Category: text post

George Harrison’s demo for Ringo’s 1971 hit “I…

George Harrison’s demo for Ringo’s 1971 hit “It Don’t Come Easy”

Ringo co-wrote the song with George, who also produced this, added background vocals, and played bass and the wonderful guitar that’s so integral to this song’s success.

It’s quite ragged, but this version is AWESOME. There are no horns, and with fewer layers of overdubs, you can really hear backup vocals. George’s guitar is also truly sweet in this version – easily the equal of anything he played on All Things Must Pass. There’s even a bonus “Hare Krishna” chant in the middle!

Play this NOW, thank me later.

soundsof71: shareechilders: soundsof71: Iggy…

soundsof71:

shareechilders:

soundsof71:

Iggy Pop wears Jim Morrison, Los Angeles 1974, by Gijsbert Hanekroot

I thought they didn’t care for The Doors. Pretty funny.

The Doors, specifically Jim Morrison, actually inspired Iggy to start his first band! 

The relationship between Iggy and The Doors is a long one, too rarely told – so ima tell it here at length. LOL

Iggy had already dropped out of the University of Michigan, but used his student ID to get into a Homecoming dance where The Doors played. Jim Morrison came out after the rest of the band had already started playing, drunk and/or high, insisting on singing only in falsetto (wtf) and generally abusing the crowd – who booed, then left in large numbers. Details here.

Needless to say, this was right up Iggy’s alley. As he told an interviewer in 2011:

So, here’s this guy, out of his head on acid, dressed in leather with his hair all oiled and curled. The stage was tiny and it was really low. It got confrontational. I found it really interesting. I loved the performance but the music sounded terrible because they didn’t have the sound system together. They had a really unique style and it wasn’t easy for them to sound good live, at first. 

Part of me was like, “Wow, this is great. He’s really pissing people off and he’s lurching around making these guys angry.” People were rushing the stage and Morrison’s going “Fuck you. You blank, blank, blank.” You can fill in your sexual comments yourself. The other half of it was that I thought, “If they’ve got a hit record out and they can get away with this, then I have no fucking excuse not to get out on stage with my band.” It was sort of the case of, “Hey, I can do that.

(btw, “I can do that!” was also Patti Smith’s reaction to seeing The Doors in New York, although it took her a few years longer than Iggy to actually make her way to the stage, which she first did as a poet with guitarist Lenny Kaye accompanying her in – you guessed it – 1971.)

Iggy had a lot more Doors ahead of him, particularly as he developed a relationship with Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek.

The photograph above was taken at a Jim Morrison tribute concert in LA organized by Ray Manzarek on July 3, 1974, the anniversary of Jim’s passing in 1971. After playing some of the songs off his new solo album, Ray sang “Light My Fire,” then brought out Iggy to sing “LA Woman,” “Maggie M’Gill,” and “Back Door Man.” Can you even imagine what that must have sounded like? You’ll have to, because no recordings have yet surfaced. 

More details here, but in the meantime, here’s a photo that includes Ray playing with Iggy, via old-school-fools.

image

Right after this, Iggy was out of the Stooges, and signed Denny Sugerman to manage him. Denny had managed The Doors, and was managing Ray, who now retreated with Iggy for months of intensive rehearsals for a new band they hoped to form. (Info here, on Ray’s official site.) 

There was at least one more concert together in October, the “Hollywood Revival and Trash Dance” at the Palladium, headlined by The New York Dolls, and featuring Iggy, Ray, and a band they put together for the occasion – including James Williamson of The Stooges on guitar! Violence, chaos, and a general mess ensued, but, says Ray, the band “rocked like a motherfucker.” 

The band fell apart when Ray couldn’t find a way to fit his nuanced sound into James’s squall, closing what might have been a very interesting chapter in these fellas’ careers. (Details of the October show and the band here.)

I should note that a lot of information from this period is sketchy at best. There’s not even a solid consensus on who else played with Ray and Iggy at these various dates, although there’s some interesting speculation here.

