©2000 A.D. Sullivan
|All Things Must Pass|
|Someone stabbed our George!|
|The Day John Lennon Died|
|So how do you sleep at night?|
|When we were Beatles, too|
|Mourning for John|
|The Middle of Nowhere|
|A temporary truce|
End of the Millennium
All Things Must Pass
I wanted to play the song
when I heard you had died
but I didn't own the record any more
Vinyl slipping into CD without my noise
and me, walking behind your casket
during the funeral marsh
no words louder than
the comfort of the music
making it possible for me
to say good-bye
making it possible
to let you go
Someone stabbed our George!
A chill went through me and remained in me the whole day despite the fact that the temperature outside was higher than average for this time of year.
My wife and I chose our Christmas gifts this year, and I had deliberately picked Harrison's All Things Must Pass album, partly because I had not heard it in years, partly because my best friend had died in 1995 and the title song had run through my head ever since -- an unresolved issue of mourning that suddenly resolved itself on Christmas Morning when I played that song first.
"This is Christmas," my wife said. "You're not supposed to cry on Christmas."
I couldn't help myself. The song recalled the past with my now-dead friend, our living together in an East Village apartment in 1970 when the album was first released, and countless moments since when the album became a regular in my friend's staple of recordings.
The radio's broadcasts on the attack on Dec. 30, 1999, were still sketchy by the time I went off for work: It was a presumed burglary gone bad.
But the attack recalled that moment in 1980 when news of John Lennon's death hit us, that other member of the Beatles whom my friend and I admired greatly. For years, we had held out hope of a Beatles reunion. But a madman named Chapman had put an end to our hopes. We wanted to find that man and put an end to him, even though we knew Lennon would have disapproved. We played Harrison's "All Things Must Pass" and "My Sweet Lord" instead, mourning a passing we would never really accept.
At work, the bookkeeper -- as avid a Beatles fan as I was -- hadn't heard of the attack, and let out a wail.
It was as painful as all that for those of us who had grown up with the Beatles. They had helped shape our lives, and their demise caused a loss in us that we took personally. Lennon was as close to us in our hearts as a member of our families. So was Harrison, Starr and McCartney. And even though I didn't like McCartney's wife initially, I cried when she died. When I heard of a New York City car crash in the 1970s that nearly killed Harrison, I held my breath. And a year ago, when Harrison released news of his cancer, I prayed for him.
I went up on the Internet to find out more information.
Early on, the police did not know much about Abram, whether he was a burglar or an obsessed fan like the one that had killed John Lennon in 1980.
But in an interview printed in the Liverpool Echo newspaper, Abram's mother, Lydia, said her son had a history of mental health problems and had recently fixated on The Beatles.
"He has been running in pubs shouting about The Beatles," she told the newspaper. "He hates them and even believes they are witches and takes their lyrics seriously. He started to wear a Walkman to play music to stop the voices in his head.
In the same publication she said, "It's the Beatles at the moment, but a few weeks ago it was [the pop band] Oasis."
But she said that he had talked about Paul McCartney more than Harrison.
Michael Abram's ex-girlfriend Jeanette Freeman said Abram thought John Lennon was a "prophet" and Paul a "devil".
"He identified with George Harrison because of the song 'My Sweet Lord,'" she told the police. "Michael said it had a personal meaning to him."
Lydia Abram said her son had spent just over two weeks in a psychiatric ward in November but was sent home after he was involved in an attack on a nurse. He had been diagnosed as suffering from paranoid psychosis, she said, adding that her pleas to have him committed were ignored.
The Echo said the father of two children -- ages 16 and 10 -- had been in a local psychiatric unit for problems stemming from an addiction to heroin, and Lydia Abram accused authorities of failing to offer him enough aid.
"The last six months, he has been really bad. I have been looking for help for him, but it is like walking into a brick wall," she said. "The system is totally and completely useless. If they had listened to me and listened to Michael over the last six months, this would never have happened."
But Lydia Abram did not believe her son capable of violence.
