Give Peace a Chance

Have you ever really thought about what that means? Ever let it sink it? Why did John Lennon think he needed to urge us to give peace a try, a sample, a chance? Could it be that he was convincing us to consider peace because he knew that we are non-peaceful at heart?
During the Age of Enlightenment (the 18th Century), great thinkers called philosophes spent a great deal of serious time and thought trying to determine whether man was inherently evil or inherently good. In France, René Rousseau wrote an essay asserting that man is born good, but is almost immediately corrupted by the world around him. In England, John Locke wrote an opposing essay asserting that man is born evil (the church calls it “original sin”) but is rescued by laws and by society’s uplifting ethics.
There was no “winner” in this contest of ideas. Some people favored Rousseau. Some favored Locke.
I hold with Locke. I believe that a young child will lie, if given the chance…that he will say cruel things to another child…that he will put himself or herself before anyone else. I think that only parents, teachers, mentors, and extended family can teach that child to be selfless… can convince that child to be kind, tactful, giving, and loving. Many of you will disagree with me. That’s to be expected. People have been arguing this point since the 1700’s without resolution.
Like John Lennon, I believe that we have to learn to give peace a chance.
This past week, the world has revolved in utter chaos. Twelve people were murdered in a Parisian newspaper office for speaking their minds. Hostages were taken by the assailants and murdered. Terror was on our lips. Violence, hatred, and suspicion reigned supreme.
In his famous chants about the divisiveness of “isms” in his song, “Give Peace A Chance,” John seemed to know that peace has little hope in our society. Early on, we take sides. But like that radical young man, Jesus of Nazareth, John urged us to turn the other cheek and to be a neighbor to people unlike ourselves. He reminded us (in “Instant Karma”) that if we fail to do this, “Instant karma is going to get you…gonna knock you right in the head!” Okay, John, we hear you.
But giving peace a chance!? Can that ever really happen? I’m very, very, very skeptical. However, despite all the evidence of its impracticality, I still believe that seeking peace is our ultimate goal.
However, giving peace a chance doesn’t mean blindly trusting everyone. Some people are untrustworthy, and we’d be stupid to toss our pearls before them. Giving peace a chance doesn’t mean being naïve or foolish.  Giving peace a chance doesn’t mean forgetting the wisdom learned from the past. And certainly, giving peace a chance doesn’t mean buckling under to bullies. What it does mean is that we should act daily as if “We Are Unafraid” to bring good into the world, no matter what.
In so many of his songs (even “Happy Christmas, War is Over”), John reminded us that we are all called to do good things, great things. And if we are called, we must try.
I’m willing to give peace a chance. How about you?
Jude Southerland Kessler
To hear the songs in this blog:
Give Peace a Chance
Instant Karma
Happy Christmas, War is Over


“Living with Eyes Closed?”

“Living with Eyes Closed?”

“Living is easy with eyes closed
Misunderstanding all you see,
It’s getting hard to be someone
But it all works out.
It doesn’t matter much to me…”

John Winston Lennon

“Strawberry Fields”

My sister refuses to watch the news. “I just don’t want to know about it,” she tells me. And on one level, she’s SO right: Life is to be enjoyed! (And yeah, I know… the news is never good.)
Our own John Lennon voiced a similar opinion. “Living is easy with eyes closed,” he sang. And he was right. Life’s so much smoother if you don’t know the details.
But wait!! Was John advocating living that way, or was he pointing out (in typical Lennon satire) how very wrong that kind of attitude is? Wasn’t John asking us to examine our actions just the way he always did in “Instant Karma” or “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” or even in “Revolution”?
I think what John was pointing out is that “living with eyes closed” is NOT what we’re called to do. It’s not how we’re called to live.
The answer to, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is still a resounding “Yes!”? And especially in this season, we’re reminded that we’re inexorably linked to the poor, the war-torn, the abused and neglected, and the lonely. (“Ah, look at all the lonely people!” Paul penned.)
Watching hours and hours of current events and televised news may not be the happiest habit. And certainly watching it without putting any lifestyle changes into action is fruitless and empty.
But maybe this year, we can OPEN our eyes, take a good look at the world around us, and then do something.
Maybe right now, at this moment, we can decide to make 2015 the year in which we:
Volunteer at a shelter
Write a letter to a congressman
Give (a little or a lot) to a good cause
Contribute a song or quote or photo to the Fest Facebook page or the Moments group to lift someone’s spirits
Tweet something important
Champion a cause
Plant a neighborhood garden
Tutor a child
Drive someone to work or to the grocery store
Clean up the neighborhood
Forgive an old wound
Cook for a neighbor who works long hours or who is elderly
Rake someone’s leaves
Call someone who is lonely and chat
Buy a ticket to The Fest for someone and give it to them anonymously! (It’ll be the best time they’ve ever had!)
Knit a scarf for someone who works in the cold
Take in a rescue dog or cat
Encourage someone to make his or her dream come true
Stand up for what you believe in
Give sincere compliments…(you know, the things you think but never have the courage to say)
Withhold judgments
Build faith
Try to smile more and gripe less
It’s 2015, people! This year, let’s take a peek. Let’s open our eyes. Let’s understand what we see, and then do something about it! Let’s make the world less “a lonely branch” and more a “Strawberry Field.”
What say you?
Jude Southerland Kessler
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Get You to the Light

