It is the way of things that on the anniversaries of the death of important world figures there are calls for those alive when it occurred to recall where they were at the time they heard about it. Most recently this occurred with the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK (I was in a dormitory in a [much loathed] boarding school at York), and it’ll probably happen with Nelson Mandela’s death (I was watching TV at home last Thursday evening).
Today is the 33rd anniversary of the assassination of John Lennon. Because it happened in the evening in New York, which is five hours behind the UK, it was the middle of the night here so, like most people in the UK, it was the following morning when I heard. I was living in Shepherd’s Bush in London with my girlfriend Jenny who’d risen before me on the morning of Tuesday, December 9, 1980. She was listening to the radio when she heard the news and she came rushing into the bedroom to wake me. At first I didn’t believe her, then when I heard the radio it sunk in. I was quite numb. I threw on a few clothes and went out and bought some newspapers. Jenny went off to work but I didn’t go out all morning. I just sat there listening to the radio. One or two friends called me, including Michael Watts, my former MM colleague, who that evening appeared on Newsnight talking about John. At lunchtime I went to the Anglesea Arms pub across the road for lunch and sat on my own. Two men at the bar were discussing John’s murder and I felt like telling them that I knew him once. Then I didn’t because I figured they wouldn’t believe me.
I learned of George’s death from a front page story in the Guardian written by another former MM colleague, Richard Williams, and the following day took the family to Abbey Road, stopping on the way to buy some flowers which we left in a vase on the studio steps. Olivia had drawn a picture of George, copied from his image in Yellow Submarine, and underneath written ‘Gently Weeping’. I learned later from my friend Keith Badman, a mega Beatles expert, that ITV news had focussed on a picture of George from Yellow Sub at the close of their report that night. Keith had taped it, and he sent me a copy. Yes, it was Olivia’s card.
RIP John and George.