The International Writers Magazine: Comment
Editor's Note: The following are the thoughts of the author in the wee hours of December 9, 1980, the morning after John Lennon had been murdered. It is published here for the only the second time, the first being 12/6/00, its twentieth anniversary. + READERS LETTERS 17.12.2010
Last night they shot John Lennon
"I heard something 'bout my Ma and my Pa
They didn't want me so they made me a star"
- John Lennon
Last night they shot John Lennon.
Wrapped him up like the world's present
and played his songs.
Holding their hands to befriend him.
Last night they shot John Lennon.
The journey from icon to martyr to idol is a short one. Usually this means a truncated existence filled with wonder, success, fame and the misinterpretation of one's intention wrapped neatly into a package of innuendo and lies. It has been less than three hours since John Lennon was gunned down in front of his home, in front of Central Park, in front of the world. Before long this man-cum-icon will be remembered for being the nucleus of a movement, a revolution, a cultural hiccup on a planet of revisionists. His circumstance had been like few witnessed before. But would a lonely boy from an impoverished dock town on the Northern coast of England have traded it for another minute of life?
John Lennon outlived Jesus Christ by seven years. He once said his rock group; The Beatles were more popular. Were they more popular because the Son of God never sold a million records or played Ed Sullivan, although mania and idolatry also followed Galilean carpenters...water to wine...top five singles on the Billboard chart.
And if God were a man and he could pen something akin to "A Day in the Life" and make us shutter, or perhaps sing "Imagine" and piss a few more of us clamoring humans off, would that have given him immortality? Would John Lennon still be alive if he'd chosen to huck freight or been a fisherman? Can we expect John Lennon to rise from the dead?
There are many reasons to believe the 60s' died last night...the decade, the meaning, and the emotional effect of a million souls that were severely injured by Altamont and Viet Nam and Watergate. John Lennon's band was more popular than all of those things, so much so that many who called it the crowning achievement of 20th century pop art wanted a revival. John Lennon agreed to revivals of the past only when everyone returned there. "The Beatles will get back together when every goes back to High School," he promised. That is when the 60's died, with the sex and the war and the exploitation of "All You Need is Love." But most of all, the 60s' died with innocence.
When I was a boy about fifteen.
I could hear the static pumping.
From within my treasured room it sent my heart jumping.
I forget what they call it now.
Since then people don't say much.
Sometimes they say nothing at all.
At least when I was young and angry I would never fall.
I forget what happens now.
He was the orphan thug from the streets, spit out by his absent father, abandoned by his dead mother and rescued by the cute boy with the crudely tuned guitar and the Little Richard wail. Paul McCartney was the brother John Lennon never had, but Elvis Presley was his iconoclastic parent. "There was nothing before Elvis," John Lennon said. Let there be light and music and anger in the glow of beer lamps and the breath of gnarled hookers where the boys rip and tear through black music from the States--youth on the edge and building strength in the German ghetto where the children of war met.
We called it Beatlemania. There were the haircuts; boots, suits and a money machine going to the "toppermost of the poppermost", a place John Lennon believed laid the medicine for wounds. He looked for healing in fame, money, drugs, Eastern religion and a woman named Yoko. He put the same determined angst of his youth into love and invented philanthropic culture in song. "We all shine on" he wrote after Beatlemania and "God is a concept by which we measure our pain" because screaming about pain is better than inflicting it.
This is what being more popular than Jesus Christ gets you.
And the givers of the golden ring taketh away. They hated him. They hated him not being which they had made with their own bedlam. They hated his new wife and they hated his new music and they hated his new politics and they hated his new haircut. Anger turned back on original ideas and art is nothing new in civilization. Ask Socrates. Ask Picasso. Ask Beethoven. Ask Lenny Bruce.
He moved to New York because it was a metaphor for his pain, his muse, his sanctuary from all this mass hatred and love, this phony symphony of celebrity that has little to nothing to do with art or the artist. Georgia O'Keefe went to the desert, Ernest Hemmingway retreated to Cuba, Charlie Chaplin was banished to Switzerland and Beatle John and his Japanese wife moved to Manhattan. Cradled in this urban madness inside his head he escaped the spotlight for five years to raise a second son and resurrect his spirit.
Then he came back outside the shell and made songs. "Just like starting over," he wrote, and then one of the echoes of Beatlemania entered his cocoon and fired four pistol shots into his hero's back. His name will be infamous, his crime more so, but he is only an echo.
This is what you get for being more popular than Jesus Christ.
Last night my heart stopped jumping.
Last night it just sat and cried.
Just when I thought the tears had dried.
Last night some dream ended.
Last night they shot John Lennon.
© James Campion Dec 10th 2010
REALITY CHECK - READERS RESPONSES Dec 17th 2010
This has been a stellar year for record responses on subjects from KISS not being in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to Cablevision screwing its customers again. But nothing compares to the spectacular reaction to (THE WIZARD OF OZ REMAKE (NO SHIT) -11/24/10) This is but a minor sample:
This form of rip-off extends even further than the remaking of films. In your recent tirade, you failed to touch on the ever-popular making of really bad movies, based (often very loosely) on books saga or the movie-to-Broadway-musical phenomena. Sacrilege could best describe recent movies that are based on children's books. The Cat In The Hat, The Grinch (not the cartoon version), Where The Wild Things Are (and the list goes on). Is it Hollywood (the business) playing it safe with tried and true moneymakers or have we truly run out of innovative ideas?
