by RIP RENSE
(Dec. 8, 2010)
want to write, think, or hear about John Lennon’s murder
any more. This will be the last time I ever write anything about
it, and I’m none too enthused, either.
I feel like a pallbearer
at a 30-year funeral. My shoulders are paralyzed.
I think it’s time to stop
dwelling on Lennon’s death every year at this time. Of course,
what I think is of no consequence, and trying to stop millions
from thinking of Lennon, or mournful fans from gathering and
wretchedly singing "All You Need is Love" off-key, or the media
from profiting from the anniversary, is like trying to make cats
wag their tails.
But for starters, I don’t want to know
any more about the self-pitying glob of tissue that fiendishly
blew Lennon up with explosive bullets, and that seems to today
live a happy, well-fed life in solitary confinement. I would
gladly be the one to throw the switch, administer the injection,
do whatever it takes to turn the glob into lifeless tissue. What
right does that thing have to keep living, eating, laughing?
Insanity is no defense for the behavior of elected officials, TV
stars, presidents, terrorists, bankers, so why should it be any
defense for that thing?
Shocked, are you? Why
would I say such a thing? Rage? Anger? How inappropriate and
hypocritical on Lennon’s death anniversary?
First, I believe in
the death penalty. Second, I think some lives are
more important than others. (Disagree? Ask yourself how much
better the world would be had Hitler been stillborn.) You see,
the glob did not “just” kill “Beatle John,” or a “great artist”
or “social activist” or (yawn) "voice of a generation.” It
did not "just" kill a good man who had as much right to pursue
happiness as any other good man. It killed an
immeasurable amount of joy and expectation and
inspiration on the part of countless sorry souls like me who
grew up being made happy, expectant, inspired by Lennon, and The
Beatles. No, it’s not “Beatle John” I miss. It’s not the man, as
I didn’t know him. It’s the public figure who gave a damn enough
to try and express heartening, good things that lifted people
up. Heartening good things, very often, that also made for
original and affecting music.
(Note to all you Fox News
types: please spare me the “Lennon was a hypocrite” stuff. Yes,
of course he was. Of course there was hypocrisy, complexity,
contradiction. Drool. Comes with the human territory. Yours,
too, and mine.)
If you think I am being
indulgent here, or sentimental, or exaggerating, do a little
research into the documented fact that Beatles music (group and
solo) was a major factor, if not the overriding factor, in
breaking up the Soviet Union. (Not that the replacement is so
hot.) And let it be remembered that from happiness and
expectation and inspiration come all the glorious wonders that
make the human condition better.
So the glob of tissue,
or whatever factors that caused it to go mad, did enormous
damage to the spirit of humanity, let alone prevented the
creation of who knows how much more art and music and wonders.
Let alone denied a good man his life, his wife her husband, their son
a father. Assassinate politicians? An international tradition.
Cheerleaders for human cooperation? It should carry an automatic death sentence.
|I’ve had countless dreams through the years
that he is still alive, that he has been hiding away, rehabilitating
his arm and overcoming brain and nerve damage, and is okay again.
don’t want to get into some failed eloquence here about who and
what Lennon was, as so many writers and poseurs do every
year. You’ve heard and read all the endless characterizations
until they have become wilted clichés. “House husband.” “Voice
of a generation.” Blah blah. Look, the guy spoke his
mind. It was his nature, long before he became ridiculously
famous. He sought (and sang) truth about himself and the world,
however clumsily and Quixotically and recklessly. But it should
be remembered, also, that he was never far from a barb, a goofy
face, a wry aside, a retort (still love hearing him call that
creep, Al Capp, “Barrabas,” at the “bed-in”), a slogan, a
chorus, a cigarette, wicked insight, capriciousness, compassion,
and Yoko (except for the so-called “lost weekend,” and even then
she phoned him obsessively.) He wrote transporting songs, and
his songwriting skills, if demos in circulation are an
indication, were entering new sophistication when he
Beyond that, I don’t want
to try to describe or rehash who he was or why he was important.
If you’re too young to understand, read about it elsewhere and
make up your own mind. If you’re my age or older and still don’t
understand, go away.
And I'll tell you,
I’ve sure as hell had enough of reading all the maudlin “I
remember where I was” fan articles every Dec. 8, and I’ve had enough
of blunderbuss documentaries on CNN with oh-so-serious,
full-throated narrators and lurid tabloid titles such
as “Losing Lennon: Countdown to Murder.” Yes, I understand the
media make a hell of a lot of money by profiting from tragedy,
but the lure has driven so-called editors to necrophilia. How
many years will we have to keep hearing about Anna Nicole Smith
and Elvis and Marilyn and Michael?
I just don’t want to
re-live what happened “that night” any more. I don’t want to
think about the people who encountered the glob earlier that
day, outside the Dakota, thought it was behaving suspiciously,
yet did not call the goddamned cops. I don’t want to think about
how after giving the glob an autograph, Lennon gave a companion
a weird look because the glob had not spoken at all. Just
silently collected the autograph. I don’t want to think about
how John and Yoko became far too lax and complacent about moving
around in public in New York City, perhaps figuring the
intimidation of celebrity was enough to keep people respectful.
