For many people of a certain age Dec 8th has a powerful resonance. The day that John Lennon died holds emotional memories for many people like John Steven Locke…
40 years ago today I remember waking up from having a very strange, vivid dream of John Lennon’s face right in front of my eyes, the exact same image used alongside this piece.
As I sat bolt upright in bed in my small room in North Wales, my radio alarm was blasting out the terrible news of his murder thousands of miles away in New York.
I remember shouting ‘Noooo!’ loudly and jumping out of bed into the landing at home, to be greeted by my stunned looking Mum telling me, obviously very upset ‘John Lennon has been shot!’.
We both stood and looked at each other and my Mum burst into tears.
The Beatles were part of our shared existence from when I was literally a baby sat in the cot, whilst my beautiful young Mum would dance around me singing their songs, happily smiling, grabbing my face and kissing and tickling me.
What was also very strange for me was only two days earlier I had seen the back of a very sophisticated looking blonde woman, as She walked out of the class room at Wrexham art college, where I had just become a student in the September of 1980.
She walked out of the the door next to mine chatting with the lecturer as they sidled slowly up the hallway engaged in deep conversation.
Another art student mate of mine then stuck his head out of the door of the classroom She had just left, and half whispered and half hissed at me ‘That’s Cynthia Lennon!’.
I remember the hairs on the back of my neck stood up at the thought of me being so close to someone, who was forever part of the most famous musical history, which had already been told in countless films and books about the most important British band of all time.
Cynthia was John’s first love and his first wife … The thought was overwhelming – to have been in her presence, especially for a young Beatles fanatic like me.
So a few days later to be woken to the tragic news about one of mine and millions of others musical idols had been murdered, left me saddened to the core, and more than a little numb.
I immediately thought of Cynthia and Julian Lennon and how they must be feeling, how painful it must be for them.
At this time they lived in Ruthin, only a few miles from me, it made this murder seem even closer somehow.
That day I went into college as normal and all the conversation everywhere was naturally about John’s death.
I was with a college friend who was the drummer in a local, quite well known Punk band called ‘The Grids’.
He and I chatted and decided we were bunking off college and catching the direct train to Liverpool.
We left Wrexham and got into Central Station in Liverpool at about 11.30 and walked quickly up towards Matthew Street and on to where the Cavern used to be.
There was and still is, a statue of John right by a club doorway, called Brady’s at the time.
It was also known for being the site of the far more legendary and original Eric’s club, part of the 70’s punk, post punk and New Wave magical, musical heritage.
On our way we made a slight detour and pilgrimage to Probe records, which was obviously in sombre mood, even the usually flamboyant and vibrant figure of Pete Burns was dressed all in black behind the candle lit counter.
As I recall ‘Imagine’ was being played on the decks and the whole shop had the unusual feeling of a musical shrine about it to me.
This was far removed from the usual hub bub, madness, banter and blaring speakers I was used to.
It was almost a religion to visit Probe when on my journeys to find and purchase the all important, newest music and visit this sanctuary for punks, goths, mods, sods, New Romantics and sneering, snobbish musical cynics in the wonderful Pool of life.
In sad reality, the whole of the City was in mourning effectively and it felt kind of eerie, sad and stunned.
The most famous, revered and loved son of the City had been stolen from them, and the pain, hurt and disbelief was absolutely palpable as you walked the same streets he had only 20 years before.
As we arrived at Brady’s and John’s statue, there was a photographer with a model standing close by; he was asking her to pose and pretend to cry into a hanky held to her face.
Standing a little further on was a group of women, who quickly became incensed at this fakery and newspaper nonsense.
They shouted ‘Get away…Go on! Piss off with yer!’
Some even picked up stones from the car park nearby and threw them at the hack and the model, they literally chased them away, hitting them with handbags and fists until they were far from the statue and up and out of the suddenly hallowed ground of Matthew Street, cursing and calling them for their disrespect.
We paid our respects, as much as you could to a statue and what was then a car park on the site of the old Cavern, and went and sat in the Kardomah Cafe around the corner from Probe and watched, somewhat numb as Liverpool went about its business.
I sat holding and nursing a frothy coffee and watched, saw and felt a City in total sadness and loss at such a waste of someone’s life and future.
The whole city was seemingly walking in pain and anguish.
I have only experienced this one other time since then, in my adopted home City of Manchester after the horrific and incredibly evil act of the Arena bombing.
The feeling of such communal grief, sadness, disbelief and confusion over a whole City is a very, very strange, emotional thing to experience.
I do not want to experience it ever again.
So here I am 40 years later, remembering the day and the moment in time a madman stole the life of one of my personal heroes.
He was a flawed hero as much as he was a flawed human, he was our hero though, he was Liverpool’s hero.
Not so working class, but definitely in a class of his own.
I’ll have a beer in memory to you tonight John, and I’ll ponder at where the years have gone since that sad December morning in 1980, when the 18 year old me held his crying Mother close, and wondered at the madness and evil in the hearts of some men.
Bless you, and thank you for the music and the memories John Winston Ono Lennon x
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