Saturday, December 8, 2012

I Can Remember the 8th of December

I was kind of late coming to rock and roll. My parents graduated from high school in 1950 and 1955, so they were more into the music of Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby than Elvis or Chuck Berry. And since I was an eldest child I didn't have older siblings bringing rock and roll home either. I wasn't completely unaware of the music of course, various rock groups did appear on the TV variety shows or were covered on the news. I often say that my first memory of the Beatles was news coverage of their breakup. But as I moved towards the mid 70's and high school, I began to pay more attention to contemporary music. I was really into the singer/songwriter era of the 70's, but I also was discovering older groups, including, especially, The Beatles. I especially took to John Lennon's solo work, particularly Imagine. I didn't have a lot of financial resources in high school to buy music, but by college I was able to but records occasionally (they were still records then) and I remember picking up a copy of Double Fantasy as soon as it came out. I had just recently sent in a card for a subscription to Rolling Stone also. And that was December 8, 1980, which I still remember with such clarity.

I was still living with my parents then (Rent free as long as I stayed in college) and as usual for a Monday Night, we were watching the Football game. Monday Night Football was an event in and of itself. It was what people talked about the next day, even if they didn't normally follow football. My dad was a die hard football fan, so we always watched. We weren't particularly interested in the teams playing that night, but this was the pre-cable era and choices were much more limited. 

And then we saw and heard this:
I don't remember the rest of the game. I just remember it being over and saying goodnight to my dad and heading up to my room to  listen to the radio all night.  I remember having the presence of mind to turn on my cassette recorder at some point during the night and taping off the radio. First I figured I would want to remember what I heard that night, and second, I didn't have many Beatles recordings.  And the next week my first issue of Rolling Stone arrived, with its now iconic Annie Leibovitz cover. I know I walked through the next few days, reading all the papers (insert joke about the opening lines of :"A Day in the Life" here), watching all the news.

  I found it somewhat frustrating that no one in my immediate circle felt quite the way I did. I longed to be somewhere like Central Park in New York, with the ongoing memorials that lasted for days.  Those people were at least having company in their mourning. As someone who was born at the beginning of the 60's, I was hardly new to the idea of assassinations or  death by violence. Although I have only the faintest recollection of JFK's death, I have vivid memories of the deaths of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy; of Kent State (only 15 miles from my home, much covered in the local  papers) and many others. And I had observed the hysteria of Elvis' death 3 years earlier as well.  Lennon's death was like the perfect storm of all these events coming together.A music icon dying violently.  And I, just a few months short of my 21st birthday, felt this was the worst coming of age gift ever.

  Since then I have listened to a lot of Beatles music and a lot of Lennon's solo music.  It has certainly stood the test of time, at least to me.  Just like a really good book I find new things each time I listen. And as I get older many songs take on different meanings.

 My most profound feeling, at the time, was of being robbed. Robbed of his talent, of his presence, of the music. Only one other time in my adult life have I felt so profoundly cheated by the creativity gods, and that was when Jim Henson died.

  Time as the cliche says went on.  A couple years later I finally found a friend who felt as I did about Lennon, the Beatles, and the 8th of December.  It was she who accompanied me to Strawberry Fields some 31 years after the events. There was a certain closure to that moment, of a quest of sorts fulfilled.
Its ironic that this comes one day after a day burned in the memories of so many other people.  Pearl Harbor may have been America's first instantaneous tragedy, everyone in the country was involved as soon as they heard it on the radio.  And everyone of that generation knew exactly where they were and what they were doing on the date that would live in infamy.  And to this day I remember how I felt that night, and the days after.  It's burned into my memory. I can't sit down to watch Monday Night Football with my son, or hear a recording of Howard Cosell without being plunged backward into that moment in time more than 30 years in the past.

  All those years ago.

No comments:

Post a Comment