Today is one of the most dubious anniversaries in all of rock and roll.
Twenty-nine years ago this evening, Mark David Chapman shot and killed John Lennon on the front steps of Lennon's apartment building on the Upper West Side of New York City, the Dakota. For Baby Boomers and even their older kids, it was a "Where were you when you heard?" moment up there with the JFK assassination and the moon landing. Because there was no CNN or Twitter, many people found out when Howard Cosell announced Lennon's death at the end of that evening's Monday Night Football game.
Rocks Off was a couple of weeks away from turning six years old that night. Another youngster at the time was Paul Beebe, then two, who is now the lead singer of the reigning Houston Press
Music Awards Best Cover/Tribute Band, Beetle
. We spoke with Beebe earlier this afternoon to get his thoughts on this unfortunate anniversary.
Rocks Off: Are you more of a John guy or Paul guy, or even a George guy? As someone who plays Beatles songs quite a bit, where do you come down on that whole thing?
Paul Beebe: Well, it's funny. I really don't have a very strong inclination towards any of them more than the others. I think Paul's stuff is more composed - musically, I think it was more thought out, but I also think lyrically he mailed it in a lot of the time. John's stuff was always a little more raw, I thought. I have a degree in music theory, so I also look at the songs from a classical standpoint to some extent. I just can't help it.
Paul had more training in that aspect because his dad was a jazz player. Sometimes John would write things that from a music-theory standpoint don't make sense, but when you hear 'em, they sound awesome. I think in some ways he was more creative because he was able to do things that wouldn't work out on paper but they worked. Like "I Am the Walrus." That song musically doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but it totally works when you hear it.
RO: What are a few of your other favorite John songs?
PB: Sometimes it's kind of hard to tell which ones are his, especially the earlier stuff. But I really think... Oh, what's it called? Crap, I can't think of it. [starts singing]
RO: Oh, "Across the Universe."
PB: Yeah. I think that one's really cool. And I like "Glass Onion." That's sort of a weird one.
RO: If he were alive today, what do you think John Lennon would be doing?
PB: Man, I have no idea. I think he'd still be recording stuff. I don't know if he would have gone the sort of Paul route, where he puts out albums and then tours and just plays old Beatles songs [laughs]. I don't know if he would have done that - I kind of think he wouldn't have. But, you know, who knows? He might have just decided to write or something - write poetry and whatever.
RO: Do you think there would have been a Beatles reunion if he had lived?
PB: Yeah. I do. I think at some point they would have.
Rocks Off also posted a message on Hands Up Houston
this afternoon asking if and how Lennon and the Beatles had influenced the denizens of that (mostly) musical message board. (On a side note, can somebody tell us why traffic on Hands Up seems to have gone WAY down lately?) Here's what we got back, as is:
"I was 3 at the time and don't remember the assassination, but the Beatles have had a major influence on me musically, in terms of what I believe is revolutionary composition and orchestration of what you can do with a rock band, as well as revolutionary ways of recording (which in no small part includes using voice as instrument), and pushing the envelope on word smithing and the mix of what one band can try to do musically and topically.
"I consider the Beatles part of the punk continuum in terms of the definition of punk as excessively creative music that is always pushing to be fresh and new and crazy and trying to do exactly what you want to do with your music.
"Also as a kid, I liked singing along to them songs."
"My family were living in Saudi Arabia at the time, and I remember my dad reading the news about it in the paper, I didn't know who he was but my dad said he was in the Beatles and I knew who they were. The news was likely several weeks old by the time he got that paper.
"My parents often listened to Beatles records throughout my childhood, along with the Stones, Dylan, and Beach Boys which was about the extent of their collection except for my mom's John Denver, Carpenters, and Peter Paul and Mary records, and the odd Hendrix or Doors record.
"It seems really quaint now, having a box of 20 records or so and that is pretty much all they listened to for years and years, even quainter that they were played on a Victrola crank cabinet that my mom had got at a garage sale and stained green. I can hardly stand to listen to the Beatles now unfortunately, all the hype about the remastering thing is tiresome, not exciting to me like when the CDs first came out one by one in the '80s and each release was a party.
"Some of the solo John Lennon songs are kind of boring and sappy (Beautiful Boy for example), but a lot of the Plastic Ono Band was really great (Working Class Hero for example) as is a lot of the solo Yoko stuff for that matter. If Lennon were alive, you can be damn sure that he wouldn't have been singing about fighting for freedom at the Super Bowl after 9/11 like Sir McCartney, I think that would have really pissed him off."
nobody u know:
"old enough to remember time/place when I heard the news
"will never forget it
"we were leaving london for a flight to new york city that day (going back to the states, for the holidays) my dad came into the hotel room first thing in the morning said john lennon has been shot and i asked is he dead? coz i was hoping he had only been wounded
"remember being very upset but also angry at the us for our gun laws (still think this nation is idiotic in that regard) and a bit worried was thinking maybe there would be trouble in nyc coz of it
"lennon to me was as much an agitator as a musician
"admired him for that very much
"i used to say he was an aggresive pacifist
"it was PEACE! or... F*CK YOU!!!
"an admirable trait
"as a musician he and the beatles really were of and for their times as they transcended the conservative pop world and grew more radical alongside an entire generation
"also they probably are the band that set the stage for the future of the industry
"world tours merch out the waz big production etc etc
"i credit them with turning on the western world to eastern philosophies (and music) as well
"incredible impact from a band that at first blush gave no hint as to the talent and staying-power that they had
"they had perfect mix too with their production team adding so much to the music so have to credit george martin for helping to educate and mentor them
"have to admit george was my favorite tho ha
"just liked his music and style best
"john was very cool yeah but 90% of the plastic ono bands music was HORRIBLE in my opinion"
"Jim Henson was far more important to society.
and frankly had better music."
We all shine on...