Just a quick one before I hit the sack. I went to a John Lennon tribute tonight (technically last night by now) in the Jersey town where I grew up. And it was like one of those events I wrote about a few posts back in the half-a-rant about how talent doesn’t always get the attention it deserves, let alone the rewards.
It was put on by a guy in his forties named Matt Matthews, an Irish-American like me, grew up in a later era but under similar circumstances. A whole club full of his sisters were there, dancing and waving and bobbing to the music like they were teenagers seeing the Beatles for the first time.
Matt’s partner for this event—and in the studio over an Indian restaurant they built in a space they rent with some other guys, where they held it—is a guy named Clarence that I’m too tired to remember his last name, but will add it when I get back to this after the weekend. [Burke, that's it.] He was in the group that sang the hit “Oooooh child, things are gonna get easier”—but tonight he was singing John Lennon songs, and kicking their ass, as was Matt.
It was one of those experiences you only have once, with maybe sixty, seventy people sitting at tables drinking coffee and soda and eating cupcakes and apple pie and sometimes getting up and dancing spontaneously, or just jumping up and shouting or waving their hands or clapping or whistling or screaming as if, like I said, it was Shea Stadium back in the mid-60s and the mop tops were on stage.
I kept thinking about how Lennon was my age—and of the years since he was shot down, that I got to live and he didn’t, and hopefully the ones I get to live yet, that he won’t. It brought tears to my eyes, because if I ever had a hero, despite the stuff I’ve read about his treatment of his ex-wife and Julian, and the other human failures he may have been guilty of, he’s it.
He was so fucking honest, something I felt I staked my life on and caused me some grief and loss and a few of the world’s rewards. He just said it straight out, and he was smart, listen to some of those lyrics, the early ones as well as the later ones.
The guys played songs I had forgotten, “and my bird can’t sing” or whatever it’s called ["and your bird can sing" thanks Miles], some I can’t even name, and I thought I remembered them all, but as soon as they hit those first chords I did. Some songs were a perfect tribute to Lennon and/or The Beatles and the band was so tight it was as if they were them, they had every lick down and Matt seemed to almost be channeling John’s musicality.
Some tunes they made their own, sounded contemporary, even new, and yet so familiar, like Danger Mouse’s The Gray Album or parts of what George Martin and his son have recently done for Cirque Soliel, or however you spell it.
“I’m so tired” was their last tune, and Matt’s teenage son, a singer in a punk band did a duo with Clarence that will never be heard again, certainly not like that, and I was there to experience it, as we all are sometimes, when we listen.
P.S. When I was a kid, first hanging out in Manhattan and falling in love with jazz and the jazz life style, there was graffiti all over the city saying “Bird Lives”—he had died not long before. And it was like he really did, because his music was alive and his spirit in the hearts of people who dug his music and everything he was and represented. I feel the same way now about Lennon, thus the title of this post.