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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Thursday, December 08, 2005
    On Lennon and becoming real
    People say we've got it made
    don't they know we're so afraid,

    Listening again today to John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band I'm affected by how much pain there is in there. Anger and pain. Struck by the impression of how much of his childhood is in Lennon's music; and by how much of his childhood hurt. In a fascinating and genuinely revealing 1971 interview with Tariq Ali and Robin Blackburn Lennon said,

    "... I was never really wanted. The only reason I am a star is because of my repression. Nothing else would have driven me through all that if I was 'normal'..."

    Yoko: "... and happy ..."

    Lennon: "The only reason I went for that goal is that I wanted to say: 'Now, mummy-daddy, will you love me?'"

    All of that is well-expressed in that seminal 1970 album which sears through my iMac speakers as I write. Plus Lennon's anti-establishment, anti-religion, anti-Beatles vibes which are also well-explored in Ali/Blackburn's interview.

    "The more reality we face, the more we realise that unreality is the main programme of the day. The more real we become, the more abuse we take, so it does radicalise us in a way, like being put in a corner. But it would be better if there were more of us."

    And so to this morning, where at the invitation of the Liverpool Beatles Appreciation Society I laid a laminated print of Peter Murphy's Lennon icon at the foot of the Lennon statue on Mathew Street (see it on this AP Photo/Paul Ellis picture, right). Very unreal, trying to reach the assortment of Lennon fans struggling to see through a barrage of the world's cameras and microphones, explaining briefly the significance of icons to spiritual seekers, the value of Lennon's image as a focus and inspiration for those seeking to work for peace, asking for reflection and remembrance of today's peacemakers.

    It was such a media event that I felt numbed by it. It seemed a long way away from the very real, very raw emotion I felt that cold winter morning in 1980 when, leaving home for work, I heard the news of Lennon's death on the radio. And the bemusement I felt as a green eighteen year old when some older workers on the shop floor met the news grudgingly, with complaints about Lennon's betraying the city of his birth and disparaging his peacenik, refusenik character. Their attitude horrified me at the time; in retrospect at least it awoke some sensibilities in me, matured me. Taught me that there were many in the world who would vehemently oppose the sorts of values I held dear. That it still smarts, that memory, perhaps means that I'm not entirely numbed by the fact that Lennon was only a Working Class Hero to some of us.

    "God is a concept by which we measure our pain," Lennon sang. I doubt he'd have been too chuffed having two clergymen and the Lord Mayor leading tributes to him outside The Cavern today. But he may have felt better about it knowing that for one of us at least, it triggered these thoughts, about getting real, about still wanting to stand in a corner, with the ragbag radicals, fighting the unreality.