On this day almost exactly 34 years ago (a previous Monday), an utterly horrible thing happened. A horrible, horrible thing. John Lennon was shot dead. I choose not to name his assassin, as he has said that he shot John for the fame that it could bring, and naming him would also be rewarding him. I choose to call him also what Paul calls him; ‘the jerk of all jerks’. I’m currently listening to Imagine, and am wearing my John-wearing-NYC-t-shirt shirt to remember him. (Not that I need any help with that, but anyway.) I’ve been half dreading this post. But here goes.
One of my very first Beatle-y memories is about John. Looking back, I think I may have known about him before I knew about The Beatles. It must have been 2009, which is coincidentally the year that the time machine in Yellow Submarine stops on. I wouldn’t have yet been ten. I remember eating dinner in front of our little box-shaped analogue TV in our dining room, at our tablecloth-covered round table which we no longer own. It must have been this day. I remember an image of the Dakota Building, and someone talking about this person named ‘John Lennon’. I then asked about who he was, and my mum explained to me who he was and how he died. Little did I know about how that man on the TV screen would change my life.
I don’t even remember why John became my favourite Beatle at first. In around June last year (after slowly becoming a vague Beatles convert four months earlier), I read a book called Secrets and Sisterhood, which mentions John on the first page. Secrets and Sisterhood was my favourite book at the time (and still remains one of my favourite books, but the top spot is taken is by Looking For Alibrandi). But I now know that John probably would have become my favourite Beatle, anyway.
In June 2013, I knew under 20 Beatles songs by name. I had no idea of the Lennon-McCartney songwriting partnership. And my knowledge of rock music was fairly rudimentary, as I played classical music. But as I became a bigger Beatles fan (and later, a bigger rock fan), and already being a reader, I also became a better-read Beatles fan. The first Beatle book I bought was a very expensive limited-edition printing of The Beatles’ Illustrated Lyrics, which is actually signed by Alan Aldridge. But I soon started reading actual information on John. And it almost seemed as if I was reading about myself. I realised that there was someone out there, a bit like me. And they just turned out to be John Lennon. I suppose that’s when I kind of confirmed my favourite Beatle.
Of course, over the past year, I have read/listened/watched so much stuff about John (and yes, I still refuse to read The Lives Of John Lennon) that I can quite safely call myself a John Lennon freak. (Not that I would call my love of him and the other Beatles ‘freaky’!) I laugh at his wit and humour; I find myself identifying with all his quotes about teachers and schools not recognising his ‘genius’ (long story). I find myself nodding in agreement at his political-themed songs; tears of laughter stream down my cheeks when I read one of his books (definitely recommended, if you have not done so already). I find myself studying every little thing (pun intended) in his songs (and then I find myself trying to recreate such things with varying amounts of); I wonder what the world would be like today if he were still with us. I thank him for making me think about politics, world issues, just important things, full stop; and yeah, I do find myself looking at pictures in which I find him attractive, but that’s not the point. And the music — well…
There was a study done earlier this year that shows that music can get the listener high. And I can identify with this so much. In August this year, I had an experience that I’ll never forget. I was listening to my Revolver vinyl, and part way through ‘I’m Only Sleeping’, an emotion I’d never felt before washed over me. A feeling of intense love and euphoria for the music. Thank you, John (and Paul, George and Ringo), for that.
John inspires me in so many ways, as well. As mentioned last post, John and George inspired me to pick up guitar. I might have my first (sort-of) gig coming up in January, something which I’m looking forward to very much. John inspired me to start writing songs. And whilst I haven’t written very many (yet), one of my goals this school holidays is to put some more time into that side of writing. John and the other Beatles actually reinvigorated my love of music, full stop. And whilst sometimes there is nothing more I want to do than jam out to Tame Impala, or dance around to The Black Keys, or sway and strum to Arcade Fire, or get that music high mentioned above from The Velvet Underground and Nico (especially ‘Venus In Furs’!), The Beatles will forever remain my favourite band. And that’s just how I like it.
I see no problem in being sad at John’s death. Whilst I was born a considerable amount of time after his death, I love John very much. Unlike George’s death, for which he was ready and whilst very sad was not unexpected, John was shot. In a time where he was arguably the happiest he had ever been. And still far, far, far, far too young to die. It saddens me that someone who wrote a song about giving peace a chance died in such a violent way. John seemed to be looking forward to the rest of the ’80s. He had just launched back into the music world. He was at peace with himself. And yet someone had to take this all away. So close to Christmas, as well. I’ve chosen not to listen to Double Fantasy, as I feel it would be too painful, knowing what happens less than a month later. I was reading someone’s memories of John’s death the other day, and they likened the loss as that of ‘a friend that I never met’. And I suppose that’s what it would have been like. John, to me, is like a friend I’ve never met. (And yes, I know I’m far too old to be having imaginary friends, but forget that.) And — as I said above — though I was not alive at the time of his life (and death), I still have no problem in being sad. Forget the fact that it’s unlikely anybody reading (or writing) this would have known him. And I see no problem in being angry at the person who shot him. Whilst we should probably keep in mind that the person who owned that gun was not right in the head, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be angry that he shot John. It’s rather sad that he wasn’t treated, actually. But I’m still angry. And sad. But despite that, here are a few John moments:
Some say Paul wrote the intro to ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, but they are wrong! Watch this scene from The Beatles’ US Visit — John seems to playing around with the opening to the masterpiece as early as February 1964. The instrument he is playing is called a melodica. It’s a pity that there wasn’t more footage of John messing around with the melodica, but I s’pose the filmmakers didn’t know where that sequence would appear three years later.
Hee hee! I love this scene. I mean, John Lennon in a bath playing with a toy boat. Need I say more? Will cheer you up… (And yes, I will stop fangirling.)
I’m probably being slightly controversial putting this up here, but I want to. In this clip, John defends his song ‘Woman Is the Nigger Of The World’. Being the feminist/leftist that I am, I already agree with the song, but what John says is too interesting to ignore. Still relevant today.
And of course this had to be here. I love the music video, I love the song. Some love to hate Yoko, but she inspired John. Without her, this (and the above — thank you, Yoko, for inventing that statement) wouldn’t exist.
I could write more than a few books on John and how I love him and how he has changed my life. But I won’t. I will conclude this massive post here. So, John, thank you. Thank you for making me a better person. Thank you for the music. Thank you for you. I can’t convey in words how much you have changed and influenced my life, but I have certainly tried today. We will never forget you. Love tangerinetrees