John Lennon, "Watching The Wheels"

>> Tuesday, June 04, 2013

I was driving into work the other day when one whatever satellite radio channel I was listening to at the time played the studio version of "Watching The Wheels".  I found myself wishing he was still around so we could hate him, so we could complain about how his new music sucked and his live shows were some kind of disconnected oldies nostalgia act for Boomers to pay too much money to see; I guess I found myself wishing he was Paul McCartney.

I don't know that would be how it would have played out.  Just a couple of years ago, Yoko reincarnated Plastic Ono Band with ex-members of Cibo Matto (including their boy, Sean), recorded and released a record that was brilliant and strange.  Maybe he would have been brilliant and strange, too.  Sometimes someone occasionally surprises you with all the new tricks they've managed to pick up notwithstanding old-dogginess.  Bowie released something wonderful this year; Dylan released something wonderful last year.  Even Jagger (of all people, astonishingly) managed to trot out something kind of special for a new track for the Stones' latest Yet-Another-Greatest-Hits offering.  He was wily, clever, never really satisfied with what he'd just finished; for all I know, he'd be readying a double CD of musique concrète folk hip-hop.  Maybe he'd be completely retired, watching those wheels without bothering to sing about them, playing guitar in private or putting it down to focus on all those goddamn noodly doodles he so loved.

I wondered, as I drove, if he and Yoko would still be together.  Loves of each other's lives, but so much of the time they couldn't stand being around each other, to the point she actually set him up with the woman he had an affair with in the mid-'70s.  (Is it an affair if your wife introduced you to your mistress and suggested the two of you go off and fuck each other silly for awhile?)  I don't know they would have made it.  Now she's The Widow, this is the thing that defines her more than Fluxus, maybe almost as much as "The Banshee Who Broke Up The Beatles".  Grossly unfair, that: she's a widow and she was a key participant in Fluxus, but her whole role in breaking up The Beatles was she happened to be there, it's like blaming a bystander at a car crash, The Beatles were basically over sometime between Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's, it's just they were too talented to crash, could coast a hundred more miles on fumes and drop The Beatles and Abbey Road before skiddering in fountains of sparks down the runway when they finally came to ground on their belly.  But this is something Yoko Ono bears on her back, the scapegoat for the heartbreak of a million fans; I don't suppose it's as heavy as her husband's coffin, though.

He'd still be recording, and it would probably be shit.  I think I know this.  I could be wrong.  But I think it's likely.  When we're lucky, our heroes drag out their careers long enough for us to despise them, long enough we can bitch about how good they were thirty years ago and we wish they would quit.  (When we get really lucky, they persist long enough to astonish; Bowie, Dylan).  The odds would have been so against him.  Most likely he would be milking the goodwill and wallets of sixty somethings, right?  We'd hear something on the radio--on one of the more unfashionable stations, one of the channels devoted to easy listening or soft classics or geriatric pop--and shake our heads and wonder if this was the guy who wrote "Norwegian Wood" or "I Found Out".  Really?  What happened?  We might cluelessly, stupidly, cruelly make some joke about how he should have died when he was in his prime (or the thought might cross our minds if we didn't speak such an unintentionally evil thing aloud), like Kurt Cobain, like Gram Parsons, like Robert Johnson, like Jimi Hendrix or Nick Drake.  Better to be tragic and unfinished than overbaked and passé.  Oh, we'd be such perfect assholes and not even know it, being oblivious to that alternate history where he was murdered on the sidewalk in front of his home, a few feet from his wife, by some little shit with a pistol.  Complaining about how lucky we were because we didn't know we were lucky.  He'd still be recording, and it would probably be shit, but at least he'd still be recording, even if it was shit.
No particular anniversary to be mourned or birthday to be celebrated.  No great day in musical history, so far as I know; no great relevant day in musical history, no doubt something happened, sometime, to someone.  Just a song they played on the radio, is all.  They played this song, and I started thinking about him.


Anne C. Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at 1:31:00 PM EDT  

"(Is it an affair if your wife introduced you to your mistress and suggested the two of you go off and fuck each other silly for awhile?)"

No, that's called "swinging" or "polyamory" (depending on the level of relationship with the mistress) and is not surprising from such Flower Children as John and Yoko.

Imagine there's no jealousy or possessiveness...

Anne C. Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at 1:32:00 PM EDT  

PS - "Watching the Wheels" always makes me think about how wonderful it would be to take a break from the rat race.

Eric Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at 2:47:00 PM EDT  

I find myself envious of the mental state John's describing in that song, meself. Be nice to have a couple of days or more where I could do that.

John Healy Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at 4:12:00 PM EDT  

I remember thinking how cool it was that John was back in the groove when this record came out. Then it all came to a screeching halt. I was never a huge 'Beatles' fan. I love the pre-invasion sound. 'All Around the World', 'Leader of the Pack', 'Runaway', Elvis (mostly),and all those doo-wop bands. John Lennon, though, was special. I am always sad when I think about that miserable day. So, maybe not, Eric. Maybe he would be changing the world as was his wont. Of course he might also be in a new band with Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus.

Eric Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at 4:58:00 PM EDT  

In concert, the Bieb handles lead vox on "How Do You Sleep?" while John and Miley take harmonies. There's an alternate universe somewhere in the cosmos where this very thing is happening right now....

John Healy Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at 5:17:00 PM EDT  

Say it aint so!
OK, how about John and Pink? I could handle that.

Tom Thursday, June 6, 2013 at 11:11:00 AM EDT  

John Lennon as a has-been wanna-be. Ha! You really can be funny, sometimes, Eric.

He changed music. Then he changed it again. Then he kept on changing music. Mick Jagger as a strutting banty rooster who should have quit years ago, yes. John Lennon as a has-been? Nope.

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