Vale John Lennon. The former Beatle has become an icon for millions worldwide with his music and his message of peace and love. In many ways a poster boy of the hippie era, Lennon's influence was enormous in his day, even after the end of the Beatles. With his wife Yoko Ono, Lennon was a hero to the peace movement ... and a 'dangerous radical' to some, notably J. Edgar Hoover, who some believe directly intervened to refuse Lennon a permanent U.S. visa. Some even believe Lennon's death in 1980 was orchestrated by the FBI, the CIA or any number of others. Of course, we all know the story. On 8 December 1980, "The Walrus", John Winston Lennon, was walking into his apartment building, the Dakota building in New York City, with his wife when he was shot dead by Mark David Chapman, later described as a 'deranged fan', though there is evidence against that claim. Lennon was rushed to the Roosevelt Hospital but was pronounced dead at 11:15 pm that fateful night. Millions mourned his death and afterward, he was elevated from celebrity to pop culture icon. This timeline's point of divergence is very simple. Mark David Chapman missed...
The incident - December 8, 1980
On the night of 8 December 1980, John Lennon was targeted by a deranged gunman in front of his home, the Dakota.
It was unusually warm for December in New York City and Lennon had a full day planned. He first went to the Cafe LaFortuna for his morning espresso, then to a hairstylist before returning home. At the Dakota, he did an interview for the RKO Radio Network and a photo session with Annie Leibovitz for Rolling Stone magazine.
At 5:00 p.m., Lennon and Ono left their apartment to mix the track "Walking on Thin Ice" at Record Plant Studio. As they walked to their limousine, they were approached by several people seeking autographs. Among them was a young man later to be identified as Mark David Chapman. Chapman silently handed Lennon a copy of Double Fantasy, and Lennon obliged with an autograph. After signing the album Lennon asked him, "Is this all you want?" Chapman replied with, "Thank you, John", while photographer and Lennon fan Paul Goresh snapped photos of them both.
Lennons spent several hours at the studio before returning to the Dakota at about 10:50 p.m. Lennon decided against eating out so he could be home in time to say goodnight to five-year-old Sean before he went to sleep. They exited their limousine on 72nd Street, even though the car could have been driven into the more secure courtyard. The doorman, Jose Perdomo, and a cab driver saw Chapman standing in the shadows by the archway. Ono walked ahead of Lennon and into the reception area, and then Chapman called out, "Mr. Lennon!" As Lennon turned around, Chapman dropped into a "combat stance" and shot at Lennon five times with hollow point bullets from a Charter Arms .38 revolver.
Lennon was extremely fortunate. After the first shot was fired, the sudden noise caused him to startle and he fell onto the sidewalk. Chapman fired twice more but missed both times due to the sudden speed of Lennon's movements.
Lennon staggered up four steps to the security/reception area, said, "There's a gunman" and leapt over the desk as Chapman entered, gun still in hand. Concierge Jay Hastings summoned police by hitting a silent alarm button and, in a stunning act of bravery, lunged at Chapman attempting to disarm him. Perdomo jumped onto Chapman from behind and the two men pinned him down. Pedermo shouted "Do you know what you've done?" before kicking Chapman's revolver across the sidewalk. Chapman replied, "I just shot at John Lennon." The first policemen to arrive were Steve Spiro and Peter Cullen, who were at 72nd Street and Broadway when they heard a report of shots fired at the Dakota. The officers found Chapman sitting quietly on the sidewalk, with Pedermo and Hastings still holding him. They reported that Chapman had dropped the revolver to the ground, and it lay next to a paperback novel - J.D. Salingers The Catcher in the Rye.
The second team — Officers Bill Gamble and James Moran, arrived a few minutes later. They immediately checked Lennon for injuries and, apparently finding none, requested Lennon and Ono, as well as Pedermo and Hastings, accompany them to the local police station for a statement. Chapman was taken in a separate car to another station. Police reported Chapman was 'very quiet' and 'withdrawn', and indicated that he could scarcely believed that he'd missed.
Shortly after local news stations reported the shooting, crowds gathered in front of the Dakota - reciting prayers, singing Lennon's songs. Lennon and Ono returned to their apartment at about 4am on the morning of December 9, where Lennon made a brief statement to the crowd and to the press camped outside the building. "Everybody, I thank you all so much for your support. I am fine, nobody is hurt and I ask you all please to respect our privacy. It's very late and I'm very tired."
