29 Apr,2017 By jagabond
Mark David Chapman…what a dick. He got into some cool music early on in life, before discovering extremist religion which led him to turn on his musical heroes. His ‘hit list’ didn’t just include John Lennon, but also David Bowie. I guess Lennon angered him more with the quote about the Beatles being ‘more popular than Jesus’. He also got that greenish envy factor, where he couldn’t rationalize Lennon’s financial success with his song lyrics preaching ‘no possessions’. In December of 1980, Chapman meticulously planned the murder of Lennon, hitting him with five shots, puncturing his lung and heart…thus leaving Yoko Ono a widow and the world without one of its greatest songwriters.
My first memory of the Beatles was watching the animated Yellow Submarine movie on television…I still remember the bizarre ‘Nowhere Man’ scene which I loved. I owned ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ on vinyl, where the weird photographs and cover artwork – and the great songs – made that album famous. Conspiracy theorists pounced on the strange imagery, with ridiculous claims that Paul actually died before the record came out.
When I started into music, of course the Beatles were a major influence. Playing the bass guitar, I always viewed McCartney as a vastly underrated bassist…listen to the song ‘Something‘ and tell me I’m wrong. The Lennon versus McCartney thing, however overblown, was correct in that you could always tell who wrote what. McCartney had the bubble-gum pop sound, whereas Lennon had the more progressive, sometimes weird vibe about his songs. To say I’m not sure what I liked more proves why the Beatles were so great…the writing team of Lennon and McCartney was a dichotomy that worked very well.
When I traveled to Liverpool and saw where Lennon grew up, I saw a gray and dreary port town in England. I also saw a city where the Beatles had been ingrained in the culture. Aside from the tourism aspect of everything, every pub you went to was playing Beatles music, and the live bands were doing the same, particularly the Cavern Club. That was one of the first sites the Beatles played, and it has a fantastic Lennon statue right out front.
I took a bus tour to see the places that inspired all the early Beatles songs. The guide did a great job highlighting things like the barber shop mentioned in ‘Penny Lane’, the real site of ‘Strawberry Fields’, and even the house where George Harrison was born. They also went by a house where Lennon lived, which I think he later gave to one of his relatives as a gift.
The ‘Lennon Wall’ in Prague was interesting. This was a place where in the early 198o’s citizens against the communist regime of Czechoslovakia would write graffiti voicing their concerns. The wall started to fill up with Lennon and other Beatles quotes, and over the years it has become a medium for tributes, calls for peace, and messages of love…all things Lennon would be proud of. When I was there, they had a memorial message written for the Boston marathon bombing.
I could go on and on…the Beatles and music in general can make me drone on for inordinate amounts of time. I will leave you with my three favorite songs Lennon sang with the Beatles.
Across the Universe – I love how Lennon describes the inspiration for this song as having a fight with his wife, where he came up with the initial lyrics ‘words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup.’ I think the best compliment for a song is when anyone can cover it and make it sound good…and so I present a cover by the Scorpions, and it still sounds great!
I Should’ve Known Better – I love this song, but that’s not surprising since it was influenced by Bob Dylan, one of my favorite artists. Lennon got the idea for this song, and the harmonica part, from him. The best version is from the train scene in the movie ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ which is difficult to find a clip from, so I leave you with this great live version instead.
Revolution – This song holds a special place in my heart, as it’s one of the first songs I felt comfortable with enough to do karaoke. I had some amazing performances in San Diego…at least I thought they were amazing. I always loved the guitar tone, which I haven’t heard in any other song from that era…the Beatles were truly revolutionary with their music. Surprisingly enough the first time I heard this song was in a Nike commercial, which I’ve posted below.
Rest well, John Lennon. The songs you wrote still have so much influence even today. Peace and wish you were here.
“Jai Guru Deva. Om. Nothing’s gonna change my world…”