I’m sort of ashamed to admit this, but John Lennon’s 70th birthday eluded me until Kevin reminded me of this special day and suggested that I go ahead and blog about my favorite musician of all time, for the Beatles are my all time favorite, and Lennon is easily my favorite Beatle. I say this not necessarily for his personality as he was kind of a dick (George Harrison is much more likable and is by far the Beatle I would most want to hang with if given the opportunity and if mortality was not an issue), but because, for me, he wrote the strongest Beatles songs and was the most interesting of all. Don't get me wrong, McCartney was great too and had some phenomenal moments, but anytime I’ve tried to make a Beatles mix; I’ve found it to be very Lennon heavy. He was the most creative, experimental, artistic, and troubled member of the group and he was also their leader; the one who started it all. And had some crazy dickhead of a whack job not shot him outside The Dakota in New York City on December 8, 1980 he would have been celebrating his 70th birthday this past weekend.
I’ve always been a Beatles fan but I became obsessed with them around my sophomore year in high school when I first really listened to “Rubber Soul” while traveling with my family as we picked my older brother up from college for Christmas break. That Christmas, I also received "Hard Day's Night", "Revolver", “The White Album”, “Sgt. Pepper”, and “Abbey Road” as gifts. I was freaking hooked, and I was particularly drawn to Lennon’s contributions that I had never heard before:
To me, he always had more edge than McCartney and Harrison and whereas I know a number of people who are drawn to McCartney and his amazing gift of melody, I have to defer to the more experimental and rocking side of Lennon.
Lennon also seemed like he had more integrity than McCartney, for where Paul in the later years pushed the band to make a concept record that didn’t end up being a concept at all, a horribly awful movie (“Magical Mystery Tour”) and another film of the band recording “Let It Be” (which turned out to be a miserable experience for everyone) he just seemed to be trying to do too much. Lennon was more about exploring himself and his music by addressing his own problems of abandonment from his childhood. Lennon seemed to become more true to himself as McCartney seemed interested in making money and promoting himself and his interests. As a music fan, I’m much more drawn to artists with integrity and who try to stay true to themselves and who don’t get too caught up in their own fame. Granted, Lennon did this to a certain extent with all his protests of the Vietnam War, but at least that was for a good cause.
I’ll also concede that the years with Yoko seem pretty annoying, but when you step back and look at it, Lennon was head over heals in love with her and I think that was really great for him. I think a lot of people have problems with Yoko because she’s a powerful woman which many men find intimidating. Yeah, she forced herself on the band as they recorded their latter material and I don’t blame the other members for getting annoyed, but there is something beautiful about their relationship. I’d venture to bet that most people would kill for a relationship that passionate and meaningful.
The band eventually broke up and although Lennon went on to create some amazing music (much of it the best solo music to come from a Beatles member), little of it could compare to what he did while he was in the Beatles. It’s extraordinarily sad for me that he has been dead all these years, and I often wonder what he would be doing today. But I do find comfort in the fact that he started to make peace with himself and others in his latter years and was really becoming dedicated to his wife and infant son, Sean. Lennon’s influence is so profound and will be passed on from generation to generation. I’m not even sure anyone will ever truly understand how deep and meaningful his presence truly was.
I’ve spent some time listening to some of his music this past week and although it’s been a while since I’ve done that, I can truthfully say that it never gets old. What saddens me the most is the fact that his relationship with the other members of the Beatles never really mended after their breakup. Many reports try to keep the mythology alive that everything between the former band members was pleasant but my suspicion is that is far from true. I suppose that is one of the things that you sacrifice for musical genius. How could these guys not be so full of themselves with all the phenomenal music they created? Maybe that’s why Ringo was the one nobody ever seemed to have an issue with. In any event, today I am left mesmerized and solemn thinking about my musical hero.
I’ll leave you with a clip of what is quite possibly my favorite Lennon song of all time. A few years ago, I made a mix for my sister and wrote some of my own liner notes to her to give a little background on each song. In the mix, I included this Lennon solo track and I believe I described it as such: “You know that episode of ‘Seinfeld’ where Elaine dates that guy who must have absolute silence every time the Eagles’ ‘Desperado’ comes on? Well, this is my ‘Desperado’”. For a better song to encapsulate John Lennon, you will not find. Call it egocentric, or simple-minded, or depressing, or despondent, but as far as real talk goes, this is as real as it can get. And that's reality.