Saturday Surprise — John Lennon, A Tribute of Sorts

Welcome to Saturday Surprise and a cold beginning to the weekend.  I hadn’t given much thought to what to do for my Saturday Surprise post yesterday evening, for I was on a tear about my Friday pm topic, when an item plunked into my inbox and I thought, hmmmmm …. Maybe.  And so, while I was rolling smokes and baking cookies, I gave it some thought and decided it might be fun to take another glance at the past.  What was the item, you ask?  Well, yesterday, as it happens, was the 37th anniversary of the murder of John Lennon.  Some readers of this column may be too young to remember, but they still know who John Lennon and the Beatles were, no doubt, and anyway, most of my regular readers and myself remember quite well.  So, let us take a brief walk down memory lane and meet up again with Mr. John Lennon and by association, the Beatles.

Who Was John Lennon?

“John Lennon was born on October 9, 1940, in Liverpool, England. He met Paul McCartney in 1957 and invited McCartney to join his music group. They eventually formed the most successful songwriting partnership in musical history. Lennon left the Beatles in 1969 and later released albums with his wife, Yoko Ono, among others. On December 8, 1980, he was killed by a crazed fan named Mark David Chapman.”  – Biography.com

But that doesn’t really tell us much about him, does it?  Let’s dig a bit deeper. Lennon’s first band was actually called The Quarrymen, and was composed of Lennon and several school friends from Quarry Bank High School, which they attended. The name morphed from The Blackjacks to Johnny and the Moondogs to Japage 3, before finally becoming The Beatles in 1960. Lennon’s mother, Julia, taught her son to play the banjo and then showed Lennon how to tune his guitar in a similar way to the banjo, and taught him simple chords and songs.

Lennon and McCartney first met when The Quarrymen played St. Peter’s Church Rose Queen garden fête in Woolton on Saturday, July 6th, 1957, and McCartney was invited to join the band soon thereafter. Although he had practiced endlessly for his debut, McCartney played horribly at his debut performance on Friday, 18 October 1957, missing his opening cue and playing all the wrong notes!  Nerves? Everyone expected Lennon to say something sarcastic, but the sight of the always overconfident McCartney looking so crestfallen made Lennon laugh out loud instead.

Lennon and McCartney both started writing songs influenced by Buddy Holly, and both were impressed with each other’s efforts. The two began writing together, and their writing partnership would become very successful throughout the 1960s. As they began leaning more toward rock ‘n roll, many of the original band members left the band, and it became clear that they would need an additional guitar player. Enter George Harrison.

QuarrymenMcCartney recommended his school friend George Harrison, who first saw the group perform on February 6th, 1958 at Wilson Hall, where McCartney introduced him to Lennon. Harrison was only 14 at the time, and Lennon initially thought him too young.  McCartney, however, didn’t give up and set up various opportunities for Harrison to perform for Lennon.  Once Harrison turned 15, Lennon finally capitulated.  Later that year, with only the three of them left in the band, they changed their name to Japage 3 (combining letters from each of the member’s names: John, Paul, and George), but the name change lasted less than a year, and they went back to being The Quarrymen.

By March 1960, struggling to get gigs, the group changed their name once again, and this time the name would stick: the Beatles. In August of 1962, Richard Starkey, known professionally as Ringo Starr, left the band he was with, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, and joined the Beatles as drummer, completing the band that would ultimately go on to fame and fortune. The group continued to perform around Liverpool and in Hamburg, Germany, before being signed to Parlophone Records in 1962. After their signing, the Beatles achieved worldwide fame and became one of the most popular and successful musical artists of all time, before breaking up in 1970.

The Beatles achieved mainstream success in the UK early in 1963. Lennon was on tour when his first son, Julian, was born in April. During their Royal Variety Show performance that was attended by the Queen Mother and other British royalty, Lennon poked fun at his audience: “For our next song, I’d like to ask for your help. For the people in the cheaper seats, clap your hands … and the rest of you, if you’ll just rattle your jewelery.”

After a year of Beatlemania in the UK, the group’s historic February 1964 US debut appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show marked their breakthrough to international stardom. A two-year period of constant touring, moviemaking, and songwriting followed, during which Lennon wrote two books, In His Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works.

Lennon grew concerned that fans who attended Beatles concerts were unable to hear the music above the screaming of fans, and that the band’s musicianship was beginning to suffer as a result. Lennon’s “Help!” expressed his own feelings in 1965: “I meant it … It was me singing ‘help'”

In March 1970 he was unknowingly introduced to LSD when a dentist, hosting a dinner party attended by Lennon, Harrison and their wives, spiked the guests’ coffee with the drug. When they wanted to leave, their host revealed what they had taken, and strongly advised them not to leave the house because of the likely effects. Later, in an elevator at a nightclub, they all believed it was on fire: “We were all screaming … hot and hysterical.”

