#80 Dream

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.

R.I.P Astrid Kirchherr

I’ve just heard of the death, at 81, of Astrid Kirchherr, the woman who helped define the early Beatles look when the then unknown Liverpool group were in Hamburg in the early sixties.

She took some of their early photographs, iconic photographs in a style that were ahead of everyone else at the time.

After these she also gave the (then) Fab Five their distinctive Beatle haircuts, the fifth being the talented but doomed artist Stuart Sutcliffe who she fell in love with. Later, reduced to four, and with Best replaced by Starr, they went on to conquer the world, as she proudly and sadly looked on.

Fifty eight years apart, I’d like to think that they’ve found each other again. R.I.P

Long Time Ago And We’re Still Fab

I apologise for paraphrasing the George Harrison song in the title of this post, but fifty years after it first topped the charts, The Beatles’ Abbey Road has returned to number one. In doing so, it set a record – the gap of 49 years and 252 days since its initial chart-topping run ended in early 1970 is the longest gap before returning to number one. It was the last album the group ever recorded.

As McCartney put: “It’s hard to believe that Abbey Road still holds up after all these years. But then again it’s a bloody cool album.”

Can’t argue with that.

Entrances And Exits/Morrison And Lennon

The 8th of December is a date that links together my two favourite musical artists, two artists that I have been listening to for what seems most of my life.

On the 8th of December, 1943, James Douglas Morrison, son of a Navy Officer, was born. He would go on to become the focal point and frontman of The Doors, known by self-given and tongue in cheek epithets such as the Lizard King, Shaman, and Erotic Politician.

He is one of the few rock or pop stars whose poetry is read seriously, as poetry. As a poet he tends to polarise opinion, but I like his writing, and his song lyrics helped to set the group apart from the usual music crowd. In the days when The Mama’s And The Papa’s were dreaming of California and over the pond The Beatles were telling the world that all you need is love, Morrison was channeling Oedipus, saying he wanted to kill his father and fuck his mother. They were a darker group, harder to pigeonhole, with elements of rock, jazz, blues, and yes, poetry.

Morrison’s was an intellect and creativity that was drowned in excess, a pursuit of a muse that would not be tempered or compromised. The recording life of The Doors, when Morrison was with them, lasted for just four, short, years. But what an outpouring it was.

image Also on the 8th of December, in 1980, John Lennon was shot dead in New York. I was a Lennon fan before I even knew who Lennon was. As a kid, almost all of my favourite Beatles songs were his. On his true collaborations with McCartney, for example We Can Work It Out, I always preferred the parts that he sang, the parts that he wrote, without at the time being able to discern who did what.

My favourite Christmas song, right from my childhood, and still, is Happy Xmas (War Is Over), but it was a few years before I discovered that the song was by Lennon. I was a fan of the music before I knew whose music it was.

Today Lennon is regarded almost as a saint, but the truth seems to be that he could be a real shit to the people who were closest to him. He would sing about peace and love yet at times be unable to demonstrate such sentiments. The figure of Lennon is a conundrum. He appeared to be a man of contradictions, which I think has its roots in his troubled childhood. His anger drove him and so made him a Beatle. Always transparent, the lyrics

I heard something ’bout my Ma and my Pa /They didn’t want me so they made me a star 

stand out.

Tomorrow, the 9th of December, is my birthday. I can remember opening my birthday presents on my ninth birthday, back in 1980, and the news was all over the television and the newspapers. All that I was aware of at the time, in my young ignorance, was that some guy who was in a group called The Beatles had died.

Little would I know that, for years, for decades later, I would always be struck by a terrible sense of waste when reflecting on his untimely, senseless death.

Fans are selfish. We barely see beyond our own wants and fixations.

There is a woman who lost a husband, and two boys who lost a father, yet all I think of is the music that we could have had, the wit that the world has lost, and the extra pages that could have been in the biography.

And that’s got to be wrong. image

Two men, linked by one date, whose words and music provided a soundtrack to my life. R.I.P Mr Mojo Risin’ and Dr Winston O’ Boogie. Thanks for the inspiration.

Come On, Aileen

The first storm of the season, named Aileen, is due to hit tonight. For perspective, Aileen is no Irma, but still. I’ve taken down the hanging baskets and an outside lantern which is as much as I can do with no hatches to batten down.

The afternoon I spent working on a second poetry collection I’m trying to put together, while listening to a group from my favourite music period.

I have a friend who loves the eighties, and would instantly recognise the nod given by the title of this post. My own go-to listening preference stretches from the mid-sixties to early seventies. The Beatles; The Doors; The Kinks; The Rolling Stones; Tim Buckley; Cream; Cohen;  Dylan, I love all of these and more.

Being born in 1971 means that in my youth I’ve never been in vogue, musically. And don’t even mention my dress sense!

Listening to music helps when I’m writing. The group I was listening to today was Jefferson Airplane. Why do I like these?

Go and ask Alice. When she’s ten feet tall.