Ray and Iggy apparently tried to form a band again in 1977, details here. Iggy’s 1977 tour had David Bowie playing keyboards, rather than Ray, and I have no idea what transpired between Iggy and Ray – both of whom wrote autobiographies, neither of which mentioned this period. 

In fact, Iggy’s autobiography doesn’t mention Ray at all, and Ray’s autobiography only mentions Iggy once, in the context of that University of Michigan show. “It was a total fiasco,” writes Ray, “but the sheer audacity and outrageousness of Jim Morrison convinced Iggy that a life of anarchic rebellion was the only way to fly…and he’s been doing it ever since.”

This is, needless to say, more explanation than most people need LOL but still not the whole story, not by a long shot.  Still, this is in fact the first time that I’ve seen even this much of the story gathered in one place. With the exception of the mysteries that I’ve mentioned that may never be revealed, the links I’ve included will get you a good long way down the road.

I’ve been meaning to write this for a while, so thanks for giving me the excuse. 🙂

George Harrison and Bob Dylan rehearsing “If N…

George Harrison and Bob Dylan rehearsing “If Not For You” before the Sunday afternoon show of the Concerts for Bangladesh, Sunday, August 1, 1971. It’s messy, but adorable.

Like The Beatles, Bob Dylan had quit touring in 1966. Unlike The Beatles, and apart from  a 1969 TV performance with Johnny Cash, and an appearance with The Band at the Isle of Wight, Bob had all but disappeared. While he was generally up for lending a hand to George’s effort, he wasn’t sure what to sing, and was even less sure if he was going to be able to pull himself together to even show up at the appointed hour. When George introduced him that afternoon, he was by no means certain that Bob would actually walk out. 

While they were working out which songs to perform together, “If Not For You” was an obvious place to start. A lovely tune that Bob introduced on New Morning almost exactly a year earlier (August 12, 1970), George covered it on his own album All Things Must Pass, which was the #1 album in the US for the first 7 weeks of 1971, and for the months of February and March 1971 in the UK

Neither Bob nor George released “If Not For You” as a single, but in May 1971, it was the debut single for 22 year old Olivia Newton-John. Based on George’s arrangement rather than Bob’s, it reached #7 in the UK, and in the US, #25 on the Billboard Hot 200, and eight weeks straight at #1 on Billboard’s Easy Listening chart! 

(Yes, I bought it. Yes, I still love it. Yes, I will post it later.)

Our boys passed on performing this for the big show(s), but this rehearsal is an enduring reminder that beyond being two of the all-time giants of popular music, and rock gods, they were also both just so incredibly fucking adorable.

The remarkably unremarkable story behind one o…

The remarkably unremarkable story behind one of the most remarkable flourishes in pop music history…

…in which music professor David Mason plays a solo so perfect that even his peers didn’t believe he actually did it.

The Beatles were magpies, always looking for sounds they haven’t heard on pop records before, never moreso than in 1966 and 1967. Paul heard the solo played by baroque trumpet (an octave higher than typical ones) in Bach’s 2nd Brandenburg Concerto on television one evening, and asked George Martin to track the fellow down and get him to the studio as soon as possible.

David Mason was his name, and he arrived at Abbey Road on the evening of January 17, 1967. As the band walked into the session, David asked, “So, just come from a film set, have you?”, to which John replied, “No, we dress like this all the time.”

(David later playfully crossed John again when he expressed dismay that “Penny Lane” was being relegated to a b-side. “I think it’s better than ‘Strawberry Fields’, said David, standing next to John at the time. “Thanks, mate. *I* wrote that one!” As it turned out, “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields” were in fact released as a double-A side single, peaking at #2 on the UK’s official charts, although Melody Maker had it at #1 for 3 weeks, and listed “Penny Lane” rather than “Strawberry Fields Forever” as the band’s 13th #1. The same was true in the US, and indeed, it was only “Penny Lane” that was included on The Beatles’ 2000 anthology 1.) 

