…I was an 18-year-old attendee of the University of Maine, sharing a dorm room with some jock I had no interest in talking to about much of anything (a feeling that was reciprocated in kind). I had only just set foot into the grown-up world, flung mercilessly from the heights of high school senior-ism to the depths of college freshman-ism. I was enrolled to study civil engineering, but I really had no interest in that, either. I thought I wanted to be an architect and go to the Rhode Island School of Design. But, somehow, I wound up at UMO, where there were more people in my freshman English class than were enrolled in my entire high school.
I had just been moved out of the dorm room I shared with a couple of nerds (we proudly displayed our election bumperstickers on our door: one for Reagan, one for Carter and one for Anderson) into one with a wannabe football player. And to top it all off, my high school girlfriend’s mother told her that she was too young to be dating a college guy (which was very true, though, like today, I had the maturity of a 12-year-old, so it really didn’t make sense to me).
I was not a happy camper.
Monday night, December 8, was just the end of another day of trying to comprehend a calculus lecture by a math professor with an unintelligible accent; pretending to be interested in a surveying class; and spending the rest of my time either holed up in the library or feeding quarters into a video game. When I got “home” to the dorm room, my roommate’s black-and-white TV was tuned to Monday Night Football. I was not a football fan, but I was mildly interested, because the Patriots were playing. That was when Howard Cosell broke the news that John Lennon had been shot.
It was like a punch in the gut.
I spent the next morning glued to the TV and the rest of that week in shock. It was the first time I felt that kind of emotion at the death of someone I didn’t know personally.
I was a huge Beatle fan from the moment I heard “A Hard Day’s Night” at a cousin’s house. I don’t think you can understand the significance of that one, crashing guitar chord in a house where nothing but country music was ever heard. (G7add11 is what we always played, though I know this is a big debate.) I was hooked, and I spent the rest of my teenage years collecting Beatle albums and some memorabilia. I still have one of these Beatle Disk-Go cases somewhere. (I think it might be worth something…) Even our fledgling band was named for my favorite Beatle album.
It just wasn’t right. He was supposed to stick around to sing about ending poverty and the war in Iraq. He was supposed to keep competing with McCartney and pushing him to do better things. He was supposed to go out like Johnny Cash or Warren Zevon.
I know this is all 20:20 hindsight. He had just come out with a new album, the first one in years, but at that point, I was more excited about the Talking Heads, the Clash, the Pretenders and the Ramones than listening to half an album of bubbly pop songs, while trying to avoid the other half (where Yoko was given equal time to screech and wail). John Lennon had become totally irrelevant by 1980. But it was a Lennon album, at least. And here was Howard Cosell, of all people, telling me it would be his last.
The 80’s were gonna suck.
Life is what happens while your busy making other plans.