How can both overhead lights in my kitchen burn out at the same time? Las Vegas odds, and yet this morning, my workspace (the place where I wrap and box up my John Lennon Series books for mailing) was completely dark.
At first, I was aggravated. And yeah, a little depressed.
You see, I have SAD syndrome (Sensory Affective Disorder) and so the first thing I do each morning is turn on every single light in the rooms where I’m gonna be hanging out. It’s so illuminated around here that my sister once acridly observed, “Oh I get it. You want your house to look just like the lobby of Homewood Suites.”
Yep, that’s about right.
But this morning, as I stood in the dim haze of my inconveniently dull workspace, it hit me. I was being given a gift…my blog theme for The Fest for Beatles Fans! I stood there quietly, and I mulled.
This is what I heard:
December is all about The Light. Hanukkah is The Miracle of the Lights…the inexplicable phenomenon of light continuing to pierce the darkness when every scientific fact dictated that the darkness should’ve prevailed. Hanukkah is the triumph of the Unknown over Known. Hanukkah is the victory of Light over darkness.
And Christmas is the birth of that Light. As the writer John phrased it so long ago: “That Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Another writer named John – a handsome, young man from Liverpool, England – wrote about the Light as well. He said, “Whatever gets you to the Light, is all right, all right!” And hey guys…he wasn’t talking about G. E. replacement bulbs, and we all know it.
He was addressing the miracle of that which pushes away the murky existence that lingers where all hope is lost.
December houses the shortest day of the year – the 21st of December – the day of least light shed on humans in all 365. At this time of year, many, many people struggle with depression as they try to ward off the scientific effects of a shadowy world.
But John Lennon, cavortin’ on stage with Elton John (another John!) in a concert that ultimately changed his fate forever, shouted in his rocker’s voice for us to seek the light, to “make it through the night,” to keep looking for ways to overcome the darkness.
Any other pursuit, he told us, was a waste of time. (“Don’t need a watch to waste your time,” he belted out, tongue in cheek. And John Lennon meant it. He knew about limited mortality (see his song, “Borrowed Time”). He knew about years well spent. John urged us to spend each day wisely.
Look…you can attach many meanings to this month…you can make it all about baking or shopping or creating décor or partying or traveling or inviting friends into your home. You can make it about clothes or trees or garlands or Frosty the Snowman. But the essence of the holidays is The Light.
The Maccabees on that gloomy hilltop knew it. John, that long-ago writer of the Book of John, knew it. And John the latter – our very own John Lennon – knew it. His final days were spent purchasing scores of books about spirituality, seeking out sages and religious leaders to ask questions, and spending hours of serious contemplation about life’s meaning.
He was seeking the Light. And it was, in fact, “all right, all right.”
With that in mind, I’m off to find replacement bulbs. All other tasks this morning can wait. “Bet my money and my life”…I can do this. December, the Maccabees, and John have set me on a mission. I’m off to seek the Light.
Click here to listen to John’s song…
Jude Southerland Kessler is the Author of The John Lennon Series
Follow Jude on Twitter @JudeKessler
Follow Jude on Facebook here


Alternate John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band

44 years ago today, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band was released.
The album, which was John’s first legit solo venture, was powerful, raw, honest, and emotional, and is listed at #22 on the Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums of All-Time list.
Recently, we put together a live version of Rubber Soul. For John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, we’ve put together a version made up of alternate studio takes, acoustic takes, and demos…
Mother (alternate studio version):

Hold On (take 24, with false starts):

I Found Out (alternate studio version):

Working Class Hero (demo):

Isolation (alternate studio version):

Remember (outtake from studio sessions):

Love (John Lennon Anthology version):

Well Well Well (acoustic demo):

Look At Me (acoustic version):

God (alternate studio version):

My Mummy’s Dead (acoustic demo):


