Something to get hung about….

We’ve all heard the stories, I think, as the years have passed since his awful death. John Lennon was a misogynist. John Lennon’s obsession with Yoko — and his huge ego — broke up the Beatles. John Lennon lived much of his post-Beatles life in a druggy haze and became a pathetic figure who wouldn’t make a move without consulting an astrologer and the I Ching.  John Lennon lost his edge — nothing he did post-Beatles compares to “In My Life” and “Strawberry Fields” and “A Day in the Life” and even “I Am the Walrus.”

To this I say: Whatever.

John Lennon was a genius — and his human frailties were at the heart of his genius. And I think he was, when the ledger sheet’s assets and debits are balanced, a good-hearted and peaceful man, and a true advocate for that simple but elusive goal: just giving peace a chance.

And when John Lennon died 35 years ago, I cried and cried and cried. It was just so ironic, so sad, so fucking sad…

Just think…John Lennon would be 75 years old. He was, incredibly, just 40 when he was gunned down.

And, by the way, it’s just not true his post-Beatles work didn’t compare.

Yes, here’s what I consider his most beautiful song: Take four of “Strawberry Fields Forever:”

But tell me this song isn’t great…

Chanting the mantra: Peace on Earth.

Rest in peace, John Lennon.









They hadn’t noticed that the lights had changed…

Wonder why the Beatles never reunited? Wonder why cool and mystical George Harrison became a grumpy recluse and doofy but loveable Ringo became a boozing jet-setter and John Lennon became the world’s most famous bread-maker and Paul went from writing “Eleanor Rigby” and singing “I’m Down” to writing “Ebony and Ivory” and singing “Say, Say, Say” with Michael Jackson? Well, the sad truth is finally out. This photo, recently discovered in the secret vault of Apple Records, shows that there could be no Beatles reunion because…well, this picture’s worth a thousand words…They hadn’t noticed that the lights had changed…


George, Paul, Ringo, John….

Really down

Amazing. Sad. It’s been thirty years since the murder. Lots of great post-Beatles songs — “Imagine,” “Jealous Guy,” “Watching the Wheels,” “Mind Games”…..but today I am thinking about The Beatles at Shea Stadium performing “I’m Down,” featuring a great lead vocal by Paul McCartney and wild organ playing and spectacular showmanship by the band’s leader, the late lamented John Lennon.

Like the morning sun you come and like the wind you go…

Got some things to talk about, here beside the rising tide…

The title of this post — of course! — is from the song “Uncle John’s Band” by the Grateful Dead.

Let me take you down ’cause I’m going to…
I’ve been staying recently in my old hometown of Yonkers, N.Y.

A time to mourn…
One morning a few weeks ago I acted on an impulse and visited my father’s grave — more specifically his pullout drawer high up in the marble wall of a creepy mausoleum in Hartsdale, N.Y.

To everything there is a season…

The depraved piped-in organ music and the sickly funeral-home smell of flowers got me thinking about my own funeral plans.

Little trip to heaven…
Basically I have no plans. I do know I’d like to be cremated. I do know I don’t want a funeral.

Imagine all the people….
I think I’d like my friends and family to gather for an informal nondenominational memorial celebration.

May you stay…forever young…
I’d like my younger daughter to read one of her poems. I’d like my son to play something on his guitar. I’d like my older daughter to choose and read some samples of my own writing.

No need for greed…no hunger….
I’d like donations to me made in my memory of anti-hunger groups, peace groups or literacy groups.

And…most important of all perhaps…

May your song always be sung…

I’d like there to be a really good sound system set up
to play these songs (in no particular order):
“Uncle John’s Band” by the Grateful Dead
“Strawberry Fields Forever” by The Beatles
“Little Trip to Heaven” by Tom Waits
A Bach cantata
“Forever Young” by Bob Dylan
“Turn Turn Turn” by Pete Seeger
“Amazing Grace” (no bagpipes, please!)
and, of course, “Imagine” by John Lennon

Someone who’s more than dear to me wants her final farewell to include Eva Cassidy’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World…”

My poor father requested “Ave Maria.”

So many other songs would be appropriate and meaningful and sprung from the heart. So maybe I’ll add a few more songs and someone can burn a CD…it would make a nice departing gift for everyone in the studio audience to take home — and take to heart.