Chapman pled guilty to attempted murder and was sentenced to 20 years to life. He is still in prison as of 2007, 27 years since his arrest, having been denied parole four times.
The early 1980s
Lennon was said to have been 'shaken' by Chapman's attempt on his life, and began to suffer from severe depression. He stopped all work on his follow up to Double Fantasy, the album he had been recording with Ono, and became quite withdrawn. In early 1981, Lennon entered therapy and began to recover, though he and Ono have both admitted he was never quite the same man again after his near-death experience.
Fractured Glass was eventually released in October 1981 to mixed reviews. In mid-1982, the idea of a Beatles reunion began to be seriously canvassed - Lennon was said to be all for it, and Paul McCartney was said to be the hold-out preventing it from happening. Lennon even wrote a song about this unusual occurrence, I'm Moving On Over, which was included on his 1983 album, Twisted Metal, considered by some as Lennon's finest solo work while most critics simply regarded it as another flawed masterpiece similar to his previous Walls and Bridges and Fractured Glass albums .
Live Aid and the Beatles reunion
Despite McCartney's recalcitrance to reform the group (which he always denied), it was ironically McCartney that would prove the seed of the band's renewal. In 1984 McCartney had participated in Bob Geldof's Band Aid single, Do they know it's Christmas, which Lennon had been offered a part in but declined (he was working on his own project along similar lines). Geldof, whose activism against global war and poverty in many ways matched Lennon's, was determined to recruit Lennon for his cause, which was to be a massive open-air concert against global hunger and poverty, specifically in Ethiopia, Live Aid. McCartney was on board from an early stage.
On March 15, 1985, Geldof and McCartney met Lennon in New York and asked Lennon to participate. Lennon was certainly sympathetic to Geldof's cause, but had his doubts as to whether or not the concert would be effective and also expressed concerns over the commercial nature of the enterprise. However, he was said to be open to the idea of participating. Geldof and McCartney contacted the other Beatles, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, with a view to reforming the Beatles for a one-off performance at Wembley for Live Aid, as the centrepiece of the concert.
Once Harrison and Starr had agreed, the four Beatles reunited for the first time in fifteen years when the other three met Lennon in London and, in Starr's words, "told the old bugger to jump on board". Lennon has always insisted it was McCartney, not Lennon, who was the one most opposed to a reunion, while McCartney, Harrison and Starr have both stated on separate occasions, Lennon was the real hold-out.
Whoever was the hold-out, obviously they changed their minds. On July 13, 1985, an estimated 1.5 billion viewers in 100 countries tuned in to watch Live Aid's televised broadcast. What nobody knew, as Status Quo set the concert off, was who was waiting in the wings.
The names got bigger and bigger. When The Beach Boys took the stage, surely it couldn't get any bigger? Then McCartney arrived and performed two songs before launching into Hey Jude. As he reached the first verse, Harrison walked onto the stage and joined him in the number. Then Starr and then Lennon arrived, and the Beatles played the rest of the number in their first joint performance for fifteen years. The ovation from the 72,000 strong crowd was so loud it interfered with the sound equipment and few could hear the song. When Hey Jude finished, the reformed Beatles played Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, With A Little Help From My Friends, Twist And Shout, I Saw Her Standing There, I Want To Hold Your Hand, Help, Let it Be and finally All You Need Is Love (Give Peace A Chance), as the final song of the evening. The London broadcast was almost totally overshadowed by the enormity of the Beatles reunion.
The comeback tour and Get Back
Bob Geldof (and the Beatles) had only intended to reunite for the Live Aid cause, but the popularity of their appearance and the money it had been able to raise caused the group to reconsider their decision. Ringo Starr later said "We all thought about the times we'd had before and realised that maybe, just maybe, it was worth giving it one last shot." On 20 November 1985, all four Beatles fronted the press in Liverpool's St. George's Hotel and announced that the group would reunite for a series of benefit concerts in the UK, United States, Australia, South America, Hong Kong And Japan. Sun City, a large casino complex in South Africa was prepared to offer them a 250 Million Ran (70 Million Us Dollars) for an hour show on the proviso that they chose to play in their county but because of their then current political state of apartheid and deliberate racial separation, The Beatles refused and promised to leave a large percentage of their profits to fight apartheid
(though in reality it was only a modest 9 percent, most of the remaining money going towards charity groups such as Amnesty International, Aids Awareness, Homosexual Tolerance, Rape Crisis Awareness, Child Cancer, The Make A Wish Foundation, Oxfam, Farm Aid, Live Aid, UNICEF, Child Fund, Sea Shepherd, Greenpeace and Walt Disney Charity Group).