Remembering John Lennon

Thoughts from Fest Founder Mark Lapidos on this most somber of days…
There is no getting around it. This is the blackest date in Beatles history.
34 years later, it still sucks. For many millions of fans it was the worst day of our lives. We can somehow understand how or why politicians and world leaders over the centuries could be assassinated. BUT A MUSICIAN!!!! Not just any musician, but John Lennon.
John was so much more than a musician. He became the voice of a generation, spreading peace and love around the world. He was also an artist, writer, husband, father and a dreamer, to name a few.
There have been so many books written about John – some really terrific ones and some horrible ones. But just listen to his music, read his words, listen to his interviews – that is where you will find the essence of John.
John’s music and spirit will always be with us, so listen to his music today. Put on your favorite Beatles album or favorite solo album, or put on something you haven’t listened to in a while. Think positive thoughts about John and celebrate his life and always remember what he gave us. It is something so ingrained in us, it will last forever. All You Need Is Love.


Moments: With A Little Help From Our Friends

“Why in the world are we here?
Surely not to live in pain and fear…”
-John Lennon
But sometimes, it feels that way, doesn’t it?
Sometimes you have a horrid day…
followed by a worse one…
and then, an even darker one than that.
Sometimes, your cup runneth over, but not with joy – with sorrow.
John Lennon felt that loneliness and isolation, too. In fact, in Strawberry Fields Forever, he cried out, “NO ONE, I think, is in my tree. I mean, it must be high or low.” Many times, he felt alone…out on a limb, cut off from human understanding. We all do.

That is when we reach for a MOMENT.
Moments come in myriad sizes. They can be as small as a freshly-brewed cup of coffee, a hot shower, a single crimson leaf tumbling along the sidewalk, or a quick smile from someone at work. Or a moment can stand tall and significant: an afternoon shared with your child or a kind email or precious card from someone who has taken the time to think of you and let you know.
The best moments are unanticipated…hearing a favorite Beatles song on the radio. Or finding a crumpled $10 bill in your jeans pocket. Having a stranger randomly treat you to Starbucks.
But hey, there is nothing wrong with moments that are planned! You can, in fact, begin to inject moments purposely into your day. Plan to get a pedicure or listen to Rubber Soul or Live at the BBC. Plan to curl up with a good book (Shoulda Been There might be nice!). Plan to cut fresh evergreens or pansies to place on your bedside table. Plan to eat a STRAWBERRY or a tangerine. Plan to do something that makes you happy.
Planning one special moment for yourself in the day ahead gives you a chance to anticipate “the happy.” If you know that at 3 p.m. you’re going to take a 10-minute break to walk outside or to sip a cup of cocoa or read a few pages in Mark Lewisohn’s Tune In, then all day long, you can look forward to that moment with hope. No matter what else happens, you can move toward that bit of joy with the assurance that at least one good thing is going to occur.
I’m a runner, and sometimes, when the run is particularly difficult, I push myself from focal point to focal point, not trying to mentally accomplish the “whole run,” but refusing to quit by saying, “I’ll make it as far as the next mailbox” and then, “Okay, now I’ll make it as far as the next street sign.” Using that technique, I trick myself into enduring the whole four miles; I complete the run bit by bit, moment by moment.
THAT is the thought process behind a new Facebook page called “MOMENTS.”
It is a page filled with inspiring quotes, lovely photos, good videos, a couple of jokes, some uplifting songs, and an entire potpourri of thoughts to help us endure the race. It’s a collection of thoughts that keep us running, even when we feel like giving up.
I invite you to join the Moments page on Facebook and enjoy it. It’s a page for Beatles fans…although we want anyone to enjoy it. It’s a place where those of us who have connected via John, Paul, George, and Ringo can contribute a thought or two. We can post happy songs or inspiring songs like Across the Universe. We can post quotes or videos.
Go to the page when you need a smile. Go to the Moments page when you want to give one away.
I’ll be there, offering you a moment or two when you need one. And when I need a moment, I’ll run there as well, hoping you’ve left one there for me.
Moment by moment, we’ll get by. It happens, of course, with a little help from our friends.
Jude Southerland Kessler is the Author of The John Lennon Series
Follow Jude on Twitter @JudeKessler
Follow Jude on Facebook here


