Thursday, October 10, 2013

76 Imagine (1971) John Lennon

  1. Imagine
  2. Crippled Inside
  3. Jealous Guy
  4. It's So Hard
  5. I Don't Want to Be a Soldier
  6. Gimme Some Truth
  7. Oh My Love
  8. How Do You Sleep?
  9. How?
  10. Oh Yoko!

I know this is going to come as a bit of a surprise to people who follow this blog regularly, but I don't really like John Lennon's music much. I love the Beatles, I adore the Beatles and if I had to pick only one of the fab four's contributions to listen to I'd probably choose John. I prefer Strawberry Fields to Penny Lane which I think is the best way of determining whether you're more John than Paul or vice versa.

I won't hear a word said against John The Beatle.

But John the solo artist is... kind of boring. I know I'm supposed to love the guy and adore his music and appreciate what a genius he was but the truth is I never voluntarily listen to his solo work which just doesn't interest me at all. It seems to me that when he stopped being a Beatle he became a lot less interesting. His spark went out. When he was a Beatle he was influenced by Paul McCartney and assisted by George Martin. As a solo artist he was dominated by Yoko Ono and Phil Spector which is a definite downgrade in talent on both fronts.

Musically he no longer had as much talent around him but that wasn't the only thing missing from the Solo Beatle's career. His influences were suddenly less pleasant. He was no longer interested in showing the world what the Beatles could do, he wanted to show the world what he could do and what a bastard his former friend Paul was. Musically the themes on Imagine centre around how much he hates Paul and loves Yoko, which are two sentiments I struggle to get behind.

How do you Sleep is a vicious attack on Paul McCartney and I can't stand it. I don't like listening to rappers feud but I like it even less when two of my favourite musicians air their grievances in public. How do you Sleep is especially unpleasant because it's not just a condemnation of the current state of their relationship but a horrible piece of bitter vitriol that tries to rewrite their friendship. John claims Paul's only achievement is Yesterday, and is arrogant enough to imply that Paul should have learnt something from spending time in the presence of John's talent. It's nasty and spiteful and while George Harrison consented to play on it Ringo apparently had the good sense to remove himself from the studio and refuse the offer to play drums which would have turned it into a statement by the rest of the Beatles. Good move Ringo.

How Do You Sleep is made even less palatable by John's pathetic later attempts to try and claim he wrote the song about himself which is less convincing than Yoko's musical career. It's clearly about Paul and I would have respected John more if he'd said "Yeah it was nasty and a step too far" instead of trying to weasel out of it by denying the obvious.

All of which brings me to Imagine, the title track and the most famous song John ever wrote on his own. It's an anthem for peace, a secular prayer for the human race and one of the most loved songs in the world. Who doesn't adore Imagine? Me, that's who. I've never liked it. It's just too sentimentally forced for my liking. The melody doesn't move me much and it doesn't inspire me at all. I know I'm supposed to love it because it's such a great statement for human kind but it's just too preachy and to be brutally honest, hypocritical.

John sings "imagine no possessions" which is all very well but lets not forget what was sitting in John's garage at the time. The Lennon's owned several cars one of which was six metre long Rolls Royce limo which had been given a custom paint job and had an interior converted into a double bed with TV, phone and portable fridge. Imagine there are no possessions John? Did you imagine that cruising through the streets reclining in the sheets in your chauffeur driven Limo? "Yoko what would it be like to have no possessions?" "It would be awful John, just awful. Pass the champagne so I can lubricate my throat for one of my signature tuneless shrieks".

Imagine would grate on me if it was on any other album but when it's followed by something as bitter and childish as How Do You Sleep it totally destroys the idea of John as a peace-loving dreamer who just wants the world to get along.

Not everything on Imagine is bad, Gimme Some Truth is a great song and one of his finest Post-Beatles moments. It's a genuine protest song that he sings with a degree of passion and boasts some of the best lyrics he ever wrote. Truth was tried out at the Get Back sessions with the rest of the Beatles which means this could have appeared on Let It Be and is yet another tantalizing glimpse of how good could that ill-fated album could have been.

The Beatles solo careers prove that the band itself was much greater than the sum of its parts. When they went their separate ways the magic just wasn't there. The group who churned out hit after hit in seven years of recording could barely manage anything approaching their greatness when they recorded on their own. The John Lennon on Imagine is a poor shadow of Beatle John and doesn't deserve the deification he sometimes receives as a figure alongside Ghandi, Jesus and Nelson Mandella. He's just a guy with a Rolls Royce who wrote songs.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "I've just received the latest Imagine remaster.The 2000 remaster is far superior,I should have taken note of others who made exactly this point."

-That seems to be a fairly common theme. By the sound of it the 2010 attempt to remaster this album has buggered it up and annoyed a lot of fans. Keep away.

So can you imagine anything better than this? Let me know below.

1 comment:

  1. I am glad I am not the only one who thinks this about Post Beatles Lennon. Oh Yoko should have been Oh No Yoko. Great Beatle , Lesser Solo artist. Yeah Yeah Yeah Bealtes, No No No Solo Lennon.