Posts Tagged ‘John Lennon’

Sit down and put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it. (Colette)

When I was a pre-bar mitzvah sprout in Hebrew school, I was at the mercy of a teacher who came from the Old World with some old skool Old World characteristics, including teeth and fingernails yellow from chain-smoking and a tendency in any academic situation to fall back on his main teaching tool: violence.

I’m not going to tell you this man’s name, or the nickname we children gave him, or the songs we sang about him, because I don’t want his descendants to track me down and torture me the way he did. And anyway, maybe he behaved so badly because he had survived the Holocaust and journeyed to America and in his declining years ended up marooned in our declining, uninteresting city, teaching Hebrew to a bunch of youthful dumbshits. Whatever his motivations, when he called one of us up to the front of the class to recite and we couldn’t deliver, he always screamed, “Go back to your seat and study!!!”

This evening at the end of my Write-a-thon hour I wanted to send myself back to my seat to study. What I wrote was definitely not worth reciting at the front of a classroom or anywhere else. There’s a character I have yet to understand, and my subconscious writer brain refuses to let him walk through these pages as valiant, virtuous, and virtually flawless. Unlike my former Hebrew school teacher, who is long gone, I can figure out what makes this guy tick and why anyone should care.

Maybe that was my old teacher’s real problem. He cared too much.

The 10-year-old inside me just ducked and covered.

Random Pick of the Day
Three Dog Night, Cyan (1973)
Loyal Reader Accused of Lurking has pointed out my math error. Before I so blithely skipped to the Dave Clark Five, I should’ve stopped at Three Dog Night! I also skipped 4 Non Blondes. I’m rectifying the first error tonight.

I find Three Dog Night interesting because almost everything they sang was written by someone else. The original was practically unrecognizable after 3DN finished rearranging it. Look at their first record, Three Dog Night (1969). The composers on this disc include Tim Hardin, Stevie Winwood, Harry Nilsson, Lennon & McCartney, Randy Newman, Neil Young, and Johnnie “Guitar” Watson. Their second album, Suitable for Framing (also 1969), adds Laura Nyro, Dave Mason, Sam Cooke, and Elton John. I wish 3DN had lasted as far as 1980 because I would’ve loved to have heard what they did with songs by, for example, Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Joan Armatrading, and Michael Jackson.

Other than the fact that I flee from any room where “Black & White” or “Joy to the World” is playing (the latter being the “Jeremiah was a bullfrog” song, which Hoyt Axton wrote to showcase the melody – the lyrics were a nonsensical placeholder), I’m OK with this band. They fit well on a road trip in-between the harder stuff. My favorite 3DN songs are “One” (Nilsson), “Eli’s Coming” (Nyro), “Easy to Be Hard” (the team that wrote Hair), and “Liar” (Russ Ballard). Except for “Easy to Be Hard,” these treatments are tougher than usual for them. They’re all from the first two albums.

Cyan (which includes the hit “Shambala”) is not 3DN’s best album (that would be their debut), but it’s their closest to the blue-eyed soul of Rare Earth. There’s also a gospel flavor to some of these tracks. (“Celebrate,” from Suitable for Framing, could easily have appeared on a Rare Earth album exactly as it is.)

For a few years back there in our rearview mirror, Three Dog Night was more powerful than the Van Allen radiation belt. According to Google, they ran up a string of 21 hit singles from 1969 through 1975. I’d rather revisit their music than that of their contemporaries Grand Funk Railroad, a band that rocks very hard for very little reason.

Questions are flooding in! If this deluge continues, I might have to outsource the answers to India. If you have a question and you’re not too picky about an answer, leave it in the comments. From there on, it’s clobberin’ time. 

Dear Run-DMSteve,
Here is a question that I have often pondered. Everyone goes on and on about how brilliant John Lennon was and how thought-provoking and brilliant his solo music was. Has it ever occurred to others that John wouldn’t have been so “out there” if it hadn’t been for his partner in life and crime, Yoko Ono. It’s so interesting that people are quick to joke that Mark David Chapman would have been a hero if he had aimed a little more to the left and shot Yoko, but I truly believe it is because of Yoko that John became the critical darling he was so admired for. Your thoughts?
– Orin

Dear Orin,
John had two partners in life and crime, Paul and Yoko. John and Paul came of age together, worked together, and together achieved results they never would’ve seen on their own. After they became adults, they needed to get away from each other. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards have been together for 50 years, but they should’ve divorced 30 years ago. John and Paul had the sense to go their separate ways while they were still on top.

John found a new muse in Yoko, and so we have Imagine, Some Time in New York City, and Mind Games. Double Fantasy bored me, but by then John was supremely happy with Yoko, and I can’t knock happiness.

Yoko never had a fair chance. She faced a public relations attack from the first day her name was linked with John’s. Even today, when the clue in the crossword puzzle is “Lennon’s love,” I laugh to myself as I write in “Ono.” Why do we laugh at her? What was her crime? The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that the only thing she was guilty of was not being Caucasian.

(John had another girlfriend, May Pang, while he and Yoko were estranged, but I can’t say what influence she had on his work.)

Four things I always remember: Where I was and what I was doing the day Ruby killed Oswald, the day Nixon left office, the night Chapman killed Lennon, the afternoon Challenger exploded. Just to lighten the mood here: When Nixon walked out of the White House for the last time, my Grandma Bella, who was in her 70s and glued to her TV, cried because “they’re throwing the poor man out of his house and he has a wife and two children to feed.”

Keep watching the wheels go round and round, Orin.
– Run-DMSteve

Dear Mr. Run-DMSteve/AKA mrlonelyhearts,
Since you asked, I will lay just a very few of the multitude of burning questions which I’ve been carrying around for far too long on you:

Am I the walrus?
How can heroin be “my wife” and “my life”?
How can I live a normal life if I only have eyes for you?
How can Mick get satisfaction?
How can Rhonda help ME?
If it’s my life…what am I doing here?
Is this love or confusion?
What happened to the “Eve of Destruction”? Did the “Dawn of Correction” cancel it out?
What IS new pussycat?
Who did put the bop in the bop shoo bop?
Who did write the Book of Love?
Why can’t you roller skate in a buffalo herd?
Why do fools fall in love?
Why do you keep me hanging on?
Why does no one call me Mellow Yellow?
Why must I be a teenager in love (even at age 60)??
Why won’t my boomerang come back?
Why’s everybody always putting me down?

Your sage answer(s) will be appreciated.
– Mr. Jones

Dear Mr. Jones,
Your questions require answers from sagier pundits than Run-DMSteve. Have you considered Dan Savage, Dear Prudie, or Rick Santorum?

Alas, all I can do is add more questions to your burning multitude:

If I relax too much, won’t I slip out?
If she blinded you with science, did she deafen you with metal shop?
If you put a ring on it, do you buy it from the Shane Company or Good Vibrations?
That’s the way? That’s what way?
Who let the dogs out?
Who’s next?
Why haven’t you found what you’re looking for? You’ve been looking for it since 1987!
You may ask yourself, where is that large automobile?
You may ask yourself, what is that beautiful house?
You may ask yourself, where does that highway lead to?
You may ask yourself, am I right, am I wrong?
You may say to yourself, my god, what have I done?

Thank you for the most excellent laugh, and good luck on your lifelong quest for enlightenment, you love-struck teenager!

(PS: Speak up. Tommy can’t hear you.)

I believe my music is the healin’ music. I believe my music can make the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf and dumb hear and talk, because it inspires and uplifts people. It regenerates the heart, makes the liver quiver, the bladder splatter, and the knees freeze. I’m not conceited, either. (Little Richard)