Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Remembering John, again

My pal, Edna, is well-known for her enthusiasm and poignant thoughts on the world's greatest band. I wanted to share her reminiscence of December 8, 1980. Enjoy! (Reprinted by permission of Edna.)
"I was 19.  Vermont.  College.  In the living room of the dorm.  A girl came in and said "Pray for John Lennon today."  We were all like, what?  "Say a prayer, someone shot John Lennon."  At which point, this one friend and dorm-mate of mine, who was significantly older than the rest of us (I'm talking, we were all anywhere from 17 to early 20's and she was around 35 or 36, having gone back to school in her mid-30's, which I admired) started gasping and weeping and several people went over and tried to calm her down (not me, I was frozen in place) and she ran out and up to her room.  She was a huge Beatles fan, even more so than I was.  There were two things she loved in this world:  The NY Yankees and the Beatles.  For about a week, she would only come out of her room for classes and she wouldn't let anyone comfort her, either.  I tried a few times, as we were pretty good friends.  She just kept saying "You're to young, you don't understand."  I kept protesting "Yes I do, I love the Beatles, too.", and she would respond "No, no, you can't understand, you're too young, no one here understands!"

Anyway, there was no internet back then, we didn't even have personal computers, and being at a small, very rural college in the green mountains of Vermont, we were extremely cut off from any and all media coverage, so it isn't like we were glued around the TV, we didn't even have a television.  To my knowledge, there was not a single television on the entire campus.  I'm not sure how the girl who told us about it even found out.  There was a sense of being cut off.

December 8, 1980, all day, the talk around campus was "Did you hear about John Lennon, I can't believe it."  But then it seemed that life went on and I was the only one feeling like, wait a minute, how can this can things go on as normal just now?  The only one, that is, besides poor Beth, who wouldn't come out of her room and wouldn't let anyone comfort her, and just kept saying that we all didn't understand.  She was so funny, she had a great sense of humor, but it simply disappeared and you couldn't make her smile, let alone laugh, let alone come out of her room.  She didn't even want to talk to you if you were under 25, minimum.  I felt very hurt, as we were friends.  I could take her being sad, but not shutting me out because I was "too young" to understand.  Get over it, we're in the same generation.  And why wouldn't she believe me when I said I loved the Beatles, too?!  This gets back to that other thread in which the long-spanning baby boomer generation was discussed, but anyway.  But she did have a point, I was just a "speck", as I call my kitten, Kioko, during the height of "Beatlemania", too young to remember the Ed Sullivan Show episode, etc.  Very true.  But old enough to have grown up to the Beatles music.  And when I was the age that she was during Beatlemania, some of the Beatles best work, their later work, was what formed the soundtrack of my end of the Boom.  So don't tell me "you don't understand".  I get it.  Maybe I was too young to be totally swept under the blissful wave of Beatlemania, but by the time I hit the surf, the Beatles' music and influence had permeated the entire sea.  Maybe I was too young to have been in love with them, but not to young to be in love with their music.

I remember at one point, on one of my failed missions up to Beth's room to comfort her, she threw a pillow at me and said "No one around here is old enough to understand and tell them all to leave me alone!  You may think you love the Beatles--" at which point I interrupted and said "I DO love the Beatles!", and she forged ahead "--But you don't love them like we did!"

"I am you, we're the SAME GENERATION!" I said, losing any affect of caring and consoling in my voice.

"Maybe, but you weren't there."

Okay.  White flag, white flag.  Waving the white flag and leaving the room now.

Maybe I wasn't in the audience of the Ed Sullivan Show, or at Shea Stadium, or screaming in the streets as they passed by.  Maybe by the time someone gave me "The Beatles Second Album" when I was a child, their outfits and hair on same already were very "old-fashioned" and I never knew them as the "loveable moptops".  But I still loved that album as a child, make no mistake!  And by the time my end of the generation were teenagers, really getting into their music, their later music was talking to us, to me.  They still had active hits on the radio, even though they had broken up years before, and the music that we really got into was their later stuff, which in many ways was their better, more complex, more meaningful, more psychedelic stuff.  Maybe she (Beth) didn't understand how much we (extreme-other-end-of-the-boomers-from-her) were into that second phase of their music, I started to huffily think/feel!  What I found sad and frustrating was that she shut me and others out who tried to comfort her, saying we couldn't understand.  I took it personally because not only were she and I friends, but we were the two biggest Beatles fans there, yet I had never really advertised how much I loved them (at the time I was heavily into the B-52's, Talking Heads, Pere Ubu) and now that I was saying it, it was like she didn't believe me, like "yeah, right, like you can understand anything, ya TEENY BOPPER".  Frustrating!  I mean:  maybe my "Beatles" were different from her "Beatles", but we both still loved the Beatles!  The Beatles were such an iconic part of the entire baby boom generation precisely because they grew and changed right along with the entire generation, and thus every single subset of the generation loved them.  And mourned John on December 8, 1980.

25 years later, I don't know where Beth is.  But she'd be around 60!  And I'm 44.  In some ways, we truly were from two different eras...yet the same sociological, official generation.  And spanning that entire generation, from the time the oldest ones were old enough to twist and shout to the time the youngest ones were old enough to try to make sense of the lyrics to "Come Together", were the Beatles.  Beth grew up with them.  Younger ones like me looked to them as a beacon of how to be, how to think, what to value, how to see the world, all through their music, their lyrics, their magic.  They captured the energy and every aspect of an entire generation like a prism and reflected it back to us in beautiful shards of light."

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