I’ll let you hear the rest of the story from David himself, noting his reply to the interviewer’s question, “How does it feel when you hear that solo today?” David answers, “Not to be immodest, but some people tell me it makes the song – and I think it does!” No immodesty there, Professor Mason. It does.

Along the way, David hit a high “E” note that had previously been thought impossible – hence his musicologist expert friends’ mistaken certainty that David had played a standard trumpet, with the tape sped up on playback to raise its pitch (a trick actually employed by George Martin for his own piano solo on “In My Life”, making it sound more like a harpsichord). Needless to say, that high “E” has since become expected from every piccolo trumpet player to this very day. 

David recorded twice more with The Beatles, on “All You Need Is Love” and “Magical Mystery Tour.”

And a quick note about the promo video for the song, directed by Peter Goldman. For all that it’s quite simple visually – the lads walking through the East End and Chelsea, with a sequence shot in a park in Sevenoaks, roughly 20 miles southeast of London – it was a significant departure from anything that had come before. No real narrative, no shots of them playing, only a montage of images that are barely related on any rational level, but creating an impressionistic unity that underscores the song’s emotional context. 

This is of course what music videos became more as the rule rather than the exception going forward, leading this clip (and the related clip for “Strawberry Fields”, also directed by Goldman) to be identified by the Smithsonian Institution as among the most important of the era.

Please post the cars (band)

Please post the cars (band)

I’m incredibly  flattered when people make requests like this! I feel like it’s saying, “You’re good at finding high-quality pictures that we haven’t seen a million times, so please show me something new and special from one of MY favorite bands.” That’s very sweet! I’m honored!

That said, The Cars, I dunno, friend. I’m not passing any judgements here – most of the people around me describe my musical taste as “kind of annoying” and I have to agree LOL – but The Cars are one of the bands that didn’t do much for me. 

Not that I gave them a chance. They featured two of my favorite acts as openers in the early-to-mid 80s – ‘Til Tuesday and Icehouse – and both times, I went to the shows to see THOSE bands and left immediately after their sets. (Both were awesome, btw.) Who knows? Maybe The Cars would have won me over if I’d given them a shot. That’s on me, for sure.

That said, Ric Ocasek did a couple of things that I’m NUTS about, both, it happens, in 1982. 

First, after their highly underrated debut album, It’s A Condition, Ric brought the San Francisco-based band Romeo Void to Boston to produce an EP called Never Say Never, released January 1982. 

You’ve surely heard the hit version of the title track, a chart-topping smash with a terrific video and a brash chorus with Deborah Iyall’s incantation, “I might like you better if we slept together….never say never” – in other words, “BUT DON’T COUNT ON IT.” LOL 

But here’s the thing. The EP version wasn’t the hit! The hit version came from the band’s second LP, Benefactor, released in August ‘82, and is defanged from the original, to say the least . Still tough as nails, still with that dissonant post-rock sax stab, but drenched in echo, cussing removed, two and a half minutes shorter, and generally much more mainstream-friendly. 

I do strongly believe in the convergence of punk and disco, and especially in the early 80s, dance punk was my favorite genre. The hit album version in late ‘82 was bouncy, but Ric’s earlier EP production was a punch to the face to distract you from the stiletto sliding between your ribs.

I’ve only found a YouTube clip for the entire EP, which is fine by me. Romeo Void is way too frequently remembered as a 2-hit wonder doing dance pop, but this is hard-core post-punk, as brutal and beautiful as anything from Depeche Mode or New Order, the kinds of bands you should be thinking of when you think about Romeo Void, rather than, say, Blondie or Martha And The Motels (both of whom you know I love, but THIS is not THAT.)

I mean LOOK AT THEM.

image

They weren’t just posing. They were playing for keeps – and if you don’t think a Monkees shirt is part of a punk band playing for keeps, then you haven’t heard The Sex Pistols’ cover of “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone”. Origins matter less than the tale you tell down the road.

(Sorry not to have a better pic, though – the later, cuddlier version of the band is the one that survives.)

