Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Late Great John Lennon

Thirty years ago today John Lennon was shot in NYC.  I think he was forty at the time.  Seemed old then, seems young now.

The morning after he was shot I opened the radio station at the University of Vermont.  My show was from 6 o'clock to 9 o'clock.  I started it earlier some days if I was up and wanted to be in a radio studio rather than a bed.  I started it very early that morning.  Before five in the morning, I think.  I brought the news of John Lennon's death to the few who started their day with WRUV in Burlington, Vermont.

What was interesting to me then, and has stayed with me since, is how deeply sad and hurt people were.  I remember two calls as clear as day.  One man, angry as can be, had pulled off the interstate, driven to a gas station and called from a pay phone to make sure I was right.  (This was well before cell phones.)  I know now this man was in the state of denial; at the time I thought he was just crazy.  He called to tell me I was wrong.  John Lennon was not dead.  The man was deeply upset by the loss of someone he had never known.

The second call was from a woman, also at the time much older than me (and now much younger).  She was sobbing.  Inconsolable.  It was painful to talk with her.  I had not at that point in my life broke the news of a death to a loved one.  That call was exactly the same experience.  The image in my head was she had fallen to the floor with the news. What did she want from me?  She wanted me to play "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away."  Good choice.

I did not go overboard that morning.  I realized I was waking people up with sad news.  For a nineteen or twenty year old, which I was at the time, I think I plugged in pretty well to the need to be thoughtful.  I did not play only Beatles and John Lennon songs.  I mixed them in, read from the news, gave people a chance to say something to me, which I'd then read on the air.  I played what people asked me to play.

I nailed my exit that morning:  First I played "A Day In The Life."  It ends with a strong E-Major chord played on three pianos, I think the pianos were played by Lennon, McCartney, Ringo Starr and Mel Evans, with George Martin on the Harmonium.  George Martin was able to extend the sound of that chord for forty seconds by increasing the recording levels in the studio.

The last piece I played that morning was "Mother," Lennon's most personal, direct and powerful song.   I brought "Mother" in as that E-Major chord rang out.  If you have mixing equipment and those two songs give it a try.

I exited that morning with more than two songs.  I exited that show seeing how one person could make a dent in the lives of so many.

I had been (and am) a tremendous fan of John Lennon's music.  Until that morning I took him (and the music) for granted.  I've missed him and the music for thirty years now.  Really missed him.  Like the woman who called the RUV studio that morning thirty years ago.  Like the man in denial.  Rest in Peace John Lennon.

David Rocchio lives, works and writes in Stowe, Vermont. (c) 2010 David Rocchio

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