Ann Althouse has a post up remembering John Lennon a few days before the 25th anniversary of his death (this Thursday for those who want to know.) She links to a Paul McGrath memorial thinking back on the man. And it's a winner in my book. A few selections,
It doesn't matter if Lennon intended or understood the ripple effect of his talent, a gift he could no more direct or suppress than he could control his anger. Like any other pop composer, he was just writing, writing for himself, writing because he was driven to it by pain, or loss, or joy, or dementia, or drugs, writing because it beat real work, writing to feed the great Beatle maw, to beat McCartney or Dylan, or to impress his dead mother. By 1966, he was writing, above all, to prove that he wasn't just a pop star. If the charts were to be his prison, he would at least paint the cell walls brightly, and this drive pushed every Beatle artifact from the spring of 1966 up from the flat plane of the pop song to the 360-degree world of sound sculpture.
By and large, he had found his peace. He had survived his vices, his politics, his rages and his therapies, avoided the junkie's death unlike so many, only to meet a cheap little handgun in the hands of a sad case like so many others he had met, kids who believed in some desperate part of them that this man could actually pull them out of the pit. And he couldn't. All he could do was write and sing, and in those songs tens of millions did in fact find a real solace, a pushing back of the fog and the dark.
All of it, so true. Please read the whole thing. I bolded parts of the above snippets because they are important to me. I have always been a "John man" rather than a "Paul man" because of why, it seemed to me, they wrote music and lyrics. Paul writes to please an audience. John wrote to please himself, or satisfy some seeming demon inside...some Freudian Id (and perhaps even Ego) that drove him. It is why his music seems more pure to me. Both are pleasing, and don't get me wrong - I love Paul too (seen him twice in concert.) But John was more real...more in tune with himself over the years. I don't post on him yearly, but I did say this two years ago,
And finally, I'd like to pay tribute to John Lennon. His death occurred 23 years ago as of this past Monday. Though I was too young to know him while he was alive, he has always been someone that I revered. It's funny, I don't particularly agree with him on certain political issues anymore, but he remains the most self actualized person I have ever heard about. John Lennon marched to his own drum his whole life and never let anyone change that. It's that individuality that I applaud and wish to live up to such a standard. I miss him, as I'm sure many others do. He was a great man.
And it is still exactly how I feel. And thus the reason I bolded the bit in the second quote above. When I was young and forming my world view and identity, Lennon did more than any other public figure in helping that. As suggested in my thoughts two years ago, I went in a different direction than Lennon. But I did so knowing that even if he disagreed with me, he might still have been proud or at least respected that. I recall a scene that many have seen over the years - when the kid comes to Lennon's house in England thinking that John might have "the answer" for him. The kid had "dropped out" as the phrase goes, perhaps even on a few drugs (certainly more than a few given what seemed his state of mind and demeanor.) And John just stood there trying to explain to him that he could do little to help him other than invite the kid into his home for tea and toast, and perhaps a little chat. I've no idea what happened to that kid, but Lennon knew that he was no messiah. He barely had the answers for himself, much less for some kid searching. But in his actions, he truly did have the answer, if one chose to see it. Live by being an individual and trying to be true to that. John was no saint, but he generally knew when he had screwed up, even if he was not prepared to say "I'm sorry."
He was and still is (in many ways) my idol. His music is the one that still speaks to my inner soul when I hear him. And his life, though never perfect even in the winning years, is one to take notice of. One does not need to copy it, but perhaps learn the lessons of it and be a better person because of that. As Thursday roles around, I will miss him deeply, as I always do. I recall being in the Hard Rock Cafe in New York years ago and seeing the cut out from the newspaper the day he died. I broke down into tears on the spot. No explanation other than his genius is missing in today's world - and that I missed him in more ways than one.
This post is getting long, but blame Ann. She suggests,
I'm going to pick out a set of John Lennon songs to play it as I drive my car -- baby, you can drive my car -- in the next week. I'll reveal the song list later. If you care about John Lennon, tell me, what is your song list?
And so I shall. It got me thinking, that's for sure. But I have come up with a list of two (and perhaps three) discs worth of music to listen to in the days ahead, and always, to remember what a brilliant artist Lennon was.
