Tuesday, December 09, 2008

My "December 8th" observance...
...dining on Shaved Fish...

It's something I do this time of year to commemorate December 8th, a date that will forever live in Rock and Roll Infamy; that's when we all lost John Lennon some 28 years ago. Without him, there would've been no Beatles; without The Beatles, it's quite possible that everything that came after, and during their reign, would never have happened, or at least, would have happened quite differently. I'd like to think so, anyway. So, every year about this time, I extract "Shaved Fish" from ye old record collection; it's the last album he put out before he retired from Show Biz back in 1975. He wouldn't re-emerge until just before his 1980 death...which, to me, will always feel like a tragedy full of unrequited potential; he was letting us all inside, he was sharing himself with us again and what did he get for it? Pow! BLAM! I'm still bitter about it, yes, but as time passes, less so.

Anyway, "Shaved Fish", the album, originally came with a red and white sticker that advertised the package as "Collectable Lennon"...which seems to translate as "Mainstream Lennon", because it features his Obvious Big Hit Singles. Still, at the time it came out, and for years afterwards, it was the only place you could find his studio version of "Cold Turkey", the studio version of "Instant Karma" and of course, "Happy Xmas" (War Is Over If You Want It), so the disc did bring together some pieces of the puzzle. His rabble-rousing song, "Power To The People", which almost sounds as if it were recorded in Red Square, was another one of the 'available nowhere else' tunes which ended up on "Shaved Fish". "Is "Power To The People" really 'Mainstream Lennon'? Well, it got airplay and made the charts, so that's saying something...

One track on the LP is definitely not "Mainstream" Lennon, however; his 1972 single, "Woman Is The 'n-word' Of The World" is included. The sentiment is admirable; the song is about how us Macho Men ridicule, persecute and victimize women, and how we gripe more at 'em if they dare to complain. I'm sure the outrageousness of the song's 'n-word' was in part Yoko's doing, seeing as how she hijacked a lot of his creativity, but he went along for the ride, and that was the result of that. Yoko may have goaded John into doing all kinds of outrageous things, but he probably had that 'streak' all along, anyway...

Later in the '70s, he released the song "Mind Games", a tune which I have to admit not really caring for when I first heard it, but seems to sound better and better with time. It's on "Shaved Fish", along with his very own #1 hit, "Whatever Gets You Through The Night" (with Elton John adding vocals), and I have mixed emotions about that tune. It rocks, it's poppy, but a bit 'minor' for Lennon. Still, it worked for him. And it's not a really bad tune. I've heard the "Live" version recorded at Madison Square Garden in 1975; it rocks harder and sounds fresher. Ironically, the song contains the phrase, "don't need a gun to blow your mind, oh no, oh no." Amazing how life's little ironies can come back in haunting fashion, eh?

In the 1990's, several newer repackages of John Lennon's songs ("Lennon Legend", "The John Lennon Collection" and others) hit the market, and they all include more songs, and a more detailed showcasing of what John Lennon was all about, but still, I bring out the old "Shaved Fish" disc every December 8th; my copy is on the original Apple label, and so I like to hear the old music on a vintage disc that actually sounds pretty good.



So anyway, this is what I do every December 8th. I bring out the "Shaved Fish" album and listen again to what John Lennon brought to this world. There are harsh, potentially unlikeable songs on it, side by side with some really beautiful melodies. Above all, Lennon was a human being, and listening to this album, or any collection of Lennon's hits, reveals the paradoxical natures within him, that we all have to a degree. I once heard someone ask, "What did John Lennon bring to the Beatles?", and I think he brought the potential for creativity and carried with him an energetic urgency which helped make the Beatles So Doggoned Good. He also wrote some fairly dandy solo tunes, and this "Shaved Fish" disc concisely showcases that material.
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For those who think I'm terribly ignorant because I didn't mention December 7th (Pearl Harbor), yes, I know that date is quite personal for those who fought in World War II and their families. My Dad flew a bomber over Germany; he spent a year in the Army, discharged, and went straight into the Army Air Corps. So, vets, while I wasn't alive then, I do appreciate all you've done; that goes out to all those who've served, as well as to those who are serving now.

2 Comments:

Blogger Dogwalkmusings said...

You've hit on one of my favorite themes. What "reality" means to different generations.. To one of us it's history, to another memory. We don't have to apologize for either do we?

7:42 PM  
Blogger some guy who blogs said...

Well, Marianne...hopefully we can provide reality to someone younger who has dreams. And, the dreams the younger folks have, can be our way of expanding reality...everything's relative, I guess...

8:04 PM  

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