Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Forty years ago, I was a senior in High School, seventeen years old. I was always a “Beatlemaniac”. My grandfather gave their first two albums to my sister, who was an Elvis fan, so she gave them to me. I continued searching for Beatle albums since, of which there were twenty. Now, when I say the Beatles made twenty albums, I don’t mean the way groups do it today where it’s the exact same album but a bonus track on this one, and that one has a different bonus track. They were actual new albums (for the most part; eventually they did a couple of “anthologies” as I recall).
I was in middle school (circa 1976) when I bought Sgt. Pepper, I believe it was. We had guests, and I asked if they wanted to hear the new album I had just bought. I thought they said yes, so I put it on my record player (yes, it was an actual factual record). A few songs in, dad yelled up and told me to turn that noise down.
Well, he wasn’t alone. After the Beatle’s final studio recording (they were all aware it was the last one) at their Apple label recording studio, they decided to put on one last concert for the people of Liverpool. They drug their instruments to the rooftop and started playing for anybody within earshot. The concert didn’t last long since, like my father, somebody complained. A businessman across the street called the cops, who had to break up the very last concert the Beatles would ever perform. The closest they would come again was many years later, after John’s death, at a concert for the Queen. All three living Beatles showed up, having been invited independently of one another, and decided to play as a group for the Queen. I still remember the interviews of the HUGE names in rock who were also playing the concert as they gushed like little giddy schoolchildren at their being able to witness the Beatles live on concert one more time.
And I remember when John Lennon was shot.
Usually I didn’t have homework that kept me up at night, but forty years ago today (as of the writing of this piece; yesterday as of the posting) I had something that was keeping me up. I had the radio on (softly as it was very late) to a rock station. After a song had finished, the DJ came on and said that there was a rumor that John Lennon had been shot outside of his condo in New York City. He told his listeners not to panic, that there is a rumor that he had been killed but that was just a rumor. All that was known at that time was that he had been shot. He started playing another song, and stopped it halfway through, breaking in and saying. “God I hate nights like this. John Lennon has been shot and killed…”
Death is something that I have always been very practical about. My regular readers know this, it’s how I was raised by my family. When my mother died, and ten years later (a few months ago) when my father died, I didn’t cry. It was almost matter of fact for me. I did realize eventually that I was burying my feelings, which I also blogged about, but that’s just how men are, isn’t it?
When John Lennon died, I thought, “huh”. I kept working and went to bed when my assignment was completed and didn’t really think about it. But the next morning, there was a deathly silence in the kitchen as I came downstairs for breakfast. Nobody said a word as I entered, except my mother who simply said, “read the front page of the newspaper.” Yeah, that’s how my family was. They didn’t like communicating, just information sharing. Heck, I learned sex by my mother handing me a book and saying, “read chapters 3, 4 and 5.” I didn’t, but I said I did.
Anyway, I said simply, “yeah, I know.” Mom, looking surprised, said “you do?” I explained the DJ and what he had said. Never another word was spoken about it, although they did cut the article out of the paper for me.
Forty years ago, John Lennon was killed, and by a fan no less. There is not trying to understand; if you’re not personally insane, it’s a fool’s errand. And there will be those who say that John Lennon was a womanizer, and I believe there are stories that he was also domestically abusive, which I know, but this torment also led to his creation of beautiful music. My friends would periodically try to shock me by saying that the Beatles took drugs. Yes, I know that, too, but I like their music. Their lifestyle is up to them.
But the truth is that it is far easier to destroy than to create. The second law of thermodynamics tells us this. When terrorists destroyed the Twin Towers, or the art in Syria, that’s not impressive. Time will do that if they’re just patient enough, but the effort it took to build them is true talent. It was easy to end John Lennon’s life, but the music he created took talent. Ending his life meant depriving us all of his music for years to come. Where is the glory?