The Beatles pondered doing a live (non-rooftop) show in 1969

On January 29, 1969, the day before their rooftop concert, Paul McCartney and John Lennon had an at times intense conversation during the ‘Get Back’ sessions.
Over on the amoralto tumblr page, they did a great job breaking down the conversation.
The conversation – mostly dominated by Paul – revolved partially around the idea that the Beatles could do something instead of the rooftop concert.
Paul suggested playing in front of audiences again, entering a ‘visual’ studio, or doing some other not-yet-hashed-out thing instead of and/or in addition to the rooftop concert.
In the excerpt below, Paul makes his case:

PAUL: Yeah, but so… Hmm. But I’m just talking about this thing, like this thing we’ve entered upon now, we still haven’t got any aim for it, except another album, again. Our only aim, ever, is an album. Which is like a very non-visual thing, it’s very sort of… But it’s great, isn’t it, and we do albums, then. But—
JOHN: But albums is what we’re doing, at the moment.
PAUL: [uneasy] Yeah, but I don’t know. Like—
JOHN: I mean, that’s what we [inaudible] talk about.
PAUL: —like I was saying the other day, is that you – is that you – you— [hesitating] We’re into albums as the four of us, but I really think we could be into other things. But every time I talk about it, I really sound like I’m the showbiz correspondent, trying to hustle us to do a Judy Garland comeback, you know. But really, all I mean is – well, look, let’s get – let’s change, or let’s go into a studio, like a vision studio, after we’ve learnt all of these, that’s just as good as this for sound, that’s got the same sort of thinking…

Later on in the discussion, Paul intimates that George would be in favor of a show in the mold of the ones Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley were having around that time, and John wouldn’t rule it out:

PAUL: There’s no other way. We can’t think ourselves out of it. And we can’t sort of say, well, it will be alright. See, and then the only other alternative to that is to say, well, we don’t – we will never do it to an audience again. But if we intend to – to keep any sort of contact on that scene… [pause] Yeah. I do understand George’s just saying, “There’s no point,” you know, because it is like we’re Stravinsky, and it’s in the music. And he doesn’t sort of get up and play his ‘Joanna’ for them anymore. He just writes it, and just sort of maybe occasionally conducts it.
JOHN: But as long as there’s a good reason – like George wants to do a heavy show, like Dylan and Presley, all that.
JOHN: And that’ll be a large – I don’t know, like, I mean, that – that’s all this.
PAUL: Mm, yeah, I know, yeah. that’s always – that’s always just—
JOHN: Okay, yeah.
PAUL: That’s us again, you know.
JOHN: Yes, I know.
PAUL: It’s us going silly again.
JOHN: It is, and I think – I think we might do it.

All Beatles fans know what happened next.
The group went on to the Apple rooftop the next day for their final public performance.
A few weeks later, the group began work on ‘Abbey Road,’ the final album they would record.
What would have happened if Paul had convinced John and George to tour again…or if he had just convinced them to do one ‘audience show.’
Chances are that with George being held back musically, John wanting to branch off, and Paul’s at times overbearing personality, the group still would’ve disbanded.
However, it certainly would’ve been interesting to see what the dynamic would’ve been if the band had toured or played even one legitimate concert instead of the rooftop gig.


On This Date In History: John and Yoko begin the First Bed-In

By Danny Abriano
Five days after their marriage in Gibraltar, John Lennon and Yoko Ono checked into the Amsterdam Hilton for the beginning of their first Bed-In for peace – the second Bed-In would take place in May in Montreal.
With the Vietnam war raging and Lennon and Ono aware that their non-violent public demonstration of the war would make worldwide news, Lennon and Ono stayed in bed with signs hanging over their head that read “Bed Peace” and “Hair Peace.” In order to gain attention and spread their message of world peace, they invited the media into the room each day for 12 hours.
For the most part, though, the media didn’t take the Bed-In seriously.
During the Montreal Bed-In two months later, Lennon spoke with Timothy Leary.
When asked if the message of peace was getting through, Lennon replied:

Yeah, think about it. But they’re getting it, y’know, I mean they must be. Our voices must be going out solid about every quarter of an hour. And if it isn’t singing, it’s talking, and we’re just repeating the same bit, y’know, and there’s very little “Me eyes are brown and Paul’s…y’know? I mean I do that for the ones that need it. Most of it’s just, “let’s get it together,” and it must be going out now like a mantra. We’re trying to set up a mantra, a peace mantra, and get it in their heads. It’s gonna work.

