Thursday, December 08, 2005

John Lennon and the Button Man

The Button Man was a man that I struck up an acquaintence with when he worked at a local comic shop many years ago. He was middle-aged, I guess maybe he was my age now. He lost his job when the comic shop consolidated its two locations into one, perhaps my first personal experience with "downsizing."
He was also a music fan. We were both big fans of The Who. (In later years, I would buy a few Who items from his collection when he was short of cash, which I kept until I had to sell them because I was short of cash. The circle of life.)
New Wave and Punk were tearing apart the musical strata and the Button Man had starting bringing music buttons into the comic shop before he was let go. The buttons, mostly of Brit new wave Bands (The Selector, The Stranglers, Madness) were popular and selling well, so he continued to order them. He wore a demin jacket that he covered with buttons, and he stood on a downtown street corner. Kids would start talking to him about the buttons and he eventually he would sell them a button or two. He also brought in buttons from older acts, too. All the bands were getting in on the button craze.
He knew I wasn't much into the punk bands, and that I liked some new wave. (The Police were okay -- they might amount to something one of these days.) He knew I preferred some of the older bands, and when he got new buttons from Pink Floyd, The Who, Queen, Rush or The Beatles he always pointed out them to me.
25 years ago this very afternoon, I bought a button from the Button Man. It's a small button, a black and white rendering of an early Beatles promo photo, the four of them in their Brian Epstein suits. I still have it.
It says, "Come Back, Beatles." Hours later, any hope of a Beatles reunion was terminated by five rounds from a madman's gun.

I don't know what's worse about anniversaries of famous deaths.
Is it that yet again we are forced recognize the fact that an amazingly creative talent was stolen from us many years too soon, killed by an explosion of rage and anger, betrayed by the very thing that makes us all human?
Or is it yet another reminder that the years are passing and I am another day closer to facing my own mortality.
Either way, the result is that I am now two years older than John Lennon will ever be. And that leaves me sad.

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