The punk community in Boston knew all this, including the band’s terrific first indie post-punk elpee. The place I found the Never Say Never EP was in a local punk record shop (I lived there in Boston in the early-to-mid 80s the first time, and again from 2000-2010), IN THE LOCAL BIN, with a handwritten-note appropriating this album on behalf of Boston post-punk because Boston’s own Ric Ocasek (by way of Baltimore, Cleveland and Bowling Green), produced it in Boston.

Not just “I might like you better if we slept together”, but “This is not my idea of a good time”, “Enjoy the privilege of earning twice as much”, “I’m not sorry”, “We’re not safe”, and twisted tales of predators and louts framing so many other declarations of strength and independence  (great quote from Trouser Press: “she sings not only of situations where love is absent, but also of when it should be absent”) – no wonder the record business had no idea what to do with Deborah Iyall! 

But Ric Ocasek did, and he helped make this EP a wall to wall masterpiece.

Put on yer headfonez and TURN THIS UP. Really is phenomenal production.

As much as The Cars didn’t move me that much, Ric Ocasek’s 1982 solo debut, Beatitude, very much DID move me. (It looks like Be-atitude, a reference to the Sermon On The Mount, but it was pronounced Beat-itude, which I thought was AWESOME.)

image

The versions of the songs on the LP were okay, but where they really shined was the 12″ dance remixes. My favorite of these by far was “Connect Up To Me”, which was ONLY released as a 12″ dance remix (no  conventional 7″ single release), and frankly went nowhere outside Boston. The whole album disappeared, was never released on CD, and this version of the song didn’t appear digitally until it was included as part of Cars rarities box set. 

The album is available on Spotify, though, and lots of it is on YouTube, where I encourage you to dig in. Even though Ric was the primary creative force (albeit far from the ONLY driving force) behind The Cars, there are ways in which this sounds nothing like them. Even moreso on this 12″ single, which has more in common than Gary Numan (WHO HAD A HIT WITH A SONG CALLED “CARS”) or Kraftwerk than The Cars.

I played the ever-loving shit out of this thing. This version of the song, along with his work on the Never Say Never EP point to directions I wished he’d have explored more, but hey, it’s his career, and he did just fine with no help from me beyond the $6 I spent on this single and his share of the concert tickets where I left before he played.

BUT THIS. THIS.

So I ain’t saying that I’ll never get around to posting The Cars – Never Say Never, right? LOL – but I’ll say that I’m WAY overdue posting a couple of my favorite tracks from one of my favorite years, with roots in one of my favorite towns, and I’m grateful that you’ve given me the perfect excuse!

Thanks again for the generosity of spirit in your ask, too! I hope that these tracks are an adequate down payment on returning the favor for now.

hey sorry to bother! u r so good at finding pi…

hey sorry to bother! u r so good at finding pictures n stuff is there anyway you could find some of lita ford in japan '77 in this outfit? youtube/com/watch?v=-p-mC_B0KAc

It’s funny, there are other eras of The Runaways where we have pictures galore, but no video, but this particular trip was all about the video! 

Speaking of which, here’s the clip you linked to, embedded:

There’s a lot of other truly fantastic footage, but hardly any photos…so, challenge accepted! I’ll start digging around.

Until then, here’s a great poster from The Runaways Live In Japan record, which I highly recommend, featuring Lita’s distinctive hot pants and silver boots! Not quite the outfit in the video, but close enough for now. 

More soon!

hey have you ever listened to harry styles? do…

hey have you ever listened to harry styles? do you have any opinions about him/his album? I hope you’re having a great day ! 😊😊

I like Harry a lot! I’m also very grateful to the hardcore Harry/1D fans who’ve driven up the notes on some of my 1971 Mick Jagger photos, where I agree with them that he looks especially Harry-like. (See for example here and here.) 

The first of those in particular took off like a rocket when Harry’s fans got hold of it, and it remains one of my most popular posts of all time. Notes whore that I am, I can’t thank you enough!

