Monday Dec. 8, a full moon, marked the 23rd anniversary of the death of John Lennon. And for the second time in just over two weeks, those who are old enough experienced another one of those remember-where-you-were moments. I was living in Fallbrook, Calif., watching Monday Night Football and getting ready to walk down to what was then called simply the Boys Club, which was open every Monday for adult basketball. “Tell ’em Howard, you have to tell them,” some director said to nasally sportscaster Howard Cosell. And he did, saying something very close to: “All right, ladies and gentlemen, this football game suddenly means very little, as I’ve just been told that John Lennon…” It was a stunning announcement.
I walked to the Boys Club and tried to sort out this news in my head and figure how it fit into the big picture. When I got to the basketball court, I told somebody the news. “Oh, those rock stars,” the person said. “They die on a regular basis. Probably drugs.” I hadn’t thought of it in those terms. “No,” I said, “somebody just shot him.” The next few days were a bummer. My sister called me from Colorado, pretty upset. And just as he had done 17 years earlier, Walter Cronkite delivered a sad report on the CBS Evening News complete with footage from The Ed Sullivan Show and of the young Beatles walking down airplane stairs, mugging and joking with each other.
It was the end of an era. Ronald Reagan had been elected president one month earlier. And now the genius, the driving force, the guy who made the Beatles so cool was dead. We Baby Boomers all took time out to feel sorry for ourselves. For what it’s worth, my favorite Lennon song is not “Imagine,” “Working Class Hero,” “The God Song,” “Norwegian Wood,” “In My Life,” or “Happy Christmas (War is Over).” It’s “I Wanna Be Your Man.” Yeah, Ringo Starr actually sang it, but what a great song. It’s been rattling around in my head all week, and I’ve just came to the conclusion that it’s the best thing Lennon ever wrote. Simple and pure rock ’n’ roll.
Speaking of moments, I teach a class at Butte College and just recently had one of those moments when you realize how much time has passed since you were born. We were talking about the moon landings, and I realized a vast majority of the class—all but two students—were not yet born when a man last walked on the moon. And I’m guessing none of them were born when Lennon was shot, either.
Here’s a paranoid thought: In last week’s column I wrote about the proposed parking structure that could be built on City Parking Lot No. 1. To finance that project, at least in part, the city would increase parking meter fees and expand the hours those meters are to be fed. Since I wrote about this, I have received two parking tickets.