Words of love

It’s one of Buddy Holly’s greatest recordings, later covered by an  up-and-coming young British quartet who called themselves The Beatles, and a discussion tonight about the songs “Words of Love” got me to thinking about the many attempts — by songwriters, philosophers, poets, theologians, psychologists  and bartenders — to pin down that elusive butterfly, the perfect definition of love.

Well, here’s my definition and it’s an anti-definition…I say love can’t be described, defined, delineated or declaimed. I say the look of love’s an emotional x-ray, that love’s a feeling beyond feeling, a syncopated beating of hearts, a galloping pulse, a hope with wings, the dream of all dreams, a never-ending link, a gift beyond giving, a red-hot thing shaped on heaven’s perfect anvil. I say love cannot be described with words, that the book of love’s printed with invisible ink.

But here’s Buddy Holly’s gallant attempt:


Imagine if the Beatles had stayed together just a few more years…if they had recorded just one more album…What early (1970-1975) post-Beatles songs might have appeared on that fantasy Beatles album?

That was the theme of an article I read in some British newspaper a few months back. The writer, Neil McCormick of the Guardian, came up with this track list:

Side One: Instant Karma (John), Band on the Run (Paul), What Is Life (George), Love (John), The Back Seat of My Car (Paul), Back Off Boogaloo (Ringo), Mind Games (John).
Side Two: Gimme Some Truth (John), Let Me Roll It (Paul), Jealous Guy (John), Maybe I’m Amazed (Paul), #9 Dream (John), All Things Must Pass (George), Junk (Paul).

I say drop “Back Seat” and “Band On the Run” and “Let Me Roll it” and “Gimme Some Truth” and replace them with two more songs by George — “Beware of Darkness” and “Isn’t It a Pity” — and a different song by John — “Imagine.”  And I say drop Ringo — just let him play drums…

Here’s my track list:
Side One: Instant Karma, Beware of Darkness, #9 Dream, All Things Must Pass, Mind Games
Side Two: Love, Maybe I’m Amazed, Isn’t It a Pity, Jealous Guy,  Junk, What Is Life, Imagine

Imagine that…

And imagine if John Lennon and Paul McCartney, watching television one night at the Dakota, really acted on their impulse, got into a cab and rode to 30 Rock, and walked onto the set of “Saturday Night Live” to accept Lorne Michaels’ generous offer:

And just in case the song’s not familiar…here’s Paul McCartney’s “Junk” —

Avoiding the void

This is the latest in a series of essays titled “Man has premonition of own death”

I’m hearing – in my head – the Beatles, and John Lennon’s singing “Tomorrow Never Knows” from “Revolver,” with Ringo’s underrated and relentless drumming on that song, and Lennon singing “It is not dying…It is not dying….Lay down all thoughts….Surrender to the void.” Everywhere the void. I sent the section called Beautiful Corpse to several writer friends and asked what they thought. With one, sadly, it resonated all too well. “You got me at a sort bad time with this,’ my friend replied, explaining that an ex-spouse was “not doing too well. I mean, not too well at all, although I’m still superstitious enough to think that if I say it aloud it will be true, so I will try to do my part and not say it.” “I have been crying all day, so you can guess. It seems we’re at the age when if we’re not dying ourselves, everyone we know is. And that really sucks, and yes you captured it here.” “And you’re right: when you’re young you can talk about it with a glibness that…well, let’s just say, I have never been freaked out by Halloween and this year, after the death of my father this summer, I am horribly freaked out when I see those plastic bloody hands reaching out of the plastic graves on people’s lawns.” “And when I read my own glib writing…I think, how could I have been so stupid? So, write on. You’re on to something.” So right now I’m thinking about my writer friend and I’m picturing a thousand lawns and two thousand bloody hands and three thousand sad songs and four thousand tombstones and five thousand graves and six thousand funeral trains and for some reason I see people dancing and swaying and playing horns on their way to a cemetery in New Orleans and I’ve a vision of a dead body laid on its back on a smooth flat rock and the rock is slightly atilt and it’s facing a churning ocean and birds circle overhead and there is no beach – it’s a rocky shore – and the wind picks up and the birds circle higher and soar and glide, and the surf gets rougher and the crash of the waves gets louder, and waves hit rocks and the foam sprays the flat rock, which gets wet and slippery, and then there’s a huge wave and that wave envelops the rock, and then the dead body is gone and the flat rock’s empty, and I hear John Lennon singing “Lay down all thoughts…Relax and float downstream….It is not dying…” We can hope. We can hope that there’s something more to the void than just a void.