The 30th anniversary of John Lennon's shooting

How the Beatle is being remembered.

Today marks the 30th anniversary of John Lennon's murder. The former Beatles singer-songwriter was shot five times by a fan, Mark Chapman, in front of his New York home on the corner of 72nd Street and Central Park West. Bewildered paramedics rushed him to Roosevelt Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. In September this year, the now 55-year-old Chapman was denied parole for the sixth time.

In contrast to the jubilation that greeted the 70th anniversary of Lennon's birth (which also took place this year), much of this week's coverage has been characterised by a more respectful and reflective tone. Over at the BBC, the journalist John Shone recalls the reaction of Lennon's first wife, Cynthia, and their son, Julian, upon hearing the news of John's death: "Julian . . . was a pupil at Ruthin School. He was asleep in the house, not knowing his father was dead . . . Cynthia turned up in a big limo with dark glasses on. She had a couple of minders with her and was hurried into the house without saying anything. She was in total shock, like everyone was."

This weeks' NME, meanwhile, features an interview with Yoko Ono, who still occupies the apartment where she was living with Lennon when he died: "It is the home John and I created together. Every wall witnessed John."

And on Sunday, I interviewed Keith Elliot Greenberg, author of December 8, 1980: The Day John Lennon Died (Backbeat Books), on Resonance 104.4FM's Hello Goodbye Show. I asked him whether writing a book about Lennon's death risked monumentalising Chapman's act, thereby affirming his perverse quest for fame. We also talked about Lennon's significance to New Yorkers, who view him as part of the local heritage.

In Liverpool, his childhood home, fans will be gathering at a candlelit vigil around Chavasse Park's European peace monument (which was dedicated to Lennon on 9 October); others will be paying homage at the original Strawberry Field. Tomorrow evening, members of John's first band, the Quarrymen, will be appearing at the Echo Arena, bringing to a close the city's two-month-long Lennon season. The banjo player Rod Davis said: "We're playing not to mark his death, but to celebrate his life."

On a related note, here are extracts of an interview that Maurice Hindle conducted with Lennon in 1968, which appeared in last year's Christmas issue of the New Statesman.

Yo Zushi is a contributing writer for the New Statesman. His latest album, It Never Entered My Mind, is out now on Eidola Records and is on Spotify here.

Harry Styles. Photo: Getty
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How podcasts are reviving the excitement of listening to the pop charts

Unbreak My Chart and Song Exploder are two music programmes that provide nostalgia and innovation in equal measure.

“The world as we know it is over. The apo­calypse is nigh, and he is risen.” Although these words came through my headphones over the Easter weekend, they had very little to do with Jesus Christ. Fraser McAlpine, who with Laura Snapes hosts the new pop music podcast Unbreak My Chart, was talking about a very different kind of messiah: Harry Styles, formerly of the boy band One Direction, who has arrived with his debut solo single just in time to save the British charts from becoming an eternal playlist of Ed Sheeran’s back-catalogue.

Unbreak My Chart is based on a somewhat nostalgic premise. It claims to be “the podcast that tapes the Top Ten and then talks about it at school the next day”. For those of us who used to do just that, this show takes us straight back to Sunday afternoons, squatting on the floor with a cassette player, finger hovering over the Record button as that tell-tale jingle teased the announcement of a new number one.

As pop critics, Snapes and McAlpine have plenty of background information and anecdotes to augment their rundown of the week’s chart. If only all playground debates about music had been so well informed. They also move the show beyond a mere list, debating the merits of including figures for music streamed online as well as physical and digital sales in the chart (this innovation is partly responsible for what they call “the Sheeran singularity” of recent weeks). The hosts also discuss charts from other countries such as Australia and Brazil.

Podcasts are injecting much-needed innovation into music broadcasting. Away from the scheduled airwaves of old-style radio, new formats are emerging. In the US, for instance, Song Exploder, which has just passed its hundredth episode, invites artists to “explode” a single piece of their own music, taking apart the layers of vocal soundtrack, instrumentation and beats to show the creative process behind it all. The calm tones of the show’s host, Hrishikesh Hirway, and its high production values help to make it a very intimate listening experience. For a few minutes, it is possible to believe that the guests – Solange, Norah Jones, U2, Iggy Pop, Carly Rae Jepsen et al – are talking and singing only for you. 

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

This article first appeared in the 20 April 2017 issue of the New Statesman, May's gamble

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