|Remembering That Horrible Day
|December 8th, 2003
|To my parents generation, December 7th will
always be considered THE day that'll live
in infamy, but with all due respect, among
those of us who grew up in the sixties, ears
glued to cheap transistor radios mass-produced
by our friends, the Japanese, eagerly listening
to the exuberantly jubilant sounds manufactured
by four young musicians hailing from an obscure
English port city, December 8th might well
better qualify for that sad sobriquet for
a fair percentage of OUR generation...
I don't follow football. Never have. For that reason, I didn't suffer the ignominy of having Howard Cosell break the tragic and shocking news of John Lennon's murder to me 23 years ago today. But that doesn't mean I can't remember exactly how I found out the terrible news, because nearly a quarter century later, yes, I do indeed recall it vividly...
We lived in Troy, N.Y. at the time. Lynn was off in the bedroom, while I was on the living room couch, reading. The book in question was the last issue in the last volume of what was then the most recent of the deluxe Russ Cochran EC Reprint sets, TWO FISTED TALES. It may well've been the very last story, too--I'm not entirely sure. I DO know it was a George Evans WW1 bi-plane epic (what else?), and, not unusually, I had the radio on. The particular station I was tuned to, Q104, had a regular feature that commenced each weeknight at 11 o'clock. They'd spin a brand new album in it's entirety, pausing only to flip the disc, maybe say a few words, and run a few commercials. Naturally, I habitually tuned in to see if I had any interest in that night's feature, and if I did, well, then let the tapes roll! Of course, if I wanted to maintain the integrity of the music, I had to be at the ready when a side was about to finish, finger ever at the ready to pause my home-made recording.
|That's where I was about 11:15 on the night
of December 8th, 1980--poised to hit the
proper button as the first side of that night's
spotlight album--the double disc, "Fleetwood
Mac Live"--came to a conclusion. I was
just about to pause when the disc jockey
suddenly came on, his voice noticeably quivering,
and instead of reading off a list of the
tracks he'd just played as per standard custom,
he emotionally delivered the devastating
news. Stunned, I immediately called out to
Lynn, and she joined me within seconds. We
both just sat there,listening, shocked and
upset--very, very upset...
I let that tape run, and somewhere in this house, in what I laughingly call the archives--but others might instead refer to as a monument to semi-organized clutter--the very words I heard that sad evening informing me of Lennon's senseless murder still exists, buried in between the sides of that Fleetwood Mac album (which the radio people kept playing--what ELSE were they going to do? After they got the initial bulletin out, words had seemed to fail them..). I may've actually listened to it one time--the very next day, I think--but I know I haven't ever since. The ending to that Evans illustrated aerial dogfight would have to wait as well, as we rushed to the TV for cold confirmation of the era-ending events that had taken place outside the Dakota only hours earlier, and with our worse fears confirmed, we both just sorta, well, broke down. And for many days afterwards, just felt empty and numb...
I never met John Lennon. He wasn't a part of my immediate family. And yeah, I know you're not supposed to get so emotional over the passing of some far-off celebrity, and, in general, that's always been the case around here. Okay, maybe you shed that single sympathy tear when you receive the news that a long-time favorite like, say, Bob Hope, has irrevocably moved on. But Lennon was so much more to the members of my generation, and his shocking death at such a comparatively young age--at the hands of a stupendously deranged admirer, yet!--was a cold bucket of water thrown in the face every one of us who had sat transfixed in front of their television sets watching the Ed Sullivan Show on a cold February night not even two decades earlier. Selfishly, we all knew at that precise instant, the possibility of a bona fide Beatles reunion was over--gone forever--but so was a talented man, a father, a husband, an artist. It may not've seemed like the best choice of words at the time, but Paul may well've said it best by simply saying, that, yup, you bet, it most surely WAS a drag...
23 years later. Whew. When you consider the four individual Beatles were only on America's collective radar from 1964 up through that awful Monday in 1980--just a couple months shy of 17 years total--and now it's been even longer since their rarefied ranks were mindlessly decimated, it's an unenviable testament as to the relentless march of time. Turns out the lads from Liverpool were only human, after all...
I know this is a patently sappy way to wrap this little tribute up--as I sit here, with the heart-rendingly ironic strains of "(Just Like) Starting Over" hauntingly emanating in the background--but in so many other ways, the Beatles have proven themselves to be truly immortal. Pausing once a year to mark this terrible anniversary is just one of the sadder ways, unfortunately...
Rock on, John! We love ya!...
HOME | Beatles Main Page