I’ll be honest, though, Sign Of The Times was a tiny bit of a let-down to me because of how quiet it is. Yes, I appreciate that he wanted to largely avoid 1D-style bangers and anthems, which solo, run the risk of sounding like recycled Oasis….although really, would that be so bad? Allow me to gently encourage our boy to do more like this, which I think he nailed:

I nevertheless recommend Sign Of The Times, even the ballads, to anyone losing faith in contemporary pop, or who still thinks that vocal competition shows are shite. Well, okay, the shows really are mostly shite as tv shows, but they’ve turned up some terrific performers, including Harry.

So I do think that Harry is a talent of the first order, and look forward to seeing what else he’ll grow into. 

Speaking of which, grow the hair back, son. I miss it!

PPS. I wouldn’t mind a 1D victory lap tour, either. No need to get back together for any length of time, but that all ended way too quickly.

Thanks for asking! And thanks again to the Harry/1D fans who’ve been so kind to me! 

George Harrison and Bob Dylan rehearsing “If N…

George Harrison and Bob Dylan rehearsing “If Not For You” before the Sunday afternoon show of the Concerts for Bangladesh, Sunday, August 1, 1971. It’s messy, but adorable.

Like The Beatles, Bob Dylan had quit touring in 1966. Unlike The Beatles, and apart from  a 1969 TV performance with Johnny Cash, and an appearance with The Band at the Isle of Wight, Bob had all but disappeared. While he was generally up for lending a hand to George’s effort, he was by no means sure what to sing, and was even less sure if he was going to be able to pull himself together to even show up at the appointed hour. When George introduced him that afternoon, he was by no means certain that Bob would actually walk out. 

While they were working out which songs to perform together, “If Not For You” was an obvious place to start. A lovely tune that Bob introduced on New Morning almost exactly a year earlier (August 12, 1970), George covered it on his own album All Things Must Pass, which was the #1 album in the US for the first 7 weeks of 1971, and for the months of February and March 1971 in the UK

Neither Bob nor George released “If Not For You” as a single, but in May 1971, it was the debut single for 22 year old Olivia Newton-John. Based on George’s arrangement rather than Bob’s, it reached #7 in the UK, and in the US, #25 on the Billboard Hot 200, and eight weeks straight at #1 on Billboard’s Easy Listening chart! 

(Yes, I bought it. Yes, I still love it. Yes, I will post it later.)

Our boys passed on performing this for the big show(s), but this rehearsal is an enduring reminder that beyond being two of the all-time giants of popular music, and rock gods, they were also both just so incredibly fucking adorable.

2018 Spotify Wrap

I got tagged by @wholelottaplant, whose impressive wrap of her 2018 Spotify adventures are posted here. I’m very happy to share my results too!

Minutes listening to Spotify: 17,633 minutes, or 12 days, 5 hours, 33 minutes. Less than a tenth of wholelottaplant’s! But I can’t listen to music while I work or read, both of which I do a lot.

First song listened to in 2018: Nocturnal Koreans, by Wire

Okay, here’s the thing. I blog about classic rock, and I know an insane amount about it, I love it – but it’s not that much of what I listen to on a daily basis. I spend most of every year listening to what’s new that year. I just happen to have started this process in 1963, so I picked up a lot of classic rock along the way. LOL

Wire was my most listened-to artist of 2017, spilling over into the beginning of this year, and while their career does indeed stretch back over 40 years, my most listened-to album of 2017 came out in 2017, Wire’s Silver/Lead

And my most listened-to album of 2016 came out in 2016 (Underworld, Barbara Barbara We Face A Shining Future),  my most listened-to album of 2015 came out in 2015 (Bob Mould, Beauty and Ruin), and so on. 

Which should tell you some of what you’re in for. Yeah, my two favorite bands are The Beatles and Led Zeppelin, in that order, but after that, it’s Wire and Underworld right behind. 

Most Listened-To Artist of 2018: Crowded House. 

Ha! A curve already. The thing is, I fucking hated Fleetwood Mac’s previous guitarist. Since 1977, I’ve refused to listen to any of the band’s songs where I could hear his voice, and I have so little regard for him that that’s all I’m going to say about it.

