When I Heard John Lennon Had Died

The Late Great Johnny Ace

John-LennonShortly before Thanksgiving 2020, I saw in the New York Post Page Six feature some ghoulish murderabilia [PDF p. 12]. “Double Fantasy’ album John Lennon signed for his killer was up for auction. The album — which in 1998 sold for $150,000 — has a starting bid of $400,000”. It even includes “police-evidence markings.” Yuck. I didn’t bother to follow the conclusion of this sale.

John Lennon died 40 years ago? I seem to remember it so well. On December 1, I had broken up with my girlfriend. So a week later, it was another Monday night. I decided this was the opportunity to watch Monday Night Football, which I would generally pass on for her sake. Since she wasn’t there…

It’s odd that I didn’t remember the game even before Howard Cosell informed me that the ex-Beatle had been killed. I do remember trying to call one of my friends repeatedly in Boston, but the line was busy for a couple of hours. Then I called my now-ex-girlfriend. What’s on the radio? WQBK was taking requests, and I may have asked for The End by the Doors.

The next day at lunchtime, I went to a local record store – Just A Song or maybe Strawberry’s – to buy Double Fantasy. It was sold out, so I purchased John’s Rock and Roll album from 1975. That Sunday, I was working at FantaCo, and the comic book store closed for ten minutes around 2 pm, per Yoko’s request for a period of silence.

Songs

(Just Like) Starting Over – John Lennon, the first single off Double Fantasy. If I recall correctly, it was selling fine. But in the wake of his death, it soared to #1  for five weeks in the US, one of those odd posthumous #1 hits. The bitter irony of the damn song made me teary; OK, occasionally, it still does. As did Merry Xmas (War Is Over) by John and Yoko, which I heard a lot that season.

Walking On Thin Ice – Yoko Ono. The guitar on this recording is the last guitar John Lennon ever played on a record, on the day he died. I bought the single and still have it. It went to #58 in the US in early 1981. The B-side was It Happened.

All Those Years Ago – George Harrison. Released in May 1981 as a single from his album Somewhere in England. Ringo on drums, Paul and Linda McCartney on backing vocals. #2 for three weeks in 1981.

Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny) – Elton John, #13 in 1982.

Here Today – Paul McCartney, from the April 1982 album Tug of War. It was written like a dialogue between Lennon and McCartney.

The Late Great Johnny Ace – Paul Simon. From the 1983 album Hearts and Bones. A haunting coda composed by Philip Glass.

And also:

Coverville 1335: The 17th Annual Beatles Thanksgiving Cover Story, featuring songs from Rubber Soul

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.

One thought on “When I Heard John Lennon Had Died”

  1. Believe it or not, I lived in the Park Royal Hotel (it was really apartments), just around the corner and down the block from the Dakota. So John and Yoko were neighbors, informally, to all of us Upper Left Siders. They would take Sean out in his stroller – most of the time, it was just John. I thought back then, “How many men have I seen taking their babies out like that lately?” Just thought he was a cool guy.

    The whole neighborhood went into mourning. Once the “tourists” had gone from the Dakota, we residents were quite bleak for weeks and weeks.

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