Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Maybe you already know all about this, but I only got a clue recently. That’s because no matter how much music trivia one may have collected, one can never truly know it all, no matter how one may wish. But fortunately, one has friends who fill in the gaps, and a friend of mine emailed me asking if I’d seen the recent show on PBS about John Lennon’s Jukebox (I missed it). Hmm, I wondered, what could be the story behind that? The very phrase “John Lennon’s Jukebox” has kind of a Da-Vinci-Code-meets-Al-Capone’s-Vault ring to it. Did John Lennon really have his own private jukebox? If so, what secret music might he have kept there? And, what insights might that give into the heart and soul of the late music legend? Well, I checked into it, and discovered that John Lennon did indeed have a jukebox. Not only that, it was a portable jukebox. Of course, back in those technologically distant days, a portable jukebox, while much smaller that the large floor models found in 1950s teen hangouts (Chuck Berry: “Right to the juke-joint you go in”) were still about the size of a medium suitcase.

Special note for all the young readers: Before there were MP3s, teens who wanted to take their tunes with them had to hoist over-sized heavy contraptions known as “boom boxes” onto their shoulders, like young musical stevedores. Not only that, but computers used to be the size of school buses. Nobody owned a “personal” one of those either. I kid you not; it was unreal! Anyway, back to our main topic.

According to the Wikipedia article on the subject, John Lennon’s Jukebox emerged from obscurity at an auction in the late 80s, and was purchased by a music promoter. This fellow did some research and restoration, and – voila! – the famous Beatles’ proto-iPod became part of history. Lennon filled his suitcase jukebox with 40 of his favorite early hits by American (mostly) and British artists. There’s Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Gary U.S. Bonds, Paul Revere, The Animals, Donovan… Most of Lennon's private stock can be found on a CD called, as you might expect, “John Lennon’s Jukebox.” There is also a list of singles that the Wikipedia article says were “believed to be” on the jukebox as well. It isn’t clear who believes it, or why, but the very first name on the list is Arthur Alexander, with his single “You Better Move On.” Arthur A. has one of those voices that stick with you long after the record stops spinning. He was a talented writer as well, penning “You Better Move On” and “Soldier of Love,” both covered by the Beatles, ditto his touching break-up song, “Anna (Go to Him).” I like the Beatles’ version a lot, but Arthur, well, he’s the man, IMHO. But hey, you can have a listen and decide for yourself. And you don’t have to pack a suitcase to do it.



I noticed that some of the people who left comments at YouTube are very sharp, and have picked up on the fact that the title is "Anna (Go To Him)" but in the lyrics, it's always "go with him." I don't think there's anything significant we can read into that, just one of those things, but to a trivia buff, it's red meat!

1 comment:

Quiet Paths said...

This was really interesting. It makes sense that JL would want to take along his favorite music as he traveled. Now to think my first generation IPod is totally obsolete, but it is a treasure! What would he think, having been gone since 1980, about the fact that pretty soon we'll be able to 'paint' nano solar cells on top of our roofs to generate electricity? I guess he would get it having painted with tunes all his life...