In an interview in 1966, Lennon made a comment that would cause quite a stir in the U.S., but barely a blink in the UK …

“Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink … We’re more popular than Jesus now—I don’t know which will go first, rock and roll or Christianity.”

The furore that followed—burning of Beatles records, Ku Klux Klan activity and threats against Lennon—contributed to the band’s decision to stop touring. Their final commercial concert was on 29 August 1966, and Lennon missed touring so much that he considered leaving the band then. He was almost constantly under the influence of LSD throughout most of 1967.

Lennon left the Beatles in September 1969, and agreed not to inform the media while the group renegotiated their recording contract, but he was outraged that McCartney publicised his own departure on releasing his debut solo album in April 1970. Lennon’s reaction was, “Jesus Christ! He gets all the credit for it!” He later wrote, “I started the band. I disbanded it. It’s as simple as that.”

Lennon went on with his solo career, but I have neither time, space, nor inclination to chronicle at this time.  Fast forward to that historic day, December 8th, 1980.

Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, and their young son, Sean, were living in New York City at the Dakota, an old Gothic fortress at 1 W. 72nd Street. John and Yoko, returning home from a photo shoot, were greeted by fans begging for autographs.  One of those fans was a man named Mark David Chapman, who handed over his copy of “Double Fantasy” for Lennon to sign.

After a busy day of recording, John and Yoko headed home that evening arriving at 10:45 p.m. Just as they were about to enter their home, Chapman, who had been hanging outside the Dakota all day, pulled out a gun and fired five times, hitting John Lennon four out of the five in the back and shoulder.  John Lennon was pronounced dead on arrival at Roosevelt Hospital at 11:07 p.m. After shooting Lennon, Chapman put down his gun, sat down and waited for police to arrive while reading J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye.

And that was 37 years ago yesterday.  A legacy?  Sure, but also a human being who was subject to the same temptations and human frailties as we all are.  The man created some great music, though, and I share with you perhaps his most famous solo from the album of the same name, Imagine.

 

Imagine there’s no heaven

It’s easy if you try

No hell below us

Above us only sky

Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there’s no countries

It isn’t hard to do

Nothing to kill or die for

And no religion too

Imagine all the people living life in peace, you

You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope some day you’ll join us

And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions

I wonder if you can

No need for greed or hunger

A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people sharing all the world, you

You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope some day you’ll join us

And the world will be as one

Have a great weekend, my friends!

21 thoughts on “Saturday Surprise — John Lennon, A Tribute of Sorts

  1. I’m late here…and just can’t make the old grey matter think up a suitable limerick…but did find a tidbit of info…

    During the filming of the video for “Strawberry Fields Forever,” John Lennon and Apple Records employee Tony Bramwell went into an antique shop close to their hotel. Tony says, “John and I wandered in and John spotted this framed Victorian circus poster and bought it.” John stated, “‘Mr. Kite’ was a straight lift. I had all theme words staring me in the face one day when I was looking for a song. It was from this old poster I’d bought at an antique shop. We’d been down in Surrey or somewhere filming a piece. There was a break, and I went into this shop and bought an old poster advertising a variety show which starred Mr. Kite. It said the Henderson’s would also be there, late of Pablo Fanques Fair. there would be hoops and horses and someone going through a hogshead of real fire. Then there was Henry The Horse. The band would start at ten to six. All at Bishopsgate. Look, there’s the bill, with Mr. Kite topping it. I hardly made up a word, just connecting the lists together. Word for word, really.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I would like to add that I researched that John Lennon the Beatles in general were heavily influenced by black blues and early rock and roll artists in the 1950s in addition to Buddy Holly. Their early musical inspirations came from all of them. I consider them early Civil Rights heroes to me because of this.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, I came across that in my research also, and wanted to use it, but the post was way beyond my self-imposed word count already. I even considered making it a two-part, but knew I didn’t have the time to do it justice. Thank you for this additional information!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I love that song also … both the music and the thought-provoking lyrics. There was much talent in that era of music … today, perhaps it is only that the music doesn’t suit my tastes, but I don’t see the same level of talent.

      Like

  3. Jill, it sounds like you watched the documentary “Eight Days a Week” about The Beatles’ touring days. This post is very appealing to me, thanks. I am glad you highlight “Imagine” at the end. I think this is one of the more thought provoking songs ever written and truly sums up Lennon quite well. He was a talented, fascinating and imperfect person, Keith

    Liked by 1 person

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