"He hears voices in his head and sees things coming out of the walls," she said, noting that the police were called to her home on Christmas Eve when he started shouting in the street, but he had not been troubled since then."He used to shout a lot, but he was never aggressive. He was never violent."
The Harrisons have lived at a 34-acre estate, dubbed Friar Park about 25 miles west of London, a former nunnery close to the center of historic Henley, for more than 20 years. Security at the walled estate was tight, and police could not at first determine how the intruder managed to get to the house.
"I know there's always people trying to get in and that kind of thing, but George always leads a very quiet life," Sir George Martin, the Beatles' longtime producer, told SKY-TV. "I can't imagine anyone picking on George. I think they must have just picked on the house."
The 120-room Gothic-style mansion had once been a nunnery, but looked like a fortress, the grounds ringed by a 10-foot barbed-wire fence, patrolled by dogs, and equipped with powerful lights, video cameras and electronically controlled gates. Harrison was particularly concerned with security, especially after the death of John Lennon in 1980.
"After what happened to John, I'm absolutely terrified," he said in 1984.
Harrison apparently had good reason to be afraid. In 1990, he received a series of death threats at his home. In 1992, the police arrested an obsessed fan hanging around the house, apparently with the intention of burning it down.
Harrison, however, allowed his security to lapse while planning a New Year's Eve party, something would include fireworks and numerous celebrities. Police claim Abram may have slunk past external security by stowing away in one of the delivery vans carrying champagne and provisions for the party.
"A knife and a bag were found in the garden of the house opposite the main entrance to the mansion," one news report said.
The police said the intruder smashed a window about 3:30 a.m. local time and entered the Harrison house.
Harrison and his wife, Olivia, were awakened by the sound of breaking glass and went "downstairs to investigate," said Detective Chief Inspector Euan Read of the Thames Valley Police.
"Mr. Harrison would have been woken by breaking glass and would have gone downstairs to investigate that," Read told reporters later.
Read said -- in one report -- that a life-and-death struggle ensued through more than three rooms before the couple pinned down the attacker and called police. Another report said the Harrisons struggled with the suspect through three rooms, splattering blood everywhere.
"This was quite a vicious attack on George Harrison and his wife," Read said.
The intruder hit Mrs. Harrison on the head and then repeatedly stabbed Mr. Harrison with a six inch knife when he went to his wife's aid, leaving him with a one-inch wound in his chest and other, minor injuries, the police said.
The battle ended when Olivia Harrison stunned the suspect by clocking him on his head with a lamp, Reuters reported. The couple overpowered the intruder and held him until police arrived.
"The intruder has head injuries so there was a serious struggle put up by Harrison and his wife," said Detective Guy Bailey.
Detective Chief Inspector Read, who was leading the investigation for the Thames Valley police, said no clear motive had been established at the time of arrest.
"What is very clear here is that this was quite a vicious attack on George Harrison and his wife. We are treating this very seriously," Read said."I am not at all sure this is a burglary that went wrong. I believe he came here deliberately."
Early reports showed Harrison at the hospital in stable condition. Some confusion existed as to how many times he was stabbed. While he was in considerable pain, Harrison would not have to undergo surgery.
"Mr. Harrison was admitted to hospital at 5 a.m. (0500 GMT) this morning. He is now stable. He had a single stab wound to the chest. His wife was with him. She suffered minor head injuries and was not admitted," a spokesman for nearby Royal Berkshire Hospital at a hastily called news conference.
The one-inch stab wound that penetrated Harrison's chest wall, collapsed his right lung but was not particularly serious, medical authorities said. But William Fountain, the surgeon who treated Mr. Harrison, said he had had a narrow escape that was little short of miraculous. The knife barely missed piercing the superior vena cava, a vein that carries blood from the head, arms and upper body to the heart.
"No stab wound to the chest is minor," he said. "In Mr. Harrison's case, it is just by chance that it is not particularly serious."
The doctor said that Harrison, who was later moved to Harefield Hospital, which is better equipped to treat chest injuries, was "having serious painkillers because this is a seriously painful injury." The physical recovery should take about two to three weeks, he said, although "It may be a bit longer to be mentally fully fit" after such an ordeal.
