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Johnny

A remembrance.


“There are places I remember, all my life,
though some have changed, some forever, not for better...”
In my life (Lennon-McCartney)

In the summer of 1979, I turned 16 years old. It must be then, that I was in New York city in the spring – the end of the school year. There are parts of that trip that I still remember vividly – sneaking out of the hotel (by the fire escape, no less) at night to wander in the big city, buying a 'soda' for a Jersey girl called Amy while at a show and a pilgrimage that I made with my friend, Bob.

Bob and I didn't call it a pilgrimage or, perhaps we did. I don't recall. Where did we go, you might wonder? We cut out of some planned, school activity and headed across Central Park to the Dakota on W. 72nd – the home of John and Yoko. We just wanted to be there and to see it. That was the closest I ever got to John Lennon.

The funny thing is that he was probably there. By 1979, there were already tracks being laid at the Record Plant for what became his final album, Double Fantasy. He was also known for laying down rough tracks for songs – piano or guitar and voice – at home. As Bob and I stood on the corner of the street in the bright sunlight, gazing up at the majestic building, was John singing 'Woman' or 'Beautiful Boy'? I like to think so.

What is significant here is that I was just a lad of 15 years, unformed still in terms of the man I would become and some might even doubt the results of the many years since. Nevertheless, the presence of John Lennon was so indelibly impressed upon myself and my friend that we journeyed on foot just to be there.

“I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me...”
Norwegian wood (Lennon-McCartney)

A year later – the summer of 1980 – I remember being in a car with friends – probably lifeguards like myself. Where we were going, I have no recollection. The radio was playing and, for the first time, I heard 'Starting over'. 'That's John Lennon,' I remember saying to my friends but I don't recall if they were impressed; the retro, rock n' roll feel to the song was not something to impress most youngsters as we witnessed the Punk movement crash and burn and experienced the dubious birth of 'the New Romantics' with their rollicking drum work and New Wave, which wasn't so terribly 'new' at all. 1980 was also the year that I embarked on my first 'serious' relationship. Of course, it didn't last long because I was a prick to her. I have no idea where she ever ended up. As the year rolled along, we started to hear the second single from the album – Woman. However, before the video clip for that song could be released, Johnny was taken away from us.

“I don't believe in Beatles.
I just believe in me...”
God (Lennon)

There is no simple way to sum up the complexity that was John Lennon or, likewise, what he has meant and still means in my life. He was, when he died, seven years younger than I am now but, by that time, in ten years as a Beatle, he had changed the face of pop music. In the ten years afterward, as ex-Beatle John, he made some of the most eloquent musical statements of the decade and fostered a slogan and a philosophy – Give Peace a Chance – that is as valid today as it was in a Montreal hotel room where it was recorded in 1969.

More than this, there is a great humanity in his songs. John Lennon wrote, often abstractly and sometimes very tenderly, about his own journey as a person through a life. He did not mince words – he was as flawed as anyone else. A lesson that I take from him is that peace is both an internal and an external process. So many years later, I am still searching for my peace both personally and in terms of my expression. In short, my own journey still proceeds from one stage to the next and, looking back over time, I see change but it's context is unclear – if to be characterised as positive change, just change or negative.

“So long. It's been a hard year.”
(Lennon, spoken outro) Just because (Lloyd Price)

All of this aside, John Lennon gave me a gift for which I am grateful. In the messages of his music and man that he was, he taught me not to be looking inward always but there is a world beyond the confines of my essence where there are people in need – much more in need than I may be on the worst day. I will reach out, when I am able, and offer what peace I can to those about me because, in the end, we are all on the same journey.

“I want you to make love, not war.
I know, you've heard it before.”
Mind Games (Lennon)

Peace is there if you want it and if you make it happen.


John Winston Ono Lennon
October 9, 1940 – December 8, 1980


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