From Music.Com Magazine, 2006
I can’t forget the time or place where we first met. The beginning was Jan. 3, 1964, “The Jack Paar Show” on NBC. Ten days before “I Want to Hold Your Hand” came out as a single. Three weeks before Meet the Beatles.
Genial, arch-eyebrowed Mr. Paar, not Ed Sullivan, brings them first to American TV audiences, in jumpy B&W film footage. The Beatles radiate eccentric and sublime at once. Who are these lunatics and what the hell are they doing over in England now for Chrissakes? What freakin’ weirdos.
Of course, within a month we have Beatles pouring from every orafice. John, Paul, George and the Nose: American teenyboppers are forced to pick their favorite Beatle. Fierce loyalties form, friendships are tested.
We’ve never been the same again. We’re all weirdos now.
The Beatles made music and movies and history. They broke up, but they won’t go away. This collection of Beatles hits, 1, has been selling like a bastard. They annihilated the gift-book competition last Christmas with their autobiography. They say goodbye, but we still say hello.
The end also came on television, years later.
My morning routine: turn off the alarm, slide out of bed without waking my wife, check on the baby, turn on Charles Kuralt, start the coffee. As it brews, I hear Kuralt in the other room – wonderful basso-profundo voice. Some murder . . . probably that writer dude, Michael Halberstam, killed in D.C. a few nights before.
But then I hear the music, The Beatles singing “If I Fell.” Why was there music? What’s Halberstam’s murder got to do with this song? Still groggy, early morning.
Then there it is on TV and all over Kuralt’s face: Somebody’s shot John Lennon.
Twenty years pass. My wife is no longer my wife. The baby is about to graduate from college. American icon Charles Kuralt died, fittingly, a few Fourth of Julys back. But John is still part of our lives.
He looks down at me from the poster above my desk, somehow as wry and contemporary 20 years into death as he and his little friends were back then. He’s one of the reasons I do what I do – write and teach about rock’n’roll – and my rock’n’roll history students still cite him as the rock star they most admire. He was assassinated before these kids were born, yet to them he’s as current as Eminem or Britney Spears. (I only ask you, Lord, that you give them the sense to tell the difference.)
Creating art allowed John Lennon to beat the odds and find immortality, without doing the whole Dr. Faustus thing. He’s gone, but he’s here – that is the forever-young nature of his work.
But John’s looking down at me from the poster over my desk, winking, saying, “Lighten up, son. You’re the gloomy one, aren’t you? It’s not as bad as all that now, is it?”
Ah well . . . speak for yourself, John. That’s what you always did best. Of all these friends and lovers there is no one compares with you.