It was a cold morning as I climbed from bed in my tiny apartment less than a mile from Abbey Road Studios in London. As I shaved I turned on the radio and heard the news: John Lennon was dead. I banged on my flatmate’s door and woke him up. “They’ve killed my favourite Beatle.” I said.
Everyone at the office was in shock. Some of us cried. Some of us couldn’t concentrate and had to go home early. Everyone understood why.
In 1980 ‘showbiz news’ never, ever made it onto the BBC’s flagship 9 0’clock news programme. This was a 25 minute timeslot entirely devoted to political and current events of a world-changing sort. But that night Lennon’s murder was the lead story and the resonance of his demise was clearly evident on the faces of every reporter and pundit. This generation of news-men were no longer just graduates of the finest universities and press-rooms – they were the first generation to arrive in the halls of power all brought-up on The Beatles – and right then and there we were witnessing a huge change in attitudes towards the news. Pop-culture was no longer a subject buried deep in the Review section or glossy magazines – it was bloody, it was tragic, it was omnipresent and everyone felt personally moved. Older generations were shocked to realise what us ‘youngsters’ had always known – that the Beatles were extraordinary and had changed our lives; my Mother who despised modern music was shocked by the coverage and forced to admit she’d had no idea what a far-ranging influence the Fab Four had exerted.
A quarter of a century has passed and though I don’t care if I ever hear Cold Turkey again I believe that Imagine and Give Peace A Chance will never lose their power or their relevance. If anything they seem more pertinent now than ever before.
(Lennon died late evening in New York City and, because of the time difference, news of his death did not reach the UK till the early hours of December 9th.)