Tuesday, October 09, 2007

He would have been 67 today...
...a restless spirit, gone but definitely not forgotten...

So many words have been written about him, that there probably isn't anything original left to say. Suffice it to say that, without him, things would have been a lot different. Some say he was angry, confrontational and inciteful, while others, myself included, view him as a restless spirit, endlessly creative, but at the same time, strangely weak, vulnerable and unfocused. Still, I wonder what a 67-year old John Lennon would have turned out like. I suppose, if he was still alive, people would be asking him if The Beatles would ever get back together. I've seen a lot of old English TV footage, and it seems to me that when The Beatles were together, British TV reporters would ask them if they ever planned to do anything separately. And when the Beatles did split up, all four "solo" Beatles were constantly asked if they'd ever reunite.

I personally think John Lennon had a very hard time dealing with all-consuming, suffocating fame. He might have been an airhead, but he might also have been waaay ahead of his time. Certainly, if you put together a tape of John Lennon's Beatle-music, you'd have a tape full of some of the most inventive, anarchic, and original music ever made. They say the best way to compare John's writing style with Paul McCartney's style, is to play both sides of the "Penny Lane"/"Strawberry Fields Forever" single, and certainly it's a good place to start. Paul's "Penny Lane" is neat, tidy, narrative in nature, and very polished. On the flip side, Lennon's "Strawberry Fields Forever" stumbles all about in search of clarity, sanity and some kind of logic. "Penny Lane" describes the external world while "Strawberry Fields" examines the world within. It's fascinating. The line in that Lennon song that really hits me is: "It's getting hard to be someone but it all works out...It doesn't matter much to me." And as I age, I'm in agreement with that idea more and more. Nothing really matters...

Paul McCartney and George Harrison were better instrumentalists than Lennon ever could be, but Lennon's energy, drive and startling originality was a major part of the Beatles' sound. Later on, after the group broke up, Lennon's last few albums were fairly listless, but then again, coming down from The Beatles had to be a hard thing to do. Between 1975 and mid-1980, Lennon holed up in seclusion at The Dakota Apartments in New York City, where he and Yoko lived. Some accounts I've read of that time say that Lennon was enjoying domestic bliss, while other points of view say Lennon was virtually held as some sort of a psychic prisoner by Yoko, who was either a shrew, or the all-encompassing love of Lennon's life. I kinda think the real story is somewhere in the middle. But, when he re-emerged after 5 years, his music on "Double Fantasy" and the posthumously-released "Milk And Honey" had an energy and optimism that was sorely lacking in his mid-70's albums such as "Mind Games" and "Walls and Bridges".

I could write endlessly about Lennon and The Beatles, but since I've already done that several hundred times in this blog, I won't do that here. But a point I want to touch upon is that, so much time has now passed, and Lennon was 'taken away' from us so very long ago, that in a way, it's becoming ancient history. That is, until I put on a Beatles' record, and the music sounds as fresh, original and exciting as it did forty years ago when it first came out. In addition, as long as Lennon was alive, there was always the possibility of the Beatles re-uniting, although I never thought that would actually happen. That possibility ended in December of 1980. Then, in 2001, when George Harrison passed away, of natural causes (if Cancer is indeed a 'natural cause'), the legacy of The Beatles began to become absorbed in the "long ago". I was extremely bitter when Lennon was assassinated, but after Harrison passed away, some of that bitterness disappeared. To paraphrase a line in a John Lennon song, "The Dream is REALLY over." And the four mop-tops from Liverpool, England, are now assuming their place in history. Scary thot, huh?

Without Lennon, there would not have been a "Beatles". Without the Beatles, music would undoubtedly evolved in a much different fashion over the last 40-odd years. Perhaps we'd all still be listening to Chubby Checker-and-Bobby Rydell musical wannabees; perhaps there would have been no self-contained groups that wrote their own music and played their own instruments, and without The Beatles paving the way, there might have been no British Invasion...no Yardbirds, Animals, Stones, or Hermits, for instance. Sadly, from what I can tell, the music scene, overall, these days is pretty doggone fatalistic and morose compared to the endless creativity which made a lot of '60s records so exciting and fulfilling. There are still good bands out there...but without Lennon and The Beatles...I daresay we'd be living in a musical wasteland. That's my theory, anyway. That's my theory and I'm sticking to it.


Blogger Phil said...

In school today, I made note of the date and told my son, "Hey, today is John Lennon's birthday!"

He asked me how old he would've been, and I did the calculations, then said, "67. No, wait, that can't be right." I had to do the math in my head AGAIN, because it just didn't seem right. Has it really been that long since that evil day in December of 1980?

I'd like to think that if Lennon had lived, he would've reunited with Paul, George, and Ringo in some sort of "unplugged" concert. I think he would've really enjoyed that kind of intimate setting that became so popular in the late 80's and early 90's.

Funny that today was the day that George's entire post-Beatles catalog was made available for the first time on iTunes.

All four Beatles have now had their solo albums remastered and digitized. They all sound amazingly fresh and vibrant. Now if we could just get those Beatles albums out in the new format.

7:02 PM  
Blogger Idaho Escapee said...

Hi Phil...if my memory serves me well, I think you put most of your 'comment' as an article on your own blog (or vice/versa)...you know, I've heard various remixes of various things, and I don't really need the new digital remixes; I have cd's and cassettes and domestic and foreign and remastered LP's, and what really counts for me is the music, and not necessarily the mix, as long as it doesn't sound like mud. Actually I'm amazed at how good my old '60s Beatles albums still sound.

11:52 PM  

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