But going back to being an open high school. On a couple of special days, normal classes were cancelled. Outsiders were invited to give various talks throughout the day, but students were also invited to give their own presentations. Along with a couple of friends, I remember giving a seminar on protest songs.
Okay, “seminar” probably gives off too stiff of an academic vibe to what we did—mostly we played socially-motivated songs by our favorite bands and talked about the circumstances that gave rise to them.
John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero” was one of the songs I played, dragging to school my original Apple-label vinyl pressing of the album on which it appeared. I have no idea how much the record was worth on collectors’ markets, but I kidded myself into thinking it was really valuable. When I finished playing that song and lifted the tone arm off the record, the entire room was quiet. I doubt many had heard the song before, but it was a good kind of quiet—the kind of quiet that happens when people are actively thinking and negotiating the meanings of what they just heard.
I thought of this moments ago when I stumbled upon a rare live version of John Lennon rehearsing the song prior to a 1972 concert at New York’s Madison Square Garden. For what it’s worth, here’s a clip of the version that appeared on Lennon’s first post-Beatle album, Plastic Ono Band. Even after all these years, the song still gives me the chills.
So anyways, that high school seminar from long ago. We talked about the song. People asked what it meant to be a “working class hero,” and why a pop star millionaire Beatle could possibly be so bitter. Whatever the song might be, it’s not a Springsteen-esque glorification of the working classes. Nor is it a rallying cry for others to join the ranks of working class.
After the school bell rang, ending the seminar, I discovered just how great of an impression the song made with at least one of my peers: someone had walked off with my rare Lennon record.
Errata: I’ve had a few more stories published recently. “Kryptonite” appears in the latest issue of Tampa Review Online. “Bronzed,” winner of The Packingtown Review’s flash fiction contest, appears in their new issue.
And, lastly, here’s “The Communion of Saints” appeared in Corium’s Winter issue. Of the bunch, I had probably worked longest on this story. For years, I had given it the working title of “More Words About Children and Dollars.” Don’t worry—it’s not a boy losing his rare John Lennon record.