The tour was the group's biggest ever, but was fraught with danger. For a start, the huge crowds of fans at the group's gigs reminded them why they had stopped touring in 1966 in the first place. Security was nightmarish, and at the band's sixth concert in Boston, Massachusetts, which took place on January 16, 1986, one fan was killed and eleven injured in a stampede. Perhaps, the group mused, this wasn't such a good idea after all. It was after the Boston incident that the group decided to cancel a number of their international concerts fearing more mass riots. The tour ended on February 23 1987 with an open-air concert in Central Park, New York City, attended by more than a million people. There were reports of several injuries among the crowd as well.
The tour proved, especially to Lennon, that reforming had been a mistake. If more proof was needed, it was in the band's caustic relations with each other - several blazing rows had broken out on tour, just as they had two decades ago. Lennon wanted the band to confine themselves to their later work, while McCartney advocated performing songs from across their career, chiefly their earlier songs which had made them so popular.
Despite all the setbacks on tour, the group consented to record one final album, which all of them, by mutual agreement, knew would be the last. Further collaborations would be impractical and horrific for all concerned. That said, the album that was produced is considered by most fans to be one of their finest, on par with Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band or Abbey Road. Lennon described the album as "fucking brilliant".
The album was called Get Back and contained songs by all four band members. The title track alludes to a McCartney composition that first appeared on their previous album 'Let It Be'. In fact 'Get Back' was previously intended to be the title for Let It Be album until it was wrongly replaced due to product error. By calling their now current album 'Get Back' Paul McCartney felt it made up for many past mistakes cause by eventual split of The Beatles in 1970. John And Yoko (Lennon) had wanted to call it 'Sago Sago' and George Harrison 'Gone Tropo' in part a reference to his recent move to Australia. Ringo Starr in memory to last time he felt that the band was this together on an album ('A Hard Day's Night') laughingly dub it 'The Night We Called It A Day'. The initial idea for the 'Get Back' album was originally conceived by Starr, Harrison, Lennon and McCartney as a tribute to their past efforts as The Beatles and as a final statement aim towards their remaining future legacy as a group. " Get Back " released on August 28 1987, was a sprawling 13 LP odyssey detailing the meteoric rise of the band into the public conciseness through outtakes, popular bootlegs and little heard live numbers (mostly recorded for the BBC) including compositions previously not known to of exist such as 'Carnival Of Light'. The album cover mimics their first studio album release 'Please Please Me' where all four Beatles in their current fashion stand at the top of a landing peering down. A cover shoot like this had originally been done before in 1969 for 'Get Back' album but when this title was scrapped because of a change in name to 'Let It Be' so too was the cover. It was later used in the 'Red And Blue: Beatles 1963-1966/ Beatles 1966-1970' greatest hits compilations, first released in 1976. Included with this album box set was a surprise bonus '14' LP (This with their other thirteen studio albums would make this album their fourteenth studio album) containing new recordings including the hit singles All Those Years Ago, Once Upon A Long Ago, Real Love, Walrus Lives! And Free As A Bird which many had thought was the only five new recordings that would be found on this compilation. Unlike all their previous albums, Lennon and McCartney were not co-credited for songwriting, with the exception of Ain't I Good To You Girl?, Nobody But You (Makes Me Feel The Way That I Do) (A heartfelt tribute to the friends and lovers of The Beatles who have pass on such as Stuart Sutcliffe, Mal Evans And Brian Epstein) And Dream Brother which the two collaborated on while touring.
The album was an instant success and was #1 on both sides of the Atlantic and in 43 other countries in spite of its immense size and cost. It remains by far the biggest-selling Beatles album of all time, and the fifth-highest-selling album of all time in the United States (it ranks #6 in the UK).
Following the release of the album, the Beatles announced that they would not produce more original material but consented to the release of more previously unheard material periodically throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
The Beatles officially broke up for the second time shortly after the release of Get Back. However, public pressure for them to reform was enormous. This caused inevitable tensions. Lennon and McCartney both preferred to concentrate on their solo work. McCartney released several new albums in the 1990s, while Lennon was less prolific. Lennon and Ono returned to their film making career, becoming activists against global warming as the decade drew on. The Beatles continued to make occasional appearances with each other, but never as a complete group. Most often, Harrison or Starr would feature as a guest at one of McCartney's concerts, though the reverse was occasionally true. All four Beatles guest-starred on The Simpsons in the 1990s. Ringo Starr appeared in the episode Brush with Greatness as himself. He was followed by Harrison in Homer's Barbershop Quartet, McCartney in Lisa the Vegetarian and Lennon in Trash of the Titans1. The series creator, Matt Groening, has stated it had always been his wish to have all four Beatles appear in an episode together. Sadly, this never happened. Lennon would later also appear (as his own disembodied head) for a brief cameo in an episode of Groening's other animated series, Futurama. It is also worth noting that John Lennon in 1981, on a brief visit back to his home country of Great Britain, appeared and starred in the penultimate episode of Jim Henson's Muppet Show where in it he played with a walrus, an octopus and three huge life size muppet beetles with a monkey on his back.
In 1991, Michael Jackson, himself a huge Beatles Fan who almost bought their entire catalogue in 1985 before Apple Records (EMI) through the insistence of John and Yoko Lennon was finally outbid, asked John Lennon if he would be interest in doing a duet with him on a song he was was working on for his latest album tentatively titled "Dangerous". John Lennon knowing Michael Jackson through his son Sean, who himself had spent a large number of weekends away, playing with Michael Jackson at Neverland Ranch, agreed and they soon both begun to work on the song called "Black And White" at his Neverland Ranch. When the song was released as single the following year in 1992, it became the biggest selling Michael Jackson single to date, topping his own previously held record for the number of weeks at number one on billboard charts. It even managed to eclipse his own previous record for the longest number one single, that he help to achieved through his collaboration with Prince on the song "Bad". So fruitful was this recording session between Michael Jackson and John Lennon in 1991, they even began to write more songs together than the one Michael Jackson had previously planned. Though many of them remain unreleased to this day, two of them did manage to appear on the official album release of "Dangerous" along with the previously mentioned duet "Black And White" plus "It's Just The Skin I'm In" and " Tears (See It In My Eyes)" . It's these additional songs that forced Michael Jackson to make his forthcoming album "Dangerous" a double album, with John Lennon tracks closing the first side of album and opening the second. Many critics still regard these three songs as some of finest moments of John Lennon recent modern output, some venturing even to say that this was his very peak as songwriter and musician putting Paul McCartney's own efforts with Michael Jackson i.e "Say, Say, Say", "The Girl Is Mine" "My Boy Brags About Me" to shame.
In 1993, John Lennon entered into a public spat with Paul McCartney when he revealed he was re-recording many of the old songs that he had previously done with The Beatles. On September 23, 1994, the John Lennon album "The Right Album" was released into record stores, the album an obvious pun not only on The Beatles "White Album" which had been released sixteen years prior but also to his own previous album 1991's "The Write Album" a spoken word album collecting many of his assorted essays, speeches and poems. The album title also referred to John Lennon's asserted belief that the songs included on the compilation was how he originally intended for songs to sound when he first recorded them as a Beatle. This drew heavy criticism from many of the album reviewers as some of the songs contain samples of rap music such as " Baby You're Rich Man " with Brand Nubian and " Run For Your Life " with Run DMC. It also drew emotional elict from his former songwriting partner Paul McCartney calling the album " an abomination that stands against all peace and fucking love The Beatles had ever stood for ... " pleading with him not to continue with it. George Harrison and Ringo Starr were also notably displeased as they believe along with Paul McCartney that the songs that they recorded as Beatles were perfect the first time they recorded, though George Harrison was seen to be more diplomatic about it, adding " ... though that is his choice ! Whatever John wishes to do, I will support him, no matter what. As long as he doesn't go anywhere near my songs with his rap music I will remain quite content with his attributes ... " John Lennon counting there reactions with " .. they're just being a pair of old Mother Hens who need to learn to suck eggs. Get with the times grandpa ! But Paul being Paul bloody won't because that's bloody Paul ! That old phoney, he knows when his golden goose is cooked ! "
George's final performance
On July 24, 1997, Lennon joined Harrison & Ravi Shankar on VH1's "George Harrison & Ravi Shankar: Yin & Yang" for what turned out to be George Harrison's final live performance. They played 4 Harrison/Shankar songs ("If You Belonged to Me", "All Things Must Pass", "Any Road", & "Prabhujee") and 3 Lennon songs ("Slippin' and Slidin'", "Imagine", & "Stand by Me"). At the end of performance, Lennon & Harrison embraced in a hug in a way as if they eerily knew that it would be the last time they would perform together.
