Every December 8th for the last 30 years, I have quietly paid tribute to my fallen hero. Last year, I went to John’s memorial in Central Park to remember the man who changed the world in a way few have. For so many fans of John Lennon, the relationship remains deeply personal, even after all these years.
Throughout high school, I spent much of my free time locked in my room with headphones on studying every beat, every note, every second of every Beatles song. My love of their music inspired me to play the guitar and write songs. And when my band wasn’t playing our songs in the basement, we were in my room marveling over the magic of Abbey Road’s medley or speeding up the end of Strawberry Fields to hear John’s “I buried Paul” or isolating the vocals to hear Paul’s voice crack for a split second on “If I Fell.”
We would then consume books and devour documentaries like “15 Hours With the Beatles.” We would have heated debates over albums and songs. Since I was the unabashed McCartney worshiper, I would take on the unenviable task of arguing how “London Town” matched up to “Abbey Road” or how “Girl’s School” was every bit as driving as “Get Back.”
And while our friends at school were listening to AC/DC, Kiss and Cheap Trick, we were isolated in the corner of the cafeteria talking about “Somewhere in New York City” and laughing over lines from the “Rutles.” This lonely obsession that started in 1977 made us seem more than a little quirky to our friends. It also had to be the cause of more than a few raised eyebrows from our parents.
I can understand now why they didn’t get it back then. That disconnect was laid bare the night we heard the news from Howard Cosell that John Lennon was dead. I sat watching Monday Night Football stunned and silent as my Dad walked through the room muttering that he liked Paul better. A friend on twitter, @Otoolefan, remembers his father telling him the next morning that “they shot Jack Lemmon last night.”
Many parents who suffered through the Great Depression and lost loved ones during World War II surely saw our angst as a little too much to bear. But my mother was a musician who understood the transcendence of music. She also understood that it was probably best to leave me alone with my headphones and Beatles records for the next several weeks.
What I found alone in my room is what I rediscovered last year when a dream of mine came true backstage at Radio City.
As a young congressman, I had been blessed to be able to meet any president, prime minister or politician. I had also met music heroes from B.B. King to U2 to Elvis Costello. All were exciting to meet, but none were Paul McCartney.
That chance came when Carole King was sweet enough to take me backstage to meet Sir Paul. Even the possibility seemed surreal since McCartney had impacted my life more than anyone outside of my family. As the day of the concert neared, a strange ambivalence swept over me. The day before the concert, I even told my wife I was thinking of skipping the chance at shaking my hero’s hand.
“What???” Susan asked incredulously. “I’ve never seen you scared of anyone or anything. Why in the world would you be afraid to meet Paul McCartney?”
It was a good point. People are people. Nothing more, nothing less. I have yet to meet a star who was worthy of worship. They just don’t exist anymore. In fact, I’m pretty sure they never did.
But I still couldn’t answer why I wanted to skip out on my lifelong dream of meeting Macca. Maybe it was Paul Simon’s fear that everything looks worse in black and white. Or maybe it was the fact that I could never tell him in a few seconds how he brought so much joy to so many years of my life. I just knew that the meeting would be short, awkward and leave me feeling a little empty.
Better not to pull back the curtain on the Wizard of Oz.
But I went ahead to Radio City, met Sir Paul McCartney, got my picture taken and managed to get out a few words. I don’t remember what they were but it was so surreal that I wouldn’t be surprised if I blurted out “I like purple” before quickly being escorted from the room.
After Carole and I left the backstage area and made it to our seats at Radio City, I realized that I had been right all along. I should have skipped the meeting and stayed home with my family. That regret lasted only as long as it took McCartney to strap a Hofner around his neck and rip into a supersonic rendition of “Jet.”
I was immediately transfixed–not by the myth, not by the legend, not by Beatle Paul. Instead, it was the music. As Carole and I jumped to our feet that night, I realized in an instant that the secret to their success had always been simple. The Beatles wrote remarkable songs.
For almost half a century, reporters and critics have tried to dissect why the Beatles had such an staggering impact on our times. After arriving in America in 1964, some suggested that Beatlemania was a needed distraction after the horror of JFK’s assassination. A few years later, critics would claim that the band was an outlet for a youth culture in rebellion against authority. And tonight, I am sure we will hear many try to explain again why so many of us still care about the Beatles 30 years after John’s death.
But in the end, all the philosophizing about the Beatles cultural transcendence is unadulterated bullshit. After all that has been written and said about the Liverpool band over the past 50 years, it still comes down their music.
The same music that moved me in 1980 moves my 7 year old daughter 30 years later. And the same magic that made me smile the first time I heard the back side of “Abbey Road” makes my 2 year old laugh when I pull out my guitar and sing him “Yellow Submarine.”
I spent a few hours today watching a BBC special on John’s life. The most revealing part of the documentary for me was a piece of film taken during John’s “Imagine” session. Lennon was told that a young, burned out straggler had made his way to John’s garden where he was spending much of his time.
