Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It was 30 Years Ago Today...

My alarm radio turned on at 6:30 as it always did. I had it set to WPLJ, a station I'd discovered a few months before. During the summer, my musical interests were expanding, due in part to an older friend up the street who turned me onto The Ramones "Rocket to Russia" and the first album by The Clash. One September afternoon, I flipped my radio's switch to FM for the first time, and there were The Talking Heads doing "Life without Wartime." My radio never played AM ever again.

This particular morning, the first words I heard were, "New York has been living a nightmare." My brain switched on instantly, wondering what had happened. Soviet attack? Another blackout? Then I heard that John Lennon had been killed.

When I didn't get out of bed, my mother came in to see what was going on. I told her I felt sick. She brought me the thermometer to take my temp, which I then held in front of the heater until the mercury rose past 100. I spent the rest of the day with the music.

I've often had the experience where I really heard a band for the first time, despite having listened to them for years. It's happened with Dylan, with The Clash, and many others. Lennon's music too seemed to flow in and out of my life. One night in college, while watching the film, "Track 29," I was floored by the song "Mother,' it having special resonance as I was in the midst of an existential coming to terms with the fact that I'd been adopted.

In Japan, I found traces of Lennon all around, not really a surprise considering the Yoko connection. The tribute compilation, "Working Class Hero,' was in frequent rotation during my first year there. When I was in the national finals for Shorinji Kempo, standing on the floor of the Budokan with the other martial artists, my thoughts weren't on how far I'd come, or on the competition later in the day. My mind was instead fixed solely on "Holy Crap! John Lennon played here, man!" After my son was born, I'd often sing to him, "Beautiful Boy." That line saying life is what happens when you are busy making other plans took on a horrible resonance after Ken died.

Today, thirty years after Lennon's murder, I again find myself with the day off. I'll simply sit, dream my life away, and watch the wheels go round and round...

On the turntable: John Lennon, "The Lost Lennon Tapes"

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