If it was 30 years ago, why do I remember it so well?

“The Beatles, lead by John Lennon, created music that touched the whole of civilization.”

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.”

Here’s a snippet of the broadcast after that point.

So 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 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 perod 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.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. i hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

7 thoughts on “If it was 30 years ago, why do I remember it so well?”

  1. It just doesn’t seem like 30 years ago. I grew up with Beatles (figuratively, not literally) miming to their songs in a show at Church when I was about eleven. I had moved on to other music by 1980 and thought that Lennon had become rather self-indulgent by then, but who knows what he might have written had he lived. Certainly not the Frog Song as McCartney did!

  2. SP- John was certainly self-indulgent in 1973-74, but by 1980, he seemed to have it all together, working on a balance of family and work. There would have been a tour in 1981 and I’m sure Sean would be coming along.

  3. This is a great story Roger. & I agree about him having it all together by 1980. Though I loved The Beatles songs, I wasn’t a real fan until just a few years ago & I believe your point is well documented.
    The world did lose a great artist that day. Thankfully we still have his work left to inspire us.

    PS On a side note I met Howard Cosell in a train station years ago. I recognized him by his voice which made me turn to look at him. There were only two of us at the station & he kindly greeted me. I wish I would have talked to him more but I was pretty star struck.

  4. Google created this video for John Lennon’s 70th birthday; it also seems appropriate today on the 30th anniversary of his death.

  5. Great story Rog. I realised today with a start that he’s been dead far longer in my life than he’s been alive — he died when I was just 9 years old! Startling to realise that.

  6. I am a believer of the line about relationships. It has to move forward, otherwise, time to move on. When it is standing still, it is a good indication, someone or both have lost interest in making it great(er).

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