Taking back December 8th
December 8th has been cemented forever in the history of popular culture as a BAD DAY. On that date in 1980, John Lennon was senselessly murdered by some loser whose name I don’t remember. Twenty-four years later – to the day – another nameless loser climbed onstage at the Alrosa nightclub in Columbus, Ohio and shot Pantera guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott to death. What the hell is wrong with people?
John and Dime have a lot more in common than just a tragic tick of the calendar – both were uncompromising artists who defined their respective genres. If Lennon had been a heavy metal guitarist in the ‘90s, he probably would have sounded a lot like Abbott. If Dime had been a singer/songwriter in the ‘60s, I bet he would have had the same acerbic style as John.
Both artists have been analyzed, written about, discussed and mourned continuously since their respective deaths, but somehow neither John nor Dime have ever become boring topics. A lot of that has to do with how fully committed to their work they both were. Neither man was interested in half-measures, so the music they left behind is essentially infinite. We project our own emotions and experiences onto great music, so each listen is unique.
John has been gone 36 years and Darrell left us 12 years ago. Here are some artifacts from their painfully short lives that bring just a little closer to the men. Let’s take back December 8th.
1966 was a watershed year in the world of the Beatles. Not only did they release the absolutely brilliant ‘Revolver’, it’s also the year John Lennon began wearing his trademark National Health spectacles. Self-conscious about wearing the Buddy Holly-style frames typical of the day and finding contact lenses painfully uncomfortable, the severely nearsighted Beatle mostly went without glasses in the early years. It wasn’t until his role in the film ‘How I Won the War’ that he started sporting the round wireframes that became such icons – of rock and fashion. These tinted glasses that once colored the world for John are now a treasured part of the Hard Rock collection. Imagine what they’ve seen.
Twenty-four years to the day after John Lennon was shot, a dumbass shot Pantera/Damageplan guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott to death. Darrell had risen to the top of the metal heap as the nastiest, most badass guitarist ever to crank it up to eleven. More importantly, he was universally regarded as a great guy who always made time for friends and fans. He is sorely missed. His brother Vinnie, the band’s drummer, is equally admired as a master of the genre. Vinnie was playing this Pearl drum set behind Dimebag on that inexplicable night in Ohio.
This is it. This is the one. Our greatest piece of Beatles wardrobe. This is the brown suede jacket John Lennon wore on the cover of ‘Rubber Soul’. Combine this jacket with a black turtleneck and you’ll look like a former mop-top who’s just beginning to realize his own creative genius – just like John in ’65. Unlike so many of the D.A. Millings matching suits the Beatles wore, this jacket was not part of any band “uniform”. In many ways, it represents John’s boredom with the machinery of the Beatles’ image. By ’65, he just wanted to look cool and be comfortable. This jacket fit the bill nicely. It’s one of the most treasured pieces in our collection.
Dime used this custom Washburn on tour with Pantera in support of their final album – 2000’s ‘Reinventing the Steel’.
One of the more formative experiences of John Lennon’s life was the death of his mother, Julia. A free-spirited and impulsive character, Julia’s lifestyle was less than conducive to raising young John, so she (reluctantly) turned the boy over to her more traditional sister Mimi. Nonetheless, John remained close to his wayward mother and received his first musical instruction (on the banjo) from her. Sadly, Julia was killed in a car accident when John was only 17 years old. The songs “Julia” and “Mother” are, obviously, for John’s lost mother. This is an Easter card she sent to John in 1957. Her playful nature is evident in lines like, “My dear stinker” and “Don’t forget your mum’s crazy, but she loves you anyhow”. Especially poignant is her reference to John’s 21st birthday – which she never lived to see.
This custom Washburn electric with gold binding and 24-karat gold inlays was Dime’s tribute to Crown Royal whiskey (he was known to take a sip now and then). It even has a purple drawstring gig bag. Dime said of this guitar, “It’s too nice to play live, so I guess there’s no better place than the Hard Rock to put it on display.” It just might be the coolest thing ever.
Here’s Dime donating it to the Hard Rock collection at his Texas home:
This caneback setee was one of John’s favorite pieces of furniture, and he owned it for many years. Over time, he wore a hole in the back. In person, this piece really feels like it has some residual Lennon vibe. It’s remarkably comfortable, too.
This guitar is a piece of history in two very different ways. It was the go-to axe for the late “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott and was originally installed in Hard Rock’s Biloxi, Mississippi casino. Then Hurricane Katrina relocated it to a sand dune on the beach. All the damage to both the guitar and the display case are from that fateful Monday in August when Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast.
If you’re unfamiliar with these glasses and need to be told who they belonged to, you’ve got a lot of catching up to do.