(ABOVE PIC: INSIDE THE DAKOTA, DECEMBER 8TH 1980).
In December last year shortly after my visit to New York, it was the 25th aniversary of the murder of John Lennon, a death i’m still processing and coming to terms with. My diary from many years ago has a space where i wanted to put down my memories of that horrible day, but could never bring myself to write them down, that is until my return from New York and visiting the Dakota.
During that visit John became very much a real person to me, just a singer, just a husband, just a father and a man, and that was a heartbreaking realisation.
Today, in Australia December the 9th 2005 at 2.50pm marks the twenty fifth anniversary of John Lennon being taken from us. So far most of what I have read has been from fans in the U.S and the U.K, but with the time differences it was 2.50pm on the afternoon of December 9 that the horror unfolded down here in Australia.
We had a different perspective here than many others around the world, as we didn’t wake to the news, we watched it unfold before our eyes, and our ears.
Today has really stopped me in my tracks, 25 years have passed, I was only fifteen, I didn’t know death, I didn’t know shock, I was still pretty much innocent, but in the blink of an eye all that was to change.
By August of 1980 I had been a Beatle fan for five years, in 1975 I was fan-ish enough to beg my brother to take me to see Wings in concert, he didn’t and I sobbed like a .. well, ten year old. During the years 1975 through to mid 1980 John had pretty much retired, I didn’t `know’ him whilst he was active and recording, I remember seeing the photo of Yoko and he in our local paper that was taken in February 1980 in Palm beach, wow John! .. then a few weeks later Rolling Stone ran another photo of John in Florida, this time he was standing alone on the boardwalk.
By this stage I was collecting and clipping everything about the Beatles. In August came the news that John was recording again, I was SO excited!, I had a new Beatle to follow! our Sunday paper in Sydney ran a photo of John and Yoko arriving at the studio, it was real, it was true, it was happening! John really was going to be recording again, and by fifteen I was old enough to appreciate this.
(ABOVE PIC: SYDNEY SUNDAY TELEGRAPH AUGUST 31 1980).
I started collecting every bit of news that filtered down to us, mainly from our Aussie music magazine `Juke’ which I purchased each week without fail.
Another magazine which I cant recall the name of also had regular updates on John’s return, I do remember Gil Tucker from `Cop Shop’ was on the cover of this newspaper like magazine.
Tv Week magazine in Australia ran a one page story on November 8th titled ‘The Lennon genius is reborn’.
One night in November I was lying on my bed listening to my prized National radio cassette player when the anouncer said “Coming up next we premiere John Lennon’s new single `Starting Over’ gulp!! The excitement!, my first time ever hearing a new John Lennon song on the radio, he played the song and don’t remember what I thought of it on first listen, but I remember singing it over and over all night trying to remember it, of course after a few run throughs it turned into a completely different song.
A week or so later I got Double Fantasy on cassette, I can’t remember exactly, but I’m pretty certain i purchased it from the `Rock pit’ in Corrimal court, this was our local record shop.
(ABOVE PIC: MY ORIGINAL CASSETTE OF DOUBLE FANTASY, CAFE LA FORTUNA BUISNESS CARD, AND AN EXACT REPRODUCTION OF THE GLASSES JOHN WORE IN 1980).
The record store always put my name on Beatle posters when they were advertising a new album, needless to say my name went on the giant Double Fantasy poster that the store had.
I remember holding the cassette in my hands as I sat in the back seat of my parents purple Escort car while dad filled up with petrol on the way back from the shop, I couldn’t wait to get home to play it.
By the second week of December the school year was winding down, in February I would be turning sixteen, I felt so old and mature. At school we were in the second week of `End of year activities’ this was a cool thing where for the last two weeks of school you got to pick fun subjects and activities, like skating and photography.
On December the 9th the world was good, the weather was warm, and for once school was enjoyable. I spent the day with my friend Jeff in the darkroom developing a heap of photo’s we had taken during our photography course. We had such a fun, we had gone on an excursion into town to David Jones to take some photos the previous day.
(ABOVE PIC: VIOLATED DAVID JONES STORE MANEQUIN, ALL IN THE NAME OF ART. MONDAY DECEMBER 8TH 1980).
During lunch on the 9th as we walked north past the industrial arts building, I vividly recall Jeff asking me what I was doing later that day, I told him excitedly that I was going to dinner at my brothers place, and his girlfriend Sue was making apricot chicken.
When I got home from school at about 3.10pm, my sister Rhonda was visiting mum, they were talking in the kitchen, dad had just left for afternoon shift, and I went to my room and picked up my National radio cassette player.
I walked up to dads `shed’ (garage), this is where my guitar and drums were kept, every afternoon I would grab my cassette player, and head
strait for the shed.
