John Lennon would have turned 80 in October. As a huge fan, I looked forward to devouring another ‘previously unseen’ series of footage to celebrate his achievement, as we reached the stage where he has been dead for as long as he graced life. Flicking through the television schedules however there was nowt, nada, barely a chipolata, as I googled the date of his birth to confirm that I was not mistaken.

So where was the celebration? The blanket media coverage? The rerun of the Beatles anthology? The films, documentaries and talking heads giving us the inside track of a life crammed full of creativity, vigour and controversy? As far as I could see, besides a rerun of Above Us Only Sky and an interview on YouTube between his son, Sean, and Paul McCartney, there was nothing with which to reminisce, educate the kids and engage us into lauding the life and untimely death of a legend.

We choose to collectively ignore arguably the world’s greatest, most prolific, controversial and enigmatic individual, whose back catalogue has not only survived, but been enhanced with the turning of time, as he cements his place in the annals of popular and musical culture with deity-like status.

I am at a loss as to why the programmers could not have made at least a token effort, in a Covid-soiled world where new televisual content is scant, and repeats the go to, as they attempt to justify the licence fee and the charging of premium rate advertising. This was a man who furnished a thousand lives in one: from a dysfunctional childhood, through performing on the back of a truck at a fete and meeting Macca. He rocked a mop top and elicited adulation where he was the first of his generation to endure levels of fame and fevered worship that have not been seen since, as he stuck his neck out and spoke about issues he believed in, long before it became fashionable in the pursuit of Twitter likes or rampant virtue signalling.

Through Sgt Pepper, Abbey Road, the White Album, bed peace and war is over demos, Yoko and Imagine before he was slain by six bullets fired by a man who was so desperate to be John, he slaughtered him through the fog of paranoid schizophrenia believing that in his absence, he would take his place.

You think of the footage, the fresh-faced young idealist with a cheeky turn of phrase as he encouraged the rich to rattle their jewellery in appreciation of his band's onstage efforts, his meetings with Elvis, smoking dope in the Queen's toilet, the affairs, the arrogance, white pianos and inviting a Vietnam veteran into his home for a meal with the summation being that, with the disappearance forever of any semblance of anonymity, he remained pretty darned level-headed, headstrong and prolific up until his dying breath on a New York sidewalk.

His was a story that, if it weren’t true, could have been written as a Hollywood blockbuster, with the only real comparison being the fantastical tales depicted in Forrest Gump as music, love, death, anger, frustration, humour and infidelity all presented themselves toward making his story one of fascination, not of pity.

It was an open goal for the purveyors of entertainment from Sky to the Beeb and bar a single solitary rerun of the documentary mentioned earlier, fans like me were left to enjoy a rekindling of his genius by dusting down Shaved Fish and Let It Be and blasting out tunes that remain as fresh and relevant today as they ever did half a century ago. The only difference is the format as we relish his offerings through cyberspace with the same vigour our predecessors enjoyed as they put the needle to the vinyl for the first time all those years ago.

We have few heroes in the modern era who come within a country mile of the longevity, engagement of character, flaws, foibles and talent of Lennon, so I am at a loss as to why he was not only overlooked, but blatantly snubbed, by those who would rather drip feed us an diet of inane celebrity bile involving virtual reality ‘stars’ most of us have less than zero interest in.

No, we should as a nation be uber proud of men like Lennon. They are a vintage that we will sadly never see again yet, instead of celebrating them, we choose to ignore them when we should be protecting their indelible mark on, not only British, but global culture. So again I ask why the snub, as I sit and listen to Lennon, who questioned the penchant for the inane a full 49 years ago: I've had enough of watching scenes with schizophrenic, egocentric, paranoiac, prima-donnas. All I want is the truth. Just give me some truth.

  • Brett Ellis is a teacher