I have two the-night-john-lennon-was-killed stories. first: i remember it. it is my first memory to which i can assert with absolute certainty a fixed chronological point. because it happened december 8th 1980 and I remember it. because it was the first time i ever saw my parents sad. and i was worried. and my mom let me stay up. my dad worked late — in those days dad was either early or late — which would’ve put him home around 10 or so. My mom greeted him at the door with the news; I sat on the stairs and watched.
When my father couldn’t explain to me why he was so sad, or rather, why the loss was so great with words, he played me Beatles records. The RED and BLUE collections, although I know he still had SGT. PEPPER’S but that would come out much later. He taught me how his record player worked and I listened and listened and listened and listened.
I became a beatlemaniac, and a music kid, december 8th, 1980. Because of John Lennon.
I dated a girl named Sam. The day I first heard “Venus in Furs” she was skulking around the school library in a pair of knee-high leather boots and a skirt. YEAH.
Sam’s dad was, after Joe Quesada, and an old pal of my dad’s whose apotheosis came while watching the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show, the biggest Beatlemaniac I’ve ever met.
I’m a long-haired acid freak in Cabarrus County, North Carolina, and I’m dating a girl that wears short skirts and tall boots to school — meeting her parents was not going to go well but, hey, I could talk Beatles with her old man and maybe I could be in with an outside shot.
Sam’s birthday is December 8th. See where this is going?
She invites me to meet him at her birthday dinner but she’s dreading it. He always ruins her birthday, she says. I think she wants me there to preemptively ruin things. All in all it’s too amazing a car crash to not watch so hell yes I go.
And in spite of the hair and the everything else I can go deep nerd enough on the Beatles to not get the stinkeye from the dude, so that part’s okay. and then he dings on his glass and gets not just the attention of the table but of most of the restaurant. This is a paraphrasing of what he said, but only by a scoonch:
“Today is the most important day of my life. December 8th was the day my entire life changed. Everything I thought I knew went out the window and I realized how precious and sweet life is. One of the greatest lights the world has ever known, John Lennon, was murdered this day in 1980 and I will never forget.
“Oh and happy birthday sweetie.”