My bedroom was at the southeast corner of our old house, and had three windows. I'd lie in my canopy bed and look out over the yard to the east and watch the moonlight travel over the trees, the streetlight illuminating moisture on the surface of the tar and gravel road; imagining the whole world catching on fire while I slept.
That night I was lying on my bed fussing with the radio dial. I was 15 years old, and music was such an integral part of me, it infused most of my waking moments, as it does now, over 30 years later. But the radio stations were so unsatisfying. I'd been listening to the highly acclaimed R&B station for awhile, yet even that one had slipped into a banal coma of love ballads and conveyer belt dance hits.
I didn't know it, but the college radio station just out of my tuning range was starting to play the kind of music that would become my favorite music all through the 80s and 90s. Only I didn't discover most of it until over 5 years later; that is, I knew it was out there, but I couldn't reach it. All I could reach were a few channels of the same old pop, rock, country, and sometimes when I remembered about it, classical music.
My room was dark and quiet. I could hear all the usual sounds of living in other parts of the house, and see light under the bottom of my door, but it wasn't difficult to tune out. The album rock radio station came up in my dialing, and the deejay introduced "(Just Like) Starting Over," which I really liked, so I stopped to listen. But just as the song ended, he broke in, with obvious shock and anguish in his voice, to announce John Lennon had been shot. I don't remember what else he said, I'm pretty sure he didn't quite know what he was saying. And then he played "Woman," which I'd never heard before. It became my favorite song from that album.
The next day, John was everyone's favorite Beatle. Having a favorite Beatle was like having a favorite Doctor. Mine's the Tenth Doctor, except when it's the Fifth Doctor, but my Beatle was George. Only on December 9, John was everybody's Beatle, even all the girls who'd grown up loving Paul. Maybe it seemed shameless at the time, but it wasn't. We wanted him to have his comeback, and we'd seen him reaching for joy. A single gunshot snatched that away.
A few months later, as I was walking between buildings during school, the principal announced President Reagan had been shot. For some reason, those two events are always connected in my mind, except of course, the president lived, and John Lennon didn't.
I'm older now than he was then. This is incredible to me, as the Beatles were bigger than Jesus by the time I was old enough to have my hands smacked for putting the record "Help" on the turntable so I could bop around to it. I couldn't read yet, but I knew the records by their labels.
Back in 1980, in my dark bedroom, I remember wondering how life would be different with only three Beatles. Was it different? It's hard to say now, looking back. I've walked through the little peace garden at Central Park, across from his apartment building. It's pretty, but really, you just stand there and try to wish something into tangibility that can never truly be.