Thursday, December 08, 2005
How could it be that 25 years have passed since John Lennon was killed?
It's hard to believe such much time has slipped away, and even harder to believe this terrible thing happened in the first place.
The newspapers, TV shows and God knows how many web sites are filled with Lennon memorials and I've decided I'm going to join the chorus.
John Lennon's Imagine was the first album I ever bought in my life. I was at a record store in the King's Plaza shopping center and the album was playing over the sound system. I pretended to look for records (remember those?) while listening to track after track.
When I finally decided that this album was worth the investment, I dug into my pocket, paid something like five bucks and walked out with my very own record. The album came with a poster of John Lennon playing a piano outdoors--was it the Central Park bandshell?
Honestly, I don't remember and I have no idea what happened to that poster. I do remember my freshman high school English teacher had taped it up in his class, which was pretty cool.
I think my favorite cut was "Jealous Guy" a slow, somber apology where Lennon just hung his imperfections out for the world to see.
Like a lot things in my life, I didn't appreciate John Lennon until he was gone. I remember sitting in my living room and switching on the 11 o'clock news. The reporter was interviewing a couple who had witnessed something, but this was before the Internet so I had no idea what they were talking about.
"I saw them carry him into the ambulance," the man was saying. "There was blood coming out of his mouth..."
When I found out it was John Lennon, I was in shock. Who would want to shoot him? He just put out a record and was giving interviews, where he sounded like he was actually happy for the first time in his life.
The next morning the whole wave of emotion came out the radio and TV. In the days that followed I couldn't think about much else.
People were actually killing themselves over Lennon's death and I remember a Daily News headline that read "Yoko Pleads: Stop the Suicides!" My God, what a bizarre time. People felt like they had been cut adrift and some of them couldn't handle it.
I think the worst thing was the way in which it had happened. This was a murder, an assassination, really. If John Lennon had keeled over from a heart attack or had died in a car crash, I would have had a little easier time with it.
But for some misbegotten freak to fly halfway around the globe and gun him down like an animal, that just destroyed me. It was obscene, the way he died, and a quarter century's passing hasn't reduced that pain.
Yeah, I grew up with the Beatles, like millions of other people. I remember seeing them on the Ed Sullivan Show, I remember my dad (I think it was him...) bringing home a 45 of "She Loves You" and me and my siblings hopped all around the livingroom to this wild new music.
I remember seeing "Help!" in the Loew's Alpine around the corner from my house. That was back when the Alpine was a single theater, before they split it into four little shoeboxes, and now they're closing the thing down all together. Nothing is permanent, no matter how much we want it to be.
The world has changed so much since that night in December and not for the better. I know I'm sounding like a geezer mooning over the good old days, but back then we were never worried about people crashing airplanes into buildings.
Yes, the cold war was still on, but I tell you, I never worried much about being nuked, because I figured, maybe naively, there were enough normal people on both sides of the equation to keep us from destroying the planet.That's all gone now. Whatever passes for "normal" has been erased and it seems the more extreme behavior the higher you go in this depraved new world.
Mike Malloy's show is coming on now and he's starting off with "Imagine." It actually hurts to hear that fabulous voice and recall how it was so brutally silenced.
We're going to have to keep on imagining, imagining all the people living life in peace, and the brotherhood of man and no hell below us. We've got a long way to go.