This weekend would have been John Lennon’s 70th birthday. As a kid, I knew Lennon as a face and a name (much like the Beatles themselves) but not music I heard (or at that time recognized as theirs). As my individual interest in pop culture and music grew, it was only a matter of time before I would find time to study this man and his music.
There are others who over the course of the week will write about what this man meant to his generation and his life as a whole. Here I’ll briefly talk about three songs that have moved me in some way from the Lennon/McCartney catalog. (And for my fellow MJ fans, ‘Come Together’ is probably number 4. I like it but there’s no story for me personally behind that one.) Moving on…
1. Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds
I’ve had a fantasy idea in my head since I was a teenager. So I studied Star Wars and Blade Runner. Important films but each in their own way darker than I like. Then I studied Joseph Campbell and the history of mythology. Extremely interesting and thought provoking, but it still left me craving something.
Then, ‘Picture yourself on a boat on a river, with tangerine trees and marmalade skies….’ It’s what anyone who writes aims for, even if it’s on a subconscious level: to get their words to jump off the page (or screen) and get the reader to see what they are seeing. I started thinking in terms of visual imagery, and my ability as a writer has improved ever since. So I owe a thank you to ‘the girl with kaleidoscope eyes…’
(Before I continue, I’ll pass any drug test you give me. I didn’t take it that far.) That is a perfect segway into…
2. I Am the Walrus
Or as I call it, one of the three greatest “Man, what were you smoking/taking?” songs I’ve ever heard. The unwritten rule of non-conformity is you have to completely understand the rules in order to know how to break them. Being different for the hell of it will only take you so far; the ability to say, “OK, what about this?” is what impresses or inspires others.
‘Walrus’ reminds me of conversations I’ve had with some of my international friends. Action movies play well overseas in part because you don’t have to be a master of the English language to follow the story. Pop music is the same way, you can dig the beat and the voice (and if there’s a video, the dancing.) I never realized how much sense this made me into until I remembered how long it took me to realize that ‘Billie Jean’ is really a song about paranoia and baby mama drama. As soon as I hear the beat for that song, I’m in (as are most of you). Walrus takes that theory to the extreme; the lyrics are straight jibberish, but I could play it for a child and they could pick up tone, rhythm, and maybe the change in chords if they’re musically inclined. Conversely…
3. A Day in the Life
This year more than most has been a year of extreme ups and downs for me personally. On both the great days and the truly terrible days, I remind myself, “This is just one day in your life.” I admire the ambition to take a simple story and put an orchestra behind it. ”I’d love to turn…you…on…..” Indeed.
“My role in society, or any artist’s or poet’s role, is to try and express what we all feel. Not to tell people how to feel. Not as a preacher, not as a leader, but as a reflection of us all.” – John Lennon