Johnny Clegg & Savuka – Dela (I Know Why the Dog Howls at the Moon)
from Cruel, Crazy Beautiful World (1989)
My memories are hazy and uneventful.
December 8, 1980 was a Monday and a lot of folks had the sad news broken to them on Monday Night Football, but I had gone to bed at halftime and missed Howard Cosell’s announcement.
The next morning, I might have heard the news on Good Morning America . The television was undoubtedly tuned to the show as everyone scrambled about preparing for the day.
But, I don’t recall hearing the news of John Lennon’s death from David Hartman or Joan Lunden as I ate a bowl of Cheerios. It might have been because my usual routine that morning was altered with a dental appointment.
I learned of the death of one of the most iconic figures of the 20th Century from the radio station playing in the dentist’s office as I got my teeth cleaned.
I was thirteen and my interest in music was casual. Of course, I knew the music of The Beatles.
(is there anywhere in the world – where there is electricity – where their music isn’t known?)
But, I have to confess, the news had little effect on me.
I was a passive witness not an active participant.
As the years passed and music became a more important part of my life, as I learned the lore of bands and artists that had ruled the world, John Lennon’s death took on more significance.
On December 8, 1990, I was finishing the final classes that semester for a misconceived degree and the world was headed toward the first Gulf War.
MTV had added the video for an updated version of Lennon’s Give Peace A Chance performed by The Peace Choir, which brought together Yoko, Sean Lennon and an array of artists including Peter Gabriel, Iggy Pop, Cyndi Lauper, Little Richard, Randy Newman, Tom Petty, Duff from Guns ‘N Roses, Wendy & Lisa, LL Cool J, Michael McDonald, Bonnie Raitt, Lou Reed, and numerous others.
That night, walking home from the record store where I worked, I switched my Walkman from the cassette to which I was listening and channel surfed radio stations. The brightness of the moon illuminated the landscape as it poked through fluffy clouds in the night sky.
It was one of those skies that, in the Midwest, you recognize as heavy with snow.
On the radio, the DJ – like DJs all over the world – was noting the passing of a decade since John Lennon’s death and playing songs of the late Beatle.
I trudged back to my apartment and was greeted by my dog. Those minutes after returning home from work or class (or both) often redeemed the day.
Part German shepherd, part Golden Retriever, Coke – a nickname not affiliated with the drink or narcotic – loved water and, even more so, he loved snow.
I walked around the apartment grounds with him that night, probably pondering the idea of ordering a pizza, watching some college hoops, and becoming one with the couch.
Then, both of us looked up as, suddenly, massive flakes – the size of baby birds – began to flutter from the sky.
Coke spent the next hour or more diving into the rapidly accumulating blanket of snow and trying to dodge and/or catch the snow balls I lobbed in his direction
Once inside, it was nearly midnight, I was too drowsy from being out in the crisp air to do much more then throw on some sweats and a baggy sweater that was a size too big. I lit some candles, put on some Beatles, and Coke and I stretched out on the couch and listened as the snow continued to fall.
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band – Give Peace A Chance
from The John Lennon Collection (1982)
The Peace Choir – Give Peace A Chance
from Give Peace A Chance single (1990)
Five years later, though, I opted out of Jaws 3 – no Roy Scheider, no dice – and I somehow avoided seeing it until 1989. I watched it sitting at a small bar, poolside, on an island off the coast of Thailand.
I sat there and watched it as I wrote a letter.
It wasn’t dreadful, rather, it was just there, taking up space on the television.
Taking up space here is what we started here – the third and final installment of our running diary of a recent viewing of the original Jaws.
Brody, Hooper and Quint have hit the high seas and they’ve come across the shark for the first time.
1:28:05 Quint and Hooper drink to each other’s seafaring (and non-seafaring) injuries. All Brody has to hang his hat on is an appendectomy scar, so he doesn’t get to drink. Of course, as he has been drinking for the entire movie, his blood-alcohol level is still higher than that of John Bonham at the drummer’s death.
