I was in advertising and writing some copy when there was a call from (Cantopop pioneer) Sam Hui. “Have you heard about John Lennon?” he asked. “Don’t tell me”, I replied. “I need to get home”. Sam didn’t have to tell me. His voice said it all.
At home, I switched on the television and found out what had happened. “Imagine” was being played, people were crying and as news filtered in about the murderer of my favourite musician, everything else just faded into the background. Trina, my wife was home, and all I could do was cry.
I was crying for many things- this senseless act, the end of a dream, an end to my youth, an end to the Beatles, the irony of a peace anthem like “Imagine” and the recent release of “Starting Over” and the Double Fantasy album with Yoko.
With the release of “Double Fantasy”, all seemed to be okay in the world. John was back being very much married and making music again. And then the music died.
I was asked to write a “tribute” to the man and which I couldn’t do. It would have been trite. Rock Writers like Dave Marsh, Timothy White, Jon Landau, especially Jan Wenner and others had written in-depth pieces on him.
They had spent quality time with John Lennon. I had been able to meet him by chance when he checked into the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong.
Knowing his favourite pseudonym, I had called his room and somehow got to meet “Doctor Winston O’Boogie” in the hotel’s Captain Bar. We made some small talk about the “Pussycats” record he had produced for Harry Nilsson, his own brilliantly honest “Walls And Bridges” outing, and David Bowie who, I think, was in town around the same time.
I ended up writing the “tribute” which was a “day in the life” made up of his songs- and how each told a story of where he was at- “Help”, “I’m A Loser”, “Norwegian Wood”, “You’ve Gotta Hide Your Love Away”, “In My Life” “I’m So Tired”, Cold Turkey”, “Mother” etc.
The last song of the “tribute” was “Starting Over”. This was the best I could do- respect his memory through his songs, all of which I had grown up and grown down and travelled all over the place by staying still.
Years later, and when at EMI, I couldn’t believe Yoko giving me the Rights to remix “Give Peace A Chance”. I brought in Terry Lee from Chyna House to produce the track and which featured different artists from this region. It got the nod of approval from Yoko as did the idea for an album of outtakes from John which I titled “Peace, Love and Truth”.
Yoko and her legal advisers offered me demo tracks, previously unreleased tracks and memorabilia for the artwork. She even recorded a short video thanking me for the initiatives and which was shown at one of EMI’s global meetings. Yoko needn’t have done any of this, but she did and for which I am eternally grateful.
A week ago, I finished watching the last bittersweet episode of the “Get Back” documentary. What I got out of it was different to those of my friends who had also grown up with the music of the Beatles and the journeys of the individual members. We’re all different.
Last night, I was at the races at Happy Valley. The International Jockeys Championship was taking place. I was there, but I wasn’t.
“Hold on, John, John hold on, its gonna be alright” was suddenly playing in my head. I needed to get home and read “In His Own Write” again and watch another of my heroes- actor Peter Sellers- recite “A Hard Day’s Night”.
Somewhere along the way, John Lennon and Peter Sellers morphed into one and, like Jo Jo, I was getting back to a different time in my life that had far more substance than everything going on around me today.
It was hardly surprising.
Thanks for the memories, Dr O’Boogie.