Remembering the day John Lennon died – by John Robb

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John Robb was a teenage punk rocker who was about to make his first record with his band the membranes the day that John Lennon died. It was a moment in time that stayed with him all his life…

The day John Lennon got shot is freeze frozen in time.

I was at Stafford Poly a bored, restless, black clad rebel punk rocker on the helter skelter of fierce creativity and mindless chemical stupidity. I had been gluing sleeves for my first DIY release for the Membranes and killing time in the middle of nowhere.

In those days they still had ”œPolys’ or Polytechnics which were like reserve universities, where the lazy, useless and bored went to instead of ”œUni’.

We trolled about in a concrete dump, took drugs and formed bands. I was immersed in punk and post punk but also never lost my love of the Beatles.

We had been waiting for John Lennon to come and join us in punk and post punk, pick up his guitar and join the revolution; surely he had the imagination and the righteous anger and angst to connect with what was going on?

But there had been a five-year silence.

He had been retired into real estate and New York City. He was not listening to John Peel! No-one can blame him. He had done his bit. The Beatles had been an amazingly intense burst of creativity and genius that would burn anyone out.  After that there had been a sporadic solo career that had some great moments mixed with ok moments.

John Lennon still towered over the seventies but he was like a ghost. It felt like he was missing in action. He owned the sixties and seemed lost in the following decade. His music was still emotional, searing and souls searching bit it felt of sync. I love ”œSometimes In New York City’, I love parts of ”ËœImagine’- I mean ”Gimme Some Truth’- what a great song, classic Lennon getting to the heart of the matter and telling the truth in song. But there was gaps. It seemed like he was floundering and you sensed that he felt that as well.

And then silence.

Despite that even deep into punk we had waited for some kind of word.

Early in 1980 there had been rumours of a new Lennon album. There was some sort of hope that he could make the connection, bridge the gap. Which John Lennon would come back we wondered? The peacenik? The long hair? The acerbic, nasty Lennon?  Or a new Lennon imbued with the spirit of the times. A Lennon like the one on the sixties who just seemed to know where it was at, to be hip, to be the lightening rod for everything that was going on from great rock n roll, to peace to LSD to mysticism to long hair to ground breaking music. The Lennon who effortlessly managed to be the heartbeat of his generation.

”Starting Over’ came out in November 1980 and there was this feeling of being under whelmed. Where was the rock n roll? We clutched at straws. It was an ok doo wop flavoured, melodic pop record and there was that WEIRD BIT at the end when the voices went backwards. The weird bit had has momentarily intrigued. Maybe John had not lost his mojo and there was more of this to follow.

Then the ”œDouble Fantasy’ album came out and it was not for us. It seemed to do quite well. People were curious but no-one was thrilled. But at least it was John Lennon.

I don’t know why we were expecting this connection. Of course we were naive teenagers. What did we know? Why would Lennon connect with an alien generation? He was breaking rules again. He was expected to be rock n roll and had made a middle aged contented record. That was where he was at. He was being as honest as ever. He was no longer the iconoclastic rebel. Punk meant nothing to him in his big houses and estates. He had made an album about love and we had never felt love yet. We were more interested in freak music and jumping off roofs and smashing things up than stuff like love.

The album sounds ok these days, the songs still show that Lennon was still a great songwriter but had moved on to another space.

I listened to the record a couple of times and felt nothing and returned to my 1980 diet of Cramps, Stranglers, The Fall, Adam Ant, Southern Death Cult, Gang Of Four, Fire Engines, the Clash, Crass, John Peel and a million others.

I still loved the Beatles and I still respected Lennon.

We were just in different places.

A lot of us grew up in the shadow of the Beatles. They were invigorating and frustrating. Invigorating because they offered hope and frustrating because they didn’t really belong to us. We were the generation that came after and all we were left with was the patchy solo careers that lurched from the genius of George’s ”All Things Must Pass’ the proto punk rawness and honesty of John’s ”Plastic Ono Band’ and parts of Paul’s ”Band On the Run’ as well as those great heart warming Ringo singles like ”œPhotograph’.

There was also a lot of stuff that was disappointing. Just ok.

Lacking that electric shock of excitement that the sixties Beatles had then and still have now when you play their music. Music made by the right band at the right time dominating and changing the world.

