Certain Songs #809: John Lennon – “Nobody Told Me”

Album: Milk & Honey
Year: 1984

It’s funny: you watch the replays of a historical event enough, and eventually those replays become your memory of how you learned of that event, regardless of whether or not that’s what really happened.

And so it is that I’ve become convinced that I learned about John Lennon’s murder from Howard Cosell on Monday Night Football just like in those clips I’ve seen replayed ever since.

But I don’t think it happened that way at all.

After all, by December 8th, 1980, I wasn’t really watching Monday Night Football unless the 49ers were playing. And they weren’t playing: it was the Dolphins and the Patriots, which I would not have given a shit about. Which means I was probably in my room listening to music and reading.

Nope, I’m pretty sure I learned about Lennon’s murder from Tim, who happened to be watching it and either caught Cosell or saw it on the crawl (which back then was only reserved for seismic events like some asshole killing an ex-Beatle.

So, given I was going through my Doors phase and it was Jim Morrison’s birthday, let’s say I was listening to The Doors when he called me with news of the first major Rock ‘n’ Roll death I experienced as an adult. Right? I was just a little kid when Brian, Jimi, Janis & Jim all checked out. I remember Jim Croce dying, but I said “major.”

So Lennon’s death was a shock that resonated hard, because it was such a surprise. And it was a murder. I remember that Tim & I went to a candlelight vigil at either Fresno State or Fresno City (neither of us remember), though I don’t know how we found out about it, since there was no internet.

And I guess it predisposed me to feel more nice to to Double Fantasy, the mostly-poorly reviewed album that he and Yoko had just put out. That’s of course, obscured by history, as the outpouring of grief almost instantly pushed the reviews into the plus column, but to this day, the only song from that record I really like at lot is “Watching The Wheels,” and I’ve tried a couple of times over the years.

A quick word on Yoko Ono: first off, the eternal blame she got for breaking up The Beatles is a load of sexist horseshit. And when the grace she’s shown as John’s widow (combined with the guilt over demonizing her in the first place) led to a critical re-evaluation of her music, I thought that was fine, but it didn’t make what she did anymore of my bag that it was when I first heard it.

Anyways, out of all of the music that come out just before and eventually after John Lennon’s murder, the only one I’ve really loved is the upbeat, bouncy, silly “Nobody Told Me” which rode an upbeat melody line and Lennon’s always-reliable vocals all the way to #5 on the Billboard charts.

It’s a good enough song that I’d like to think that it would have been a smash even if he’d lived, and that it would have been the cornerstone of an album that would have rivaled Imagine.

“Nobody Told Me”

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