John Lennon was the heart and soul of The Beatles. He was the one who wanted to be Elvis. When it was over, he said the only good thing about The Beatles was being bigger than Elvis. John Lennon met Paul McCartney in their hometown of Liverpool, England in 1957. They had something in common. Both were mesmerized by American rock & roll. John covered Chuck Berry. Paul sang Little Richard. A bond formed. They wrote together. George Harrison joined them on lead guitar. George was a student of Carl Perkins and rockabilly. Ringo Starr came last on drums. The Beatles' personalities were such that they fit together to make a whole. John was the brooding intellectual, always questioning himself and others. His wit was razorlike. Paul was politically correct. He was the cute one who wanted to please. George was spiritual and introverted. Ringo was a comedian who got along with everyone. In the beginning, The Beatles dressed alike and looked alike. It was hard to tell them apart. They were regulars at a club in Liverpool called the Cavern. The Cavern is where they were approached by Brian Epstein. Brian became their manager. He got them to London and to George Martin. Martin became their producer. If there was a 5th Beatle, he was it. The Beatles released Love Me Do in October, 1962. Beatlemania ensued. Songs like Please Please Me, From Me To You, She Loves You, I Wanna Hold Your Hand & I Saw Her Standing There drove girls berserk at concerts. The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in America. It was pandemonium. Young people went wild. The Beatles were chased by fans and the press everywhere they went. Records were released on 5 different labels. Albums were solid. Every song was good: You Can't Do That, I Should Have Known Better, I Feel Fine. The Beatles made a movie called A Hard Day's Night which portrayed something of what Beatlemania was. Teenage girls screamed in movie theaters to the point that the dialogue was inaudible. It was The Beatles' look. It was the long hair. It was their sound. The Beatles annihilated everyone in music except Elvis Presley. Even he reeled. It took him awhile to recover.
After 1964, things cooled. The one constant was the music. The Beatles made great records. They recorded Ticket To Ride which John Lennon called the first heavy metal song. They did a second movie, Help! It was a bit silly with its James Bond parody. Being in color took away. A Hard Days Night was in black & white. The Beatles invented the concept album with Rubber Soul. It made rock music an art form. Revolver was released the following year. These were tough times in the United States. The Vietnam War and race riots were out of control. The Beatles were threatened by the Ku Klux Klan. Their touring ended, and they retired to the studio. John Lennon's songs remained the best on Beatle albums but they became morbid in a way which is hard to explain. The idea of death pervaded song after song, even the image of being killed by a gun.
In My Life - Some are dead and some are living
Run For Your Life - I'd rather see you dead
Girl - Will she still believe it when he's dead
We Can Work It Out - Life is very short
Rain - They might as well be dead
Tomorrow Never Knows - Ignorance and hate mourn the dead, It is not dying
She Said She Said - I know what it's like to be dead
This trend continued through Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Magical Mystery Tour, the White Album, Let It Be and Abbey Road.
Good Morning Good Morning - Nothing to do to save his life
A Day In The Life - He blew his mind out in a car
I Am The Walrus - Dripping from a dead dog's eye, See how they run like pigs from a gun
Yer Blues - Wanna die...If I ain't dead already...Feel so suicidal
Happiness Is A Warm Gun - Bang bang shoot shoot, My finger on your trigger
The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill - What did you kill...Bullet-headed...If to kill was not a sin
Glass Onion - See how the other half live
Revolution #9 - Turn me on, dead man
The Ballad of John & Yoko - They're gonna crucify me...Oh boy, when you're dead
Come Together - Shoot me
In the Rolling Stone interview after the breakup, Lennon was distracted, incoherent. He rejected his Beatle years and never embraced them again. When he did Double Fantasy, he said he did not want to be thought of as a Beatle but as John Lennon whose life was changed by American rock & roll. The theme of death extended into his solo work.
Instant Karma - Pretty soon you're gonna be dead
Cold Turkey - I wish I was dead, Can't see no future
My Mummy's Dead - Title
Working Class Hero - Smile as you kill
Imagine - Nothing to kill or die for
How Do You Sleep? - When they said you was dead
I Don't Want To Be A Soldier - I don't wanna die
John Sinclair - Shooting gooks in Vietnam
Angela - They shot down your man
The Luck of the Irish - Wish you were dead...Death and the glory
We're All Water - If we check their coffins
Sunday Bloody Sunday - When they shot the people...When they nailed the coffin lids
Born In Prison - Die in prison
Attica State - The prisoners did not kill...Watch them die
Woman Is The Nigger Of The World - We kill her will
Intuition - It seemed like suicide
Scared - I just wanna stay alive...Gonna be the death of me
Old Dirt Road - Breezing thru the deadwood
Whatever Gets You Through The Night - A gun to blow your mind.
It was as if John Lennon had a premonition of his death. He was shot and killed in New York City by a deranged fan named Mark David Chapman in December, 1980. He had turned 40 on October 9. Lennon once made the remark that he did not want to work in a factory because he would be dead by 40. There is irony, too, in the hoax about Paul McCartney being dead. The hoax has never been explained. No one has ever claimed responsibilty for the clues that popped up in the music as well as on album covers. John Lennon admitted that he wanted out of The Beatles as early as 1966 but was afraid to leave the group. Indeed, he used his discontent to craft classic Beatle tunes like Revolution and The Ballad of John & Yoko. It was Lennon on the cutting edge. He tried to break down the English language and reform it with nonsense lyrics like those of I Am The Walrus, Hey Bulldog & Come Together. Lennon's songs are superior to McCartney's even though Paul McCartney fans maintain otherwise. In My Life is better than Yesterday. Someone called Lennon a diarist and McCartney a dramatist. It is accurate. Ego was at the center of all Lennon's work. Even during the peace movement, he acted as if he invented peace. McCartney created characters as in Eleanor Rigby and Penny Lane.
When Lennon brought Yoko into the studio, it drove a wedge between him and McCartney. Yoko had no talent. Nor did McCartney's wife, Linda, who accompanied her husband on stage with Wings. It was up to ABBA from Sweden, a country known for sexual equality, to produce a group in which men and women could thrive together. As The Beatles were breaking down, they paved the way for the band which would take rock & roll to its next level. Elvis Presley may never have heard of ABBA. The Beatles created them.
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