"I don't think they were ever seriously worried," said Andrew Pengelly, medical director of the Royal Berkshire Hospital. "It could have been an awful lot worse."
"He's in excellent spirits and certainly hasn't lost his sense of humor," Fountain said.
The knife blade just missed Harrison's heart, and the multimillionaire musician, who plays with the Traveling Wilburys on occasion, said of his attacker: "He certainly wasn't a burglar and he certainly wasn't auditioning for the Traveling Wilburys."
A wounded Harrison thanked his fans worldwide for their good will.
"Harrison's the one you'd least expect something dramatic to happen to," said Beatles biographer Hunter Davies."He's been a recluse in many ways in the last few years. He's gone into spiritualism, spiritual things."
It's all over
The Day John Lennon Died
Where were you the day John Lennon died,
the media mavens continually ask,
part of that litany of excess to which they join
JFK, RFK, and Martin Luther King,
I'm tired of hearing all about it
in the newspapers, of death and dying
of finding no hope in rock stars,
as if when we believed in Beatlemania
we had no sense,
John, no more popular than Christ,
getting no national holiday to mark
his birth or death,
while the other Beatles go on with life
looking over their shoulders,
to see if
they might be next.
So how do you sleep at night?
From A.D.'s Journals, 12/9/80
John Lennon is dead. Those are four of the hardest words that I've ever had to write. Four bullets for four words.
He was shot last night as he entered the front door of his apartment building by a male Caucasian who had waited four days before committing the crime -- haunting the street before the building, even going so far as to stop John earlier that day to get his photograph signed.
That man later, pulled out a pistol as John reached for his keys.
Four holes in the glass. Four holes in John Lennon's spine.
"The police have apprehended the suspect," the radio broadcaster says. But those words are meaningless, bearing no weight after the man's first four words:"John Lennon is dead."
Every damned radio station plays his music now, and the commercials have died for a day. There is love in the air for him and respect that has done what he tried to do all his life.
John Lennon is dead.
Once John Lennon feared to come to America when the Beatles were first slated to appear here after the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
"If they can kill their president what can they do to us?" some documentary quoted him as saying.
Yet he came and he helped change the world, turning our heads, making us grow our hair long.
The gun shots still resound behind his music. The pops of the pistol grow until they roar like cannons of war as Poland rocks with threats from Russia, and American troops return home from invading Granada.
John Lennon is dead.
Is he a Kennedy? A Martin Luther? Is he a hero that helped beat the system?
He beat Nixon, fighting tooth and nail to stay in a county that eventually killed him, struggling to find some way to make it a better place.
"And so this is Christmas," he said,"and what have you done?"
Dr. Ripmaster, our college professor, talks about The Sixties and Lennon, and hinted that this was the start of some undesirable right wing revolution to come.
"The revolution is coming," Ripmaster said,"and the violence to follow will thunder on and on."
Ripmaster proclaimed Lennon, a Hero of the Left, but I disagree. Lennon was Lennon, and the music was what mattered, little more.
Now, I am alone, even though thousands of people surround me on campus, people a decade younger than I am, walking and talking, few seeming to understand what happened. One young man, David, said Lennon had no real philosophy, and had no intention of influencing anyone all. I agree and disagree. The philosophy was his music, so was his influence.
Jean, a woman closer to my own age, said she had heard about the shooting, shaking her head, not over the significant loss, but at the general state of violence in our time. She said she knew of the man, but did not know him.
I stand in the middle of the campus awed by the sky and the magnificent universe of ignorance around me, the gray clouds floating across us, with airplanes cutting through their hearts like bullets. We live on with the sad pattern of our everyday lives. And yet, one of Lennon's tunes haunts me, the lyrics slightly altered: My Johnny's dead, I can't get it out of my head...."
When we were Beatles, too
We once saw ourselves as the Beatles,
Me, Garrick, Pauly and Frank,
from a poster we saw in the local headshop,
of Renaissance players
engaged in philosophical thought,
and we said: We can be like them,
We can be just like them.
