The day John went and died.
Bad news happens every day.
But in my experience, the worst day for news always seems to be Tuesday.
I guess I get through Monday, and then the worst hits you.
It was a summer’s Tuesday night in 1977 when my dad called up the stairs to say they’d found Elvis Presley dead. Sadly it meant little to me. In the eyes of this ten year old, Elvis was just a fat country singer whose old movies littered Saturday night TV. I know better now.
But, three and a bit years later, on an autumnal Tuesday morning our time, we heard John Lennon had gone. Lost to a man he’d trusted.
My memory is weak now. But I do remember coming down the stairs and being surprised to find the TV on. This was before the debut of breakfast shows in the UK. It was grainy live pictures from New York, people on street corners crying, no one angry, everyone just seemed empty. As if another Kennedy had gone down.
I had pretty much discovered The Beatles by a very contrived route. By the time I’d discovered an interest in “Pop”, Paul McCartney was the only one of the Fabs still in the industry. George and Ringo had put themselves in the movies in different ways. And John? Where did he go. In fact he was doing a decent thing, being a good dad to baby Sean, perhaps remembering where he’d been let down as a boy, perhaps taking into account that he’d not been there for Julian.
But having discovered via Paul about the band he was in before Wings, I was beginning to fall for The Beatles and the cornucopia of music they’d bought to the world.
And now John wasn’t there for me. It hurt. I was sad because he was on the comeback trail. Liked what I’d heard, wanted more, why would anyone want to prevent that?
I think the worst thing was having to go to school that morning and not being allowed to mourn. Because an all boys school in 1980 was a nasty narrow-minded place to be. From the charts you could like The Jam or you could like Madness – but not both. Two acts I still love, but at this time that joy being lost to the bullying attitudes of others being enforced on me. If I had declared my love for some hippy music out loud, I would have been… well not beaten up, due to my size, but definitely ostracized. Even the punk rock of a few years before was seen as being stuff our elder brothers listened to, not our bag. Of course the irony is that Mod & Ska music we’d latched onto was music from The Beatles decade revived! Pure ignorance.
The thing I remember most about that day was the TV that evening. The news took us the tragic events again and again. In a change to its schedule, BBC One showed “Help!”, which I hadn’t seen before. It made me happy. After that BBC Two had the must-see comedy of the day “Not the 9 O’Clock News”. The satire usually ended with a parody song, but on this night the screen faded to black and “In my life” faded in and faded out. My evening’s viewing ended with “Play for Today” which that week was a sci-fi adventure about a time traveler called Dominick Hide. In a wonderful coincidence, Hide came from a future where everyone sat around watching holograms of musicians playing the classic works of… Lennon and McCartney!
And so that was the day as I remember it.
If I’m honest then I must say I am much less a fan of John Lennon than I am of The Beatles. Some of his music, his politics, his attitudes I don’t see eye-to-eye with, or maybe I just don’t get. But it hurts to think what became of him, what Yoko & Sean had to go through. And it would seem we lost the chance to hear what else he would have had to say in word and song. We may even had seen a new Beatles in some shape of form.
It was an awful day. But it became a joyful day.
Thank you, John Lennon.