Death of George Harrison
On November 29, 2001, George Harrison died in Beverly Hills, CA, at the home of another Beatle: Paul McCartney. 2-and-a-half-weeks prior, on November 12, all of the former Beatles met together at George's New York hotel for a final lunch, knowing it would be the last time they were together in one room. They lunched for 90 minutes before Ringo had to leave, but Paul & John stayed for a couple more hours before George had to go for his cancer treatment at nearby Staten Island University Hospital. After George's death, John, Yoko, & Paul offered their condolences to George's widow Olivia. Exactly one year later on November 29, 2002, John, Paul, & Ringo reunited at the Royal Albert Hall in London for "The Concert for George" as a memorial to George on the 1st anniversary of his death.
In 1985 John Lennon and Yoko Ono caused minor controversy appearing before a senate hearing instigated by the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), who wanted to introduce a parental warning system that would label all albums containing offensive material. The system was to include letters identifying the type of objectionable content to be found in each album (e.g. O for occult themes, S for sex, D for drugs, V for violence, etc). John Lennon, Yoko Ono (Lennon), Dee Snider, John Denver, and Frank Zappa all testified against censorship and the proposed warning system. Such a system was never implemented, but the result of the trial also scuttled their plans for "Parental Advisory: Explicit Content" label. More than anybody else who appeared before the senate hearing, it was Yoko Ono who was single handedly credited for curtailing this movement where she famously spoke not as an activist, artist, musician or wife of a famous musician but as a mother. Her "It's entertainment. Entertainment. It's not real. Children realise this. My children realise this. Are you seriously suggesting my nine year old son Sean is smarter than your husbands in the senate? Why are we having this discussion? Can't you see how entertaining it is to think that in free society you would restrict something from someone? Aren't you embarrassed, Senator? You're all acting like nine year olds ... "
After hearing political rap group Public Enemy's highly acclaimed album "It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back" in 1987, he fell instantly in love with their music calling it "Revolutionary! It was such a drag to of sat through punk and hear all these bands, The Sex Pistols, The Clash, the crap whatever, calling themselves ground breaking when these groups were doing nothing that we weren't already doing before Brian got to us. Spitting on stage, swearing, mucking about with old ladies bras, throwing stuff, fucking wearing a toilet seat around my head and handing out Bazi salutes, mate I was doing that before any of these pricks ! Me, George, Paul, Sex Pistols had nothing on us y'know and it was such a drag to sit there and watch them make out that it was all something new and exciting when it wasn't y'know what I mean ? You can't fool me twice !"
