07 December 2009

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Those of you who are Roman Catholic know that the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated every year on the 8th of December, a date which improbably ties together two musical figures: John Lennon and Sinead O'Connor. It's the date that Lennon was murdered in New York City in 1980 and, in 1966, O'Connor chose the same date to enter the world via Dublin, Ireland.

It seems more logical to me to start with the birth.

Sinead Marie-Bernadette O'Connor is famous for a few things: her cover of "Nothing Compares 2 U", her shaved head, and ripping up that picture of Pope John Paul II during her second appearance on Saturday Night Live.

I'm actually surprised that the song is available on YouTube since its author, Prince, is notoriously against any of his work showing up on any websites other than his own. But you can click the link and watch the video. I remember Sinead's Behind the Music special on VH1 from around the year 2000 (some of those episodes used to run so much, I ended up memorizing parts of quite a few of them). I can recall her saying that when shooting the video, her tears started on the line,"All the flowers that you planted, Mama, in the backyard..." because her own mother, whom O'Connor said abused her and her siblings, died in a car accident a few years before.

That abuse that she spoke of indirectly led to the Papal photo incident, as she was trying to make a statement about the Vatican's reluctance to punish any Roman Catholic priests when they were accused of sexual assault on the underage portion of their congregations. (In recent years it has become public knowledge that the Catholic Church would just shuffle an accused priest to a different diocese in order to quiet those types of allegations.) NBC and Lorne Michael will not allow the footage of that particular SNL moment to be shown again; when the episode is replayed, the tape of O'Connor's dress rehearsal is shown instead. I actually watched it live (Tim Robbins was the host). I remember the deathly silence in the audience after O'Connor tore up that picture and then walked offstage. I also remember thinking,"Ooooooh boy. That's gonna be in the paper tomorrow!" And then at the end of the show when everyone stood on stage to say goodnight, there was a definite bubble of space around Sinead, as if standing near her would demonstrate support for what she did. And, on a more personal note, I remember my devoutly Roman Catholic mother stabbing her finger at Sinead's picture in that Monday's paper and asking me,"Did you watch this?!?!" and me replying with a simple,"Yep," and Mom shaking her head in disbelief that such a thing could happen on television. (Full disclosure: I became Catholic at age five which, in my case, was not early enough for the religion to take hold so I was not personally offended by O'Connor's gesture but I understood that a lot of folks were gonna be pissed.)

And finally, regarding the hair, I don't think she really needs it. I mean look at that face; I think she's a beautiful lady.

Here's Sinead with a little help from MC Lyte

I saw a performance of this song on television (it might have been the other song Sinead sang on that imfamous SNL episode but I'm fuzzy on that) and thought it was gorgeous. It's from her collection of torch songs that she listened to growing up called Am I Not Your Girl?

Sinead during one of her "hairy" phases singing out against child abuse

Now for the death.

Paul McCartney wrote a tribute to his old friend called "Here Today," the video of which is below. The tall, lanky gentleman with the greying hair is George Martin (now entitled Sir), the man who produced all of the Beatles' albums.

Elton John collaborated with Lennon for "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night" for Lennon's Walls and Bridges. Elton John bet Lennon that the song would reach number one. Since "Whatever" hit the top spot on the Billboard chart on 16 November 1974, Elton collected on the bet twelve nights later at his Thanksgiving performance at New York City's Madison Square Garden when he brought Lennon out to play and sing. Lennon would never make another major concert performance. (I've heard there is no live footage of this appearance, hence the picture with the audio attached.)

Elton John is reportedly the godfather of Lennon's second son, Sean. After the 1980 murder, Elton and his long-time lyricist Bernie Taupin wrote a song for the fallen friend called "Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)," a reference to Madison Square Garden.

As I was about to post this, I found out that 8 December is Gregg Allman's birthday as well. So let's throw a little love Gregg's way and spread some of that Allman joy! (The Allman Joys was the name of the first band that Gregory Lenoir and his older brother Howard Duane formed. Catchy huh?) Below is the Allman Brothers performing my favorite of theirs, "Whipping Post," in two parts on 23 September 1970. Gregg, all of 22, is singing and playing the organ. You can spot long-time, and now former, Allman Bros. guitarist Dickey Betts looking like Errol Flynn in Robin Hood with his chin length hair and mustache. The shaggy blonde axeman in the tie-dye T-shirt is Duane. He would die in a motorcycle accident thirteen months later.

No comments:

Post a Comment