Dec 8 2010

Thirty Years Gone

Today is the thirtieth anniversary of John Lennon‘s death. On this day in 1980, he was murdered on a New York City sidewalk while returning to his apartment at The Dakota. His wife later scattered his ashes in Central Park at a location that’s come to be known as Strawberry Fields. I visited the memorial briefly in 2008.

I remember hearing about his death on the evening news while eating dinner (it would have had to have been the next day, which probably means my memory is muddled). It was a “What were you doing when you heard that Kennedy was shot?” moment for a new generation. I remember thinking that I’ll never see a Beatles reunion now — and that was about it. I had no emotional attachment to the man, his music, or his message at the time.  I didn’t begin to enjoy or understand his solo works for another couple years. In time, I came to love some of his music and message (though I’ve never cared much for his doodles).

On the anniversary of his death, I’m left wondering about Chapman. The man was charged with second-degree murder and has been at Attica ever since. To date, he’s been denied parole six times. During the murder trial in 1981 he changed his plea to guilty against the wishes of his attorney, who was arguing for “not guilt by reason of insanity”. The judge accepted this plea. In lieu of speaking in his own defense, Chapman read a passage from (one of my favorite books) “Catcher in the Rye”. He was holding a copy of the same book during the murder, annotated with the words: “This is my statement”.

Chapman immortalized Lennon. He cemented Lennon’s post-Beatles legacy for the ages. While the deed itself was horrific, Chapman proved that he was no phony and ensured that Lennon could never become one either…

“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.” – John Lennon

May 4 2010

Europa and the Pirate Twins

Currently, I’m in the midst of a large book which I probably won’t finish until sometime in June. Rather than let this fabulous blog languish until then, I’ve decided to begin something new. Of all the categories I initially proposed to write about, “Music” has been the most neglected. So here then, is the first entry of Dennis’ Favorite Songs. The crowd goes… well, let’s face it… there’s no crowds here, so I will bask in the warm glow of the internet’s indifference. Ahhh… sweet anonymity.

I originally toyed with the idea of creating a Top 10 favorite songs list but the more I wrestled with it, the more I was convinced that it couldn’t be done. I like too many songs. Instead, I’m going to write about those songs that I’ve given a 5-stars rating in iTunes. What does 5-stars mean? I give 3-stars to songs that I don’t mind listening to. I give 4-stars to songs that I enjoy (would listen to more than once, in a sitting). I give 5-stars to songs that stand out, for one or more reasons. These might be particularly evocative, reminding me of some time or place in my past. They might be very upbeat, with a reliable track-record of being able to lift me from whatever funk I might be in. They might be terribly downbeat, with the ability to bring me back to center when jumping around just doesn’t seem appropriate. Whatever personal or magical reason it might be, some songs just overshadow the rest. For me, Thomas Dolby‘s 1983 hit “Europa and the Pirate Twins” is one of those songs.

I’m not a huge fan of pop music. Growing up in the Eighties, I promised myself I wouldn’t look back in the years to follow and get all nostalgic about the crap spilling out of the radio and MTV. That being said, not everything was crap. “Europa and the Pirate Twins” hit a chord with me early on. Here was a song about childhood friends growing-up, going their separate ways, and never being able to reclaim the imaginative adventures they once shared as children. To me, this was a song about the death of youth’s insouciance. I used to listen to it again and again on my Walkman as I mowed the backyard, reluctant to let go of the only life I’d known, and terrified that my imagination would wither with age. Were my fears justified? In some ways, yes. In other respects, I can’t remember a time when I was carefree. At least I still have my friends.

“We swore a vow that day: We’ll be the Pirate Twins again…”

5 out of 5

Sep 14 2009

People Who Died

Catholic BoyJust thought I’d post to commemorate the passing of Jim Carroll. He died of a heart attack on Friday in Manhattan, New York. The news claims he was most famous for “The Basketball Diaries” but I’ll always remember him for the 1980 album Catholic Boy featuring the song “People Who Died“.

I guess that song is a little longer now…