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Remembering the Music December 8, 2005

Posted by samwyse in Autobiographical.

Half a lifetime ago today, I drove home from a long day at the office. I had been working late to prepare for a trip to New York, and was listening to the football game on the radio as I turned into the alley behind the apartment complex where I then lived. It was then that Howard Cosell announced that John Lennon had been shot and killed outside his apartment. I parked my car and turned off the engine, but continued to sit in it for several minutes with the radio on, listening to a part of my world come to an end.

I don’t recall any more why I went to New York that week, but I took time from my trip to drive into Manhattan and join the crowd outside the Dakota apartment building. I remember the candles, and the people singing “Give Peace a Chance”, and I took some pictures of the spontaneous memorial that had been formed in a nearby bus stop. But I haven’t seen those since my divorce; I imagine that they are packed away somewhere in my former home. It doesn’t really matter, though, because the memory of my tears as I sang that night will stay with me forever.

It was strange, too, how no one else on that trip with me felt the same as I. They had their plans for dinner and didn’t see the need for a pilgrimage the way that I did. I suppose that they hadn’t lived with the Beatles as I had. Yes, growing up in small towns in the Midwest was about as far as one could get from the cultural scene on either coast, but the Beatles’ influence seemed just as strong there as anywhere else. I was seven when their first songs hit the US airwaves, and everyone my ages was making up parodies as quickly as the songs arrived. I was thirteen when the White Album came out, and I remember the morning after its release, when everyone on my schoolbus discussing its significance, i.e. whether or not it was any good and if it spelled the creative end of the Beatles.

I didn’t have the opportunity to see the Beatles when they played at Busch Stadium in August, 1966, and thus never saw them perform “live”. I am fairly certain that I watched them on “Ed Sullivan”, simply because my parents never missed an episode, but those memories are tainted by all the times that I’ve seen tapes of that performance. Or rather, “performances”; the Beatles in fact appeared on three consecutive shows, but those memories, too, blur together. And so the closest I ever came to a seeing them in concert was watching “Beatlemania” at the Taft Theater in Cincinnati in the fall of 1978. But that night, too, is unforgettable.

All of those memories and more coursed through me that night, as I sat in a stopped car in a dark alley and mourned.

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