Thursday, December 08, 2005

John Lennon

25 years ago today John Lennon was assassinated outside his home on Central Park West.

When I was in high school, John Lennon was my first role model. He was judiciously chosen. Jack Nicholson looked a little crazy. George Carlin seemed smarter than me. Batman wasn't real.

But I identified with John Lennon early on. His name was John for one thing. He played guitar so I stopped playing bass. He wore glasses and had a bump in the middle of his nose. And he was clever and sarcastic.

His public image after death was that of the 'proto hippie'. The guy who sang "love is all you need" and "give peace a chance". A skinny guy with stringy hair and a denim jacket. It makes great news copy; the man who lived for peace and love taken down in an act of violence. But that was only one side of John.

I always saw Lennon as a guy who wanted to love humanity but wasn't afraid to kick a little ass now and then. He wasn't above throwing in a thinly veiled threat in a love song (you ever listen to 'Run For Your Life'? It beats Johnny Cash for pure snarling.) Early stories about Lennon showed a young guy you did not want to fuck with. Someone who would throw a knife from a Hamburg stage. Someone who could drink seven Brandy Alexanders and get tossed from a Smothers Brothers show. Someone who would write mean songs about Paul McCartney.

And he was funny as hell. Paul and George were cute with the press but John was downright combative. Listen to a few interviews and you'll hear a definite Groucho Marx influence. Probably the most famous quote was his answer to 'How do you find America?' 'Turn left at Greenland.' If you take 'the Beatles are bigger than Jesus' with the amount of sarcasm John intended, it's a pretty funny line. But my favorite quote was an off the cuff remark he made when a reporter asked if he'd want to give it all up and join the circus. He replied, 'I've already given it all up. I just haven't figured out where to run.'

And he retired at 35. I'd love to retire in two years. I just don't have fifteen multi-platinum albums under my belt.

So if John Lennon was so complex, what does his assassination mean? Absolutely nothing. Just a random act by a madman. Mark David Chapman claimed he was following 'Catcher in the Rye'. I've read 'Catcher in the Rye' and Holden Caulfield never shoots anybody in it. There's no moral here, no meaning. It's just a goddamn shame.

There's a little spot at 72nd St and Central Park devoted to John Lennon called Strawberry Fields. It's right outside the Dakota where he lived and the sidewalk where he died. Every year people gather with acoustic guitars and play Beatle songs, drink hot chocolate or wine and stay up way too late in too cold a weather. Walker and I have made it a tradition over the last 25 years. We'll stop by tonight. I suggest you do too.

UPDATE: Scratch that suggestion. Strawberry Fields is so crowded tonight people were waiting on line to get in. In twenty years I've never seen it like that. I looked for Walker for a half an hour but it's cold out and I'm already sick so I gave up. Good to see people still care, though.


The wife said...

This is really beautiful; it makes me appreciate the non-cute Beatle [of course Ringo is the ugly one].

I do have Lennon cued up on my iPod today, but it would be fun to join the festivities at Strawberry Field...

I still have to agree with George Carlin when he said "The wrong 2 Beatles died first"

Dave said...

There's a part of the documentary "Imagine" where Lennon invites a fan inside for lunch. The guy had been camped out on his front lawn and made everyone nervous, except for Lennon who went out and talked to him. I thought it was the best part of the film, because it showed this simple act of kindness by a larger then life personality. Sure, he was campaigning to end war and blah-blah-blah, but at heart he was trying to do the right thing.

Lennon was all the things that people think he was, good and bad. Wether you loved or hated him, he left behind a musical legacy that will never be accomplsihed by anyone else, ever.

Anonymous said...

dont you have a bump on your nose and wear glasses and are the similairities are chilling.

Walker said...

Me,Chris, and Maguire were there and had a ball, pssst.....that is when cell phones are useful.

Anonymous said...

Always liked John Lennon, however don't totally agree with Carlin's statement.

The two who should've went first would have to be Ringo & Harrison. It's easy to throw Paul under the bus for his later work, but he's getting old.

Always remember - He wrote 50% of the Beatles catalog (and even some of Lennon's "solo" stuff like Give Peace a Chance) with John.

dan x.

Anonymous said...

John Lennon!
The name associated with love and peace; yet who sings:
“Hatred and jealousy going to be the death of me.”
The man who stood for honesty and wisdom; yet who admits:
“Wasn’t I the greatest pop seer? Hadn’t I written, ‘The dream is over’? Was I not the great John Lennon who could see through all the world’s hypocrisy? The truth is I couldn’t see through my own.”
There certainly is something uniquely special about the man; otherwise how would so much of the world admire – or fear – him as a person of consequence:
“I represent the human race.”
The musician who sang for us to “change your head,” to “free your mind,” to “feel your own pain”;
The revolutionary artist who set out to change our culture:
“I'm trying to do something different. I'm trying to change people's minds, to change their attitudes to things.”
For insight into this remarkable duality in his makeup, look no further! For the first time available, a boxed set of Lennon’s edited interviews showcasing his close personal ideas and ideals!
What are we to make of this multi-dimensional man and artist? Of what value besides his music can we expect of him for our self-understanding and self-transcendence? You might want to visit our facebook page for some answers at “Lennon’s Ideas and Ideals”.

Best wishes,