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

Octoberish rambling: Road to 270

Many Tom Lehrer lyrics to the public domain. 

election_screen_time
election screen time per xkcd. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.

Road to 270 map

He’d Waited Decades to Argue His Innocence. She Was a Judge Who Believed in Second Chances. Nobody Knew She Suffered from Alzheimer’s.

Franklin Graham Goes Apoplectic Over Pope’s Push for Civil Unions for Gays.

Talk To Your Boss About Burnout Before It’s an Emergency.

Hidden cameras and secret trackers reveal where Amazon returns end up

TELL ME MORE WITH KELLY CORRIGAN: Bryan Stevenson

MyHeritage vs 23andMe vs AncestryDNA – Battle of the Titans 2000

The Town That Went Feral

Yeah,  thanks, Zoom

The Commercial that Killed a Fast Food Chain – Rax

Game show legend  Tom Kennedy, host of ‘Name That Tune,’ dies at 93

Five Nouns You Didn’t Realize Were Also Verbs

The 25 most spectacular branding fails of the last 25 years

Mistakes You’re Making When Reheating Leftovers  That Could Make You Sick

These Are America’s Favorite Halloween Candies By State And Starburst Tops The List

Now I Know: The Most Dangerous Pole Dance and Why Penguins Are a Laughing Matter and The Greatest Soccer Player Who Never Was and The Cheetos Challenge and Where the Cows Go and When Abraham Lincoln Lost New Jersey (and Won Anyway) and  Big Yellow Man Washed Ashore  on the Beach and  Where Men and Women Literally Don’t Speak the Same Language

Coronavirus

How to fight the COVID-19 ‘infodemic’

Dynamic Change of COVID-19 Seroprevalence among Asymptomatic Population in Tokyo

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: The  World Health Organization

Evidence Points to  Role of Blood Type in COVID-19

The US Is Missing a Chance to Tackle Climate Crisis and Pandemic Relief Together

Airport enlists Sniffer Dogs to Test for COVID-19

Analysis Shows Spike in Cases After Numerous Trump Rallies

Wear A Mask (Be Our Guest Parody)

IMPOTUS’ scorched earth policy

Executive Order Letting Him Purge Thousands of Federal Workers for Disloyalty

He demands Barr arrest foes and it hardly makes a ripple

Kavanaugh Parrots His Mail-In Ballot Lies as SCOTUS Bars Extension of Wisconsin Deadline

Lincoln Project Burns Fox News Phonies And Their ‘Trump TV’ National Memo

John Oliver on his immigration policies -‘Truly disciplined about being truly evil’

In the deluded mindset of Trumpworld’s denizens,  wearing a mask is: a) a sign of weakness, and b) a sign of, somehow, being a woman—which is itself seen, by them, as equivalent to weakness.

 He Confides His Feelings About ‘A Female President’  

Columbia University study shows that over 130,000 COVID-19 deaths could have been avoided with a more robust pandemic response

Got the Best COVID Treatment. For the Rest of Us He Wants “Herd Immunity.”

He’s their monster.  But suddenly Senate Republicans have never heard of him

A Radical Proposal  for Dealing with His Supporters After Biden Wins

The Administration’s Racial Bias — As a Black veteran, I can’t remain silent

The NYT’s shocking report on family separation

 

British Writer Pens The Best Description Of Trump I’ve Read

MUSIC

Eddie Van Halen, Hall of Famer Who Revolutionized the Guitar, Dead at 65

Coverville:  1329: The Eddie Van Halen Tribute and 1330: John Lennon Cover Story V 

Live From SpragueLand Episode 11: Peter Sprague Plays The Beatles 

Rhythm’s In the Melody  – Soulsha

Brahms – Sextet in G major  – Park | Yoo | Chang | Ullery | deMaine | Kim

i carry your heart by Eric Whitacre.

Pop Psalms: Once in a Lifetime  – Talking Heads

Italian folksong The Carnival of Venice, played by Wynton Marsalis and the Eastman Wind Ensemble

Sounds from St. Olaf – Episode 2:  Cubano Be, Cubano Bop  Jazz at St. Olaf

My Old Flame – Spike Jones, with Paul Frees imitating Peter Lorre

Tom Lehrer is officially releasing the lyrics to many of his songs into the public domain. 

Sean Ono Lennon talks with Elton John, Julian Lennon, and Paul McCarney about John Lennon. Part 1 and Part 2

John Lennon would have been 80

“The whole Beatles thing was just beyond comprehension.”

John-LennonThe problem with me writing about John Lennon is that I’ve written about him, as a solo artist or with The Beatles, about 200 times. Examples are here (The Word) and here (John and Yoko).

As I’ve noted, when my sisters, a neighbor girl, and I used to charge the local kids a couple cents to watch us lipsynch to the songs of Beatles VI, I was John.

Ten years ago, I listed my Top Ten Lennon songs, which has not appreciably changed. BTW, NONE of the original music links worked, but I replaced at least those.

Here are some covers

David Bowie Covering “Imagine” Live.

Covers by various artists of the entire Imagine album.

John Lennon’s Rock ‘n’ Roll album from 1975. The links don’t work. BUT here is the whole album. I bought it on December 9, 1980, in no small part because Double Fantasy was sold out.

A few covers of (Just Like) Starting Over.

Instrumentals from HELP

Since Coverville celebrated the 55th anniversary of the album HELP, I found the desire to listen to the instrumentals that were on the American soundtrack, arranged by Ken Thorne.