And years later, our hearts broken
over the band's break up,
we carried on, listening to old Beatles' records
singing old Beatles' tunes
even in our sleep,
and we said: We can be like them,
We can be just like them.
But when the shots rang out
in New York City
and John Lennon fell dead on the street,
an end of a dream, we did not know we dreamed,
and we said: We are like them,
We are just like them,
and life went on.
There is a kind of fearful awe in watching the world mourn for John Lennon. The TV shimmers with pictures of pride about the man who conquered the musical planet. The radio moans with bassy voices and sad comments, though the faces behind the microphones never seem to real their true feelings. President Carter sent condolences. So does President-Elect Ronald Reagan. So did the Pope.
But Lennon is gone, the face, the hope, the voice that said the very morning before his death: "As long as we're alive we can go on."
Perhaps the world can't mourn him as much more than a minor philosopher, yet few can deny his greatness or his power, as crowds gather outside the Dakota and put flowers of peace on its gate.
The other ex-Beatles have made their visit, paid their respects, each wearing the appropriate expression of pain. Ringo pushed through the crowd, fighting the hands that had like years before reached out to touch him. But this time, the tears behind each set of hands wore grief instead of greed, though how was Ringo to know what these hands meant when one of them -- one of us -- had killed John Lennon? How was he to know one set of hands did not have another snub nose revolver to do to him what Chapman did to John?
Lennon, the radio said, died from a loss of blood, and even though he was rushed to the hospital -- dying on the way -- no one had had much hope.
Yet hope was the sermon Lennon preached, and hope is the message the crowds give back, as the world mourns with their radios tuned to his music. Each of us thinks of the great silence that will follow years from now, that vacancy in the music industry he would have filled if allowed to live.
Mr. Brown on WNEW said that like Kennedy, the Beatles were responsible for bringing elementary thought and philosophy to the youth of the world. Lennon's youth was with the Beatles and his middle age with us.
It is cold now outside as Winter finally makes its arrival, and the mourners that gather outside Lennon's tomb-like home will soon fade away. The frost has a way of making people forget. So does time.
Lennon is immortal to me, not because he was part of the Beatles, but because he dared to put his real feelings on record, crying in public with us, laughing, and sighing, and in some cases, even making love.
Last night, it rained heavily, trapping me in my Passaic apartment, making me reflect on the changes Lennon and the Beatles put me through, those moments in time when public grief and private grief come together. Cousin Brucie, the old WABC disk jockey, once said the JFK assassination and the breakup of the Beatles were the saddest two moments in his life. Here is a third.
I remember how hurt I felt when the Beatles broke up, and how around the time of my birthday, I hoped they would get back together, an unintentional birthday present to me. They never did.
The TV shows the crowds of people, swaying under a gray sky, each face streaming with tears that the threat of rain will never wash away, and I wonder:"Will they remember this years from now? Or will the place they stand now be as empty as the airwaves?"
The Middle of Nowhere
I find you in the middle of nowhere
when I least expect to find myself
straddling the ivory coast of new music
as if the old music was not enough
I look to the east and west for relief
for a memory in the clouds that pass
I look for your face shaped by the stars
and find myself sad
Will you remember me when I'm gone
Will you recall my name?
Will you say the words I say?
Will they sound the same?
A temporary truce
Like many Beatles fans, D'Amore has gathered at Strawberry fields every year since John Lennon was killed in 1980, paying tribute to the man and his music by lighting candles, singing songs and placing flowers at the site of his murder. Yet in all the years D'Amore has come, he'd never seen Marra there before, in fact, he wasn't even sure it was Marra.
"I thought I knew the guy but I wasn't sure," D'Amore said."I mean, he looked familiar and I knew I knew him, but I wasn't sure it really was the town clerk."
