Search This Blog

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Double Fantasy - A Double Sunday Jukebox

Day #9 of “The Pop Culture Addict’s Advent Calendar” is going to begin on a sombre note.

Yesterday marked the thirty-second anniversary of the date that John Lennon was shot to death in New York City by Mark David Chapman.

December 8, 1980 had started off a typical day for John Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono.  At the time, John Lennon was enjoying a bit of renaissance since going on hiatus from performing in 1975, following the birth of his son, Sean Lennon.  He spent that summer recording the album “Double Fantasy” (release date November 17, 1980), a joint effort with Yoko.  I would have guessed that part of the reason why the album was named “Double Fantasy” was because the album contained songs by both John and Yoko, but in truth, it was named after a species of freesia, which John had described as a perfect description of the marriage he had shared with Yoko.  It had been the first time that the two worked together on the same album in eight years.

I suppose just as the first release from “Double Fantasy” stated, it was “just like starting over” for John Lennon...a second chance at a solo career ever since the Beatles disbanded in 1970.

Anyway, December 8, 1980 started off like any other day...well, provided that you were a former member of one of the biggest rock and roll groups of the 1960s, that is.

Do you see the above picture?  That was taken by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz on the afternoon of December 8, 1980.  The photograph, as you can see, showed a nude John Lennon embracing his wife.  Leibovitz was there to do a photo shoot for “Rolling Stone” magazine, and initially wanted to do a shot with just John.  At John’s insistence, he demanded that Yoko join him on the cover...a risky move, considering that many people still allegedly pointed the fingers of blame on her for breaking up the Beatles.  But, that’s another topic for another day.  At any rate, Leibovitz snapped the happy couple, and believed that the image could make the cover of “Rolling Stone” magazine.

Little did she know that the image would prove to be one of the last professional photos that would be taken of John Lennon...and little did she know that her prophecy about the picture would come true...and not in the way that anybody expected.

After the photo shoot, Lennon ended up doing a promotional interview for “Double Fantasy” with DJ Dave Sholin, and once the interview was completed, John and Yoko headed over to Record Plant Studio to do some more work on Yoko’s single “Walking On Thin Ice”.

After departing the record studio, they went back to “The Dakota” (the apartment building where both John and Yoko lived, and were not too surprised to see a group of fans waiting outside the building, eager to get an autograph from John Lennon.  One of the people standing outside the building was Mark David Chapman, a security guard from Hawaii.  Unbeknownst to Lennon, this was not the first time that Chapman had tried to see him...he reportedly was in New York in October 1980 just before the release of “Double Fantasy” making plans to kill him, but changed his mind and went back home.

This time, Chapman meant business.

When Lennon approached the entrance of the Dakota, Chapman silently handed Lennon a copy of the album “Double Fantasy”, and Lennon ended up signing it for him.  Believe it or not, there was even a photograph taken of this event with Chapman standing beside him with a rather disturbing grin on his face.

It would just be a few hours later that all hell would break loose, as Chapman would shoot John Lennon four times in the back in the archway of The Dakota in front of several shocked spectators.  After the doorman of The Dakota wrestled away the gun from Chapman and angrily asked him what he had just done, Chapman eerily replied in a calm manner that he had just shot John Lennon before sitting on the sidewalk clutching a copy of J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye”.

There was a valiant effort by paramedics and staff at The Dakota to save John Lennon’s life, but it was too late.  At 11:15pm, John Lennon was declared dead at the age of 40 years old.  The cause of death was hypovolemic shock, caused by Lennon losing eighty per cent of his blood supply from the bullet wounds he sustained.

Yoko especially took the news of John’s death hard, reportedly only calming down after a nurse at the hospital handed her John’s wedding ring.  She told the hospital not to report the news of John’s death until she had the chance to inform her son first.  However, the news spread fast (partly due to the untimely check-in of a news producer who had sustained injuries in a motorcycle accident at the same hospital Lennon was at), and the first report of John Lennon’s death was broadcast during a Monday Night Football game by announcer Howard Cosell.

John Lennon’s death at the hands of a madman was tragic and ironic at the same time.  Here was a man who lived and breathed the values of making love instead of war, and trying to convince everyone to give peace a chance being taken from the world in such a violent and gory manner.