I would put on a tape, or the radio, and I would play along with whatever was on and practice the drums, this afternoon was no different, I settled in, turned on the radio, and started playing. I flicked around the dial to find another song .. wow, cool! A Beatle song `Love me do’, so I played along to that.
Sweeping across the dial I found , ANOTHER
Beatle song `Strawberry fields forever’ was playing.
When the song ended so did my childhood, so did my innocence.
`In case you haven’t heard already, former Beatle John Lennon was shot, and killed just a short time ago in New York city’. The words of the DJ on Sydney’s 2SM.
CLICK ON THE HIGHLIGHTED LINK BELOW TO HEAR THE ANNOUCEMENT AS I HEARD IT.
What happened next I can’t explain, I guess it was shock. Everything seemed to be in slow motion, I picked up the radio, and walked down to the house, but I don’t remember walking, during the short time it took to get to the house I felt disconnected from my body.
I walked into the kitchen where my sister and mum were talking, I didn’t say anything, they saw something was terribly wrong, my sister kept saying over and over `What is it!?’, all I could say was `Just listen’, I couldn’t repeat the words I’d just heard on the radio.
I put the radio on the kitchen bench, and soon enough at the end of another Beatle song, the announcer came back and repeated the words I had heard only minutes before `John Lennon has been shot and killed in New York’ my sister and mum both gasped, then my sister said `I feel like a part of me has died’. In those few short minutes my childhood, innocence, sense of safety, security and hope was snatched away from me. I sunk down into a kitchen chair, the airwaves were flooded with news and John songs.
I gathered myself up and went into my room and found some cassettes, I started doing what many others were doing around the world simultaneous to me, I started taping the radio. I went and lay down on the lounge room floor, listening, trying to take this in, the phone rang and it was my other sister Dianne, she asked me if I had heard the news about John, in the background I could hear my niece Kylie crying, who I knew was crying more for me, than for John.
Soon enough we had to go to my brothers for dinner, I didn’t feel like seeing anyone, let alone eating, I remember arriving and still being in shock, my brother and his girlfriend Sue were really understanding, Sue in particular I could sense felt horrible for me, I didn’t eat that night, and I don’t know that I ever ate apricot chicken again.
I went and lay down on Glenn and Sue’s bed, and listened to my radio, the same one that brought me my first hearing of `Starting Over’ only a few weeks previous. I wouldn’t let go of the radio, I clung to it, even when I went to the bathroom, I sat on the toilet just to get away from everyone, and it was in there that I heard `Working class hero’ for the first time.
Outside in the lounge, I overheard my brother say to our sister `This will be one of the biggest stories ever’. When we got home I was watching Roger Climpson read the late news on channel 7, at the end they played the video of John singing `Imagine’, at that moment dad walked in from afternoon shift, and said to me `I see your mate died’, `My mate’ oh how I wish.
John was a person who sang and wrote songs, songs that reach deep into my very soul, I `feel’ his music, not everyone can, but I’m one of the lucky ones who experiences this phenomenon with music by certain artists. Every one of his songs sound as fresh to me today as the first time I heard them, I don’t know too many other artist who’s music you can say that about, The Beatles, solo McCartney and Brian Wilson.
One of my main joys in life is collecting everything connected with John in 1980, the `Double Fantasy’ period, I love when I find a new photo from this time, the reason being is the last six months of 1980 was the only time I `had’ John, he wasn’t working as an artist when I first became a fan. I cling to 1980, the few memories I have of him whilst he was still alive, because I miss him, I miss his music, I miss his words, I miss the world I had when John was still here, along with my innocence and sense of safety.
I miss the `man’, this is something that has only very recently been made real to me, a few weeks ago I got to visit New York for the first time, within a day I understood why John fought for years to be allowed to live there, it’s a great, eclectic, and welcoming city.
Soon after arriving I took a deep breath, and got on the subway, and headed uptown to 72nd street, the address of the Dakota. After all these years of being a fan, John was an image in a magazine, an image in a movie, when I ascended the subway staircase and found myself standing next to the Dakota, John became a `person’.
Until you stand and walk around where John called home, it’s hard to get a sense of him as a person, but when I walked around to the entrance way to the building, and stood in the spot where John had walked a thousand times, I really could imagine John walking by in his cool black cowboy boots, I could picture him walking with pride with his wife, and son in tow across to Central Park, scooting around the corner to La Fortuna for his favourite coffee. His gangly stride walking around to the West side pharmacy to get his `bits and pieces’ on Columbus Avenue, in a word I got a sense of the `man’.
That’s when the real tragedy of that day in 1980 hit me, he was simply a man like any other, a husband, a father, brother, friend and he was taken from us all so easily and senselessly. At 2.50pm today I’m going to be playing Double Fantasy, and I’m going to be remembering that short time I had with John.