The year 1995 was a painful year for D'Amore, whose life had become entangled in legal woes. In 1994, he tried to buy a house in Secaucus, then withdrew his offer based on an extremely negative home inspection report. In 1995, he filed suit against the owner of the house in an attempt to get his $28,500 deposit back. Then he filed suit against the town, claiming the town should have been more aware of problems at that house. In his suit, he questioned the building department's inspection process. While D'Amore had no ill feelings toward Marra, Marra has often sat on the other side of the table, representing the town as acting town clerk as well as secretary for the board of adjustment.
"I never expected to find him at Strawberry fields," D'Amore said, noting that his seeing Marra in the crowd stirred up mixed feelings. "I watched him wander through the crowd, then put a flower down on the memorial. Then, he started to sing some Beatles songs. That's when I went up to him and said hello."
Two Beatles fans
While D'Amore declined to label himself as a John Lennon fanatic, he does love the Beatles, and owns John Lennon's pocket watch, a lithographic image from a rare 1969 John Lennon record album, and the same year and model Rickenbacker guitar as used by the Beatles during the Rubber Soul and Revolver recording sessions. Although he doesn't even remotely look like John Lennon (or the other Beatles) D'Amore auditioned for a part in the now defunct Broadway production of Beatlemania.
"I don't know why; I just wanted to do it," he said.
In the early 1970s, when students from Secaucus attended Weehawken high school, D'Amore tried to get John Lennon to perform for the school.
"It was around the time John was doing his Sometimes in New York City album," D'Amore said."I wrote to ask if he could play at our school. I got a letter from Alan Klein (Lennon's manager). He said no, but I still have the letter."
D'Amore has written to Yoko Ono, Lennon's window, over the years and still gets Christmas cards from her.
Unlike D'Amore who has spent nearly every anniversary at Strawberry Fields, Marra had never gone before but always wanted to.
"I was on vacation this year and decided to go," Marra said. "I never expected to see D'Amore there, though I thought I might see a few other people I knew."
Marra said he had witnessed events at Strawberry Fields on TV over the years and decided that he would go and see the place for himself. While an avid fan of the Beatles, Marra said he leans toward Paul McCartney as a solo artist. Yet he knew enough lyrics to sing along with about 20 people.
A strong impression
For D'Amore the chance meeting provided him with a sense of hope for the future. The lawsuit with the town over the house has strained his resources and his patience. Over the last year, D'Amore felt as if he wasn't getting anyplace. Seeing Marra standing there in the dark, honoring someone D'Amore cared for, made an impression on him.
Although at times he's felt as if he was banging his head against a brick wall trying to get his money back, D'Amore in that moment understood that the officials he's been dealing with are human beings, too, and that Marra, an official of Secaucus, can have a common interest in the Beatles.
And this has been a big year for Beatles fans with the release of two new Beatles songs (which includes vocals by john Lennon), a compilation of Beatles rarities, and a six-hour Beatles retrospective on TV.
Since the breakup of the Beatles in 1970, rumors have persisted about a reunion. By using some John Lennon tape recordings, the Beatles released one new song in December and are expected to release two more in February 1996.
The Beatles began with the pairing of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and in a career that lasted less than a decade. Together they reshaped the sound of pop and rock music. In December, both D'Amore and Marra glued themselves to the TV to watch the three-part ABC special on the Beatles. Both are waiting for more due in February.
Some sour notes
For D'Amore, the new year brought more headaches and delays. The Blizzard of 1996 struck the area on January 8, just when depositions were to be taken in his suit against the town. Depositions in his suit against the property owner, scheduled for January 18, have been rescheduled. In the last year and a half, D'Amore has had to reschedule more than depositions. He originally planned to get married in February 1995, something which has been put off. He originally wanted to move back to Secaucus, but has since purchased another house out of town.
For Marra, events at the December 8 ceremony itself brought back a harsher side of reality. While at the event, Marra witnessed an arrest of several people for possession and use of marijuana. He said this struck another familiar chord in him. During the celebrations for the 20th and 25th anniversaries of Woodstock, he recalled people talking about their friends, people who had died or suffered because of drug use.
"I really think the 1960s were a good time except for the drugs," he said. "And it was sad to see this still going on that night at Strawberry Fields."
c/o A.D. Sullivan
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