Today (October 9th) marks what would have been John Lennon's 73rd birthday. By nightfall tonight, hundreds of fans will have made the pilgrimage to Central Park's Strawberry Fields in New York City for a day of remembrance, sing-alongs, and celebrations dedicated to the memory of Lennon. Strawberry Fields, a triangular patch of land dedicated to Lennon by the city of New York and named after the Beatles' 1967 hit, sits directly across the street from the Dakota, Lennon's Manhattan apartment building, where he was gunned down on December 8th, 1980 at the age 40. Today is also Lennon and Yoko Ono's son Sean Lennon's 38th birthday.
Fans were shocked earlier this week when Lennon's star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame was defaced by vandals. Volunteer fan crews have been working overtime to get the star ready for today's celebrations. The star, which is adjacent to the Beatle's record label headquarters in Los Angeles, is the primary spot for fans to gather both on Lennon's birthday and the day of his death.
Last month we reported that Lennon's only full-rehearsed concert from 1972 is getting a drastic overhaul. Producer Jack Douglas, best known for his work with Aerosmith, Cheap Trick, and Lennon's final 1980 songs on Double Fantasy and Milk And Honey, revealed to us in an exclusive interview that plans are in the early stages to restore the show for an upcoming release. On August 30th, 1972, Lennon and Yoko Ono were backed by Elephants Memory for two full concerts at New York's Madison Square Garden. The performances, known as the One To One concerts, included an afternoon matinee and an evening performance, benefited the Willowbrook House, with the proceeds from the shows going to help establish new accommodations for the mentally handicapped inhabitants of the former Willowbrook institution in Long Island, New York.
Douglas, who was behind the boards for the 2010 Double Fantasy Stripped Down collection, says that unlike the 1986 LP and VHS versions of the '72 show -- called, Live In New York City -- he plans to include material from both the afternoon and evening charity concerts. No release date has been set.
Last year, the Yoko Ono sanctioned book, The John Lennon Letters was published The John Lennon Letters was edited by noted Beatles author Hunter Davies and features letters sent by the late Beatle to lovers, friends, family, and fans from every point in his life, and culled from a collection over nearly 300 letters and postcards. Highlights include Lennon's rants to and against the press, Yoko bashers, producer George Martin, and Paul and Linda McCartney.
At the time of Lennon's death, on December 8th, 1980, he and Yoko had just released Double Fantasy, his first new music in over five years. Elvis Costello recalled that some fans were put off by Lennon emerging from his "Househusband years" both happy and mellower: "It wasn't exactly a secret that Lennon could write very emotional songs about love. He'd written very naked songs about childhood and about his love for his wife -- even before the Beatles broke up. And he wrote more on Imagine, and then after a period away, wrote these very dedicated songs that you hear on that, to his son and everything. And I suppose some people felt ill at ease with the . . Some people wanting him to be somehow not singing music that had a sense of contentment, by why wouldn't he? Y'know, why wouldn't he want those kind of qualities?"
In 2005, Lennon's first wife, Cynthia Lennon, released her second book on him, titled John, in which she portrayed him as a tormented soul who never got over his childhood abandonment by his parents, when he was left at the age of four to be raised by an aunt. She says that Lennon never overcame the circumstances of his childhood: "He was crippled inside. When you think about what he did as an art student -- all his drawings and cartoons, he would do cartoons of cripples, he would imitate disabled people because he was disabled inside himself."
Cynthia was asked how he was able to express his feelings of loss and self-doubt: "Well, usually with the music, with the lyrics. His expressions to the world. I mean he was saying to the world, 'Help! I need somebody.'"
Although Lennon was missing for most of son Julian Lennon's life, he was able to provide him with some of the basic skills he would build upon during his own musical career: "He taught me how to play guitar a little bit. Yeah, Dad taught me some of the early, more basic chords of rock n' roll. One thing I would have to say is that I absolutely love and respect him. Not necessarily as a father, but for the work he did and his humanitarian work."
George Harrison's first wife Pattie Boyd, who spent much time with Lennon in the '60s, said how she remembers him: "Very funny. Very funny. Cruel as well. If anybody got on the wrong side of him, or (if) they were complete idiots, then he wouldn't fail to let them know."
During his last TV interview in April 1975, Lennon told Tomorrow Show host Tom Snyder that the entire "Beatlemania" era was as confusing and disconcerting to the group as one would imagine: "It was like being in the eye of a hurricane, and you thought -- 'What's going on?' That was about as deep as it got: 'What is happening?' You'd suddenly wake up in the middle of one -- a concert or a happening -- and (think) 'How did I get here? Last thing I remember was playing music in a club and the next minute this."
Out now is the critically acclaimed new DVD, Beatles Stories. Director Seth Swirsky interviewed such legends as Brian Wilson, Graham Nash, Smokey Robinson, Art Garfunkel, and Ray Manzarek -- among many, many more -- about their own, personal stories on meeting one or more of the "Fab Four." Swirsky told us that his personal favorite Lennon album would have to be his first mainstream solo release, 1970's John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band: "Y'know, John was a work-in-progress. He was a great artist and that's what artists are. And I could put on Plastic Ono Band at any given time and see the artist stripped bare. And that's why I like that album so much because it was John at his most elemental."