We're playing those mind games together,
Pushing barriers, planting seeds,
Playing the mind guerilla,
Chanting the Mantra peace on earth,
We all been playing mind games forever,
Some kinda druid dudes lifting the veil.
Doing the mind guerilla,
Some call it the search for the grail,
Love is the answer and you know that for sure,
Love is flower you got to let it, you got to let it grow,
So keep on playing those mind games together,
Faith in the future outta the now,
You just can't beat on those mind guerillas,
Absolute elsewhere in the stones of your mind,
Yeah we're playing those mind games forever,
Projecting our images in space and in time,
Yes is the answer and you know that for sure,
Yes is surrender you got to let it, you got to let it go,
So keep on playing those mind games together,
Doing the ritual dance in the sun,
Millions of mind guerrillas,
Putting their soul power to the karmic wheel,
Keep on playing those mind games forever,
Raising the spirit of peace and love, not war,
(I want you to make love, not war, I know you've heard it before)
SEASON OF GLASS
John Lennon: October 9, 1940 - December 8, 1980
“ROCK’N’ROLL: YOU SHOULDA BEEN THERE…”
John Lennon was born into a violent world – as the Nazi’s bombed Liverpool - and died a violent death – by an assassin’s bullet. In the forty years between, he composed such songs as “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “All You Need Is Love,” “Give Peace a Chance,” “Working Class Hero” and “Beautiful Boy,” to name a few.
In September of 1974, a group of us kids ditched school so we could catch a glimpse of John Lennon. He was to be guest DJ on Boss Radio 93 KHJ, on the breakfast show, to promote his new album, “Walls and Bridges.” He and Yoko had been split apart since “Mind Games” the year before and John was staying with his old pal, (“My favorite group,” said John) Harry Nilsson. The two of them had infamously disturbed a Smothers Brothers show at Doug Weston’s Troubadour in West Hollywood some months earlier.
On that September morning, I got to wave to Lennon through a chain link gate, as he emerged from his limo.
“Smoke a doobie?,” shouted our friend, Tony Sandoval. “It’s a bit early in the morning, love,” Lennon called back. Lennon was in the midst of a battle to remain in the United States, stemming from a contrived hash bust several years earlier in London. The Nixon government had been hounding him since he and Yoko moved to New York in the early seventies. Nixon was convinced that Lennon and new pals Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin had plans to disrupt the Republican convention in 1972, where Tricky Dick was to be re-nominated. Two years later, Nixon resigned in disgrace, John and Yoko went their separate ways and John was making plenty of rock and roll while waiting for his immigration case to be settled.
Over the next three hours, Lennon played DJ. We called in requests from the phone booth outside the studio at Melrose and Gower. “I’d love to play some Paulie for you.”
He obliged every request. Jerry Lee Lewis, Dylan, Little Richard, Nilsson, Ringo, Elton John. He spun them all like an excited teenager cut loose in a record store.
“SO LONG AGO, WAS IT JUST A DREAM?”
“Walls and Bridges” was Lennon’s biggest hit as an ex-Beatle, featuring a catchy collaboration with his friend Elton John, who was scoring more number one records than any of the Beatles at that point. “Whatever Gets You Through the Night” was pure, apolitical, rock and roll joy, unlike anything Lennon had released with or without the Beatles in several years. It would be his first and last number one single without the Beatles until after his death six years later.
The stylistically-varied, Phil Spector-produced album also included a very un-Beatles-like jazz-inflected ode to Yoko, “Bless You,” a return to his surreal, sugar cube-flavored period with “Number Nine Dream,” and a mournful Dylan-esque ballad, “Nobody Loves You When You’re Down and Out,” on which he credited himself as Dwarf McDougal (in a humorous nod to Dylan, whose publishing company was called Dwarf Music and who had started out in Greenwich Village at the famous corner of Bleecker and McDougal.)
During his so-called Lost Weekend, Lennon also recorded a collection of oldies, simply titled, “Rock and Roll,” which spawned another hit, a cover of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me.” This song was a heartfelt interpretation, as great as his early rhythm and blues covers - “Anna,” “You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me,” e.g. - with the Beatles. He could really sing them with feeling. Gutsy and vulnerable at the same time, like a wounded choir boy.
His was a voice which sang for all who had the heart to listen. “Stand By Me” was an unofficial theme song for his effort to stay in the US, as his fans, such as those of us outside that radio station, circulated “Save Lennon” petitions, inspired by Jan Wenner and Rolling Stone magazine and mailed them off by the thousands to Congress.
