Obviously, I never met John Lennon. He died before I was born. I don’t have the stories other people do – where they were when he was taken from us; how they felt. My dad was in the bath. He cried his eyes out.
If it wasn’t for my best friend, Julia – named after Lennon’s mum – I might never have begun my life-long adoration for “the clever Beatle”. Even though my parents owned all the Beatles albums, and most of John’s solo work, I grew up in the 80’s, not the 60’s. My parents were now into Springsteen (Dad) and Robert Palmer (Mum), and the Beatles records rarely got a spin.
Jules’ parents were hippies, though, and had raised her on a steady diet of Beatles, Beatles and more Beatles. It was at her place that I first fell in love with the fab four, and with John in particular. I don’t know why I always felt most strongly for him. Probably because, out of all of them, he seemed the most “real”. He was flawed. He stuffed up. He was passionate and wild and a bit crazy. That appealed to me. It made me feel as though he was more attainable than the others, even though (at the time), he was the only one not with us.
By the time I was twelve, I had Lennon posters around my room, and slept with my copy of the Imagine record (and yes, I do know how mental that sounds). Every night, before I went to sleep, I echoed John’s “Goodnight Sean” with my own “Goodnight John”. Every year, on this day – the anniversay of his death, I lit a candle, played Imagine, and cried my eyes out. I remember one year Mum caught me doing this and was beside herself with worry, thinking something bad had happened at school. “Why did he have to die?” I moaned. I don’t think she quite knew how to react to that!
This year, I was lucky enough to go to the UK and see where John Lennon grew up, in the gritty port city of Liverpool. I went to Strawberry Field, where he used to play. I went to the church where he and Paul first met. I went to the recreated Cavern Club. I went to Penny Lane. In London, I walked across Abbey Road. No words can describe how amazing that experience was for a Beatles geek like me.
I know there are millions of us out there – those whose Beatles obsession is a constant spark in their belly; those who have a Beatles song for every moment and memory. Husband Bear and I walked down the aisle to In My Life. At my funeral, I want them to play I’m Only Sleeping. Just because.
I know I’m not alone in my sadness today. I know there are many people who lived when John did who feel his loss more keenly because they were there. I felt their pain when, a few years ago, George Harrison died, too. Again, my mum caught me bawling in my bedroom.
I know that John had his faults – they were widely publicised – but for some reason that makes me love him more. I like that he stuffed up. I liked that he was human. I don’t for a second imagine he was a god. But he was my first love. And even though our lives didn’t overlap, I feel like he has been in every moment of mine. And I miss him.