It seemed amazing how the Beatles fitted so perfectly into their decade. If you want to know about the sixties know about the Beatles. The band’s career is a history lesson in a tumultuous decade. They are all you need to know. Time magazine called Lennon the man of the sixties and they were right. He captured the confusion, idealism and the sheer thrill of the new more than anyone else. He was also contradictory- a peacenik with a violent soul- there are a thousand different John Lennons fractured over a whole decade of genius song writing.

In the seventies Lennon still made emotive music, ”ËœInstant Karma’ is one of his best songs, and the ”œPlastic Ono Band’ album is about as searing and honest as you are going to get as he announced that the dream is over in stripped down, naked music.

By the seventies, Glam rock was where it was at and we had out own pop stars- Bowie and Bolan ruled the roost and the Beatles were already nostalgia five years after they split. They still sold millions of records but didn’t seem relevant. Most people of my age had no interest in them but I loved their records. They seemed so fresh vibrant and up- pure rock n roll with all its attached options of hope and raw power. Their early songs thrill with their speed of creativity- capturing those moments when everyone felt a powerful urge to, well, grow their hair!

They were the sound of freedom as my friends in Russia now tell me. Pointing out that the Beatles were the point where Russia started to change.

Their later records show an amazing ability to move styles around, the ”œWhite Album’  remains my favourite Beatles record with is breath-taking diversity and ”Abbey Road’ was a great place to end. They didn’t carry on into the seventies as a band- a lank haired be-denimed shadow of their former selves ruining their perfect record. Their greatest decision was to stop in 1970- a perfect end- leaving a perfect looking corpse. The Beatles always had great timing.

But we still hoped.

The night John Lennon got shot we had been running around town. Trying to find something to do in the middle of nowhere. Dreaming of escape.

There was no Internet, no mobile phones at the time. Communication was slow. So it was very early the next morning that someone heard the news on the radio and the story raced around the mini campus. Lennon has been shot they said.

It was a shock but we knew he would get better. Maybe it was a mugging that had gone wrong. Maybe it was only a flesh wound.

The next half an hour the story solidified and I remember how numb I felt in that weird way that celebrity impinges on your life. But this was more than celebrity. This was someone who had actually touched lives. This was not modern celebrity where hanging around in front of a camera is all that is required. This was someone who had written genius songs and also had run headlong into all the possibilities of life and turned people onto stuff.

This was not X factor.

This was someone who had opened up that space of possibility that we had all stepped into.

All day we talked of Lennon and the Beatles and felt sad that some pointless weirdo had murdered a defenceless man who didn’t even have a bodyguard. I couldn’t listen to the Beatles for a long time after that. They had always sounded so life affirming and now they were tinged with death. It was like trying to listen to the Clash after Joe Strummer was stolen from us. It takes time for the music to get its original meaning back.

But it does.

Lennon’s death is still shocking. Shocking in its wretched pointlessness and shocking selfishness of the murderer. His new album was not for us but his interviews had been great and there still a hint of something to come. Even the contented middle aged Lennon still spoke a great truth and when you listen to tapes of interviews in the last weeks of his life his voice sounds as emotive as ever. And maybe it’s there that the Lennon that we loved still can be heard.

I still feel numb when I think of his pointless death.

Something was stolen from everyone in rock n roll that day and it still sounds naive but it was hope.

Previous articleGodspeed You! Black Emperor live review – by John Robb
Next article‘We All Shine On’ – John Lennon
Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. I think Lennon mentions liking Madness and the Clash in one of his final interviews. I think he’d have loved most of the new wave.

  2. John, how appropriate you should name your new site “louder than war” that was always Lennon’s message to the world “we must all be louder than war”

  3. The best musician/song writer ever to have been born. His words are immortal and I,like many other people,feel cheated having lost him to a crazy idiot who should have been sent to the electric chair. His music will live forever.He was way in front of everyone in the music game and is missed by many.

  4. […] The day John Lennon died…John Robb remembers | Louder Than War In those days they still had 'Polys' or Polytechnics which were like reserve universities, where the lazy, useless and bored went to instead of 'Uni'. We trolled about in a concrete dump, took drugs and formed bands. We were more interested in freak music and jumping off roofs and smashing things up than stuff like love. The album sounds ok these days, the songs still show that Lennon was still a great songwriter but had moved on to another space. […]

  5. Fantastic article as always, I am seriously considering something along the lines of an affiliate section on my own site… so very timely post.