Lennon celebrated his successful return to pop radio – and his legal victory, which allowed him to remain in the States (“where everything is happening”) - by performing with Elton John in New York City, where Elton had choreographed a reunion with Yoko. On Lennon’s 35th birthday the following October, Yoko gave birth to their first and only child together, Sean. Over the next five years, little was seen or heard of the Lennons.
(Once I thought I spotted John and Yoko, looking very much as they had in the late 60s, longhaired, driving an old station wagon on the Sunset Strip. I dismissed it as being impossible, though, until their return to the public eye, when they told about driving an old station wagon, to maintain anonymity, across country, from Manhattan to L.A.)
THE LOST DECADE
Somehow, that group of kids, all except for the one who wound up driving off a cliff on Mulholland Drive, survived the rest of that decade-in-decline with no more new output from John Lennon. Aside from appearing at Jimmy Carter’s Inauguration in 1977, the Lennon’s were nowhere, man.
We had, in our possession, 14 US-released Beatles albums, 15 John (and John & Yoko) albums, plus the hits collections and a few bootlegs, 4 Beatles movies, the long-awaited theatrical release of “Magical Mystery Tour,” ready-made for tripping at the Vagabond Theatre in downtown L.A., Beatles cartoons, “How I Won the War,” “Lennon Remembers,” “In His Own Write” and “A Spaniard In the Works” to get us through the post-Nixon years. All of which had happened in the short span of eleven years.
Along the way , we discovered Utopia, 10cc, Iggy, Roxy Music and Eno, Kevin Ayers, John Cale, Patti Smith and Television, the Ramones, The Pistols and the Clash,The Modern Lovers, Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe, Mink DeVille, Blondie, Talking Heads, the B52’s, Devo, Kraftwerk, XTC, The Stranglers, Tom Waits…The seventies didn’t suck. Only the mainstream radio did.
Then, in May of 1979, we received contact from John and Yoko, in the form of a full-page ad, “A Love Letter…To People Who Ask Us What, When and Why.” John and Yoko had, on becoming parents to Sean, decided to undertake a “Spring Cleaning” of their minds. They quoted the “Good Book” (“Where two are gathered…”), talked about “wishing and praying,” declaring that “magic is real.” “When somebody is angry with us, we draw a halo around his or her head in our minds. Does the person stop being angry then? Well, we don't know! We know, though, that when we draw a halo around a person, suddenly the person starts to look like an angel to us.”
To those of us who had felt abandoned by our adopted hippie parents, our Mr. & Mrs. Peace, the love letter was not necessarily all that reassuring. “Remember, our silence is a silence of love and not of indifference. Remember, we are writing in the sky instead of on paper -- that's our song. Lift your eyes and look up in the sky. There's our message. Lift your eyes…and you will see that you are walking in the sky, which extends to the ground. We are all part of the sky, more so than of the ground. Remember, we love you.”
Well, it was sort of reassuring. But we wanted songs that weren’t just written “in the sky.”
17 months would go by before there was another “sign” from John and Yoko. This time, an article in Esquire magazine confused us further, with stories of the Lennon’s dairy farms and seclusion in a Gothic apartment overlooking Central Park. Rumors that John’s fingernails had grown several inches long and that he had become a Howard Hughes figure fueled our worry until, suddenly, they were back.
It was announced that David Geffen’s new label would soon be releasing a brand new John and Yoko album. “Double Fantasy” began getting airplay in November, 1980 and the first single, appropriately titled “(Just Like) Starting Over” was climbing the charts. It had Lennon impersonating Elvis, with doo-wop backing vocals and it whet our appetites for more. More interesting was Yoko’s b-side, “Kiss, Kiss, Kiss.” Suddenly, as John announced gleefully in numerous interviews, the times had caught up with Yoko’s style. New Wave and Punk music had tuned the public’s ears to her adventurous work .
It almost didn’t matter that, politically, the nation had taken a drastic turn to the extreme right, when, in a violent backlash to the gains in progressive thinking, human freedom and open culture, a former actor-turned California governor was elected President.
John and Yoko were back. They were getting ready to tour the world to promote their new album, their new philosophy. John was okay. He was something called a “house-husband” now. He was talking about Martin Luther King and Gandhi and non-violence and…
SEASON OF GLASS
Then it happened. Looking back at the Annie Liebowitz Rolling Stone magazine cover, with John’s nude body wrapped around Yoko’s, in a fetus position, the chill that goes through my body, through our collective soul, is as fresh tonight as it was that dark Monday night in December, twenty five years ago. My girlfriend sat me down to tell me. Her little girl said something wise, such as,”He’s not really dead, you know.” My fist went through a glass window. Lovey called from New York, on her way to the spontaneous mass outside the Dakota. My father called to offer this: “If it had been Paul instead of Jesus, the impact on the world would not have been the same.”
Conspiracy theorist Mae Brussell (1922-1988), whose research into the JFK assassination, and who predicted RFK’s assassination and the Chappaquiddick incident, made her a popular figure in left-leaning radio, and whose first published work in Paul Krassner’s The Realist had been financed by John Lennon, had the following to say a year after Lennon’s murder:
“ …The date of Lennon's murder, and the careful selection of this particular victim are very important. Six weeks after Lennon's death, Ronald Reagan would become President. Reagan and his soon-to-be appointed cabinet were prepared to build up the Pentagon war machine and increase the potential for war against the USSR. The first strike would fall on small countries like El Salvador and Guatemala. Lennon, alone, was the only man (even without his fellow Beatles) who had the ability to draw out one million anti-war protestors in any given city within 24 hours, if he opposed those war policies.
John Lennon was a spiritual force. He was a giant, like Gandhi, a man who wrote about peace and brotherly love. He taught an entire generation to think for themselves and to challenge authority…”
Brussell went on to say, “(On my radio show of) December 7, 1980, I stated that "the old assassination teams are coming back into power." The very people responsible for covering up the murders of President John F. Kennedy, Senator Robert Kennedy, Reverend Martin Luther King…and for hundreds of other deaths, had only six weeks before they would again be removing or silencing those voices of opposition to their policies.
Lennon was coming out once more… He was preparing to be part of the world, a world which was a worse place since the time he had withdrawn with his family. It was a sure bet Lennon would react and become a social activist again. That was the threat. Lennon realized that there was danger coming back into public view. He took that dangerous chance, and we all lost!”
In 1965, Lennon said the following words to a journalist friend, Maureen Cleave: "Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue that; I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now."
Immediately after Lennon’s murder, in front of his home overlooking Central Park West, his killer was described as a disaffected Beatles fan, a born-again fundamentalist Christian who had been active in the YMCA. Later, information that the killer had traveled to Beirut to work for the YMCA raised eyebrows among those who suspected that the Christian youth camp in Lebanon was a CIA-training camp.
Speaking of Lennon’s utopian, secular humanist ballad, “Imagine,” in Christianity, Mark Greene writes, “In retrospect, the word ‘dreamer’ seems a somber choice – the other dreamers of the 60s, Martin Luther King, and John and Robert Kennedy’s, optimistic humanists both, had fallen to the assassin’s bullet – as Lennon would also fall. Ideas are more dangerous than armies. As men with guns know.”
“NO SHORT-HAIRED, YELLOW-BELLIED SON OF TRICKY DICKY’S GONNA MOTHER HUBBARD SOFT- SOAP ME WITH JUST A POCKET FULL OF HOPE…JUST GIVE ME SOME TRUTH. ALL I WANT IS THE TRUTH”
Maybe it was just some deranged Beatles fan – “An ‘autograph hound’ armed with a golden platter and a gun/ kneeled before John and killed the Beatles,” as Allen Ginsberg put it, in “Amnesiac Thirst for Fame.”
“Did someone steal Mona Lisa’s smile forever from the Louvre?,” wrote the late poet.
Ten years ago, I had an occasion to revisit the place where I had once seen John Lennon, waving to his devoted fans, where he turned down a morning spliff, on his way in to do the work of promoting his latest record.
Waiting for permission to enter, I gazed across to the place where Lennon had been so alive, no larger than life itself, when I was a teenager, all those years ago. I told the security guard at the gate that I had once upon a time, “so long ago, was it in a dream,” seen the giant, the spiritual force behind the Beatles, right there on that spot.
The security guard then shared with me, his own brush with Lennon. “My father was a Secret Service agent. He had been with Nixon for years. On the night John Lennon was killed, my father was having dinner with Mr. and Mrs. Nixon, just around the corner from the Dakota where Lennon was shot.”
I stood there quietly until I was granted permission to enter the radio station. I thought about the group of friends who had ditched school that morning. I remembered that when the limo pulled away, we followed it as far as we could, all the way to Pacific Coast Highway, where we finally lost sight of his long black carriage. We jumped and played on the beach, ecstatic, like a scene from “A Hard Days Night.”
We had seen John Lennon and it wasn’t just a dream.
(reprinted from the los angeles free press - www.losangelesfreepress.com-
a few months after lennon was killed, i met fred drake in a rehearsal studio in l.a. we bonded over a spliff and our teary-eyed, fresh memories of john lennon.
25 years later, i live in the desert where fred and i explored space together.
now, fred and john are somewhere out there, writing their songs in the sky.