Lennon had actually wanted to hold the second Bed-In in New York, not Montreal, but he wasn’t allowed into the country due to his recent marijuana conviction.
The lasting images and videos from both Bed-Ins seem to have had far more impact than the actual Bed-Ins had at the time. However, that isn’t an indictment on Lennon or Ono. Rather, it’s a reflection of the media not taking their brilliant tactics seriously.
It’s also likely that Lennon’s political activism had a strong negative impact on the fact that the United States government began to harass him – and attempt to deport him – a few years later.
In 2012, Yoko Ono posted the Bed-In movie for all to see. It can be viewed below:


On Today’s Date in 1985: The Imagine Mosaic is Dedicated at Strawberry Fields

On today’s date in 1985, a year after Strawberry Fields opened in Central Park as a tribute to John Lennon, a dedication ceremony (with Julian Lennon, Sean Lennon, and Yoko Ono on hand) was held for the Imagine mosaic that sits prominently at Strawberry Fields.
Over the last 29 years, the Imagine mosaic has become a place for John Lennon fans to reflect and celebrate the life of the legendary Beatle.
Below, are thoughts on Strawberry Fields from Fest founder Mark Lapidos, Fest Director of Marketing Michelle Lapidos, and Fest Production Associate Danny Abriano:
Mark Lapidos:

I think of Strawberry Fields as a place where fans can go to reflect on the life of John Lennon, and just what he still means to all of us. To know that John & Yoko thought of this area, across the street from their home, as a sanctuary where they could go for a walk as any other couple might do on a nice afternoon in NYC. Now, there are always fans around, playing guitars, singing his songs and Beatles songs, happy to be in a place where John called home.


Michelle Lapidos:


I LOVE Strawberry Fields! To me it is the perfect place in the park to hang out and think about John, his impact on the world, and how I will make my own imprint. It’s amazing to sing and jam with Strawberry Fielders like we’re under the stairs at Chicago Fest (kinda…), especially on John’s birthday. It has also served as a wonderful,
peaceful meeting spot for my Skipping Club, my skipping fitness group. Also, it makes for fabulous photo opps.


Danny Abriano:


Since I was born after John Lennon was senselessly taken from us, Strawberry Fields – to me – is a place where I feel closest to John. On any given day, the area around the Imagine mosaic is either tranquil or filled with music from those who are celebrating John’s life and legacy. It’s truly an amazing place to visit. When there, it’s easy to see why John made New York his home.

On “Now And Then,” Which Was Nearly the Third Beatles Reunion Track

By Danny Abriano
All hardcore Beatles fans know that Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr reunited in 1994 and 1995 to record “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love” for release on the upcoming Anthology 1 and Anthology 2 albums respectively.
What some may not know, is that there was another John Lennon demo the three living Beatles were planning to record for release on Anthology 3.
That demo was “Now And Then.”
Originally recorded by Lennon at the Dakota in 1979, Now And Then (along with the other Lennon demos) was given to Paul McCartney by Yoko Ono in January of 1994.
On March 20th, 1995, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr began working on Now And Then, recording a backing track that was to be used on what would’ve been the finished product. However, after one more day of working on the track, all plans to finish “Now And Then” and have it included on Anthology 3 were scrapped.
According to those who were there, there were two reasons why Paul, George, and Ringo stopped working on Now And Then.
The first, was that some of the verses and part of the chorus weren’t finished and/or were unintelligible on the demo. Paul, George, and Ringo would’ve had to finish writing those parts for John, which is something Paul later stated George “didn’t want to do.” The original lyrics by John are as follows:
I know it’s true, it’s all because of you
And if I make it through, it’s all because of you
And now and then, if we must start again
We will know for sure, that I love you
I don’t want to lose you – oh no, no, no
Lose you or abuse you – oh no, no, no, sweet darl’
But if you have to go, away
If you have to go (unintelligible)
Now and then, I miss you
Oh now and then, I (unintelligible)
I know return to me
I know it’s true, it’s all because of you
And if you go away, I know you (unintelligible)
I don’t want to lose you – oh no, no, no
Abuse you or confuse you – oh no, no, no, sweet darl’
But if you had to go
Well I won’t stop you babe
And if you had to go
Well (unintelligible)
As can be seen above, there are four spots where John Lennon’s words either trail off, are unintelligible, or both. Those are the verses the remaining Beatles would’ve had to have re-written.
The second issue with the track was that the quality of the original Lennon demo contained a technical problem – a humming noise that lingered on the tape throughout.
In a bootleg that was released in 2009, the humming noise from the original Lennon demo was removed, meaning that the song could potentially be finished by McCartney and Starr if they so choose.
In 2012, McCartney was quoted as saying he would be open to completing Now And Then with Jeff Lynne as the producer.
Perhaps the song will eventually be finished by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr (also utilizing the backing track that includes George Harrison) and released. Until then, you can listen to John Lennon’s demo and imagine what the finished product might sound like: