Thursday, December 08, 2005

Unhappy 25th

25 years ago tonight, I was visiting my Dad's office. He worked at Job Control at the Air Force Base, and when there was nothing happening on the flight line for him to monitor, his night shifts would be long and boring. Mom would bake something, Hollie and I would grab some toys to play with in the other office, and we'd go hang out for a while with Dad before going home to go to bed. The Dolphins & Patriots were on Monday Night Football. I was ten years old, but I had already been a football fan for a few years by this point. And even though I could take or leave the two teams I had a deep appreciation of seeing any game with Dad. More the better in his office, which was always dark, mysterious, and just flat-out cool to be in.

And then Howard interrupted his play-by-play with these exact words:

"In case the folks missed the earlier news flash, ABC News has confirmed that John Lennon, a member of the famed Beatles, maybe the best-known member, was shot twice in the back outside of his apartment building in the west side of New York tonight...rushed to the Roosevelt unspeakable tragedy, details on NightLine, 30 minutes after the end of this contest."

For a couple years before this night, Hollie and I had been given older stereos for our bedrooms, including turntables. We then proceeded to raid the massive collection of 45s our parents had accumulated over the years. Hollie snared a ton of Beach Boys 45s, and I steered mostly in the direction of those Orange and Yellow-labelled Beatles 45s from Capitol Records (the same label most of the Beach Boys stuff had).

By December 8th of 1980, I was very much aware who John Lennon was. Hearing about his death was quite a blow, and as I got older, I dove headlong into his work. Discovered that for all his genius, he had some serious miscues (the Lost Weekend stuff, the way he handled Cynthia and Julian, the Rock & Roll album, Yoko's hypnotic hold, etc...) but that under everything...he was a man of peace. When he wrote about peace and love and came from where he was and who he was. Not from a need to have a bigger house and fancy jewelry. When he stepped away from it all to "stay home and bake bread" and raise his second son, it was also important time for him to get the Dad thing right and recharge his own batteries. The proof of that is in the Double Fantasy album.

Over the years, I have become more of a Paul fan in terms of writing, but I've always loved the work John did, and drew influence from it in my own meager attempts at writing music years ago. He wasn't everyone's cuppa tea, and his antics (the bed-in, the Two Virgins cover, etc...) caused people to tire of him. When my infant son (who turns ten tomorrow) couldn't sleep as a baby, there were two songs that would usually lull him right out. And one of them was Beautiful Boy by John Lennon. Now, he sings it back to me.

A quarter of a century ago, we lost more than a singer, guitarist, or songwriter. We lost a caring, talented artist with a damn fine soul. And I think we need all of those we can get.

All you need is love.


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