Tag Archives: John Lennon

30 Years Later, Still Imagining

When I was a child, JFK was assassinated and it seemed like the whole world stopped for a weekend. For years afterwards, time could be marked by how many years after the incident it was. Five years later seemed surreal, as did ten. And every anniversary after that seemed to center upon the realization that “I can’t believe it’s been so many years“.

I can still see myself at that school desk, two rows in, five rows down. I remember the teacher, Mr. Rotella, was wearing a grey suit. I even remember the student who burst into the classroom blurting out “President Kennedy’s dead!”. Poor Peter Sturm’s facial expression and tone of voice was unfortunately misinterpreted as an expression of excitement sans gravitas, and Mr. Rotella lit into him for treating the moment as anything but devastating emotional trauma. I would bet money that Peter’s shirt was blue.

I tell that story because there are moments in life where your soul takes a snapshot and it gets filed into that area of your brain that is the last to go. People of that generation can all likely remember where they were that day. And I will never forget where I was thirty years ago when John Lennon was killed.

I’ve never seen the life get sucked out of a room that fast; the sound of a bar full of friends enjoying a great band was brought to a screeching halt when the word filtered in. My roommate Dave (long the most credible DJ in the city) had the thankless task of making the announcement to a stunned crowd, some of whom had heard the rumor and others who were blindsided by the words. In a blur of cries and hugs and blank expressions it seemed that everyone knew that the best thing to do was to go home. Go seek out friends and talk it out and somehow try to get our heads around what had just happened. There was no Internet nor cell phones, we were reliant upon whatever radio and TV would tell us and whatever we could gather from others. Every broadcaster, every person we passed on the street, everyone was dumbstruck.

The house Dave and I shared was well-known for burning the midnight oil, and it wasn’t long before the phone started to ring; people who called said they dialed us because they knew we would be awake and receptive. Then more calls…then visitors as the door opened again, and again. I can’t remember a word I said that night, nor anything anyone else said either. I just remember the odd juxtaposition of feeling scraped out and hollow by the incident yet safe and comfortable because I wasn’t alone. I was sharing the experience with others…somehow we diffused each other’s pain. I know that’s what the people at the vigil that night and the days afterwards felt, too. Community of spirit, the essence of human communication, a bonding with all senses engaged.

I am so glad there was no such thing as Twitter in 1980.

I know John Lennon was not a hero in the strict sense of the word, and there certainly have been many people from all walks of life whose acts and deeds advanced human civilization more profoundly than any Beatle ever could. I didn’t know John personally and have no idea what he was like as a father or a husband or a friend. 

But Lennon was a man of peace, and in the intolerant times people my age grew up in, his words and music spoke to us and for us. To suffer a violent death is the worst kind of irony, but that shocking deed punctuated and drew perpetual attention to a mission that lives on through his legacy.


I can’t believe it’s been thirty years.


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Under The Radar: Wes Hollywood

Cities like Athens, Austin and Seattle might have gotten all the notoriety as musical hotbeds but the Illinois/Indiana area was always a great source of powerpop bands. The Wes Hollywood Show was no exception, wrangling guitar oriented pop with a sense of humor and mining that infectious, kinetic beat like Elvis Costello, The Kinks, The Beat and their neighbors from Rockford, Cheap Trick. They wound up issuing four albums under that name; Girls was the one that first caught my attention.

These days if you want to track pop savant Wes, you can find him making great music with his current effort, The Tenniscourts. Of course, that band is a subject for another day.

Here’s a review I wrote about their album The Girls Are Never Ending for Cosmik Debris back in September 2001.

Set the wayback machine back to 1977, Sherman, for The Wes Hollywood Show is waiting there for you. Remember when rock and roll was fun? Before shogazing? Before angst? Skinny tie pop rules again with these guys on their second CD, The Girls Are Never Ending. It’s wall to wall bouncy, power pop harmony, jangly guitar glory.