  6. Ace piece John. Watching the recent TV documentary about John and Yoko’s ‘Bed In’ brought it home to me that by that point Lennon’s influence as a person who the World listened to was more powerful than any of the music he ever created. He would have gone on to make the world better. There’ll never be another like him. xxx

  7. […] in the sixties which was occassionally halted as Ian Johnston documents in this brilliant piece. John Lennon stated that Elvis died when he joined the US Army, but it was Hollywood that really finished off […]

  8. Great piece, heartfelt and takes me right back to the December morning my mother woke me up with a radio in her hand and the news that would mark time in the soundtrack to my life. The Jam were playing the Bristol Locarno the next day and a bunch of us went down early as Weller would let the fans in for the soundchecks (we didn’t have a ticket for the show). They ripped through a short set taken from Sound Affects and Weller said something about Lennon and the whole thing being a fucken drag –

  9. Lennon was shot just a month after Ali was beaten so badly by Holmes that it excaserbated his decline into parkinsons. I always think of these two events as marking the end of the 60’s dream, two great 60’s icons silenced.
    On the other hand, I do wonder what happened to John Lennon, a great wit and creative force of the mid 60’s, reduced to sitting in a bag and talking shit by the late 60’s, and then years of hermitage. Don’t do drugs, kids!

  10. […] Al Hillier takes a look back at a day that shook the world and explores a strange connection with Lennon and Yoko Ono; North London\’s Halligan band centre and the notorious 1960\’s \’Black […]

  11. I saw the Bootleg Beatles last night in mcr. Young and old singing and dancing along. Everyone on their feet.I got a bit drawn in and thought,’Wow,John and George are both not with us anymore,but this is going to go on and on.’

  12. […] 2 blog   Now this is a moment.   31 years daytime day that we were pointlessly robbed of John Lennon rock n roll raised its battered standard yet again.   There’s a voodoo in the room. A […]

  13. […] my mate Big Kev’s) insatiable appetite for all things Rammstein, we found ourselves back at John Lennon, on the same Easyjet flight and at the same hotel. This time it was outdoors and at the Parkbuhne […]

  14. […] because it has to be experienced. You can only really show somebody what it’s like. As John Lennon said, you can’t explain the taste of raspberry jam, you just have to eat it. I think that […]

  15. Definitely believe that which you stated. Your favourite justification appeared to be at the net the simplest thing to have in mind of. I say to you, I certainly get annoyed at the same time as folks consider concerns that they plainly don’t recognise about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and also outlined out the entire thing without having side effect , other folks could take a signal. Will likely be again to get more. Thank you

  16. Nice piece! That “WEIRD BIT at the end when the voices went backwards” is actually Yoko speaking into a magaphone. And it’s not backwards, just low in the mix. ;)

  17. I was working as a chef at The Imperial Hotel, Blackpool at the time was living in an attic room at the hotel. The night had been uneventful, after work I had retired to Dickson Bar for a couple of pints and then up to bed. I played Double Fantasy again, I couldn’t quite work out if I liked it or loved it. I certainly “got it”, I knew exactly what both John and Yoko were saying and the message felt good. I fell asleep listening to the album and awoke just before 4 am. The album was still wirling round on the record player so I got out of bed to turn it off, got a glass of water and put the radio on. I was surprised to be greeted by a Lennon song – Imagine. I smiled to myself and thought I’d just hear this out before turning it off and going back to sleep – just as the song finished and miliseconds before I was going to switch it off I heard the fateful news of Lennons shooting in New York. I couldn’t believe my ears and searched through the radio stations trying to get a little more info, slowly the news filtered through that he had been pronounced dead! To say I was devastated would be an understatement. I had been lucky and not had to suffer the death of any close friends or family and although I had never actually met him, I regarded John Lennon as a close personal friend. His songs had helped me through my teenage years and I was heartbroken that I would never get to actually meet him. I stayed up listening to radio reports and the next morning at work was a blur. In fact it took me several weeks to come to terms with his senseless death and to be honest I still have not found any sense in it. When Lennon died, a little bit of me died too. Fortunately John Lennon left behind some great work which continue to shape and influence people for generations to come. RIP John

  18. Nice article John. I’m probably one of the few people on Louder than War old enough to have seen the Beatles live which was one the early gigs I went to (the first was Bert Weedon!) . I was in NY the weekend before Lennon was shot and listening to the BBC world service in the early hours driving back up to Bradford heard the news. I had to stop at the services I couldn’t drive any further. I know he might have gone off the rails a little whilst living in NY but think what he might be creating now. Look at Yoko and what she has produced recently-superb stuff. It doesn’t matter how old you are or what music you produce as long as you do it with passion, attitude and bollocks then people will get it.

