Where Were You?

The newspapers will today have an abundance of special features, “commemorating” – if that can be considered the right word – the 25th Anniversary of John Lennon’s Murder. I doubt I can say anything about the great man that has not been said before. I can only observe how his importance, at least to me, can be measured by how clearly I remember hearing of his death.

It would have been, of course, December 1980. I had stayed up all night – literally, all night – putting the finishing touches to Jamming! 11. To do so required stealth and secrecy, as my room was next door to my mother’s, and she didn’t take kindly to my pulling all-nighters. As such, I didn’t listen to the radio overnight. I probably even went to bed around 6am, so as to successfully fake “getting up” an hour later.

I went downstairs, more bleary-eyed than usual, for a hurried breakfast before heading off to the printers, and my mother, who always has the radio on, told me the morning’s news. There was always some breaking story to share with me. And often it was serious. But this one hit me in a way I couln’t have imagined (if I’d tried). John Lennon, shot dead, by a crazed fan, outside his New York home, while signing autographs. It didn’t seem real. And the most surreal thing about how hard it hit me was that I wasn’t even a big Beatles fan. I didn’t own their albums. I rarely played their singles. Sure, there was much that I liked, and a few things I adored, and now I think about it, The Jam had been incessantly playing Revolver in the studio of late, but The Beatles weren’t mine. They’d broken up before I came of record-buying age. They didn’t belong to me. Lennon had hardly been heard of in recent years. And yet…

…I took it personally. I really felt the blow. John Lennon. Murdered. In cold blood. It was perhaps the senselessness of it that made it so powerful. A man who had changed the world of pop music I was now immersed in, a man who had influenced a generation, a man who had stood up for his beliefs, who was never afraid to speak his mind, who had campaigned so powerfully for peace … Gone. Wrong.

I went back upstairs and looked for space at the front of the new Jamming! Pages where I could scrawl some kind of obituary. I didn’t have anything original to say, just as I don’t now. But I wrote something anyway. Just as I am now. Because John Lennon touched all of us.

And I think I knew then what I definitely know now – that if our parents’ generation all remember where they were when they heard that President Kennedy got shot, ours remembers where we were when we heard that John Lennon got shot. Where were you?

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1 Comment(s)

  1. 8 December, 2005 at 12:43 am

    Yeah, it was a bleak wierd moment, and though I’m not sure of how exactly I learned, I remember being in the corridor at Laban/Goldsmiths quite early in the morning, getting ready to play music, and wondering at feeling so empty and shocked. Somehow it was such a personal loss, and I wasn’t/am not one to identify with public figures in general.

    Also, at that time New York was staring to loom in my life as a possible destination, and while New X at that time was definitely rough, dangerous even, I still blanched at the gun crazy image NYC had at that time…


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