Thursday, 2 December 2010

Gnome Thoughts ... 36

With the thirtieth anniversary of John Lennon's death coming up, I'd like to share my memories of that time, even if this turns out to be an exercise exclusively of interest to me. Other options are available, such as the LENNONYC podcasts where those directly involved with Lennon are asked how they reacted.
For me, what comes to mind most frequently is the coldness of that December and the boring job I was doing in a transitional period in my life. Then I woke up one day to hear the Andy Peebles interview being repeated on Radio One surporisingly soon after its original transmission. I don't know whether they repeated the whole thing, but it certainly wasn't a soundbite, giving me time, as I lay there, to work out that something was wrong. Ironically, I had tuned in around the point Lennon was talking about the experience of walking the streets of a city where people "don't bug you."

But what I chiefly remember is a page of a yellowing letter to Stuart Sutcliffe reproduced in one of the "tribute" magazines which abounded at the time in Britain. I bought just about all of them, even though some were fairly blatant cash-ins, not doing much more than reprinting old and not terribly interesting Beatles news stories.

I can't remember much of the letter, except that even then, at whatever age he may have been at the time of writing, its general sense was of a lament for lost innocenc, including a sentence along the lines of "I remember a time when only sh*t was dirty." When I was a boy ...

It felt too intimate for the context, and I wondered, and still do, who it belonged to and who, if anyone, had authorised its publication there.

The text in another image, possibly in the same magazine, is more widely known: the original words for In My Life, describing landmarks in Liverpool with personal associations:
Penny Lane is one I'm missing,
Up Church Road to the clock tower
In the circle of the Abbey
I have seen some happy hours
Past the tram sheds with no trams
On the bus into town
Past the Dutch and St. Columbus
To the Docker's umbrella, that they pulled down.
Read more about the song's composition on the Beatles Bible website here. Not, perhaps, the best song in the world in that  form, but at the time phrases like "I have spent some happy hours", and that sense of a vanished past described by one who had himself somehow vanished, were affecting - I suppose because (and I realise this scarcely places me in a minority) the Beatles were an integral part of my childhood. I can still call to mind a moment, possibly around Christmas 1963, when listening to She Loves You seemed like looking into a future bright with unnameable but wonderful possibilities, feeling its energising furnace heat upon myself and my brothers.


Postscript:

I have found an image of the letter I referred to. It was written to Stuart Sutcliffe.


You can find it transcribed elsewhere on line, arranged more neatly as a poem with capitalisations and line divisions, but it seems better to leave it as it is.

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