The former Beatle left his session and walked outside to try to convince this lost soul to go home. As Lennon shot down every suggestion of cosmic connectivity between his songs and the drifter’s life, the Beatle who often had the sharpest edge revealed an inner sweetness that he seldom showed the world.
“Don’t confuse my songs with your life.”
The kid pushed back. Surely the lyrics to “I Dig a Pony” had a deeper meaning.
“I was just having fun with words” replied the retired dreamweaver.
“I’m just a guy.”
Maybe. But he and his bandmates also happened to create music that will bring joy to generations long after we are all gone. So tonight, I don’t have to go to Strawberry Fields to remember John. All I need are his songs.
I’ll put on my headphones, turn on “Number 9 Dream”, close my eyes, relax and float downstream
Memorials, merchandise for Lennon 70th anniversary
Reuters, Oct 6, 2010 11:00 pm PDT
LONDON (Reuters) – What would have been John Lennon’s 70th birthday on Saturday will be marked around the world with memorials, music and plenty of merchandise.
Yoko Ono, Lennon’s widow and the guardian of his commercial and musical legacy, will lead the tributes from Iceland, where she will light the Imagine Peace Tower in memory of Lennon and perform with their son Sean.
In the singer’s birthplace Liverpool, Lennon’s first wife Cynthia and their child Julian are expected to unveil a monument dedicated to the artist and funded by the Global Peace Initiative involving young artists.
“Nowhere Boy,” a film about Lennon’s early years before he found fame and fortune with the Beatles, hits U.S. theatres on Friday and on Saturday, the documentary “LennonNYC” will be screened in New York, where he was killed on December 8, 1980.
The 30th anniversary of his murder at age 40 is expected to launch a new wave of Lennon-mania in December.
“It’s a strange phenomenon in a way, but probably the Beatles are more popular now than they ever were,” said Jerry Goldman, managing director of the Beatles Story museum in Liverpool which will be custodian of the new $350,000 monument.
“Lennon is the most iconic of them. His activities for peace with Yoko, his ‘bed-ins’, perhaps don’t count quite so much as the music,” he added.
“‘Imagine’ is a world anthem, as is ‘Give Peace a Chance’. Whenever people gather to protest … you are probably going to hear them singing a Lennon song. More than anything else it’s the music, and nobody has come close in recent years.”
Few would debate Lennon’s musical influence.
As one half of the key songwriting axis in the Beatles alongside Paul McCartney, Lennon was responsible for much of the band’s catalog, including seminal hits like “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “A Hard Day’s Night.”
As a solo artist after the group split in 1970, he went on to produce songs including Imagine, and became a symbol of opposition to the Vietnam War.
Lennon’s legacy is also big business. Critics have accused Ono and others of cashing in on his memory and betraying the ideals of a man who once sang “imagine no possessions.”
Ono has overseen the release of a digitally remastered Lennon catalog, including eight studio albums and several newly compiled titles, on the EMI Music label.
“Remastering was emotionally hard for me,” she wrote recently on Twitter.
“I felt John was at my side, and when I looked at my side, there was only an empty chair. I was crying, but still my job was to listen to John, like I used to … So I am a lucky girl.”
Ono also authorized Gibson to make three special edition acoustic guitars priced between $4,700 and $15,000.
Montblanc has produced a Lennon-related pen, complete with sapphires and diamonds and retailing in luxury magazines for a cool $27,000.
“It’s easy to lose sight of the music with all the surrounding Lennonphilia that, over the next few weeks, will be particularly cloying and suffocating,” said Brian Boyd, music columnist for the Irish Times.
Ono has defended her decision to allow Lennon’s name to be used to endorse products, saying it is the most effective way to keep his name and music in the public consciousness.
And in response to complaints in Britain earlier this year when archive footage of the singer was used in a car advertisement, son Sean tweeted: “Having just seen ad I realize why people are mad. But intention was not financial, was simply wanting to keep him out there in the world.”
Sean Lennon and a naked Kemp Muhl (a model and his girlfriend) have recreated the iconic Rolling Stone cover of Lennon’s parents, Yoko Ono and John Lennon, taken by Annie Leibovitz.
The pic, snapped by Terry Richardson, was taken for the fall issue of Purple magazine.
Sean stays clothed, in the Yoko role, while Muhl is nude and curled up against his side. Unlike John Lennon, she even shows some nipple.
If this pose seems familiar then you probably remember Madonna’s video for Like A Virgin.
Now, 25 years on, the Queen of Pop’s daughter, Lourdes, has re-created the iconic look. Footage apparently taken from a shoot for Madonna’s latest video, Celebration, shows the 12-year-old, right, dressed in a very similar guise to her mother’s outfit for the 1984 video.
