Join Date: Apr 22, 2011
Location: Off the Walls & Over the Bridges
Encounters, sightings, letters and more of the 1970-1980 variety
Columnist fondly recalls meeting John Lennon
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — All it takes is the first few bars of the song to bring the lump to my throat.
“And so this is Christmas, and what have you done? Another year over, a new one just begun ...“
Of all the Beatles, John was the last one I’d ever imagined would pen a Christmas ditty. You expected it of cuddly, correct Paul, but not brash, opinionated John. No, John Lennon was not your Christmas feel-good kind of guy. Or at least that’s what I thought until I met him.
I was just out of college at the time and didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I’d always thought I wanted to be an actor, so I majored in theater and dramatic lit. But I was brought up by Depression-era parents who drummed the words “job security” into my head for so long, when the time came to decide whether to try my luck in the theater or get a real job, I took the safe way out.
Even so, I wasn’t going to settle for just any job. I wanted something exciting. If I couldn’t be a star myself, I wanted to work for celebrities, and since I was a major Beatles fanatic, I decided to try for a job with Abkco Industries, which had recently taken over management of the Fab Four’s Apple Records.
“We actually do happen to have an opening in our royalties department,” I was told by the office manager. “You’re not afraid of numbers, are you?”
I thought it best not to tell him that when Sister Mary Benignus told me I’d gotten a 67 on the geometry Regents and I realized I’d never, ever, have to take math again, I ran into St. Sylvester’s and lit a candle.
So I started working in the royalties department, struggling with profit and loss sheets, praying every day that I wasn’t shortchanging John, Paul, George and Ringo of money they were due, and patiently waiting to see one of them walk down the hall.
It took a few months, but finally, it was going to happen. According to A&R (artist & repertoire) assistant May Pang, John and Yoko were coming in. I freaked. Quietly, of course, because I didn’t want anyone to think I wasn’t cool, but I freaked, nonetheless. And not just because one of the Beatles was coming in, but because it was John. Unlike the other three, he always seemed somewhat forbidding to me. In fact, he scared me.
And then there he was, walking past my desk, the wisp of a wry smile playing about his mouth. As he walked, he looked this way and that, as if trying to make eye contact with us mere mortals, unlike Yoko, who looked straight ahead. Yoko always looked straight ahead; not John.
That was the first of many times John came into the office. Two of those times stand out in my mind. The first is the day John and Yoko walked into the elevator after me. I froze; It was one thing to have John Lennon walk past my desk; it was another to be in an elevator with him.
Yoko slinked into a corner but John looked straight at me. He must’ve seen the panic in my face, so when he went to press the button for our floor and saw it already had been pressed, he turned and said, “So, you’re going up to the 19th floor too?”
And what did I answer?
“Doesn’t everyone, eventually?”
To this day, I don’t know where that came from or what it meant. I’m sure John realized in trying to make me feel more comfortable, he’d only made things worse. It was a silent ride after that.
The second of John’s visits to the office that stands out occurred when he was recording “Happy Christmas, War Is Over.” It was in summer, and he’d come in to talk to the A&R guy about setting up the session. John was bringing in the Boys Choir of Harlem and he wanted to have a big, decorated tree, and lots of toys and gifts to give the children to create a holiday feeling in the studio. In all the times he’d come into the office, I don’t think I’d ever seen him so animated or happy as he was that day.
Which is why 30 years after Mark David Chapman made his name by shooting John Lennon outside the Dakota, hearing that familiar, nasally voice singing “And so this is Christmas ...” moves me to tears every time. Especially since it starts being played right around the anniversary of John’s death, Dec. 8.
John Lennon was the last person I’d ever expect to write a Christmas song, but I’m glad he did because it has become part of the soundtrack of my life.
I’m also glad I lied about my math prowess that day way back when, because if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have the healing memory of a smiling John Lennon planning the perfect kids’ Christmas party to go along with it.
Last edited by 4iiiis : Dec 15, 2011 at 06:24 PM.
Reason: typing on a stupid little netbook w/trackpad!