  19. I was 6 when Lennon was murdered – I knew of him through my mum who would always be playing the Beatles and their solo stuff. She cried all day on the day he was shot, and over the next few days would just burst into tears! I don’t think that there has been, or ever will be, another musician that has had/will have that emotional effect on people. I never really dug Double Fantasy until Yoko did the ‘stripped down’ rework of it – without all the bullshit over-production and flabby electronic stuff on it, it really is a fantastic album. Lennon, still missed and as crucial an artist now as he ever was.

  20. John Lennon was owned by Mason Epstein. Promoted by Mason Ed Sullivan. The Beatles songs were written by the Tavistock Institute to introduce occult thinking to the Gullibles and after Lennon had done his duty in promoting the One World idea, ( in the lyrics of Imagine), they had him shot.
    I’m completely baffled as to why John Robb doesn’t know this.

  21. The Beatles — Illuminati Mind Controllers

    August 5, 2012
    Picture 245.png

    (The original cover of the 1966 “Yesterday and Today” album: Beatles got a good laugh from abortion.)

    The Beatles were an Illuminati creation.
    Their songs were written for them and
    handlers scripted their actions and words.
    They demonstrate that popular culture is really mind control.

    By David Richards

    In his book, The Committee of 300, former MI6 officer John Coleman reveals the Beatles were a psychological operation run by the Tavistock Institute for Human Relations.

    The Beatles were created to advance the formation of a corrupted Brave New World-style slave populace. This agenda kicked in big time during the 60s, with rock groups acting as social agitators.

    Free love, drugs and rock music were promoted. To replace Christianity, the Illuminati introduced the New Age Movement: spiritual doctrines that do not require the individual to follow the Moral Law. (See this interview with John Coleman.)

    The Beatles were presented as anti-establishment but received endless mainstream media attention. In 1965, they received MBEs (Members of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) from the Queen.

    Picture 244.pngOCCULT REFERENCES

    The occult references in the Beatles work prove they were Illuminati puppets.

    A promotional photograph for the Yellow Submarine album shows John Lennon flashing the devil horns. Paul McCartney makes a ‘666’/EYE OF HORUS hand sign.

    The front cover of the With The Beatles album shows their faces half in shadow. This is the ‘One Eye of Horus’ that is epidemic in the music industry today. The black/ white duality is the Masonic doctrine to balance good and evil.

    A Beatles compilation was released in 1988 titled ‘Past Masters’. Past Master is a Masonic term used to describe the former Worshipful Master of a Masonic Lodge. The album contains exactly 33 songs!

    In the film, ‘The Magical Mystery Tour,’ the Beatles use a magic wand to cast spells on unsuspecting members of the public. Magic wands are made from holly trees (hence Holly-wood) and are the instrument of the occult magician who has his audience (the populace) in a trance. The film features several Masonic handshakes.

    The songs also feature occult lyrics. The song ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ refers to Lucifer in the sky with “diamonds” (aka “stars”, the Dogstar Sirius representing Lucifer).

    yoko-ono-lennon-warhol.jpg(left. rare photo of John, Yoko & Andy Warhol having a gay time)

    The track ‘Across The Universe’ is about demon possession. John Lennon sings ‘gai guru deva’ (all hail to the devas). In Theosophy, a deva is a spiritual entity, i.e. demon, which exists behind the scenes manipulating and directing human behavior. Luciferians believe they are possessed by these entities when they rape, torture and kill innocent victims.

    Four working class young men could not have written these songs! The Beatles were originally a hack rock ‘n’ roll cover band playing in the red light district in Hamburg. We are supposed to believe that only a few years later they composed songs with deep occult meanings!


    The Beatles behavior was scripted by handlers who knew the agenda behind the group.

    The drug agenda was pushed in the infamous interview Paul McCartney gave with the BBC in 1966, when he ‘admitted’ to taking acid four times.

    The interview was intended to cause controversy, which it did, and encourage young people to try LSD. If the BBC were really against drug use, they wouldn’t have broadcast the interview to millions of people.

    Once we realize that the Beatles were supposed to turn young people against Christianity, their anti-Christian sound bites look scripted.

    In 1963 Paul said, “Christianity doesn’t fit in with my life.” In 1966 John was more forthcoming, telling Newsweek, “Christianity will go, it will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that. I’m right and will be proved right.”

    In the 60s, the big record labels had total control over artists. Do we believe the Beatles could have spouted anti-Christian sentiment in opposition to their label EMI?

    Their photo shoots were also clearly designed by Illuminati handlers.

    A shocking example is the alternate cover to the ‘Yesterday/ Today’ album that pictures the Beatles covered in the body parts of dead babies. This was a sick laugh at abortion, the inevitable result of the free love agenda the Beatles were promoting.

    pepper.jpegThe front cover of the Sgt. Pepper album features the Beatles ‘heroes.’ They include a whole host of Illuminati stooges: Aldous Huxley, Karl Marx, Aleister Crowley, Mahatma Ghandi, HG Wells and George Bernard Shaw among others. Tellingly, it includes cutouts of the Beatles from their early days. Is this an admission that they also served the Illuminati?


    I bought all the Beatles albums when I was a teenager. I loved the music but felt something was wrong. The songs were melodically perfect but lacked emotional resonance. Now I know why: the group was an Illuminati creation.

    After learning this information about the band, I listened to the music again. Now that I can hear the malevolent agenda behind the songs; they’re ruined for me.

    The Beatles made the West more degraded, divided and weak.

    Journalist David Noebel summarized it well in 1982, when he judged the impact John Lennon had on music.

    “The present rock ‘n’ roll scene is one giant, multi-media portrait of degradation-a sleazy world of immorality, venereal disease, anarchy, nihilism, cocaine, heroin, marijuana, death, Satanism, perversion and orgies.”

    In the style of true Satanists, the Beatles sold this sickness as “Love,” a reminder that the world is controlled by a satanic cult, the Illuminati, that hates God, and hates you and I. – See more at: httpss://

    • Great points from Anotherpoint of view… The Beatles were secret agents of the Illuminati but anyone with a skilled eye for these things can see that despite being totally secret they allowed lots of clues of wot they were up to out to the public. In a deliberate campaign to replace the whole world’s love of christianity and other and evil religions the Beatles brain washed the worlds youth with songs like Love Me Do. The clues are everywhere- there were 4 members of the band like the 4 horsemen of the apocolypse, Ringo is Latvian for the devil, they had long hair and looked like girls therefore promoting homosexual behaviour, they once did a song called devil in her heart and they stopped far more whlesome entertainers like Cliff Richard from promoting his good clean Christian agenda. Before the Beatles the west was a moral place where people were god fearing and nice and no-one did anyhting bad.

  22. httpss://

    Ps…. Now.. its fine if you want to sit there and believe the Mainstream Media… If life as a Gullible is what you want… enjoy it.
    But if you one day decide to view alternative media, try zero hedge.

  23. I think on 08/12/80 Lennon was very far removed from our youth & his own. In those last photos he looked old & tired. I was a massive fan – Imagine (album) & JL&pOband album still sound great – but his 70’s output was very hit n’ miss & often disappointing. Like Harrison, he had a few songs ‘left over’ from the Beatles – (All things must pass – is a great album) but had little else to say when the dust had settled.


    The various actors who were paid to “be John Lennon” were part of a “cultural debasement” programme organised by CIA. Take the song ” I AM THE WALRUS”..
    High level masonic symbols.

    The start of the song “I am he as you are me and (etc) we are all together”, – this came from a war song sung by the Africaans in the Boer War. It is called “Marching to Pretoria”. as they were escaping. They ended up in Camp Irene where 24ooo women and children were starved to death. .. organised by empire masons.
    “See how they run like pigs from a gun” He’s talking about the Boers, and the entire song is a homage to freemasonry victory.

    So we are supposed to believe that a working class man from Liverpool, is writing a song that celebrates masonry attack on Boers, that is a sick homage to genocide, … (so much for give peace a chance), with deep occult knowledge of Lewis Carroll’s “the Walrus and the Carpenter”
    Did Lennon know all these details?


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