The James Bond Theme (Help ‘intro’). When I was about to be on JEOPARDY! back in 1998, Glenn Kagan from the show was going over my response card. He asked about my favorite group, to which I replied, “The Beatles.” This led to a conversation about the American Beatles albums and the two of us started doing this instrumental. I said, “I’m not familiar with that. How does it go?” We both laughed heartily. (On the videotape, this looks VERY goofy.)

From Me To You Fantasy
In the Tyrol
Another Hard Day’s Night
The Bitter End/You Can’t Do That
The Chase

Help is the first Beatles movie I ever saw. The title song is among the top five of my favorites of the group’s songs. Lennon said he wrote the song while feeling “the whole Beatles thing was just beyond comprehension” and subconsciously crying out for help.

Miscellany

John Lennon official site

Biography.com

A Songwriting Mystery Solved: Math Proves John Lennon Wrote ‘In My Life’

Rolling Stone interview, November 1968

An updated, comprehensive guide from Beginner Guitar HQ on how to play rhythm guitar like John Lennon

John Lennon posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1994.

Lest I forget, it’s also Sean Ono Lennon’s 45th birthday.

It doesn’t matter much to me

Let me take you down

It doesn't matter much to meNearly four decades after his death, there’s an inordinate interest of What If? when it comes to John Lennon. Quite often it comes from people who were born after the Beatles broke up, or even after John died.

If he had lived, would he have left Yoko? One can find theorists suggesting that he would, that their marriage was a sham. The thought was that once he started writing music again, he was regaining his inner strength. Eventually, after Double Fantasy, or maybe the followup, he’d leave her.

Of course, the Beatles reunion is always at the heart of this sort of speculation. John was fond of some songs on McCartney II in 1980, Paul’s first album sans Wings in a decade.

George had a modicum of commercial success. His first album after the murder, Somewhere in England, contained a tribute to John. His album after that, 1982’s Gone Troppo, was not a big hit. Ringo had had all three on his various albums, although not simultaneously. So I suppose a reunion might have been possible.

Now you know I remain a massive Beatles fan. When my sisters and I lipsynched to the songs of Beatles VI in 1965 for the neighbor kids, I was always John. Lennon was always my favorite Beatle. I was devastated by his death.

Let me take you down

Yet I find all the speculation is not at all interesting. As he wrote, “It doesn’t matter much to me.” So I don’t have much of an opinion on which songs would be on a 1981 Beatles album if there had been such a thing.

For one thing, the interaction among them would have been far different than it was in 1969. Would they even get along in the studio again? Does George get more songs? Who knows? NOBODY and no one ever will.

Enough grumpiness. Some songs:

BEATLES
Ticket to Ride
You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away
Norwegian Wood
Rain
Tomorrow Never Knows
Strawberry Fields Forever; “It doesn’t matter much to me”
I Am the Walrus, from LOVE
Come Together

SOLO
I’m Losing You
Nobody Told Me

Robert Freeman, the longtime photographer for the Beatles, died. He had an exhibit at the Albany Institute of History and Art. “The complementary exhibition, THE BEATLES: Community Stories, from December 21, 2002 through March 2, 2003, is an… exhibition that celebrates the Fab Four with a selection of memorabilia on loan from Capital Region residents.

“From toys to tea towels, from posters to photographs, from autographs to collectibles…you’ll see it all at the Albany Institute.” I had but one magazine, but I also brought in some bootleg LPs and The Beatles in Italy.

Gallery of the Louvre: gallery of my office

“Whoever you are, you’ve got Charisma!”

gallery of the louvreAt work, I’ve got an office for the first time in 12 years. I’ve been in cubicles, and for more than two years in a part of a storage space; long story.

*The only thing on the wall in the latter location was a picture of John Lennon c 1972 which my friend Rocco of FantaCo gave me decades ago.

My wife and my daughter decided to rectify that situation. Most of the items were in the attic, not getting the love they needed.

*The largest item is a print my wife had of Gallery of the Louvre, 1831-33 by Samuel Finley Breese Morse. Yeah, the guy who invented the telegraph was also an artist.

It appeals to me, a picture of pictures in a picture. But I also appreciate that one can be an artist and an inventor too.

*My friend, the late Raoul Vezina, did a pencil drawing of me as the duck and had it framed. The large word balloon reads “SURPRISE, ROGER!” The thought balloon was of me thinking, “Is it time for Agronsky and Company already?” That referred to a news talk show I watched regularly.

The duck is reading a New York Times Magazine, which featured the actual content of the issue dated Sunday, March 7, 1982, SELF-SEARCHING IN ISRAEL by Michael Elkins. I think Raoul gave it to me the next day. The picture reminds me of Raoul, of course, who died in November 1983, but also FantaCo, and my birthday.

*A little picture of a pear in the foreground. The caption: “‘Whoever you are, you’ve got Charisma!’ exclaimed Red Ball.” My wife tells me it’s suggestive. Whatever.

In a WTEN (Channel 10, Albany) interview of me before I appeared on JEOPARDY! in 1998, I noted that passing the test doesn’t necessarily mean I’d be on the show. The interviewer said what makes the difference between appearing and not. I said, cheekily, “I don’t know, charisma?” And for about five years after that, one of my work colleagues noted that I had CHARISMA.

*There’s a tiny photo of the top of Binghamton (NY) City Hall, which my friend, and ex-girlfriend, gave me. My hometown.

*The last piece is abstract so difficult to describe. I expect from the color scheme it was from Central America. We got it as a wedding present, I believe.