Opening Statement



Sunday, 9 December 2012

I Remember John Lennon

[Today's updated news links follow on next blog]

December 8th 1980 was a typical school night for me. I was working late on an essay or two. We still had to write them by hand then. Draft by draft by draft until there was a good copy that could be typed up. I was buzzing along fine, living in the student ghetto on Queen St. West, working on my degrees at the University of Toronto. My home was Lakeview Mansions. I remember we always joked it wasn't a mansion and you couldn't see the lake. But somehow it didn't seem to really matter.


Once it had been a stately old apartment hotel where the well to do stayed while they spent their summers at Sunnyside Beach outside the city at the very end of the Queen Street West streetcar line. Time had long since passed it by. The lake water was now a toxic e-coli soup. The sprawling city surrounding Lakeview Mansions cut it off from a resort world that no longer existed. Still it had a certain decaying grandeur about it with the large spacious suites, and marble floors. Now but a forgotten, derelict abode at the end of the line for artists, musicians, bohemians and near broke university students, of which I was one.

Around midnight my girlfriend called from the t.v. room to come see something, distracting me from a mild writers block. I willingly obliged stumbling wearily into the room to watch a news flash claiming ex Beatle John Lennon had been shot outside his home at the Dakota in downtown New York. We thought that it must be a mistake. Or just some awful incident he'd probably recover from, write a few hit protest songs about and then life would go on as it always had. A few minutes later the announcer came back to say John had died on the way to the hospital. Time froze for me a minute, sort of like when Kennedy was assassinated or when the twin towers collapsed in fire, smoke and mass confusion, a seminal moment when my life suddenly seemed in free fall. The unimaginable has just happened, and I knew somehow it would never quite be the same again. It was an unreal feeling like a sudden glitch in the time continuum. Life froze dead in it's tracks for a moment. Then I sensed it pivot off forever in a totally different direction one would never have suspected.


John + Yoko out front of the Dakota November 1980

I recall just standing in front of the old t.v. set with the rabbit ears, staring at the snowy reception we'd always get when the picture broke up, yelling S#@t! S*&t! S#%t! John Lennon had always been my childhood and teenage hero, whether it was for his music, writing, or his sharp satiric wit. Think of the utopian socialist of sorts in "Imagine". The fiercely individualistic iconoclast in "Mother" or "God". Even the street poet who bucked his popular Fab 4 Beatle image for an endless stream of the quite controversial protest causes he evoked in "Revolution" "Give Peace a Chance", or "Power to the People".

No doubt a man of contradictions, Lennon could heart fully write "All You Need Is Love" as well as "Jealous Guy." He'd been embraced by millions as the mischievous but loveable mop top Beatle only to suddenly reappear as the stoned, emancipated, scraggly long haired hippie posing naked on his first solo album "Two Virgins" along with his new Japanese girlfriend Yoko Ono. His media persona always quite mindfully reflected it all, his life and times. He was a superb stream of conscious thinker who could push his art from the strange alienated but rhythmically superb and idyllic "Strawberry Fields Forever" to the confusing disjointed but entrancing world of "I Am The Walrus." Or even just be just stuck forever, the scared young boy in a mans body, who he sang about in "Help", or even the pleadingly romantic "I Want to Hold Your Hand.". Yes I know, he wrote that with Paul, the choir boy goodie goodie Beatle who had once provided balance to Lennon's otherwise extreme, rough, uncontrolled rock and roll edge. Still, Lennon was one in a million, that's for sure. He was quite suddenly gone and very badly missed


Lennon was well known for his protest efforts against war, sexism, and his stand for freedom + human rights.

For the next few days the radio stations played non stop Beatle songs. It didn't matter if it was Paul, George or even Ringo singing in the senseless tragic haze it was always labelled as John, an idea one could  imagine outraging or even amusing him to no end. Yoko stayed holed up in the Dakota while Central Park across the street filled with a shocked crowd staring up at their windows, seemingly everyone from all walks of life gathering, burning candles, singing and holding a mass vigil for days afterwards. Finally Yoko called for a quiet minute of peace across the world, a strange unlikely moment of unity which so rarely actually happens. This time it did. Afterwards the collective moment exploded in a million different directions, some seemingly gone forever, never to be travelled again, an innocence lost.

 Lennon never really died though. Even he would've been shocked by the strange iconic myth in which he was resurrected in peoples minds, perhaps my own as well. His past record sales went up the charts again. His image was everywhere in the new media world that was developing around us, his life and art rerun endlessly over and over again on the radio and t.v., in lost recordings, endless books, diaries and images that still continue in heavy rotation through to today.  Lennon became ironically canonized as a part and parcel of our baby boomer world. Crucified and forever dying on a mass media altar from which he would arise to epic proportions in word, image and song, he is forever frozen in a time that has now long passed us all by. Very likely one that all ready had. I for one just hadn't realized it. The tumultuous sixties were over for a time. The seventies a decade many might still cringe at and rather forget. Still when John Lennon was so senselessly murdered by a rabid fan that December night 22 years ago, somehow a little piece of me along with a significant era in my life and times also died along with him in the hail of bullets that ripped us apart. Instant karma? May John Lennon shine on and on forever in the never distant beat of my heart.


A Peace Garden named Strawberry Fields in memory of John is across the street from the Dakota in Central Park NYC.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I visited NYC a few years ago for the first time and toured all the usual sites. I felt very sad at the WTC site. But I actually surprisingly had my most emotional moment at the Lennon Memorial Strawberry Fields in Central Park. Thinking of how someone so keen for peace could be brought down by reaching out to sign an autograph..made me cry like crazy..but John's Light remains shining to this day!

Anonymous said...

David...it's John...with almost 70000 blog hits "I have to say : You're bigger than J.B."...Justin Bieber.

Anonymous said...

I love your High School Daze picture...Did they ask you why you're a Hairy guy? Give me a head with hair, shoulder length or longer...Party at the Moon Tower...Keep on livin...L-I-V-I-N.

David Chiarelli said...

Hair! Peace! Love! :-)

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