Entirely apart from that, it happens that my favorite guitarist after George Harrison is Neil Finn (yep, Jimi and Jimmy at 3 and 4), whom I first encountered in the late 70s with the Split Enz, and truly fell in love with when he founded Crowded House in 1986. I also adore his voice and his writing, and he’s put on some of the best shows I’ve ever seen – and managed to do so in 4 consecutive decades for me, a slick trick. 

My wife and I met in 1982, were married in 1985, and although we’d both known Neil in Split Enz, and had a massive shared history of mutual faves across the classic rock era, through punk, into New Wave and beyond, Crowded House was the first “new” band we fell in love with after we married, so Neil has been part of our lives in a special way for a very long time.

So the happy news of him joining Fleetwood Mac alongside another guitarist I’m very fond of, Mike Campbell, late of The Heartbreakers, led me to create a Spotify playlist covering 40years of Neil’s career, still pumping out fresh tunes.

Neil Finn: Finn/Tastic, Neil/Tastic

I assume that many of you don’t know him (not nearly enough people do), so here’s a weird little video for a truly lovely song from his first solo album in 1998, “She Will Have Her Way.”

Most Listened-to Song of 2018: “Hunger”, by Florence + The Machines.
Holy shit, I’m INSANE for this. I’ve been on this earth for many a year, and this is kicking my ass like only a few songs have in my entire life.

It starts with “At 17, I started to starve myself”, and ramps up the intensity from there. Few artists have ever played for keeps like Florence Welch, and she leaves it allll out there on this.


Top Artists of 2018/Top Songs of 2018 
I combined these two questions from @wholelottaplant​ to tell the whole story. Yeah, Crowded House was my top artist, and I’ve listened to a lot of Queen the last few weeks, and I’ve listened to at least one track or another from The Beatles every day since 1964….but like I said, if you want to really know me, you need to know what’s happening in music today

Here’s a link to my Top 100 Songs of 2018

As a preview, let me show you my 2018 Top 20:

  1. Florence + The Machine, Hunger
  2. CHVRCHES, Deliverance
  3. Locate S,1, Owe It 2 the Girls
  4. Janelle Monáe, Make Me Feel
  5. Goat Girl, Cracker Drool
  6. Starcrawler, Love’s Gone Again
  7. Speedy Ortiz, I’m Blessed
  8. Smerz, Have fun
  9. Belly, Shiny One
  10. Cherry Glazerr, Juicy Socks
  11. The Breeders, Wait in the Car
  12. Our Girl, Our Girl
  13. Liza Anne, I Love You, But I Need Another Year
  14. Shannon and The Clams, Onion
  15. Chaka Khan, Like Sugar
  16. Speedy Ortiz, Lucky 88 (The only artist to appear twice in my Top 20! From my most listened-to album of the year.)
  17. Screaming Females, Agnes Martin
  18. illuminati hotties, Patience
  19. The Orielles, Let Your Dog Tooth Grow
  20. Robyn, Missing U

From my favorite album of 2018:

And from my favorite hard rock album of the year…well, one of ‘em anyway. 2018 has been a FANTASTIC year for hard rock!!!!

That’s as many videos as tumblr will let me put in a single post, so I hope you got to my playlist and check this stuff out. It’s really, really good.

I’m going to tease you with an even longer post I’m working on, observing that, of all my years on this dusty wet rock, 2018 gets my vote for best EVER year for new music, and every single artist in my Top 50 is a woman or woman-led band. Details to follow!

The fact is that you’ve got to get to #37 in my Spotify Top 100 Songs to get to a song sung by a dude (”Weather With You” by Crowded House), and down to #44 before you get to a song in the mainstream of Classic Rock (”Goin’ To California” by Led Zeppelin.) 

So I ain’t kiddin’. I love classic rock. I still think that 1971 is Classic Rock’s Classic Year. But my god, there’s so much to hear! 