And, I think that in order to celebrate his passion for trying to make the world a more peaceful place, I want to feature a song that was released nine years before his death...a song that one typically hears during the festive season.

ARTIST:  John & Yoko/Plastic Ono Band
SONG:  Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
ALBUM:  N/A (was a single release)
DATE RELEASED:  December 1, 1971

** = That’s #3 on the Billboard CHRISTMAS Singles chart.

Now, this particular single has a very interesting history behind it.  The title of the song was actually influenced by an anti-war campaign that John Lennon and Yoko Ono began in 1969, at the height of the Vietnam War. 

You don’t need me to tell you how horrible of a time that was.  The soldiers who were lucky enough to come back home from combat during the Vietnam War were physically and/or emotionally scarred, and the levels of destruction on Vietnamese communities was incredibly tough to visualize. 

The argument as to whether or not the United States should have even gotten involved in the conflict to begin with is still being debated nearly 40 years after the war officially ended, but the stance that John and Yoko held on the matter was crystal clear.  They opposed every bit of it.

And to show their opposition, they rented out billboard space in eleven major cities all over the globe, each sign boasting the message “WAR IS OVER (if you want it) – Happy Christmas from John & Yoko.”

Listen very closely to the end of the song...does it not sound familiar?

TRIVIA:  The background vocals of the song were provided by the Harlem Community Choir.

The single was recorded over a two day period in October 1971 (at the same record studio where Lennon spent part of the last day of his life), with assistance from Phil Spector, and the voices of the Harlem Community Choir were added it with an echo effect.

TRIVIA:  If you listen to the recording at the very beginning, you might be able to hear Yoko and John sending out whispered greetings to their children.  Yoko’s greeting was for her daughter Kyoko (from her previous marriage to jazz musician Anthony Cox), and John’s was to his son, Julian (from his previous marriage to Cynthia Powell).

I think that this song is one that really makes one think about how lucky they really are, depending on where you are in the world.  For most of us, Christmas is a day of joy, a day of love, a day of showing kindness for your fellow man, and a day of being grateful for every single minute of every single day.  It’s easy to forget sometimes that somewhere in the world, people are struggling to even stay alive in third world countries, and there are people who are risking their lives to escape countries torn apart by war and conflict.

The song is also rare in that it charted twice...and in the second time it charted, it actually scored higher than it did upon its original release in the United Kingdom.  The song initially peaked at #4 in the early 1970s, but when it was re-released following John Lennon’s death in 1980, it made it all the way to #2!

I think John Lennon’s greatest wish was to ensure that everyone in the world could live in a peaceful manner.  In the days following his death, the outpouring of grief from his fans was unprecedented.  Lennon was cremated two days after he was shot, on December 10, 1980, and four days later, fans around the world paused for ten minutes to remember John Lennon in a silent vigil lead by Yoko Ono.

The photograph that Annie Leibovitz took on the day that John Lennon was shot became the cover image for the January 22, 1981 edition of “Rolling Stone” magazine, which was almost entirely dedicated to the life and times of John Lennon, featuring articles, interviews, photographs, and letters.  That same year, John's former Beatle bandmate George Harrison reunited with the two other surviving Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr to assist him in the tribute single “All Those Years Ago”.  McCartney would release his own tribute in 1982.  Lennon was posthumously awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1991, and every year on December 8, a memorial ceremony is held outside of the Capitol Records building in Hollywood, California, with vigils continuing to be held today.

As for Chapman, he is currently serving a “20 years to life” sentence in prison.  He has applied for parole seven times, and all seven times his requests were denied.

Despite what happened to him, John Lennon was, and will continue to be a legend in the world of music, and his talent has influenced hundreds of current artists today.  And, to end off this blog entry, I’m going to take influence from the title of Lennon’s last recorded album, and make this a double song entry.  And, I can’t think of a song in which John Lennon displays his love to the one that mattered most than this posthumous hit, released one month after his death.

ARTIST:  John Lennon
SONG:  Woman
ALBUM:  Double Fantasy
DATE RELEASED:  January 12, 1981

Rest in peace, John Lennon.

Tomorrow we’re going to be approaching the double digits with Day #10.  And the Monday Matinee stars a guy from “Home Improvement”, the guy from “Numb3rs”, and the guy who starred with Eddie Murphy on “Beverly Hills Cop”...and a certain clause...

No comments:

Post a Comment