The cover of the Straight's December 12 to 19, 1980 issue tells of the cold-blooded murder of John Lennon. The former Beatle was shot dead outside his New York City apartment by Mark David Chapman, just hours after the famous musician had signed a copy of Double Fantasy for the man, who law enforcement later discovered was a troubled fan who had set out to end Lennon's life.
Inside the cover, the headline reads, "Lennon A Victim of the American Dream". The story, written by Alex Varty, tells of mourning fans, a broken Yoko Ono, and an occasionally unstable man who "set the style for an entire generation of young people."
Varty writes, "It's unlikely that Lennon would have wanted the wave of mourning that has, at least temporarily, swept over nearly everyone who grew up in the sixties and early seventies. Lennon was not a person who took life lightly: his powerful anti-war pronouncements assured us of that. But at the same time, he was not terrified of dying. Many of his lyrics dealt with both physical and spiritual death and rebirth. In a recent interview, he was quoted as saying that he wouldn't want to outlive his wife Yoko, several years his senior, because he couldn't go on without her."
The man who eluded the fate he so feared proved to be a mystery towards the end of his life, spending time in Upstate New York, travelling to Bermuda and Japan, and returning to the city only to have his life ended at the hands of the deluded Chapman.
Thirty-five years after his death, fans of Lennon assume to know all there is to know about the outspoken Beatle, but a little research proved (to me at least) that there's much more to the quirky man who's tragic death stunned the world.
Here are 15 things you didn't know (but probably won't be surprised by) about John Lennon:
- He may have spent most of his time in the Beatles playing guitar, but the first instrument Lennon learned how to play was the harmonica.
- He was disciplined in Sunday School once for describing the Scribes and Pharisees in the Bible as fascists.
- Lennon was a scrapper. A schoolmate from Dovedale Primary was quoted as saying, “If ever there was a scrap in the school yard, John was likely to be involved.”
- Lennon was also a comedian. In the Beatles’ early years, he would often sing half of the set with a French, German, or Mexican accent.
- On tour, Lennon’s favourite board game was Monopoly.
- In 1967, he purchased an uninhabited island off the coast of Ireland for £1,700 (about $3,500 CAD). The island, called Dorinish, is the size of about 12 soccer fields. In 2012, it was listed for sale for €300,000, or about $447,000 CAD.
- Lennon was quoted many times as saying he’d rather have been a member of Monty Python than the Beatles.
- His love for psychedelics is now well known, but Lennon’s first LSD experience was by accident: his dentist, John Riley, secretly slipped some into his coffee at a dinner party.
- Lennon once read Timothy Leary’s The Psychedelic Experience from cover to cover on a couch in a bookstore.
- He referred to Rubber Soul as “the pot album” and Revolver as “the acid album”.
- While he lived in America, The FBI, led by J. Edgar Hoover, studied and analyzed all of Lennon’s music and public appearances to find a legal reason to deport him.
- Later in his life, Lennon developed an enthusiasm for cooking, and often made lunch for his entire staff of 10.
- He was very self-conscious about the size of his nose.
- A romantic Lennon purchased so many gardenias for Yoko’s birthday one year that florists had to have more shipped from out of state.
- After the Beatles broke up, Lennon didn’t mince words: he said McCartney’s songs sounded like “granny music”.
Above a portrait of Lennon and Ono on the cover, a quote from his last press conference reads as follows:
"You have to give thanks to God, or whatever it is up there, the fact that we all survived—we all survived Vietnam, or Watergate, or the tremendous upheaval of the whole world. We were the hip ones in the ‘60s, but the world is not like the ‘60s. The whole map's changed. We're going into an unknown future, but we're still all here. While there's life there's hope. I hope the young kids like my new album [Double Fantasy] but I'm really talking about the people who grew up with me. I'm saying, "Here I am now. How are you? How is your relationship going, did you get through it all? Wasn't the ’70s a drag? Well, let's try and make the ‘80s good, because it's still up to us to make what we can of it."