1:29:12 Quint tells his tale of the USS Indianapolis. Though Robert Shaw was an acclaimed actor and accomplished writer, I don’t necessarily recall seeing him in any other role than Quint. At this point, having seen Jaws so many times, he is Quint to me.
Although I am capable of reciting it almost at will, Quint’s tale of the USS Indianapolis’ sinking hooks me the moment he recounts how a “Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into her side” and I remain riveted until he concludes – “Anyway, we delivered the bomb.”
Shaw’s performance in this scene is simply riveting and the man supposedly knocked it out in one take.
1:38:26 Quint has officially gone Ahab, battering the radio to bits as Brody tries to call for help.
1:43:32 Quint is giddy as a schoolgirl at the idea of having the shark stuffed and mounted for his den.
1:52:16 Hooper descends in the shark cage – something I would have been unwilling to do for all the lithium in Afghanistan.
1:55:06 Hooper magically transforms himself into a “little person” as the shark destroys the cage.
(an actual little person was used to make the shark appear bigger)
And speaking of little people, why does The Learning Channel have so many reality shows featuring little people? Little People, Big World…The Little Couple…Our Little Life…
The unemployment rate in the US is better than nine percent, but thanks to the efforts of the imaginative minds at TLC, it’s less than two percent for little people and falling.
1:57:16 And Quint is going…going…gone. For years, the scene of Quint’s demise was brief, but, eventually, on one of the anniversary versions of the DVD, there was additional footage. I remember the first time I saw it and how surprised I was at the carnage – a good thirty seconds of Quint thrashing about in the mouth of the shark.
1:58:05 And now there’s just Brody, fending off the shark as the Orca goes down. I imagine that the crime in New York City – which he lamented upon meeting Hooper – probably looks good about now.
2:01:12 Hooper resurfaces, normal-sized and he and Brody share a laugh before beginning the swim back to shore.
One thing that has always made me wonder…you’ve just blown up a massive shark, spewing thousands of pounds of shark meat, blood, and other miscellaneous viscera into the ocean. Isn’t this going to attract every predator within several nautical miles?
Well, that’s a wrap and I now can move on to examining the unexamined minutea that has piled up in my head over the past week.
I wasn’t listening to much music at the time, but had I been listening thirty-five years ago – when Jaws had just arrived in theaters – here are four songs that were on the charts during this week in 1975…
Elton John – Someone Saved My Life Tonight
from Greatest Hits, Volume II (1977)
There were two acts that I can think of who, in 1975, were such radio juggernauts that even a seven-year old such as myself was well acquainted. One was The Carpenters; the other was Elton John.
If I were to rank my favorite Elton John singles, I suspect that the lovely Someone Saved My Life Tonight would be in the top ten – everything about the song works for me (even if it does remind of a half-witted co-worker I once had who insisted that the name of the song was Sugar Bear).
Glen Campbell – Rhinestone Cowboy
from Have A Nice Decade: The ’70s Pop Culture Box (1998)
I do remember Glen Campbell as a kid, not so much for his music but because he always seemed to be a guest on whatever afternoon talk show – Dinah Shore, Mike Douglas – that my mom would be watching.
And, I do remember Rhinestone Cowboy during its time on the charts as my brother had the 45 and played it constantly.
Maybe ten years ago, I was sitting in a bar, having a few drinks with friends when a melody caught my ear over the din of the crowd. It was a dance mix of Rhinestone Cowboy and – and I’m not usually a fan of such mixes – but it worked spectacularly.
Aerosmith – Sweet Emotion
from Armageddon soundtrack (1998)
I’ve never been an Aerosmith devotee. Possibly because their ’70s heydey was over by the time I was getting into music and their late ’80s comeback came as I had discovered college rock.
That said, there is a clutch of their songs which I do think are rather stellar, Sweet Emotion being one of them.
Janis Ian – At Seventeen
from Between The Lines (1975)
I had no frame of reference for the plight of the protagonist in At Seventeen in 1975.
(again, I was seven)
But, I did understand that things weren’t going well for her.
As for Janis Ian, I used to see her on occasion at a coffee shop where I’d stop and, though I never spoke to her, it appeared that things were much better for her than they had been at seventeen.