close to him have said differently. Quoth Paul: “The acerbic side was there but it was only part of him. He was also such a sweet, lovely man – a really sweet guy.”
- John was really good at art. Obviously he was — he went to art school! You’ll remember that I went to see an exhibition of his artwork, and how blown away I was. His drawing really was amazing. Hey, a quick look at one of his books shows that!
- It should probably be said that I do find John insanely handsome. But he was my favourite Beatle before I even had a clue as to what he looked like, so yeah. He was undeniably attractive, IMO, but I discovered that long after he became my favourite Beatle.
- He was the first Beatle to experiment with session musicians, using two flutes on ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’! This makes me happy, ‘cos I play flute.
- He discovered backmasking!
- The bath scene in A Hard Day’s Night. Possibly my favourite scene in the entirety of film history.
- His music inspired some of my other favourite artists, including Tame Impala and The Black Keys.
- He is the Beatle I can relate to most. Probably why I love him so.
So that’s my list. Happy birthday, Johnny! You inspire the world, and are missed by many, but you will live on. Thank you for making the world a better place. I love you. Love tangerinetrees99 🙂
P.S. It’s also Sean Lennon’s birthday today. If you, too, are a psych rock fiend and a fan of artists such as Tame Impala, be sure to check out Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, the duo he has with his partner, Charlotte Muhl. His — and her — stuff is really good! Particularly their new album, Midnight Sun. I think John would be proud!