The opening track, “She’s Gonna Let You Go,” calls to mind the Romantics and early Elvis Costello, while the following track sounds more like The Knack and…uh…early Elvis Costello. That’s no insult – Wes isn’t trying to ape the man, but he does sound a little like him, although crossed with a good dose of John Lennon. In other words, the boy can sing!

The rest of the band are no slouches either. Mark Talent (lead guitar), Patrick Thornbury (bass) and Jason Styx (drums…wait…a drummer named Styx?) are energetic, especially on killer tracks like the Ramones-ish (well, okay, and Costello-ish) “H Bomb.” No doubt you’ll be playing this record over and over again, dancing to “Goodtime Girl,” “Little Miracle” and “Weston-Super-Mare.” And even though you’ll go grab This Year’s Model afterwards, you’d be just as likely to pull “Turning Japanese” and “What I Like About You” out of the rack.

And there’s something wrong with that?

Give it a listen at Amazon right now.

That Year's Model

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Lennon Weekend – Gimme Some Truth

For those who don’t already own John Lennon’s catalogue, and maybe even for those of us who would like a pristine collection of the man’s work, Gimme Some Truth looks like a nice anthology. The four CD collection is being released to coincide with what would have been his 70th birthday.

 Gimme Some Truth presents seventy-two of his solo recordings on four themed CDs, with all titles digitally remastered and restored to John’s original audio mixes spanning his solo career:

  • Roots  – John’s Rock `n’ Roll roots and influences
  • Working Class Hero – John’s socio-political songs
  • Woman – John’s love songs
  • Borrowed Time – John’s songs about life 

Listen to some audio clips

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Happy Birthday, John Lennon

He would have been 70 years old today. Seventy!

We’ll never know what he would have accomplished. We only know what his words and deeds worked towards. And we continue to carry that torch thirty years after his death.

On behalf of the group, I think you passed the audition.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Lennon.

Amazing audio: Stripped Down John

Lennon Birthday Events

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Remembering Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin died forty years ago today.

Forty years? That doesn’t seem possible. But I guess it’s been that long since the first rock’n’roll generation’s stars started dropping like flies – Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, Jim Morrison, Janis. I was but a wee lad when I lived through that carnage, but it was only ten years later a when psychotic gunned down John Lennon in the street.

Janis did everything full-bore, and while her death was tragic it was anything but unexpected. Attractive but not conventionally pretty, she channeled whatever loneliness and pain she felt through her gifted voice and exquisite phrasing and sang everything from deep in her soul. And much like her deceased brethren, she was able to pack a lot of magic into a short window of fame.

Video: “Cry Baby” (live in Toronto)

Hearing her music today is as fulfilling as it ever was, perhaps even more so given the dearth of vocalists at her level over the years. Although I’ve heard the song a thousand times, “Piece of My Heart” still makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck, as does her incredible version of Summertime“. And her lighter moments – “Me and Bobby McGee” and “Mercedes Benz“, for two – still make me smile and sing along involuntarily.

Thanks to the constant flood of unearthed film footage and studio sessions, Janis’ magic isn’t limited solely to her albums and reputation. I highly recommend picking up the Monterey Pop DVD as well as the recently released Festival Express, both of which capture her in a myriad of emotions. Nine Hundred Nights is a documentary focusing on the Big Brother era and is very good, although not objective. I was even pleasantly surprised by the episode of Biography broadcast by the A&E network; it was one of their best.

And, of course, there’s the original catalogue. If you’re not able to gather the originals, either The Essential Janis Joplin or Box of Pearls is a good place to start. Live CDs from Woodstock and Winterland are also worthy purchases, and there are more on the way.

Video: Ball and Chain” (live at Monterey Pop)

Every generation argues its own timeline, but the last half of the 1960’s might have produced the greatest number of important artists simultaneously at the peak of their game. And even in that competition, Janis Joplin was a beacon.

R.I.P., Janis.

Janis Joplin dot net

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