So farewell then, John Lennon

Share
Related Topics
I can't remember what I was doing or where I was the day I heard that John Lennon had been shot, but I do remember what I thought when I heard the news, which was: "Serve him right."

It seems a shocking reaction now and I was vaguely shocked by myself at the time, which is why I don't mention it often, but although I liked all the books he wrote and some of the songs he wrote, I always thought John Lennon was also a traitor to music, in the nicest possible way, and I'd like to explain why.

The fact was that I grew up in North Wales and I fell in love with jazz early on, which placed me in an impossible situation because North Wales was not a good place in which to be a jazz-lover; there was no jazz being played in North Wales then, and there was nowhere I could buy jazz records. Well, there was Crane's in Wrexham and there was Hilda Catherall's record shop in Chester, but the nearest really good place was NEMS record shop in Liverpool, which meant I had to travel abroad, from Wales to England, to get a good jazz record.

They had a wonderful selection of the latest American jazz LPs at NEMS. You could get to Liverpool from Wrexham by direct train, and I did, whenever possible, and headed straight for NEMS record shop, jazz department, to get the latest Art Blakey, or Miles Davis, or Gerry Mulligan, blissfully ignorant of the fact that NEMS record shop was owned by Brian Epstein ...

Except that one day I became aware, as I shuffled through the jazz racks, that they were playing a pop record over and over again in the shop.

Pop I never paid attention to. How could I? I was a jazz snob. Jazz was exciting and adventurous. Pop was dull and repetitive and sweaty and adolescent, and I, too, was dull and repetitive and sweaty and adolescent, which was why I wanted to get away from all that, and why I was into jazz.

I asked the girl, as I bought my Sonny Rollins LP, who this pop record was by.

"It's a local group," she said, "called the Beatles. We think they're going to be very big. This is their first single."

I listened to the record. I looked at the photo of the group. I studied the name of the group. The Beatles. I said to myself, "This is one group that is never going to make it", and forgot all about them.

A year later they were the biggest thing since shoelaces, and the jazz record selection at NEMS had shrunk appreciably.

Now, this in itself is not an adequate reason to wish John Lennon dead. The reason I resented him was that the group he played for was responsible for the eclipsing of the music I loved, jazz.

Until the pop revolution ushered in by the Beatles, jazz really was the respectable alternative to classical music. Most students had records by Miles Davis or Dave Brubeck or the MJQ in their collection. Most of them knew that MJQ stood for Modern Jazz Quartet. Then along came the Beatles and everyone suddenly saw that pop could be quality and jazz went into the doldrums. They didn't buy it any more, and jazz musicians starved in the wonderful Sixties.

John Lennon even said he hated jazz. "Jazz," he said, "is just a lot of old blokes drinking beer at the bar, smoking pipes and not listening to the music."

This was dreadfully unfair. Not only was it dreadfully unfair, it was true of certain sorts of jazz. John Lennon was probably the guy after whom the group Johnny Hates Jazz was named. He had to die.

Don't get me wrong, as I think I may have said already, I didn't dislike the Beatles. I bought most of their records as they came out. I went to a concert of theirs at the Odeon Hammersmith in the mid-Sixties and saw them, even if I couldn't hear them, owing to the thousands of screaming teenage girls round me. I gave Paul McCartney a job, when I was literary editor of Punch, and persuaded him to review a book for our book pages. It was the Paul Simon Songbook, and he quite liked it.

I even saw Yoko Ono singing at the Albert Hall during an Ornette Coleman concert in the late Sixties, and if you have never heard Yoko Ono sing, then I can tell you that she is every bit as terrible as you can imagine, and John Lennon deserved her.

Anyway, that's why I cheered guiltily and silently when John Lennon was obituarised. So die all enemies of jazz, I thought.

Jazz used to be the nonconformist music. I think it still is. There is nothing more boringly mainstream than rock music, these days. Perhaps there never was.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Ashdown Group: IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

£23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

Ashdown Group: Junior Reports Developer / Application Support Engineer

£23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

Recruitment Genius: Client Support Officer

£10 - £11 per hour: Recruitment Genius: The candidate must be committed, engag...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Should it be okay to split infinitives or does it chop up the English language too much?  

Sometimes it's okay to chop and change the way we write. But most of the time, it isn't

John Rentoul
A man rescues his belongings after his home was affected by floods in Marcovia, Honduras  

Still not sure about the devastating effects of climate change? Then let me tell you what's happening in Honduras right now

Daniel Fine
In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible