Strawberry Fields Forever
December 9, 2008 Leave a comment
From this piece on John Lennon. A little shmaltzy but 100 per cent true. I know, rational people don’t get all choked up over asshole millionaire rock stars and baseball players. But I will never forget the shock of hearing the news of Lennon’s death on the radio. Then I saw the bold headlines on the morning paper: LENNON MURDERED, and the accompanying photograph of that now famous scene of the blood soaked ground outside the Dakota. It blew a ten-year old’s mind to read Lennon’s last words to Yoko, through the doorway intercom, “Yoko, I’m shot”.
We had a class trip to Boston that day. Whether it was The Museum of Science, The New England Aquarium, or some old historic building where patriots and Minute Men planned the Revolution, has since faded from my memory. But I remember the bus ride back, sitting in a seat by myself, singing along to all the Beatles and Lennon songs that were playing seemingly non-stop on every radio station.
I sometimes look back on that morning as the end of my childhood, the first time I realized the finality of death. This man had written most of the songs I studied and played over and over on my mother’s scratchy old mono lp’s. I knew trivial details of the sessions where they had composed the White Album, Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sergeant Peppers, Magical Mystery Tour and on and on. I knew all the lore around “I buried Paul/Cranberry Sauce” and the controversy over who could be considered a fifth Beatle: Billy Preston or George Martin. I even vaguely remember the week John hosted the Mike Douglass show with Yoko. It seemed like a joke, but it was real. It happened. They were on all week. And now he was suddenly just gone.
Music hasn’t sucked for the last twenty-eight years. In fact, it seems like all one has to do is poke around the web or look through college buddies’ last.fm lists to find some new, authentic, indy voice, cranking out great music. Most of these groups nowadays are treading along, doing live shows, building their base, hoping to get a snippet of song on the latest iphone ad, or maybe have a tune featured as the wrap-up-loose-plot-ends-rock-video track at the end of some hot one hour television drama. The music is out there, plenty of it mediocre, much of it great. Some of the up and comers recognize their debt to the Beatles, some don’t. But the influence on all music, particularly pop, is undeniable. The world has only been improved for having John Lennon in it even for his brief forty years.
And there was his activism. He came as close to “the real thing” as I’ve seen someone of his immense fame be. I hear “War is over if you want it. War is over now” , and I believe it. I jumped in the car and headed down to New York City and walked the route of the antiwar protests on a freezing cold day in February of 2003 with several hundred thousand others, believing it.
I watched the goings on that day, the ineffective, marginal ex-hipppies, old socialists, anti-imperialists railing on against corrupt governments and fat-cats, but not so much about Iraq or lying Presidents. Just the same old tired, one dimensional rhetoric I’d heard a thousand times before. It just seemed like these speakers were not capturing the spirit of the day, NO WAR!!! NO BLOOD FOR OIL!!!STOP IT NOW, BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!!!
The demonstrations were joined by people from every walk of life; old ladies, couples with kids in strollers, everyday people who did not want a war. Many of those people were herded by the police away from the demonstration site at the end of the march route, so they never even heard the aforementioned uninspiring speeches.
I lost faith in demonstrations that day. I lost faith in people power. It dawned on me standing there in the crowd, that there would indeed be a war. The only thing about the whole day’s events I heard on the radio were reports about inconvenienced commuters, over-crowded public transportation, closed streets, and the millions of dollars of overtime required by the evil unions to pay the police for maintaining order with all those fascists and anarchists running around. How depressing, My bitterness remains.
However, around this time of year, I look forward to hearing those little children singing along with John and Yoko (yes, Yoko too.) :
War is over if you want it. War is over now! Merry Christmas, everybody!
Gets me every time. Makes me think, “What the hell?! Yeah! Right on!” He believed it then, is it somehow less true now?