Monday, December 08, 2008

The Day the Music Really Died

NOTE: this was originally posted to my blog on 12.07.05

I still remember that night in 1980 ... my buddy, Dave, came and picked me up from the store I was working at (one of those convenience type places made famous by the film, "Clerks") and we went to the local bar. It was a dive, this little shit-hole on route 73 just outside of Mount Laurel, but it was comfortable, as those kinds of places are wont to be...filled with blue-collar types. So we sat and discussed an up coming final test that we had to take the following day at the college we both attended, and we both dreamed out loud of shaking the dust of South Jersey off our heels and leaving this working-class world we knew . We drank beer, we smoked cigarettes and we quizzed each other on Foundations of Western Culture...

And then the barmaid came over and told us that John Lennon had just been shot and neither of us seemed able to digest what we'd just heard; "It's on the TV", the barmaid exclaimed, "Look!"

We dashed from our booth to the front of the bar, to one of two sets that was bolted high above the cigarette machine, that on any given night in this seedy tap-room, would be showing hockey or football games...but tonight it showed us something else.

Frantic reporters reading off of pieces of paper. This was before CNN and 24 hour news stations. This was when the stories still came in over the wire over telex machines and such ... and the news was bad ... and a woman in the bar, I remember this clearly, began to sob and say she could not believe what she was hearing...and the bartender, a grizzled old guy everyone called, Joey Z, told her to shut up so he could hear the news...and more people crowded around the television and the local reporter kept repeating that John Lennon had been shot...

I do not recall how much longer it took for word to come that he was dead, but we heard it nonetheless and someone played a Beatles tune on the jukebox at the bar.

On the drive home, one of the Philadelphia radio stations kept repeating the news that he was gone, and at one point they played, "Amazing Grace" and it was so bizarre driving home with Dave that frigid night in December and passing houses decked out in gaudy light displays for the upcoming holiday...

...and then it's all a blur with a few impromptu memorial service at my college campus the following evening ... taking a train to New York City, by myself, on the 13th or 14th of that month and finding my way to the Dakota building and realizing that this grand house was where they filmed, "Rosemary's Baby"...and then meeting a woman named Marla (it might have been, Mandy, I can't recall) who had come from somewhere in North Dakota, and of having Marla lay her head on my shoulder and cry when the crowd began singing, "Imagine", and in spite of the bitter cold, smelling Marla's perfume ... and later on sitting with a group of people I did not know and sharing a joint with them and a bottle of sweet wine and this guy was there and he kept yelling out, "The government killed him, man!"... and then getting something to eat in some hole in the wall and seeing so many people that I'd seen in the park earlier in the day, and Elvis Costello's "Whats So Funny 'bout Peace Love and Understanding" playing in that little restaurant and that song getting stuck in my head for the train ride home...

And then it was over. And I went on with my life.

But in retrospect it always seemed that Lennon's murder was the death knell for a generation as well as an ideal; his murder ushered in the 80's and ushered out hope.

At least that's how I saw it.

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