Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Some Call It Magic

My sister told me at home that night. The next day I went to school and saw a guy sitting on the roof of the walkway into the school. It was a small school. About 300 kids, that's all. You knew each other's thing. His thing was The Beatles, especially John Lennon.

He was in mourning.

I wasn't fond of this guy because he'd given me a degrading nickname about a year before. I still remember it, it was that ugly.

But on that day, when I looked up and our eyes met, his glittering behind his glasses, we nodded to each other.

In that moment, the world felt a little different.

Where were you?


  1. The numbers are doing a mind game on me... Thirty years ago this month, I drove my VW bug across country on my move from Ithaca, NY to Berkeley, CA. On Dec 8, I woke up in a motel in TN, turned on the teevee, and was thunderstruck by the news that John was assassinated. It was impossible to believe that could have happened. He seemed invincible. I sat down on the bed and tried to tell myself it wasn't true, but god, it was. I was thirteen years old when I bought the Beatles first US album in Dec 1963; it's hard to overestimate the effect they had on my adolescence...

  2. I was in a bar on the Upper East Side of NYC. I had recently turned 23 and I felt very adult. I was there with my boss and one of our clients. My boss was about 34, he seemed so old to me! The client was in his 50's but very handsome, suave and had a mad, sexy voice. We had all been out to dinner and then went for some drinks.

    It was one of those bars, ubiquitous at the time, brass rails, ferns and lots of well-dressed people, all on the prowl. Men in 3 piece suits and with moustaches, women with hungry eyes and sunken cheeks. I think my eyes were that, my cheeks- not so much. I can tell you that I was wearing a teal dress with a multi-colored teal belt that was woven. There was a slit on the side and my thigh showed through. Mad sexy.

    The two guys were getting drunk and I was bored and thinking that I better get in a cab and get to Grand Central. They decided to play pool - another ever-present symbol in these bars. I was alone at the bar, feeling slightly sorry for myself and like I did not belong.

    Monday night football was on but I was not really watching. Then the special report came on - John Lennon was shot! I ran over to the guys, but they were drunk now for real and playing pool. They did not care. No one seemed to care, save a handful of us misfits who sat at the bar, where we were now getting free drinks from shocked and saddened Irish bartender.

    I felt so sad and so raw but I could not exactly identify why. I kept thinking of a kid that I had worked with during HS and college who was obsessed with Lennon and wondering where he was and how he was taking this all. And I kept wondering who would shoot John Lennon and why.

    By time I came out of my gin-infused tv watching I had realized that I missed the last train. Now I had to admit to myself that not only was I a misfit, but that I lived at home. I had to (gulp) call my mother and say I wasn't coming home. She was pretty pissed off- to hear this and to be woken up at 2am.

    I went over to the now very drunk boss and client. The client wanted me to go to his hotel room with him. Suddenly I felt revulsion - how did he not feel this pain of Lennon's death? How could he think of sex? I also suddenly did not feel as old and adult as I had when we strode in there a few hours earlier.

    My boss got very protective and took me to his apartment. I remember being shocked that he was the big sales manager but his bed was a mattress on the floor, just like college. Complete with milk crate night stand! He let me sleep in his bed and he took the sofa, but I couldn't sleep. I listened to WNEW-FM and cried.

    Many images were shattered that night, many.

    The next day I felt overtired and shameful, showing up at work, looking a bit disheveled and wearing the teal dress again.

    And John Lennon was dead.

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  4. mom and i were living in the house she bought after my dad died. it was a two-bedroom, one bath cottage that looked like it was ripped from a fairy tale with arched entryways and a tiny, tiny kitchen. we kept her old school stereo with an eight-track player in the dining room turned on most all of the time. i remember walking into the dining room and seeing her slumped over the radio sobbing. i knew somebody had died. she cried the entire day. i remember wanting to be sad like she was, but i was only seven and kept thinking, "we didn't know him."

  5. I had just finished smoking a joint and was prowling the hall of my college dorm when Bill Scott, the man with the two first names, burst out in the hallway and said that Lennon had been shot.

  6. Heart of the San Fernando Valley, close to the crosshairs formed by Roscoe and Sepulveda. I think the thing that shocked me was the way he died, and not so much the fact he was dead. Rock stars died all the time, but it was usually from overdoses, stupidity, or a combination of the two, not getting shot by a deranged fan.

  7. I was working afternoon shift for Lockheed in beautiful downtown Burbank and one of the guys from New York told me about it. My thought at the time was how stupid it was for someone to shoot him.

  8. 1980 was a really bad year. Lennon was murdered and Ronnie Raygun became president.

    Of course I listened to the early Beatles ... mostly bubblegum. Then they transformed with Rubber Soul and Revolver ... something was happening for the better.

