Monday, December 08, 2008

It was 28 years ago today....

Despite the intervening years, I still remember waking to the news that John Lennon had been shot on the streets of New York.

I was in my 2nd year at University and stumbled over the cold wet streets of Manchester in a grief induced fog, barely containing my tears. I had to attend a sociology tutorial and my contribution to it was so lacking in focus that my tutor, a decent Hungarian Marxist, decided to ask me what my problem was. I told him and there was brief silence before we returned to discussing the labour theory of value. Lennon was perhaps a less significant figure than Lenin at that moment, but not to me.

John Lennon was the first of my rock'n'roll heroes. I remember as an excited 7 year old telling my older brother about this Liverpool band I'd seen Bill Grundy introduce on People and Places, a local news programme. He wasn't impressed. He'd seen them the year before at the Tower Ballroom in New Brighton. I didn't care. They made the most remarkable music I had ever heard.

I ran extra messages for my Grandma and added what was left of my Xmas money to make up the six shillings and eight pence I needed to buy Please, Please Me from McKenzie's in Grange Road West. The following year I begged and pleaded to be allowed to see A Hard Day's Night at the now demolished Essoldo cinema in the centre of Birkenhead. My mum was an Elvis fan and couldn't see what the fuss was about, The Beatles were certainly not important enough to risk letting her precious make a nocturnal trip to the rougher end of town. In the end, my best mate Brian Parker's dad took us after swearing that he would toss his own child into the arms of any marauding townie ruffians before he would let harm come to me.

The Beatles, but Lennon in particular, formed the soundtrack of my childhood and early teens. In the year following my father's death in 1969 I played Live Peace in Toronto (even the Yoko side) nightly to its own vinyl death on a crappy portable record player. I scrawled the lyrics to God, Mother, and Working Class Hero in felt tip pen on my bedroom wall. I was a sad and angry grammar school boy; an Irish working class square peg in an English middle class round hole. For me, Lennon captured both the rage and the joy that only outsiders can feel. I even forgave him Imagine when Sometime in New York City arrived.

I don't believe in heroes, but there can be no rules without exceptions and for me Lennon was one. I still miss him sometimes and wonder what he'd be up to now were he alive.

The photo of Lennon above was taken by Alan Tannenbaum on 26 November 1980 and is to be found on the Imagine Peace website together with numerous memories of the man himself


Salfordles said...

Would he have accepted a knighthood like Jagger & McCartney or refused like Bowie? I like to think not.

Liam G said...

I'm of the no sirree view point meself, Les. I'd like to think that he was someone who would always resist any attempts to co-opt him into the establishment, if only out of sheer bloody-mindedness!