"Imagine" This: What If John Lennon Were Still With Us?

Today marks what would have been John Lennon's 69th birthday. Just let that sink in for a moment. He was only 40 when he passed away, but in those four decades he did enough to change the world and its inhabitants for pretty much the rest of natural human history - not just in music but also in forward progressive thinking.

Rocks Off mourns Lennon anytime he hears a Beatles song on the radio or whenever he throws John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band on his turntable. There's really no way to adequately express how much Lennon means to the rock world and to mankind in general. No one else has been able to bring people together the way he has. Michael Jackson, maybe, but Jackson will never hold as much weight as Lennon holds to this day.

We often wonder what would have happened had Mark David Chapman not came to New York City to assassinate Lennon on the front steps of his Upper West Side apartment building in Manhattan. It's heartbreaking to imagine how many things the man probably had up his sleeve for the world to enjoy and reflect on.

Lennon's late-life solo resurgence was due in part to his sailing trip to Bermuda where he was reinvigorated by things like Bob Marley & The Wailers Burnin' album and new singles by the B-52's and Blondie. He was also said to be interested in punk rock, but found himself confused by it more than anything. Who knows what he would have done with all those new influences in his back pocket after the release of Double Fantasy?

Maybe Lennon would have gotten into the nascent No Wave scene in New York, which was steeped in noises and skronk. Those two things played a part in him and Yoko's early works together. Bands like Sonic Youth could have enjoyed Lennon at the helm of a few albums, or even touring with them. As much a pop heart that he had, Lennon always had one foot in the avant-garde.

On the opposite end of the spectrum Lennon could have gone full-on '80s cornball pop like Paul McCartney or the Kinks. Some cheesy MTV video made with green screens and Cars-style graphics? That's an even scarier thought than Lennon matching wits with the likes of Thurston Moore or James Chance.

We most assuredly would have seen a Beatles reunion of some sort, possibly by the late '80s to coincide with the band's 30th anniversary. Maybe they would have reconvened for some big stadium tour with the boys playing all the old hits, selling out massive spaces in the blink of an eye. New music may have forever tarnished the group's legacy, with the tinny production of the era laying waste to McCartney/Lennon works.

It's gross just imagining anyone but Sir George Martin twiddling their knobs, because no doubt ELO's Jeff Lynne would have sidled up somewhere along the way. For that matter who would have the balls to open for the Beatles? Our guess is that it would have to be Bob Dylan or the Stones, natch.

Lennon's personal life is also in question; as we can only hope that he and Yoko Ono would have divorced or separated. Not because we don't dig on Yoko or anything, but Lennon as a dirty old man stalking around the Viper Room bathroom with Kate Moss or taking ecstasy at a Chemical Brothers show is way better than aging as an old married man. Yoko would have never been June Carter to his Johnny Cash.

They would have grown dowdy together, and he wouldn't have been the lit firecracker he was in his early years. Hell, the dude could have closed out ACL or Coachella this year or maybe made us shit our pants seeing him at a bar on Sixth Street during SXSW. That's not even accounting for how awesome an album with his son Sean (right) would have sounded.

Hopefully the U.S. government would have exonerated him. The FBI was investigating Lennon for most of the '70s, and he fought them with everything he had. Check out the excellent documentary The U.S. vs. John Lennon for the story of how President Nixon saw him as a threat to national security, it's pretty amazing stuff.

Those are all things to think about today as we celebrate the man's life. The only thing Rocks Off is sure of is that he would have done things his own damn way, just like the previous 40 years of his life. So tonight be sure to crank up your favorite Beatles or Lennon track and ask the bartender to make you a Brandy Alexander, which was his favorite poison.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Craig Hlavaty
Contact: Craig Hlavaty