Well, well, well. John Lennon would have been 70 today. It’s strange to think that it’s been almost 30 years since he was murdered. I remember getting up for school that morning. My mother, who was in the kitchen surprisingly early, told me, “John Lennon was killed,” and I said, “WHO?!” because I was so shocked. She thought I really didn’t know who he was because she started explaining, “John Lennon from the Beatles!” But I’ve had that same “WHO?!” reaction many times since then upon being told of someone’s death, no matter how well I know the person in question. I hear the word “died” and my mind goes blank for a moment.
It’s also strange to think that I’m now older than he was when he was killed.
I expect that a lot of people will be quoting from “Imagine” today, but as I’ve said before, that’s not my favorite Lennon song. I prefer “God,” with its repetition of “I don’t believe …” In general, I’m more interested in the funny, smart, bitchy, insecure, paranoid, Jealous Guy, mother-obsessed, heroin-using, Paul-McCartney-criticizing, nude-album-cover-creating Lennon to the peacenik saint image that’s so popular.
I always prefer the real to the ideal. I get my idea of the real from my reading, which isn’t limited to hagiographies. In fact, it includes some downright embarrassing, scandal-mongering choices. I shouldn’t confess to some of these, but here’s a partial list of what’s in my bookcase:
- The Ballad of John and Yoko by the Editors of Rolling Stone
- All We Are Saying by David Sheff
- A Twist of Lennon by Cynthia Lennon
- Loving John by May Pang and Henry Edwards
- Lennon in America by Geoffrey Giuliano
- John Lennon: One Day at a Time by Anthony Fawcett
- The Last Days of John Lennon by Frederic Seaman
- In His Own Write by John Lennon
I avoided Albert Goldman’s The Lives of John Lennon because it was said (particularly by Yoko Ono) to be so hateful (particularly to Yoko Ono), but now that I’m looking at the reviews on Amazon again, I’m intrigued. I might have to get it. My Beatles-as-a-group books are too numerous to list, but I’ll mention Shout by Philip Norman, which I got in 1981 and probably read cover-to-cover 20 times — no exaggeration. There was no Internet then so we had a lot of time to read, you know.
I’ve always loved John’s style. Yoko’s too. They were much more chic than my almost-husband Paul McCartney and his wife Linda. I don’t think Paul ever had a psychedelic Rolls Royce.
Yoko wore leather shorts, which are back in fashion now.
Back in 2007, when I first posted the pictures above, I promised more pictures of Yoko’s style “soon.” Three years isn’t that long, is it? Maybe it’s better that I waited because, like the shorts, some of her outfits are very 2010. For instance, you can see Yoko working a pre-Lady Gaga no-pants look in clips used for John’s posthumous Nobody Told Me video. John looked stylish as well, in two looks that have come back: military gear and — ta-da! — double denim.
Jackie O gets all the credit for the oversize sunglasses look but Yoko did them too.
And so many fashion bloggers are wearing floppy hats and knee socks — though not usually together — like Yoko wore for her wedding to John.
I have a ring coming up that’s partially inspired by the stark photo of Yoko on the cover of Rolling Stone in October 1981, after John’s death.
You’ll have to wait till the ring is done to find out more.
Because everything under the sun makes me think of Family Guy, I’ve been wondering if the show has ever done anything on Lennon’s death. If it has, I don’t recollect it. (Tell me in the comments if I’ve missed something.) Could that be one of the few things off-limits on a show that regularly mocks Hitler and Jesus? Is it really too soon, unlike this Franklin Delano Roosevelt routine?
Brian: Oh, please, Peter, your excuses are lamer than FDR’s legs.
Meg & Peter: *gasp*
Brian: Too soon?
Family Guy did establish that Peter’s lax security-guard skills were responsible for George Harrison being (non-fatally) attacked by a knife-wielding intruder.
And batshit-crazy Heather Mills, Paul McCartney’s ex, got her well-deserved share of mockery.
Ringo didn’t escape the Family Guy treatment either.
Poor Ringo. How can they be so cruel to a man who is named after jewelry?
All of this Beatles talk reminds me that I want to visit Liverpool one of these days. I like to make pilgrimages to places that have influenced me somehow. After all, John made his home in the place I like to think of as the Capital of the World. I should return the favor with a visit.
For now, I’ll go see Nowhere Boy, Sam Taylor-Wood’s new movie about Lennon’s childhood. (There’s a hot love story behind the movie.) A partial listing of the other Lennon/Beatles movies I recommend are:
- The Hours and Times. A fictionalized account of a real-life vacation that John took with the Beatles’ (gay) manager, Brian Epstein — a trip that’s always been the subject of much speculation and fantasizing among “shippers.”
- Backbeat. Ian Hart, who plays Lennon in The Hours and Times, originally played him in this movie about the Beatles in their early Hamburg days. In Hamburg they did speed, wore leather, and inspired my love of skinny jeans.
- Two of Us. What might have happened if John and Paul were hanging out together on April 24, 1976, when Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels offered the Beatles $3,000 to get back together and perform on SNL. “If you want to give Ringo less, that’s up to you,” he said. The movie is imagined but the SNL skit is real.
- I Wanna Hold Your Hand. Teenagers desperately try to get to a Beatles concert. I watched this so many times in the ’80s that I still have portions of the script memorized. This movie is to me what Mommie Dearest is to my sister, Terri Berry.
- Do I really have to mention A Hard Day’s Night, Help, Magical Mystery Tour, Yellow Submarine and Let It Be?
I’ll leave you with Working Class Hero, with its bitter lyrics: “They hurt you at home and they hit you at school/They hate you if you’re clever and they despise a fool/Till you’re so fucking crazy you can’t follow their rules.”
That’s the angry John Lennon I love!
UPDATED DECEMBER 8, 2010, TO ADD: The programmers of the Cartoon Network came through for me on the 30th anniversary of Lennon’s death by re-airing the Family Guy episode in which Stewie says, “Now fess up, or I’ll do to you what I did to John Lennon” … setting up a flashback of Stewie saying, “John, have you met Yoko? Yoko, John?” Coincidence? I like to think not.
As I’ve said before (and as it was clearly evident to all those around me recently), I’ve been on a major (and I mean maaajor, Major Sgt. Colonel Captain Pepper kind of major) Beatles kick lately. It’s almost like an illness that takes over me when I delve deeper and deeper into the anthology of the Beatles and then into each band member himself; it’s hard to believe that their career as a unit only spanned about 7-8 years.
So it’s natural that I think this post is amazing. It’s given me way too much information and sources to peruse through with much fascination. I have yet to listen to every single Beatles song (I’ve always compared their songs to illegitimate children, in that there are so many of them out there, but I love almost every one), unfortunately. But thanks for sharing some of your favorite Lennon songs and your musings. I have to say that I love how sharp and cheeky he always was; I always crack up at that one random scene in A Hard Day’s Night when he’s spouting German in a bathtub. Priceless.
There’s a lot to listen to and read and watch! And it’s definitely addictive.
First rock star death to make me cry. Great post.
Once again you show me why your blog has become my favourite. Fantastic post, so chock full of intel.I love the Beatles (and Family Guy). Thanks muchly xo
Thank you, StefM and Mary!
Make Do Style says
Good grief I remember being woken up to be told he was dead. I’ll take you to Liverpool and also you might like to go to some of the early venues they played at the many British seaside towns. My Grandpa was often their taxi driver or driver. They really did catch the train and turn up at places. His words upon John Lennon’s death ‘They were always polite lads and had better haircuts than those Rolling Stones. I liked John.’
That’s exactly the type of eulogy I want. That I was polite and had good hair. Thanks for sharing that story!
Madeleine Gallay says
No one, absolutely no one, can riff as you.
Book of riffs …
Funny, I had “Riff” in the title and then changed it to “Musings.”
Penny Dreadful Vintage says
I’d still like to do a Beatles-themed Liverpool trip one day.
I was too young to remember the day the music died, but I do remember the day my little brother found out. My whole family were VERY into The Beatles, and when my brother was about 7 he said something about John Lennon, to which we said ‘but he is dead’. ‘John Lennon is DEAD?!?! My little brother wailed, 14 years after the fact.
I love Help! but there was also an Australian movie in the 90s called Secrets, about a group of fans who get stuck in the basement of the Beatle’s hotel while the group are touring Oz. Starring Dannii Minogue. It was probably terrible but I remember liking it.
Also, Jealous Guy and Cold Turkey are my tops. And Woman is the Nigger of the World. Just great.
Secrets sounds like the Australian version of I Wanna Hold Your Hand. Great story about your brother. I hope you didn’t tell him Santa Claus wasn’t real on the same day.
your musings are always so fascinating. i don’t know much about john lennon or yoko ono other than I like the beatles and I like some of john’s songs…but as far as knowing anything about him; i know nothing. now I am intrigued to read about his life.
I did however see Yoko Ono in the late 1990s in the Regent Beverly Wilshire cocktail lounge to which my uncle exclaimed, “There’s Yoko Ono!” And after almost spilling my virgin strawberry daiquiri I said, “WHO?!”
Do you still drink virgin daiquiris? Inquiring minds want to know!
Denise @ Swelle says
The thought of his death still makes me sad. I recall also being sad about Reagan being shot which happened in the same school year. I was only 10, I didn’t any know better.
One day I would like to decipher the enigma that is Yoko Ono, if that is at all possible. Your post was lovely and also reminded me to buy more razors.
I laughed Diet Snapple out my nose at your razors remark.
miss cavendish says
When Mr. C worked in NYC in the 1980s and wore little gold glasses, he was often mistaken for a (short-haired) John Lennon.
WEndy you are always amazing!!! xoxo
John Bailo says
I like John Lennon too, but you seem to have fallen for the “Yoko Agenda” version of history…in which the fame and talent was “shared co-equally” (Yeah, Comrades!)
Maybe in 50 years we’ll get a more balanced rewrite.
I’m not sure what you mean by this. Do I think the talent was shared equally among the Beatles? I think Paul wouldn’t be Paul McCartney without John Lennon, and John wouldn’t be John Lennon without Paul McCartney. They were both essential.
If you’re referring to John and Yoko, obviously I don’t think they were of equal talent or importance and I never say that in the post. Do I think Yoko was interesting, smart, stylish and important to John? Yes. Moreover, I don’t think she gets much love or credit from people at all. If history needs to be rewritten, it probably should be more in her favor than the excoriating things I still read. But I haven’t fallen for any Yoko agenda. In fact, my whole post is about how he WASN’T the peacenik saint that is the image she (understandably) promotes.
So sad. A legend. Influential in so many ways. And I think Yoko is even chicer now than ever. I did hear a crazy story yesterday that I hadn’t heard before about the two of them… John cheated on her while she was in the next room! Me no likey.
Great pix, great post!
Oh yes, the time at a party when everyone knew what was happening so she was doubly humiliated?
I agree that she’s very chic now. I’ve had two sightings of her but both times were too scared to say anything to her. She knows how to work cleavage and hats!
This is the best Lennon post I’ve read today (and I’ve read quite a few)
Aw, thanks Jan!
I can’t wait to see this ring…I really can’t.
Ruth Johnston says
Great post Wendy .. I loved John Lennon and I remember being so shocked when he diedxx
Unconditional love at its best. I wonder how hard it has been for her to live life without him. Once you’ve experienced all consuming passion like that…does anything else ever compare?
So you don’t believe the stories about her having boy-toys before his death? 😉
You must be feeling better, WendyB, to have made such a fine post as this. I am truly amazed at your widespread readings and knowledge on such a plethora of distinct, yet often related, topics. In fact, I am in awe.
Thanks, Lynette! I actually struggled through my sickness to write this. But couldn’t miss the big birthday.
I think Yoko worked knee socks best of anyone I’ve seen, and she was a grown woman when she did it. And she has some Prada-esque shoes on in that photo where she’s wearing orange and John’s wearing “military.” They both look decades ahead of their time.
I remember when Lennon was murdered. I felt shocked too, and I remember wondering why Mark David Chapman gave that stupid “rationale” for killing him.
Ugh, what a loss.
Great post and glad to see some John and Yoko shots I haven’t in a while. I am a newer fan, I can’t believe I wasn’t into The Beatles and John Lennon earlier in my life.
Miss Peelpants says
You can always rely on Wendy to produce the best tribute blogs ever. It’s so ‘everywhere’ I can’t even be bothered to blog about it, so thank you for doing such a damn good one!
I remember seeing some [probably awful but I was too young to remember] film with Dannii Minogue and other Aussies locked in a hotel basement together, because they were trying to sneak into the Beatles hotel when they visiting down under. It probably isn’t one of the best, but it seems to have been TOTALLY forgotten…
Penny Dreadful (above) says the name of that movie is Secrets. So it’s not TOTALLY forgotten 🙂
Miss Peelpants says
Shame on me for not reading your comments more thoroughly!!! Whooooops! 😉