I don’t want to think about the albums that will never be, the
tour that never was, the interviews that never will be, the
Beatles reunion that never was, the father-son(s) concerts that
didn’t happen, the inspiration and laughter and consolation and
amusement and optimism and trenchant observation that would come
I don’t want to
think about the night that I drove home from the Los Angeles
Herald-Examiner, and for some reason found myself listening over
and over and over to two songs in the car, Lennon’s “No Reply,”
and “I’m a Loser.” I’d never done such a thing before. I was
sort of transfixed by them. Perfect in their way. Earnest,
plaintive, confessional, angry, dejected, beautifully sung and
harmonized, electric. Those live-wire Beatle voices. All the way
home on the 5 and then the 134 into the Valley, I listened to
those songs over and over. Loud. I
sang along. Exactly as I listened, Lennon was being gunned down while
stopping off to say goodnight to his boy. No reply. I’m a loser.
I don’t want to remember
how I got home, happy to relax after a routinely brutal day, and
the phone rang with my old friend, Kallberg, in Philadelphia,
saying only this:
“Hear about Lennon?”
I figured he was going on
tour or something.
“Whaaaaaaat? Is he. . .”
I hung up. I went
through a lot of shit that night, and for weeks and months
afterward, as countless millions have. I first spent some time
trying to put my fist through my front door, eventually with the
aid of a lot of alcohol. The next morning, I somehow drove to
work on about an hour’s “sleep,” just absolutely stupefied,
incredulously noting pictures of Lennon in car windows. It felt
like a different, strange world, because it was. What kind of a
world would it be without somebody who could write and sing
“Imagine,” “Strawberry Fields?” “I Am The Walrus?” What kind of
world would it be without the possibility of the Beatles
recording again? Without uniquely delicious impishness,
truth-telling, irreverence, craziness, courage, naivete, wisdom,
inimitable melody and lyric?
An editor asked me to
write a “tribute” for a special section. Might as well have
asked me to breathe grape juice.
Write? Write what? I
couldn’t even think. The rats that normally ran on the wheels in
my brain had quit, and the wheels would not turn. I typed, of
course. You do that. You get a deadline, and you type. I had
little idea what to say, or what I was trying to say, or how
to say it, or what I said. I faked it. It turned out really bad,
a circumstance that was not helped when I searchingly asked a
respected colleague what she thought of it and she said,
imperiously, “Very poor.” That same idiot later looked at my
black tie and said, mockingly, “Are you ‘sad’ today?”
A lovely day, that.
I don’t want to think
or write about these things anymore, every year, at this
time. It is too painful. Consider: Two weeks ago, I had a dream that
Lennon was killed again. That somehow, he hadn’t been killed
dead enough the first time, and some other glob had killed him a
second time. I woke up sick to my stomach. I’ve had countless
dreams through the years that he is still alive, that he has
been hiding away, rehabilitating his arm and overcoming brain
and nerve damage, and is okay again. Really. I’ve dreamed new
Beatles songs. And I am far from alone in these experiences.
And that’s what happens,
really. Every year Lennon gets killed all over again, and the
mourning breaks out all over again. I can’t take it. I
understand and applaud the efforts to keep the spirit present,
but not around Dec. 8. I think that everyone should just stay
quiet and go on a sort of Lennon fast.
This year, as dithering
media idiots again secure the fame (infamy) of the glob,
and exploit pain for profit, I am hit with the poignant sight of giant
billboards all over L.A.. Billboards with one of the greatest
photos of The Beatles, from one of the last photo sessions, when
they somehow looked older and wiser then they ever would look
again (and maybe they were.) “The Beatles on iTunes,” proclaim
the billboards, and I think, no, The Beatles’ music on
iTunes. Two of the Beatles are gone, and these are just the same
old songs. “Across the Universe” has no new verses, “Hey Jude”
no guitar solo. The only real significance of the iTunes
acquisition is that it will make a whole lot of money for people
who already have a whole lot of money. Not exactly something The
Beatles stood for.
And of course,
dutifully put together yet another Lennon boxed
set with. . .the same old solo songs, except for three or four
demos that had not been previously released (why she doesn't
convene old Lennon cronies to “finish” them, I’ll never
understand.) It's remastered, yes, but it’s still rearranged
That’s what I take away
every year from the anniversary. There is nothing new, and there
will be nothing new. No more new statements, new songs, new
winks, new asides, new interviews, new pranks, new poems, new
books, new compassion, new sincerity, new absurdity, badly
needed new inspiration. Just the same old stuff, recycled, souped-up.
Rearranged furniture. In a ritual of broken hearts and corporate
Of course, I’ve now done
exactly what I did not want to do. I’ve remembered it all over again.
But it’s the last time.
I’ll take my Lennon
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