John Lennon feeling energised by rising rap movement in music in the late 1980s decided, much to other former Beatles charging to become a champion for this burgeoning genre, making numerous guest appearances on many of top selling rap artists albums of 1990s including Above The Law, Public Enemy, Jay Z, Warren G, Ice Cube, LL Cool J, 2Pac, RZA, Bones Thugs And Harmony and Busta Rhymes. He was also credited for being the one responsible in resolving the west coast, east coast rap feud that many had felt was already getting out of hand. As 2pac was quoted in saying in an April 1999 issue of Source Magazine "It was the man's attitude of how we need to resolve our own conflicts so we can end the wars on street is how we all learned to fucking finally get along. Like he said we all needed to give peace a chance and when we did we knew my brothers that peace on street was coming soon. If wasn't for him I know I would of died out there like thousands of other soldiers like me, Sean, Biggie ...". John and Yoko Lennon's constant radical political approach to America's then current topical situations (i.e Rising Military Spending, Failing Eduction System, An Endemic Welfare System, etc.) was quickly adopted by most other rap artists during the 1990s. It was in part due to them, that this triggered a rise in number of young black votes across the country, allowing Democrat Candidate Al Gore to narrowly win 2000 U.S Elections defeating Republican Candidate George W Bush. It was also this same number of black votes that help democrats to defeat incumbent President John McCain (who he himself came to power in 2004 elections after defeating incumbent President John Edwards who became president after devastating effects of September 11 2001 where the President Of United States Al Gore, along with almost three thousand American lives were killed that day by terrorist attacks on New York, Washington D.C and Miami where the then President was vacationing with his family before being assassinated by one of 9/11 terrorists who's sleeper cell was ironically located in same city) and elect John Kerry as President of United States Of America in 2008 U.S Elections and Caroline Kennedy as their first female Vice President. President John Kerry aware of huge responsibility that he had owed John Lennon (They both had known each other since the early seventies), chose him to play at his inauguration on January 20, 2008, making him one of few foreigners ever given that privilege (though John Lennon through Yoko Ono obtained American Citizenship in 1976, he himself being born and raised in United Kingdom excludes him from being thought of as naturalised citizen). John Lennon then decided to sing one of his most politically charged songs " Give Peace A Chance" knowing that in his own words "... I would of been pulled off the lovin' podium" if he decided to sing one of his more recent songs such as "Peace The Fuck Out !" a reactionary song against the U.S President John McCain 2005 invasion of Iraq, the 2007 incursion into Syria and Iran and the ongoing war in Afghanistan, that manage to make its way onto most top ten alternative college radio playlists in late 2007/2008.
It was during the 1990s as reaction against grunge music (a genre of rock music that was popular in United States in early 1990s) that Britpop was born. Britpop, genre of rock music native only to John Lennon's home country United Kingdom, was seen as style of music very much indebted to what The Beatles had done twenty years prior. John Lennon realising this, derided Britpop saying "If people want to listen to this sort of muck, they have all our old albums to fall back on if they want to reminisce ! Why you would want to buy this rubbish, fucking escapes me ! I thought everybody would have their own copy of Sgt Pepper by now without having to well write one themselves ! It's lunacy ..." . Oasis, widely believed to be one of Britpop's largest Beatles imitators enter into a public debate with John Lennon when the lead singer of group, Liam Gallagher, reacting to his comments about them, call him " You're nipple, John !!! A nipple ..." . It was this huge public spate, well covered on both sides of Atlantic, that help propelled Oasis into world stardom making them at time of writing this the world's biggest band with nine U.S number ones to date (August 2009). It is this stardom that also lead to meteoric rise of other Britpop bands in America such as James, Ash, Supergrass, Super Furry Animals, The Aftermath, Menswear, Northern Uproar, Ocean Colour Scene, Cast, Pulp, Blur, Boo Radleys, The Libertines, The Delays, Divine Comedy, Muse, Elastica, Radiohead, Pure Reason Revolution and Robbie Williams especially, who's recent success in America almost parallels Oasis in scope. In 1997 after the election of New Labour and it's leader Prime Minister Tony Blair, himself former musician who had been in number of college circuit bands as a law student ( i.e The Dead Rumours), made it one of his first duties in office to seek a knighthood for all four former members of The Beatles. The Beatles begrudgingly accepted the offer, but only if they can accepted the knighthood from him and not any one member of British Royal Family. Tony Blair a firm believer in protocol did not consider this request proper but on behalf of Queen Council negotiated a deal where they would be able to received them from Princess Diana, The Former Princess Of Wales. On August 17 1997, only days after Prime Minister Tony Blair came into office, on the steps of 10 Downing Street all four former members of The Beatles received their knighthoods from Princess Diana, former Princess Of Wales. This was believed to be her last public appearance before she was tragically killed two weeks later, on August 31 1997 in car crash in Paris, France.
1Editor's note: Lennon's appearance on The Simpsons replaces that of U2 in this particular episode. I'm sure Lennon would have relished the chance to call someone a "wanker" on television.