By Rosalie Tirella
A week ago, when I went to Family Health Center for my EKG, I brought along … John Lennon. An old broad with a trembly ticker and a dead Beatle making their way through Worcester’s Piedmont neighborhood. How strange!
At the time I thought: I’ll be at FHC for awhile, let’s bring some reading material …
But why John Lennon? I’ve got a ton of books and mags in my shack. Why did I grab a 10-year-old copy of a truncated ROLLING STONE (owner/publisher Jann W. had just shrunk his once iconic magazine) that was buried on a book shelf buried behind a clothes rack stuffed with my favorite tee shirts and blouses? A magazine I hadn’t read since the day I bought it, a decade ago?
Simply put: JOHN LENNON. He made me feel safe, protected. John would watch over me as I trembled under my hospital johnny. I would close my eyes and squeeze tight my Rolling Stone as my old heart-beat was recorded …
A friend had prayed over me that week, put his pudgy hand on my shoulder and asked God for a healthy heart and tranquility, then promising he’d buy me a new Bible – one with PINK covers! For girls! I said to him: I’ll try a new take on this God thing – “Whatever gets you though this life!” A few days earlier the pastor of Woo’s premier Catholic church had come through for me with grace and a deep comprehension of the hungry heart. But maybe not mine. Pre-EKG test, the heart monitor that gets the sticky squares and wires all tangled in the beginning, as I looked mortality square in the puss and the FHC EKG technician complained about her old EKG machine … I closed my eyes and eschewed my friend’s Pink Bible verses, forgot the Jesus hanging from the cross and chose BEATLES instead. John’s Music. Amazing harmonies. The real God, for me.
John Lennon, the beautiful. The perfectly human deity I’ve been praying to since I was 14 years old in my Green Island bedroom with those ugly green painted walls and brown metal bed! It’s always been John! – Beatles and post-Beatles. You choose what MATTERS as you are wheeled in and out of the hospital and sit naked on the examination table.
LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS. NOWHERE MAN. IN MY LIFE. STRAWBERRY FIELDS. All John Lennon masterpieces. John: the sarcastic Beatle, the angry Beatle, the intellectual Beatle, the Beatle in restless search of his mother who had abandoned him. The Beatle of lullabies, ocean tides, harmonicas, fists and honesty. The Beatle who played his guitar in that sexy bow-legged stance. The Beatle who’s seen my less-than beautiful smile (a gap between my two front teeth since I was 9!) – and still loved me enough to sing his beautiful songs to me!
The God my late Mom, Cecelia, loved so much she worshipped him on the Ed Sullivan Show and wore him on her Keds! A pair of white Keds with the faces of John, Paul, George and Ringo stamped all over them. All the kids wore ’em back then. As a two-year-old I sat at my mom’s feet, mesmerized by the cute mop-top boys on her Keds, the boys she sometimes danced to in the kitchen, turning the volume up on her white plastic radio sitting atop our old refrigerator, singing with them: I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND! TWIST AND SHOUT!! HELP! Ma polka-ed, jitterbugged, waltzed around our big kitchen floor – she loved to dance and knew all the dances from the 1940s and ’50s – but she also free-formed grooved to the new rock n roll. Because she had rhythm and was a joyful person, despite – maybe because of – her hard life. THE BEATLES AND THEIR MUSIC AND THEIR IDEAS MOVED HER. Our Lafayette Street tenement was our concert hall, dance hall …
Our youngish Ma, raised in and oppressed by the Catholic church, loved the Beatles gorgeousness, their FREEDOM, CREATIVITY, YOUTH. She, along with millions of young people all over the world, had caught the YOUTH WAVE of the 1960s! And ever since then, America’s worshipped youth, everything young.
I am rewatching the Beatles classic movie, their best in my opinion, A HARD DAYS NIGHT, starring John and his (soul)mates … and feeling Peace and Love (God). It’s an early ’60s Dick Lester film that truly captures the Beatles, their off-beat humor, their wit, their spirit and their early music. Plus, the times: Beatlemania and the ascendancy of youth culture, the out with the old and in with the YOUTH vibes, the soft poking at the nose of society: 1940s/50s music, middle-aged people, old time-y TV variety shows, public relations marketing schemes, teams and offices filled with pr flaks AT THE MERCY OF YOUTH they can never understand because they aren’t young. … Pointless charts, mundane surveys and fake trend-setters. ALL TO BE UPENDED BY THE FAB FOUR AS THEY TAKE OVER – by the sweetest of storms – STODGY OFFICES, BORING TV SHOWS, POINTLESS TV PRODUCERS, CLUELESS OLDER FOLKS, EVEN FAMILY and WOMEN (they call women “birds”). The Beatles are their own family – close to each other in their Beatle bubble. John in love with Paul – and vice versa. They make their own intimate magic – but share it with the world. How lucky we are! Free and truly themselves only when out of the clutches of their wild girl groupies, insistent managers, nagging director, boring TV producer. FREE in their beautiful songs:
This film still holds up for me – not like their HELP! flick, made a few years after A HARD DAY’S NIGHT, or their goofy Christmas radio mini-shows. I love their animated YELLOW SUBMARINE but not as much as their kinetic A HARD DAY’S NIGHT! It’s in black and white and feels very off the cuff, very Beatles … The guys say things in the movie they WOULD HAVE SAID IN REAL LIFE. But it was all scripted, all in the movie script! Great writing!!
For me, as an old lady in 2020, the thrill of the flick is STILL WATCHING THE BEATLES PLAY THEIR MUSIC. STILL WATCHING JOHN LENNON PICK HIS GUITAR. STILL THE SIGHT OF PURE HAPPINESS – GOD – AS GREAT, GIFTED FRIENDS GRAB THEIR GUITARS AND DRUMSTICKS … to sing their song.
❤Happy Birthday, John Lennon – October 9. We love you and still miss you!❤