Unfairly or not, I always associate John Lennon’s death with the breakup of my girlfriend the week before. It was Monday, December 1, 1980, and, unlike all of those “grownup” breakups in the movies of that time, this was painful and acrimonious. About the only cinematic aspect of it was the line from near the end of the Woody Allen movie Annie Hall, delivered by Alvy Singer (Allen): “A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark.”
So when the FOLLOWING Monday night came around, it was incumbent upon me to do whatever I could that would be contrary to what I would likely be doing with her. The choice was clear: I needed to watch Monday Night Football. It’s not as though I never watched the game, but it was usually a bit here and there. This time I was going to watch the whole damn thing.
And, if I recall correctly, it was a pretty close game between the Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots, when announcer Howard Cosell said at about 11:15 p.m., “One of the great figures of the entire world, one of the great artists, was shot to death horribly at the Dakota Apartments, 72nd Street and Central Park West in New York City. John Lennon is dead. He was the most important member of the Beatles, and the Beatles, lead by John Lennon, created music that touched the whole of civilization. Not just people in Liverpool, where the group was born, but the people of the world.”
So the first thing I do is call my good friend Karen, who had written, for our sixth-grade newsletter, a fantasy story about winning tickets to a Beatles concert, and who, that very fall, was working for his record company and promoting his and Yoko’s album, Double Fantasy. But her line was busy. I called my ex-girlfriend and told her; she was appreciative of the fact that I told her. I called Karen several times after that, but the line remained busy. I began to listen to my favorite radio station, WQBK-FM, Q104, and listen to the requests pouring in. It was either that night or the next morning that I asked for, oddly, The End by the Doors, and they played the whole 11-minute version.
Eventually reached Karen at about 1:40 a.m. When she heard my voice, she just cried for 10 minutes. We talked the next day, when I went out and bought, at lunchtime, Rock ‘n’ Roll; there wasn’t a copy of Double Fantasy to be had.
And thinking about time period STILL fills me with a surprising amount of sadness.
JEOPARDY! factoid: Calling him a Revolutionary, in 2000 Fidel Castro dedicated a statue of John on the 20th anniversary of his murder.
I was watching LENNONYC this past weekend – it’ll be repeated on my local PBS station tonight – and it was a good portrait of John’s life from 1971 until the end. Much of the info I knew, but a few bits I did not, such as Yoko going back to the studio after John died to listen to his outtakes.
Denise Nesbitt remembers.