As we arrive at the 30th (!!!) anniversary of John Lennon’s death, I found myself reaching far back indeed within my archives to exhume one of my very first-ever articles on the subject. I believe its drift remains as relevant today as it was back in December 1985, scribbled in a fit of FM-powered pique from my childhood bedroom. Perhaps you still feel the same way, too.
December 8th found me relaxing by my stereo for the first time in much too long. With nothing to do and nowhere to go, I found myself switching the radio on, only to be bombarded by scratchy old Beatles tunes on nine stations out of 10. “Which one died now?” I immediately thought, pessimistically thinking. It was then that I realized it was that time of year again: The anniversary of John Lennon‘s assassination.
Tapes of Lennon’s final rash of interviews, published in magazine and book form dozens of times already, were again rebroadcast between the predictable parade of Lennon hits: “In My Life,” “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “A Day in the Life,” “Give Peace a Chance,” “(Just Like) Starting Over” and, of course, “Imagine.” (How come they never play “Cold Turkey” or “Revolution 9”?!!)
Being the loyal baby boomer I am, I duly listened with half an ear as I read my mail, these songs being, as I’m constantly reminded, The Soundtrack of My Life.
Most disturbing by far, I found whilst scouring the dial for a non-Lennon tune or two, were the tear-soaked calls from listeners that seem to be the featured attraction of these annual Lennon radio tributes. Calls saying how shocked we were on that fateful night outside the Dakota. Callers nit-picking the minutest prop and dialogue inaccuracies out of the Lennon and Yoko Ono TV movie bio-pic. And caller upon caller bemoaning the fact that Elvis Presley’s death continues to out-vigil, outdraw and out-headline that of the Chief Beatle’s, despite the fact that “Presley died a wasteful, self-inflicted death long after his peak, while John was savagely gunned down in his artistic and spiritual prime.”
Believe it or not, I am a fan and admirer of Lennon’s life and music, and my thoughts and sympathies still find themselves turned toward his family on quite a regular basis. But I no longer find any legitimate purpose in dwelling on the man’s death throughout the media every Dec. 8, particularly when such anniversary productions are dubiously disguised as “Celebrations of the Man and His Music.”
I, for one it seems, am glad Lennon’s death has not (yet) turned into the cabaret Presley’s has, and hereby strongly and sincerely urge all his followers to finally awaken from their morbid mourning and listen instead to the music and words of today as opposed to yesterday. And I’d bet Lennon himself would join me, if he only could, in demanding all you fossilized Beatlemaniacs begin concerning yourselves with the tunes, trials and tribulations of tomorrow — and let sleeping Beatles lie.
— Musician/writer Gary Pig Gold is the co-founder of the To M’Lou Music label.