Okay, enough for now. I’m having an absolute blast listening to music these days, and Spotify is a huge part of the reason why. If you’ve got a few extra shekels a month, Premium is TOTALLY worth it – higher than CD quality (enable in Settings), no commercials, download tracks when you don’t want to stream, etc etc.

More important, if you’re on Spotify, LET ME KNOW. Either DM me here, or DM me there. Let’s be mutuals! I’ve got hundreds of playlists to share (don’t worry – plenty are classic rock!) and I’d love to see what you’re listening to.

And if you’re on Spotify, consider yourself officially tagged by me! Share! How many minutes? Top artists? Top songs? We want to know!

And thanks again to @wholelottaplant for inviting me along on her ride!

John Lennon’s Unique Connection To Us, and Our…

Only John would have gotten the kind of reaction he did. Not just compared to Paul. Compared to anyone.

The reaction to his death had everything to do with John’s unique connection to us, and ours to him. 

People gathered spontaneously by the hundreds and thousands around the world from the moment they heard the news on December 8, 1980.

On the day of his memorial, December 14, over 100,000 people came together outside his home in New York alone. 

Every radio station in New York went silent for 10 minutes (not just rock stations, either: every station) as did other stations across the country. 

Individuals around the world went silent, too. I certainly did, and so did many of my friends.

Here are some of the reasons that I believe that only John’s passing touched us this way, and why it still touches us.

 

John was OUR Beatle.

When John & Yoko moved to New York in August 1971, they never went back to England again.

More than that, John fought be here. Almost from the moment he arrived, the US government was trying to throw him out. Constant FBI surveillance, deportation hearings – it took years of battles for him just to be able to stay here at all.

The pictures of them walking to and from court (above, in March 1972) weren’t just staged for publicity. You can find hundreds of pictures of John & Yoko walking around New York, because that’s what they did.


Their address, first in Greenwich Village, then near Central Park, were public knowledge. The night of December 8, 1980, John did what he usually did. He stopped to talk to fans who had been waiting for him outside his home. 

Even if you didn’t live in New York, it was very much in your mind that if you wanted to meet John, you knew you could. It was easy.

Which is also how John came to such a sudden end. John was vulnerable because he chose to live vulnerably.

The Imagine album was released 9/9/71, the single released 11/11/71

And look at the songs: “Imagine,” “Power To The People,” “Instant Karma (We All Shine On),” “Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” “Give Peace A Chance,” “All You Need Is Love” – nobody else could have written even one of these, much less all of them.

It’s easy to point to John’s hypocrisy (which John talked about as much as any of his critics did) and the fact that he was generally a blowhard with an opinion about everything and just roll your eyes, but the fact is that he genuinely aspired to a better world in a way that resonated with us.

It resonated with the people in power, too. The US government in particular was terrified of him. That’s why starting in 1971, John was constantly under FBI surveillance, and under the constant threat of being thrown out of the country.

Portions of the FBI’s files on John were kept secret until 2011 because the government said the information about John’s surveillance endangered national security!

If you’re interested, you finally can see John’s complete FBI files here, and can learn more about it in the film The US  vs John Lennon.


It wasn’t until 1976 that John was granted permission to stay in the US. Below, showing off his shiny new green card.

 

I could go on at length about the depth and breadth of his fundraising and activism – not just anti-war, but also racial and gender equality, education (including leading a protest march for free speech for high school students!), criminal justice reforms, and much more.


The US government’s fear of John Lennon was very much rooted in reality, and we loved that about him. He was speaking for us.


The non-album single"Power to the People" was released March 22, 1971.


Remembering the way that John inspired us led to headlines like this one: “DEATH OF A HERO”


You can see the way that this still resonates when, in 2013, the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman in India led 600 guitarists to gather in Darjeeling to play “Imagine” together, in both protest and hope.

John’s connection to us was also intimately personal.

Inspiration, out there, is one thing. John wanted more than that. Or you could say, he wanted less. As far as he was concerned, the world had more people wanting to be leaders than was good for us. 

Instead, he wanted to touch us. 

