John Lennon would have been eighty today. Can you imagine that? The founder of The Beatles being an octogenarian. He’s now been dead for the same number of years that he lived, and there’s always a sadness in that. It’s hard to consider the life without the tragic end. But we must try.
The other morning I downloaded this and listened to it over a coffee in McDonald’s.
A two-parter, it features both Sean and Julian Lennon for the first time speaking publicly about their father. Sean also interviews his Godfather, Elton John, and also Lennon’s songwriting partner Paul McCartney.
Speaking to the latter, Sean mentioned how Love Me Do was written before The Beatles existed as the group we all know, and asked if there were other such early songs? Paul confirmed that there were, for example One After 909 and I Saw Her Standing There. Commenting that they were such strong songs that still stand today, Sean asked did they ever write any bad songs or did they always strike gold straight away?
When Paul replied that there were bad ones, the reaction was along the lines of Oh, thank Christ for that!
I guess that gives hope to we mere mortals, scribbling along in the sand.
Sean also asked about Paul’s first meeting with his father, which I guess every fan knows took place on the 6th July 1957, when John’s skiffle band The Quarry Men were performing at a church fete.
What I didn’t know was that Paul had seen John around a few times before this, but that he didn’t know him. A couple of times he’d caught Paul’s eye when on the same bus, when John would have been travelling to see his mother. Paul had thought that Lennon had looked cool, sporting the rebellious, Teddy Boy look of the time. Then another time he saw him in the queue at a chippy, thinking hey, that’s the guy from the bus. But at this point they’d still never spoke to each other.
That all changed when mutual friend Ivan Vaughan took Paul so see John playing at the fete, and the penny dropped that his friend’s friend was the same guy he’d been noticing around the neighbourhood.
This is artist Eric Cash’s conception of John and Paul’s introductory meeting in the church hall after the performance.
Sometimes in life it seems like the paths of certain individuals keep crossing. The universe has a way of bringing together people who are meant to meet.
Just this morning I saw this image posted, announcing the birth of a young son to Julia and Alfred Lennon.
Who could have had any idea at the time, when skimming the announcements in the local newspaper, the impact that that boy would have on the world?
I wonder about those other babies, too, for example the Looney daughter stated immediately below the Lennon son. What life did she go on to lead? Did she ever know the brief illustrious company that she once shared in her origin? Did she go on to impact the world in some other, less celebrated way?
Eighty years on, I was draining the last of my coffee as Sean finished the show with:
Here’s wishing a Happy Birthday to my Dad. People may grow old, but great music never does.
And that’s true. All art is nailed at the time in a form that lasts forever, untouched by shifting context and the changing mores.