Ray Davies of the Kinks has an op-ed piece in today’s New York Times, right under the piece by Yoko Ono. Yoko’s article is nice, but Ray’s article is a brave and honest reaction to John Lennon’s music. “He had become a hit-and-miss solo performer,” he writes; and he recalls his reaction to Double Fantasy, the last album Lennon would live to release: “I had heard some of the album on the radio and had not been particularly struck by anything so far…”
Davies goes on to say that usually, something from Lennon’s albums would eventually grab him, and in some cases change his life. But at a time when our reminiscences of John Lennon veer dangerously close to hagiography, it is worthwhile to remember Lennon as a man and a musician who was flawed, and who was keenly aware of his flaws. That was one of the things that made him so interesting, in interviews and on vinyl. As Davies points out, Lennon wasn’t afraid to fail, and he often did. I know that is heresy to those who feel that every note, every syllable, of every Lennon song is perfect; but I think Lennon himself would have little patience for those who would paint him as a sage and saint. Listen to his songs – he often draws on his own life, his own mistakes. Picks at scabs that have barely healed. Sets them to a stinging guitar line and calls it a song. And sometimes it is. Or was – funny how easily we slip into the present tense still with Lennon.
Anyway, just to say that on this 30th anniversary of a senseless and stupid act, it somehow diminishes John Lennon as a man and a musician to gloss over the faults and the missteps, and Ray Davies’ kind of clear-eyed memories are pretty refreshing.
What’s your memory of John Lennon? Leave a comment.