But perhaps Madonna, 51, realised (sic) the look could offend some fans and it was removed from the final edit.
and here’s Lindsey Lohan’s version:
We all have our favorite. Some say Elvis was “the King” and Michael Jackson was “the King of Pop.” The Beatles don’t have a catchy name and they are not one person. For that reason alone, I hate that they are compared to Elvis and MJ.
The Beatles shaped my childhood. When I was about 9 or 10 I got the double red and blue albums of best songs. I was hooked. My best friend and I collected everything we could about the Beatles. We each had our favorite. Hers was always Paul, mine was always Ringo. However, it was John Lennon who inspired us the most and it was George Harrison that we saw in concert in 1974.
George Harrison, Chicago 1974
I still have the scrapbook-type items I saved from the early ’70’s. Unfortunately, I didn’t know to save the whole magazine and just cut out the articles I liked. I also have all the newspaper clippings from George Harrison’s 1974 Tour. 30 years later I saw Paul McCartney.
Paul McCartney, San Jose 2005
The music catalog that Lennon-McCartney created is like none other. Happy songs, sad songs, brilliant songs, funny songs, political songs, oh, and they did love songs too. The Beatle’s music IS the background of my life. “Twist and Shout” is my favorite song to dance to and “Blackbird” was the song I sang to sooth my baby to sleep.
While searching for information on Michael Jackson owning the Beatle Catalog, this post from NPR asked the same question I did. Now that Michael Jackson has passed, will Paul McCartney get the rights to his songs back?
The Beatles Catalog And Michael Jackson
by Robin Hilton
Earlier this year, the British tabloid The Daily Mirror reported that Michael Jackson had drawn up a will, giving the publishing rights to some 250 Beatles songs back to Sir Paul McCartney. Though a number of other sites were quick to report the news, The Mirror cited unnamed sources, and the reports have never been verified. Now, with Jackson’s passing, the question is very much up in the air.
For those who don’t remember or never knew, Jackson and McCartney recorded a couple of hits together back in the ’80s, “Say, Say, Say” and “The Girl Is Mine.”
The two struck up a friendship. At some point, according to some accounts, McCartney reportedly told Jackson how he’d made a lot of money by owning the publishing rights to other people’s music. This inspired Jackson to start his own side business of buying, selling and distributing publishing rights to numerous artists. When the Beatles catalog, which was owned by ATV Music Publishing, came up for sale, McCartney initially said he wasn’t interested in buying it because it was too expensive. McCartney eventually changed his mind and attempted to persuade Yoko Ono to join him in a bid for the music, but she declined. In the end, Jackson purchased the catalog for $47.5 million dollars. McCartney, according to the Mirror, said ‘The annoying thing is I have to pay to play some of my own songs. Each time I want to sing ‘Hey Jude’ I have to pay.
It’s hard to separate fact from fiction in this 25 year-old story. But according to the Associated Press, McCartney issued a statement today saying “I feel privileged to have hung out and worked with Michael. He was a massively talented boy man with a gentle soul. His music will be remembered forever and my memories of our time together will be happy ones.”
Let it bequest – Jackson wants to leave Paul McCartney Beatles back catalogue
EXCLUSIVE by Zoe Griffin 3/01/2009
‘Dying’ Jacko to leave Macca £350million Beatles rights in will.
MICHAEL Jackson hopes to bury his 24-year feud with Sir Paul McCartney – by leaving his share of the Beatles back catalogue to him in his will.
Macca was furious when Jacko outbid him in 1985 to win ownership of the £350million publishing rights to the whole Lennon-McCartney songbook.
The stars, once good pals who collaborated on early 80s hits The Girl is Mine and Say, Say, Say have not spoken since.
But the debt-ridden King of Pop, now said to be battling a serious genetic lung disease, is determined to make peace with McCartney.
Jackson, 50, who according to some reports is convinced he is dying and has been using a wheelchair, has drawn up a new will where Sir Paul, 66, will inherit control of his share of the Beatles songbook if the troubled star dies before him.
Sources close to Jacko say he has always regretted falling out with Macca. One insider said: “Michael is worried about his health so decided it was time to look at his finances.
“Most of his estate has been divided up between his three children. But Michael told his lawyers he was sad he no longer talks to Sir Paul and said he wanted to make things right.”
The source added: “Michael is suffering serious back and leg pain and has for a few years. He gets spasms in his back which means he spends a lot of time in bed and a wheelchair.
“He weighs just over seven stone and is very frail. He’s also had a nasty bout of emphysema and there have been reports he has another lung disease.”
Jacko sold half of his Beatles back catalogue rights to Sony in 1995, but still makes about £40million a year from them.
Macca said recently: “The annoying thing is I have to pay to play some of my own songs. Each time I want to sing Hey Jude I have to pay.”
Last night a source close to Sir Paul said: “If Michael Jackson was to give back the song rights in his will then Macca would be delighted.”
Michael Jackson’s spokesman has officially denied the star believes he is dying.