Above: John Lennon if he had lived to be an old man
(PAM DAVIES/QMI AGENCY ILLUSTRATION)
Lennon: What could have been
By DARRYL STERDAN
December 4, 2010
magine it never happened.
It isn't hard to do. There are countless ways that the tragic events of Dec. 8, 1980 might have been altered or even erased. A misstep, a more vigilant doorman, a last-second change of heart; take your pick. It doesn't matter. Any one could have produced the same result: John Lennon might not have been gunned down outside his Dakota apartment in New York City.
What he would have done with his life, no one knows. But everyone wonders. Would he still be making music? Would The Beatles have reunited? Would he have Bieber fever? We sifted 30 years of headlines and Beatle history, did a little crystal-balling -- and based on Lennon's own words and deeds, we came up with a few possibilities.
Lennon and Yoko Ono release the Double Fantasy followup Milk and Honey and go on tour -- his first gigs since hopping onstage with Elton John in 1975. "I was quite astonished that the crowd was so nice to me," he says. He is also overjoyed that Yoko's avant-garde sounds are finally tolerated. "This time they're ready for us!" Lennon plays Saturday Night Live, where producer Lorne Michaels presents him with a cheque for $750 -- his share of the $3,000 he offered The Beatles to reunite on the show back in the '70s.
Still on a creative roll -- and in keeping with the pace of his '70s output -- Lennon releases his fourth album in as many years. In November, he declines an invite to join other British stars on Bob Geldof's Band-Aid charity single "Do They Know it's Christmas?" The following summer, he sits out Live Aid too. "It's all a ripoff," he says of benefit shows. "So forget about it."
The Beatles are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Unlike McCartney, who boycotts because of outstanding business issues, Lennon shows up, makes a droll speech and jams with George Harrison and Ringo Starr, living up to Yoko's description of him as "full of music and love and a sense of fun."
Despite his reluctance, Lennon agrees to meet secretly with other Beatles to try to record new material for their upcoming Anthology. The still-distant members bury the hatchet long enough to complete two songs -- one by McCartney and one by Lennon -- but refuse to tour. "Do we have to divide the fish and the loaves for the multitudes again?" Lennon says. "Do we have to get crucified again? Do we have to do the walking on water again because a whole pile of dummies didn't see it the first time or didn't believe it when they saw it?" If fans want second-rate Beatles, he says, they should check out a new British outfit called Oasis.
Lennon, Ono, son Sean and his band Ima release an album and tour as a family. Influenced by Sean, Lennon begins listening to -- and working with -- indie bands such as Sonic Youth and Cibo Matto.
McCartney is knighted. Lennon declines the offer, protesting PM John Major's polices and the fact that "Cold Turkey" still hasn't re-entered British charts.
Linda McCartney dies of cancer. Lennon attends her memorial with Starr and Harrison, who informs the others he had a cancerous growth removed from his neck. Later, the four meet and decide life is too short for grudges. Just for fun, they jam.
The Beatles briefly and informally reunite at A Concert for Linda at Royal Albert Hall when the other three join Paul onstage to bash out some old numbers. After, they go their separate ways again.
In the aftermath of 9/11, Lennon -- now a true-blue New Yorker -- takes part in the charity concert America: A Tribute to Heroes, performing "Give Peace a Chance." Two months later George Harrison dies, marking the official end of The Beatles. A year later, the three survivors take part in A Concert for George, held at Royal Albert Hall on the anniversary of his death.
Lennon plays Madison Square Garden on his 65th birthday, hosting an all-star guest list that includes McCartney and Starr. Elton John shows up to sing "Whatever Gets You Through the Night" and "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" as they did 30 years earlier.
Ringo announces on his website that he doesn't want any more fan mail. Lennon announces he would like all his fan mail sent to Ringo.
Lennon and Ono celebrate their 40th anniversary by making a new CD. They pose nude on the cover a la Two Virgins. Walmart refuses to stock it until Lennon agrees to add tiny fig leaves.
With Rock Band, their remastered CD boxes and their arrival on iTunes, The Beatles embrace the digital age. Once again rejecting massive offers for a reunion tour, Lennon quietly turns 70, teaming up with Sean and Yoko to reform Plastic Ono Band and Elephant's Memory for a one-off concert. On eBay, an autographed but badly damaged copy of Double Fantasy found on the street in 1980 sits unsold.