- From Me To You (single)
- Twist and Shout (cover vocal from Please, Please Me)
- It Won't Be Long (from With the Beatles)
- This Boy (single)
- If I Fell (from A Hard Days Night)
- I'm A Loser (from Beatles For Sale)
- Baby's In Black (from Beatles For Sale)
- Mr. Moonlight (cover vocal from Beatles For Sale)
- Every Little Thing (from Beatles For Sale)
- Slowdown (cover vocal - single)
- I Feel Fine (single)
- You've Got To Hide Your Love Away (from Help)
- You're Gonna Lose That Girl (from Help)
- Yes It Is (single)
- In My Life (from Rubber Soul)
- I'm Only Sleeping (from Revolver)
- She Said, She Said (from Revolver)
- And You're Bird Can Sing (from the Anthology II)
- Tomorrow Never Knows (from Revolver)
- A Day In The Life (from Sgt. Pepper's...)
- Strawberry Fields Forever (from Magical Mystery Tour and single)
- All You Need Is Love (from Magical Mystery Tour and single)
- Revolution (single version)
- Hey, Bulldog (from Yellow Submarine)
- Happiness Is A Warm Gun (from the White Album)
- Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey (from the White Album)
- I'm So Tired (from the White Album)
- Julia (from the White Album)
- Yer Blues (from the White Album)
- Across The Universe (single version/nature version)
- The Ballad of John and Yoko (single)
- Mother (from Plastic Ono Band)
- Hold On (from Plastic Ono Band)
- Working Class Hero (from Plastic Ono Band)
- God (from Plastic Ono Band)
- Imagine (from Imagine)
- Jealous Guy (from Imagine)
- Oh My Love (from Imagine)
- How Do You Sleep? (from Imagine)
- Oh Yoko! (from Imagine)
- Instant Karma (single)
- (Just Like) Starting Over (from Double Fantasy)
- Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy) (from Double Fantasy)
- Grow Old With Me (from Milk and Honey)
- Give Peace A Chance (single)
- Happy Xmas (War is Over) (single)
And a possible Disc 3 (if you really want to see some tears, and hear the brilliance of the Beatles):
- Because (from Abbey Road)
- You Never Give Me Your Money (from Abbey Road)
- Sun King (from Abbey Road)
- Mean Mr. Mustard (from Abbey Road)
- Ploythene Pam (from Abbey Road)
- She Came In Through The Bathroom Window (from Abbey Road)
- Golden Slumbers (from Abbey Road)
- Carry That Weight (from Abbey Road)
- The End (from Abbey Road)
- Two Of Us (from Let It Be)
- Dig It (from Let It Be)
A few notes on the above. First, all my albums are the British versions that came out on CD so that explains the albums from which they came. The cover vocals are those songs that even though he did not write, he sounds so damn good on that one must listen to them. His voice is both harsh and joyous. As for the "And Your Bird Can Sing" track, the anthology version is superior to the actual album track simply because of the fun that was obviously being had at the time of the recording. It's a great song, but even better when heard through that prism. And even though most of the songs above are presented in chronological order, the last few from Disc 2 seem to sum up both the loss and the hope that was the man. Hearing them in that order is somewhat hard to do, but worth it.
Finally, the Disc 3 songs show a somewhat ironic brilliance that was the Beatles at the very end of their life as a band. Never before can you hear the blend of amazing harmonies and strength of song writing together, as you hear it here. Yes, their early songs had both, but not to such degree. And as the wirting progressed over the years, they began to record more and more apart from each other. It was Abbey Road that brought them all back together and in those tracks you can hear a little of everyone, both in voice and in instrument. And following it up with "Two Of Us" (even though a Paul vocal) really sends the heart reeling, just thinking about what an historic (and painfully close) friendship John and Paul had. Finishing with "Dig It," you get a little playful John, and a nice epilogue to what you've just heard. Try it. I think it works.
As the post has become mammoth by now, I'll end by saying I'm glad Ann challenged me to think of these songs. And I will be listening to them this week as well. I miss John, as I'm sure many do. But we have the memories, and those we must hang on to. I know I do. That is all.