Questions starting 'where were you when'? for me anyway, are usually answered 'in bed actually'. I'd just woken up when mum broke the news of John Lennon's murder. A very grim start to the usual school shuffle and shunt. Even 'Hairy Cornflake' DLT had the good sense to drop the wackery for one morning, and the Not Not the Nine O'Clock News tribute of a non-comedy ending: fade to black and In My Life soundtracking the credits was pitch perfect.
Say what you like about his Legend - and we have done here - but if Lennon's Jukebox is any sort of indicator of his record collection, it appears to sort of haul that would get the knowing nods from music snobs and pop purists alike. This portable jukebox (a Swiss KB Discomatic) was originally loaded with 40 of Lennon's favourite singles for taking on tour with The Beatles and later updated with newer tunes. Peeping at the playlist (with track titles scribbled in Lennon's hand writing) of mod, soul, Motown, pop and rock n roll - all the inspirations, influences and building blocks of The Beatles fall into place.
Click to zoom in for full details
Rhythm, riffs and top line melody seem to be the unifying themes, which makes sense given Lennon's role as the Fab's rhythm guitarist and vocalist. Like many writers in rock's aristocracy (Bowie, Dylan, Macca, Roger waters, Keef) Lennon was a non-virtuoso. Musically he plays a mid-field position where the shape of the song is more important than the solos.
How do you rate yourself as a guitarist?
Well, it depends on what kind of guitarist. I'm okay; I'm not technically good, but I can make it fucking howl and move. I was rhythm guitarist. It's an important job. I can make a band drive. Rolling Stone interview 1971
But, getting back to the jukebox, most of the Lennon's hand-picked singles were collected and compiled for a (deleted now, and selling for silly money prices) double CD in 2004 and the subject of a South Bank Show special. Scanning the panel above reveals a tune or two missed from the CD: one being a new-to-me Booker T stomper, which isn't a million miles from this Lennon riff
Booker T. & the M.G.'s - Boot-Leg
Stepping Out appears on the CD as Paul Revere, but my guess would be given the JM and C scribbled notes, that it's the John Mayall and Clapton tear up (available here)as Clapton's thick fuggy Beano tone also seems to be the source for Lennon's guitar sound on Abbey Road
Another unknown-to-me Northern stomper is....
The Contours - First I Look At The Purse
So tomorrow I will be tipping my hat and a raising a glass to the memory of John Winston Ono Lennon, who thirty years on from his tragic and senseless death is still tuning me into new music. And as a footnote, looking at the tracklist of 'bankers' on the CD, I'll bet he would have made a rocking DJ ..
From The South Bank Show: Bobby Parker's Watch Your Step, with Lennon expanding on how The Fabs recycled the song for several Beatles bits.
PS - if you've got half a mill' to spare why not punt in a bid on Mark Chapman's Lennon signed copy of Double Fantasy. Hopefully though Yoko will bag it, and keep the bloody thing out of the public domain once and for all