On the other hand, we may have to face the fact that the youth of today, the bread and butter of sales in the industry, demand hyped up versions of their Daddy's classics. They couldn't care less about Hitchcock's use of camera angles or Ford's use of sweeping panoramic vistas. You can show a film of Paul Newman taking a dump, but there damn well better be some 3-D explosions involved. You can't even blame this on the kids. We have primed them to expect the flash of lights and chest pounding explosions. After the first Star Wars, there was no turning back. You can say that it's somewhat of a, "we-made-our-bed-now we-have-to lie-in-it", situation.
I don't think that repackaging classic movies bothers the kids as much as it upsets the adults. Our lives have reached the summit and some of us are even beginning the descent. We (the children of the 80's) are recognizing our mortality and unlike the generations before us, we are finding out that we have little to reflect on. To hold close the memories of the movies that shaped our lives seems natural. Many people who are now in their 40's will admit that television and modern cinema shaped their lives. To us, the classics are our oldest and truest friends. To see them altered in any way threatens our perception concerning the very structure of our existence. We (the new old people) need to release our death grip on what has or has not been created in Hollywood. Let the kids have their version. My parents couldn't understand why I wanted to watch Tony Orlando and Dawn instead of The Lawrence Welk Show. Whatever their reason, let Hollywood reinvent the wheel. I'll still stick with the original Great Escape.
I have never been soooo glad that Warner Bros, laid me off! Now I can say that I have NOTHING to do with these idiots!
I hear if you smoke jimson weed and listen to Justin Bieber, it's timed perfectly for watching "Battlefield Earth"
Hollywood puts in a great deal of vigorous effort to avoid creating anything new. How many "Saw" movies do we need? Why are there so many French (let alone other nationalities) movies reworked for American audiences? It never stops. The high stakes in the box office actually makes the industry afraid to make something new, so we get crap like the GI Joe movie.
James, count me in as one who can't wait to see the new Oz. I've long gotten past anything being sacred: Beatle songs used for adverts, the advent of inter-league baseball, the Presidency being sullied by sex scandal, it's all been done, so why not this? As many people know, there were a few Oz books, so like the amazingly produced "Lord of the Rings" flicks, or the not so great Narnia crap, a new Oz saga has potential to rival anything George Lucas did. Why not? It might be awesome, and if it aint, we can still always throw in the classic that we know our kids will love forever like us.
They already remade the wizard of Oz, see "The Wiz."
What's next? A re-make of "Citizen Kane" with Zac Efron as Kane?
There are countless stories waiting to be turned into movies, but due to the risk of failure, the cost of buying the story from the writer or publisher. The studios instead will just keep remaking the stuff they own the copyright to and have built in audiences. They will keep doing this because people keep going. The only solution is to stop and to encourage your friends and loved ones to do the same Just because they made the movie doesn't mean we gotta go see it.
Sure - the '39 film is a Hollywood classic, one can't dispute that.
But I don't think it's right to enshrine it as the only document that should be allowed to exist, particularly since the source material is a book that preceded it by forty years. Someone thinks they can make a better version of Dracula? Go for it, I'd love to see the end product. Coppola had some interesting results.
I was as enchanted by the '39 film as a child as anyone else - but then I grew up. Now (and this is coming from a gay man, mind you) I can't bear to sit through it anymore. If someone wants to attempt a different interpretation, I say have at it, though I question the choice of Zemeckis as director, I'd be much more interested if it were someone more visionary, perhaps from the art world, and maybe with a bit of a darker sensibility (and NOT Burton!)
Must Hollywood destroy every classic?
"Planet of the Apes"
"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"
"Frankenstein" (the one in which Robert De Nero actually sucked as an actor)
"The Pink Panther" (sorry Steve Martin, though I think you're great, you are no Peter Sellers!)
So many, many more...
Not to mention that hack Rob Zombie ruining all those perfectly good horror movies.
Next, some lame art-school reject will remake the Mona Lisa using Crayolas, bottle caps, macaroni and Elmer's glue sprinkled with glitter!
(Note to self: In case of crappy art emergency...insert finger into throat, induce vomiting, gouge out eyeballs with button-hook, use same button-hook to puncture eardrums. Relax and enjoy!)
STOP THE MADNESS!
Alien Pet 13
IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE with Josh Duhamel as George Bailey and Sean Penn as Mr. Potter.
I'd love to see Tim Burton direct this one. I think Johnny Depp would make a great Dorothy.
The thing that galls me about Hwood in a situation like this is their utterly blind contempt for the sensibilities of their patrons, old and new. Old movies, whether they are iconic or moronic, have a cool vibe about them that a lot of us love. They're like vintage wines that get better - or funnier - with age. If Hwood were a winery they'd be tossing out 100 year old stock for piss water created two weeks ago and whose only wow factor is a cool 3D logo - hold it one way and it's an HD version of Napa Valley; hold it the other way and it's Sponge Bob getting his junk sucked by a bruise-riddled whore on the Sunset Strip.