Friday, October 8, 2010
The Intellectual One
Excerpts from Benson's House:
There are no endings, only new beginnings.
In September of 1971, Richard decided to sell the radio station to a large holding company. He was to stay on as an advisor to the station, for two more years, and assist the network principals in converting the format to “talk radio.” His uncle’s determination to sell prompted Christopher’s decision not to renew his agreement to broadcast Live at Benson’s for the new ownership group.
Bill Graham had recently closed the doors on The Fillmore Auditorium in the St Mark’s section of the east village. Promoters were circumventing the smaller venues for the more profitable arenas; the Fillmore closing was a testimony to the times. The final performances were broadcast live on a competitor New York station, and were well received among the listening audience. Although Christopher had no intentions of closing The Benson Inn, he was inspired by the captured events, and wanted the last live broadcast from the tavern to be as memorable.
He succeeded in his quest; on September 26, 1971, John Lennon was broadcast playing the parole guitar on the platform stage of The Benson Inn. Yoko Ono sat quietly on a stool beside him during the hour long show.
Lennon had always been an admirer of Christopher since their first encounter, in 1965. It was during a press conference with The Beatles that the nineteen year old attended as a young correspondent for WIIN. His questioned reflected his studies of The Beatles music and he offered pertinent inquiries about their songs. His stood apart from those posed by other press reporters who prompted trivial responses on topics about The Beatles hair styles or favorite soft drinks.
When he had asked Paul McCartney what inspired him to adopt the F minor note changes in the refrain of the song, All My Loving, McCartney enthusiastically defended the chord changes as adding to the emotional impact of the lyrics.
“Ya catch the purpose mate?” An inquisitive John Lennon asked Christopher after McCartney’s reply.
Christopher stood before the pop stars press table like a defendant before the magistrates. He formulated a response he had once heard Johnny Walken use to describe a similar variation of chord changes once associated with a song of TJ Hardy's.
“Sure; you’re using soul notes to get to the heart of things.” He retorted.
The lads from Liverpool all laughed and nodded their heads in agreement.
Lennon felt the young man had respected the band and felt he'd one day repay the favor.
He did on an autumn evening in September of 1971.
With his long hair dangling beneath a black beret, and his wire rim glasses suspended on the bridge of his nose, Lennon looked like an amalgamation between Oscar Wilde and Pasternak's Strelnikov. He took the stage during an overwhelming ovation from the shocked crowd.
“Thank you- thank you- it’s wonderful to be here, it’s certainly a thrill.” Lennon stated to the audience, as he turned to those few surprised patrons who happened to be in the tavern that night. He ask if they knew whose guitar was standing on the stage, and they replied with the correct enthusiastic reply.
He played mostly solo works written after his departure from The Beatles, but as a final request Christopher had made for Sarah, John Lennon played her favorite Beatles song.
He sang Norwegian Wood.
By the end of the performance, fans- hearing it broadcasting live on the radio- were storming into the tavern, attempting to get a chance to see the famous Rock ‘n’ Roller in person. After the show, while the surroundings mounted with elated patrons, Yoko and John sat at the bar with Sarah and Christopher. John drank a White Russian; Yoko had a cup of tea.
“Your great, great granddad was apart of the movement that started Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Lennon said to Christopher.
“Well, he was there, but really it was the promotional efforts of Edward Sullivan that started the music phenomenon.” A modest Christopher Benson replied.
Lennon looked stunned.
“No, man, Ed Sullivan turned America onto The Beatles, your great, great, granddaddy turned America onto Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Christopher was not about to question the legendary member of the fab four.
Two months later, during the Christmas holidays, John Lennon and Yoko Ono placed a large white billboard in Times Square that simply read: War is over- if you want to. The democratic voice was again being activated by one of the pioneers of the modern songs of freedom, and a devoted supporter of the working class hero.
He was a messiah like icon of a generation; a rebel who effectively used civil disobedience and celebrity to enlighten the people against social injustice. His life was theater that transcended throughout a decade. His music and philosophies still provide significance to a world fifty years older.
The Ed Sullivan show; Shea Stadium; The Hollywood Bowl; Rubber Soul; Sgt. Peppers; Yellow Submarine; The White Album; Let it Be; The Bed-in for Peace: The Plastic Ono Band; Mind Games; the lost weekend; the deportation battles; Double Fantasy; December 8th.
I was in Manhattan the Monday of December 8, 1980. After work I met a Saks executive friend and sat in her Fifth Avenue office to watched from her window as the ceremony took place lighting the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. We had a few drinks afterwards, before I took a cab home to my apartment in Chelsea. I immediately turned the television on to watch Monday Night Football and heard the report for commentator Howard Corsell: Lennon had be shot outside his home in The Dakotas.
I was drawn like many to the site and found myself a member of the tribal congregation. Mourners wept; guitarists mused. A shrine was erected with memorabilia and candles and many stood around it, staring into its depths, which glowed with a presence as lustrous as that of the tree that stood in midtown Manhattan.
For many- including myself- the spirit of Rock 'n' Roll died along with the legend on that warm December night.We will never know what contributions a Beatles reunion would have made, or what projects were in store from a revitalized John Lennon.We will never know what direction the music would have taken, or what influence he would have had on further social developments-
We can only Imagine.
Happy birthday John!
There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all