More than the other Beatles, maybe more than any musician ever, John opened himself to us.

There was the literal nakedness of theTwo Virgins album, and these famous portraits by

Annie Leibovitz

taken the very afternoon that John was murdered.

More important, there was also the emotional nakedness. 

On Plastic Ono Band he dismantled his stardom as he howled out isolation, abandonment, and pain, side by side with songs of wounded tenderness and simplicity. It’s easily among the most personally revealing albums ever released by anyone.

Of course, he’d been doing this since the beginning, even if it wasn’t until later that he explained to us just how very desperate he felt when he wrote songs like “Help!,” “I’m A Loser,” “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away,” and others. While other rock stars were making drugs look cool, John was the first one I ever heard sing about the harrowing fear and and chaos they caused him, in “Cold Turkey.”

What he showed us when we got close wasn’t always pretty, including on 1971′s Imagine. The vision of the title song is right up against his confession of being a “Jealous Guy” who causes pain, and his undisguised anger at Paul in “How Do You Sleep?” 

He quickly apologized to Paul, both privately and publicly, admitting that his anger ultimately had nothing to do with Paul, that it was all in John’s own head.

And that’s the thing. Some people thought of John as a saint. John didn’t.

It wasn’t (and isn’t) always easy being a fan of John’s. He could be cruel and violent, he was unfaithful to both his wives and a terrible father to his first son, he let drugs and alcohol get the better of him, and much more.

He finally figured out that he couldn’t be a rock star and be the kind of man he wanted to be, so he quit. 

It’s easy to forget now, but he only headlined two concerts, both of them benefits, in 1971 and 1972. He played a few songs on stage with Elton John in 1974, but that was it for live shows. A few albums of course, but after some famous (and infamous) detours, he cleaned up, got into therapy, and became a full-time dad – the first time many of us had heard of such a thing.

Not that he’d gotten everything together by the end, not at all – but he was definitely moving in the right direction for once. He seemed happy, in some ways, for the first time in his life. 

One of the final songs he recorded after his long hiatus said it was like he was starting over, and it was clear that, even more than his recording career, he was talking about his life

And we were watching it happen, because he lived in the open, still walking the streets of New York. 

So there really was that strange extra sense that you get when a friend or neighbor suddenly passes, a confusion, almost like, “But he was just here. I was just talking to him.”

It’s still almost inconceivable that any celebrity was that accessible, either emotionally or physically, in real life, but John Lennon was. 

John’s passing also reminded us that The Beatles were HIS band.

On one level, this is simply, literally true. John had a band already. The others joined it.


John wasn’t the best musician in The Beatles, though. He wasn’t even the best guitarist.

Whether he was the best writer is irrelevant. He and Paul created magic together, and they also challenged each other to be better writers on their own. Paul was more driven and ambitious, but even Paul was very clear: they all looked up to John.


John’s death also meant that there would never be a Beatles reunion. Sure, we knew it was never going to happen really, but we could still talk about at least a one-off concert at some point down the line, right? 

But now, no. 

So there’s a sense in which, when John died, The Beatles died too.

Frankly, to many of us, it felt like the 60s had finally died too.


Mourning John Lennon 

Please note that I’m not placing John’s murder above assassinations like Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and the Kennedys. 

John himself would say that his death was no more important than any of the people of color singled out for killing by American police, “security” guards, and vigilantes, or the mass shootings taking place every day in America for no apparent reason other than that they can.

The glasses John was wearing when he was shot, photo by Yoko Ono 

Again underscoring how ultimately insignificant to the world John himself would acknowledge his death to be, this is still only a small look at the scale of our response to it at the time. 

We reacted more strongly to John Lennon’s death than we would have to anyone else’s, because he was more a part of our lives.

Not necessarily because he was our favorite Beatle. Ultimately, not even necessarily that he was a Beatle at all.



John Lennon wanted to connect to us, personally, intimately, deeply, and he did. 

John Lennon, 1971. Below, Strawberry Fields in Central Park, NY