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.