    They hung out with Ken Kesey in SF, did acid, took a look at the Haight Ashbury scene and their music changed again.

    You could tell, Lennon was the one wanting edgier stuff while McCartney wanted mainstream pop.

    We liked watching his short films, "Erection" and "Fly" come to mind.

    We were still in Los Angeles, I was doing my photography and hanging out with some other artists and we were at either the Roxy or Rainbow and sitting at the bar next to us was Lennon. Gotta be LA cool so the only thing said was, "Could you pass the bowl of pretzels?"

    We moved, Lennon moved, time passed and then I read he had been killed.

    To this day I find it painful to hear his music.

    Now that iTunes is selling Beatle songs I've started listening to them again. After all these years there's still youthfulness and innocence to their songs and in their voices.

    Lennon never peaked and we'll never know just how much further he would have gone.


  9. Oddly, I had been watching Lou Grant at my upstairs neighbor's apartment. I had either just seen or just bought that month's Playboy with the Lennon interview. The news that he'd been shot broke a few minutes after I got downstairs, and I sat there for a while in shock, and then he was gone.

    My then radio station I think fielded phone calls, news, and the mourning of the DJs.

    I knew that section of New York very well, and just imagined the whole thing. Over and over.

    There is a drugstore at 71st? and Amsterdam? which had a picture of him in the window; he'd been a customer.

  10. Thank you to each of you for sharing your stories.

    I think Will said it right - Peace.

    Keep the stories coming, please.

  11. 6th grade music class. I remember the teacher being really shaken up. I liked the Beatles at that age, but didn't really appreciate the magnitude of what had happened...

  12. Probably playing with Legos, oblivious, you old, old, old people.

  13. I was a junior at Boston College, home from a rehearsal of a play for which I was doing backstage stuff. Someone had the TV on, and there was the network anchor announcing it. My roommates and I sat in shock. I think someone cried. I remember wondering why someone would shoot John Lennon-- my idea at that time was that he was such an advocate for peace, it must have had something to do with that.

  14. I was in college, it was finals week, and I just remember being amazed that anyone would want to shoot John Lennon. I think we played his music in the dorm, and tried not to feel to sad.
    I have to admit much of the 80's are lost in my memory. Too much sex, drugs and rock n roll.

  15. your post and everyones responses are so moving to read. i think i find it even more interesting because i wasn't born until 5 years i don't have one to share...

  16. I was at my high school Christmas band concert, getting ready to go on stage. Irony was we had played through an arrangement of "So This Is Christmas" that afternoon as a warm-up and word was spreading like wild-fire that he was gone.

    When I got to college three years later, an art student, driven to grafittied despair had taken a permanent marker and writen "Why was John Lennon Shot?" throughout some tunnels that connected buildings on campus. A non-fan, or someone driven to distraction, had scrawled, "Who the fuck cares?" at one point. I think a lot of people cared then, and care now.

  17. Imagine there's peace ... in the world and in our own hearts.

    Good memory, Lisa.
    The Middle Ages

  18. I was twelve, so I was probably smoking dope.

  19. I was in high school. You'd think Lennon getting shot would have had a big impact on a teenager like me. But Reagan getting elected hit me much harder than Lennon's death. I just wasn't a big fan.

  20. I was in the 4th grade when Lennon died. My parents didn't listen to his music, and my teacher was an ex-nun.

    My teacher mentioned his death in passing, noting that he was 'probably in hell'. She was a real peach.

  21. Oh, John Lennon. My husband and I love him so.

  22. My parents were a little bemused to find us still in mourning when they arrived in Providence for their Christmas visit.

  23. I was at Uni but working part time as a cleaner and remember hearing the news on my way to work.

  24. In the house I grew up in there was a little nine inch black and white TV in our kitchen that my mom watched when she cooked. I'm not even sure this is real, but I remember it vividly, walking into the kitchen to find my mom sobbing, starring at the TV. My mom graduated high school in 1965, so the Beetles were exactly timed to be the most central point of her teen years. I always liked him, but that was the big impact--my mom.

  25. It was in my first year of college and I was in a pub. My friend George was devastated. Such a huge Beatles fan. I still remember his funky canvas sneakers with the rubber toe. He made the pilgrimage to NYC to plant a strawberry.

  26. I can't believe it's thirty years...I was driving home from my bowling league when I heard the news. I still remember it so clearly.

  27. I was a junior in high school. I went home that night and couldn't believe the news. A cool mentor, activist and musician had been brutally murdered on his front door. I wasn't the biggest of Beatles fans back then, but I most certainly knew the impact that Lennon had on the music industry as a whole. And obviously his creative genius on all levels of society.

    The next day at school was somber. So many people just couldn't believe what had happened. We had lost other musicians (Bon Scott from AC/DC earlier in the year from alcohol poisoning), but it just seemed different with John.


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