Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Night John Lennon Died

John Lennon I was a young man of 24, working at a radio station in northeast Wisconsin. I heard the news after I'd gotten home from work; a colleague called me. I then turned on my small black and white TV to check the CBS Evening News.

I remembered being sorely disappointed that Walter Cronkite treated it as if it was so unimportant. The only news story he had on following the announcement was a recycled story from 1963 where older, square people laughed about how goofy the Beatles were with their long hair and silly singing. That was one time Mr. Cronkite truly disappointed me.

There was no internet then. No blogs, no news sites, no Twitter or Facebook. My TV only picked up two local broadcast stations (why the heck would I need to pay for a cable to bring in a signal?) so I turned to the radio. Our tiny station was automated and had no news staff in the evenings, so I turned the AM dial looking for news from other larger, faraway stations.

When I was a youngster in isolated Marquette, Michigan I'd eagerly wait 'till nighttime so I could turn on my AM radio and pick up exotic, far away radio stations. At night you could pick up stations from amazing distances, since their signals bounced off the ionosphere, which is pressed flat against the earth during the day but balloons far out into space at night. Rather than being stuck with the local, lame MOR (middle of the road) stations, I could listen to big-time, big city stations that actually played rock music, most notably WLS and WCFL in Chicago, back when AM radio played the Top Forty.

I returned to 'the ether' that night to scour the airwaves for news. I found a station - can't remember which one - that was doing nothing but playing Beatles music, separated by brief news recaps and updates on the tragic story. It was the depths of winter, cold and dark. My girlfriend came home from night school and sat with me. We listened until well past midnight, listening to the AM radio. We cried.

Not to dismiss what Lennon had done with his celebrity in the 70s, his activisim, etc., but the thing that really hit us was that it was a *Beatle.* Who would want to hurt *any* of the Fab Four, the lovable moptops, the lads who wrote the cheery, amazing, funny, romantic and heartbreaking soundtrack to our childhood and adolescence? It was a total punch to the gut.

No comments: