Albums You Should Own – John Lennon Special

It’s been a while since I last visited this series, and today I said to myself, ‘it’s time to do another one’.

For those who don’t know (either through ignorance or a lack of interest in anything historical), today, the 8th December marks 32 years since the murder of John Lennon, possibly the 20th Century’s most influential and most loved musician/peacenik/artist/writer.

So, to mark this occasion, instead of a Monday Mix-tape (which I already did to mark what would have been his 72nd birthday), I thought I’d have a look at his solo career and try and guide you to the gems, and steer you away from the duds (even as a devoted Lennonite, I can see that he has had some bad days).

So, to start off, when John and the Beatles went their seperate ways after the recording of Abbey Road, whilst the court case to dissolve the business partnership rumbled on, John did his thing with Yoko, did a bit of Primal Therapy with Mr Janov and brought out the Plastic Ono Band album. It’s hard to find a weak link on this album, to be honest. From the opening funereal bells of ‘Mother’ the bar is set high (no change there) and it is only surpassed, in my view, by ‘Working Class Hero’ and ‘God’. But that’s not to say that the delicateness of ‘Love’ or ‘Isolation’ do not merit praise. I heartily implore you to go out and get this record!

After that, came the album that may have ensured his place amongst the greatest musicians of the modern era, Imagine. Everyone knows the title track and how good it is, so for me to preach a sermon is unneccessary. The album itself contains some real crackers, ‘Crippled Inside’, ‘Jealous Guy’, ‘Gimme Some Truth’, ‘Oh My Love’ and so on and so on. To sum up, I have three words for you on Imagine: BUY THIS ALBUM.

On the completion of Imagine, John decided to up-sticks and move to the US. And then, in 1972, he brought us his highly politicised (comparitively speaking) Some Time In New York City. I do have this album, somewhere, but sadly it doesn’t really strike a chord with me and it’s only really for the complete devotee fan. It does contain the track ‘Woman Is The Nigger Of The World’, which is well worth a listen.

He returned to more palatable output the next year, with his Mind Games album. There are some great tracks on this album, aside from the title track, ‘Tight A$’ is a fast paced little rocker, ‘Bring On The Lucie (Freda Peeple)’ may have a ridiculous title, but it’s a nice little sing-a-long once you know the words! This is followed by the silence of the ‘Nutopian International Anthem’ before heading on to the second side (remember when you had to get up and turn a record over? Something today’s kids have no appreciation for). ‘Out The Blue’ is a sweet little song, and it’s one I find has resonance in my life, and no doubt others will feel the same. It’s worth investigating.

John’s ‘Lost Weekend’ phase is quite well documented for all the drunken goings-on, but let’s not forget he still managed to give us Mind Games and his next offering, Walls And Bridges. The lead single, ‘Whatever Gets You Thru The Night’  is bold, brassy and instantly loveable. You’ve also got songs like ‘What You Got’, ‘#9 Dream’, and ‘Nobody Loves You (When You’re Down And Out)’ to keep you going, and the album finishes with a throwaway version of ‘Ya Ya’ which not only got him into a heap of legal trouble, but also inspired his next record. You should give it a try, you might just like it.

Which was the covers album, Rock And Roll. Songs that he liked as a boy, or that he enjoyed performing, or just took his fancy. Like Gene Vincent’s ‘Be Bop-A-Lula’, or my favourite, his version of Ben E King’s ‘Stand By Me’. This album is a nice way to see what inspired Lennon himself to pick up a guitar, whilst also hearing John’s own take on the songs. I’ve bought it, and I think you should consider it too!

It was at this point that John Lennon’s life changed. Yoko finally gave birth to the child they’d been trying for for years, Sean Lennon was born on John’s 35th birthday, and John hung up his guitar and decided that he would take responsibility for Sean’s immediate upbringing. So, five years later, and John felt the time was right to hit the studio once more, thus giving us the joint effort with Yoko, Double Fantasy. Now, I’m not going to lie and say I can listen to this album all day, because to be honest, Yoko’s tracks don’t really do it for me. But when you realise that John’s offerings include ‘(Just Like) Starting Over’, ‘I’m Losing You’, ‘Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)’, ‘Watching The Wheels’ and ‘Woman’, there is only one decision to make: Buy the CD, or download an mp3 version.

This however, is where John’s living input ended. His death brought to a sudden halt the burst of creativity John was enjoying, with enough rough cuts in the can for another album, and in 1984, four years after he was taken from the world, the release of Milk And Honey gave everyone the chance to hear John’s last songs. The stand out tracks for me are ‘I Don’t Wanna Face It’, ‘Nobody Told Me’, ‘Borrowed Time’, and the poignant and quite gutwrenching ‘Grow Old With Me’. Another one for the completists.

Or, you can say to yourself, ‘I can’t be arsed spending all that money buying albums for songs I might not like’. In which case, the compilation Lennon Legend is for you! All the hits, along with singles such as ‘Cold Turkey’, the festive ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’, ‘Give Peace A Chance’, and ‘Instant Karma!’ (the exclamation mark is part of the title, I assure you!)

Well, I can say no more. Other than War Is Over. If you want it.


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