Past Times

Beatles fans flocked to Raleigh record stores after John Lennon’s death

Police hold spectators back from the gated archway of the Dakota building in New York City the day after rock star John Lennon was murdered.
Police hold spectators back from the gated archway of the Dakota building in New York City the day after rock star John Lennon was murdered. AP

As with many tragedies that seem to come from out of the blue, John Lennon’s Dec. 8, 1980, murder left today’s baby boomers forever remembering where they were when they got the news. N&O staff writer Angelia Herrin took a look at how Raleigh fans reacted.

Barrie Bergman was 21, a crew-cut kid fresh out of college, when he first stocked an album called “Meet the Beatles” in his little record store in Chapel Hill.

“I Want to Hold Your Hand,” he said, changed his life.

“I guess you could say I made my entire career on John Lennon and the Beatles,” said Bergman … long-haired and president of Record Bar’s 110 stores.

“They revolutionized our lives – our hair, our clothes, our thinking – and my business. With the Beatles came the first time people actually lined up to buy a record.”

People lined up to buy John Lennon’s recordings again in Bergman’s stores Tuesday after the former Beatle’s shooting Monday night outside his New York apartment building. Like other record shops and radio stations around the Triangle and the nation, Bergman found Lennon’s fans were eager to keep his music alive.

“Judging from response, I doubt there’ll be a John Lennon album left anywhere in the country tonight,” Bergman said. …

By noon, the demand for Lennon’s latest recording, “Double Fantasy,” was so heavy the Record Bar in Chapel Hill set a limit of one per customer. One customer, who earlier had bought six at $7.99 each told clerks he was planning to resell them as souvenirs. Others bought just to remember.

“I don’t have any Beatles’ albums, haven’t had any for eight years,” said Bob Reed, 30, who stopped by Schoolkids’ Records in Raleigh to buy a collection of early Beatles’ hits called “Rarities.”

“I guess this made me remember, and I just felt like I wanted to have some of John Lennon’s great tunes.”

Pete Boston, owner of Schoolkids’, said the run on Lennon’s recordings at his store near the N.C. State University campus was bigger than the rush that followed Elvis Presley’s death three years ago.

“Since the doors opened, we’ve been selling out Lennon,” Boston said, raising his voice to be heard over the strains of “Can’t Buy Me Love” in the background.

“We’re playing Beatles’ records here, and everyone coming in seems to be kind of shocked. Guess people are feeling like it’s kind of the end of something.”

Disc jockeys on the early-morning shifts at local radio stations said news of Lennon’s death woke many of their listeners. …

WKIX, like stations WRAL and WQDR, played Beatles’ hits throughout the day. WKIX also planned a two-hour special on Lennon Wednesday night. …

That feeling was shared Monday night at The Pier when The Stimulators, a New Wave band, came onstage for their last set at the Raleigh nightspot and broke the news of Lennon’s death to the audience. The band dedicated their last songs of the night to Lennon and prompted Pier owner Gayle Livingston to organize a memorial concert tonight for the slain musician.

“Like everybody in the audience I was really shocked,” Ms. Livingston said. “I feel like I grew up with the Beatles. Everybody I was involved with in high school played their music, tried to wear their hair like them, followed them through their changes.

“So I started calling musicians and decided that since so many of them feel dedicated to the Beatles, we ought to put on a show as our way of doing something.”

Several performers, including The Fabulous Knobs and members of the Arrogance and Nantucket bands, were scheduled to appear. The N&O Dec. 10, 1980

Read more stories from local and state history and send us your own stories on the blog Past Times, newsobserver.com/past-times.

Leonard: 919-829-4866 or tleonard@newsobserver.com

  Comments