As a eight year-old child I was just becoming aware of the Beatles, largely due to the continual use of Beatles songs on BBC television programmes: hot day = Here Comes The Sun, feature about publishing = Paperback Writer, etc. The only Beatle whom I had a strong individual impression of was Paul McCartney, though. Perhaps because of the video for ‘Coming Up’ I thought of him as being youthful and jolly, a child-friendly grown-up.
I remember the death of Lennon vividly, largely due to the blanket news coverage. At that age, being told that an event was significant was enough for me to believe that it was significant. For my parents, however, the death of Lennon meant nothing at all beyond a very small degree of inherent interest as a murder.
So I watched the news, and then I watched the special BBC1 screening of Help!, which did seem highly enjoyable, more like a Pink Panther film or One Of Our Dinosaurs Has Gone Missing in giving me an immersive experience of adventure, multiple locations and jokes – not the mournful wake which the news had prepared me for. I then pushed my luck too far and tried to stay up to watch the Whistle Test special. My mother refused (“I let you watch ALL of that film”), and I probably had a temper tantrum.
Even in the midst of Lennon hysteria, I can’t remember ‘Starting Over’ at all.
‘Imagine’ disturbed me though, I think because of the echo on the piano, film of a dead man mooching about in a white room with his hairy wife, and ‘important’, ‘political’ message more than anything else. I can remember my 20-year old sister visiting home one Sunday lunchtime and telling us repetitively that she had bought the single because it was so sad that he had to die and it was such a sad song, etc.
This led to me trying to adopt a similarly soulful reaction to the work at school the following week, running the piano motif again and again in my head, trying to make myself feel melancholy, refusing to do any work in a maths lesson in a prefab hut while I did this… Eventually I was summoned to account for my not working. I realised that saying ‘Because this man of peace was shot and its so sad’ would be a ridiculously precious thing, and so instead said nothing.
I feel nothing but embarrassment in recollecting this incident.
'Woman' was less frightening than 'Imagine', but had a similarly facile melody and one-word universal concept title, deepening the impression created by Imagine as Lennon as dead merchant of profound statements. By this time, I was getting rather fed up with this pondorous stuff, and was glad when pop eventually returned to the fizz, silliness and sass which had initially attracted me towards Top of The Pops in the first place.