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 John Lennon

British rock artist

John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band - 1970

Imagine - 1971

Some Time in New York City - 1972

Mind Games - 1973

Walls and Bridges - 1974

Rock n Roll - 1975

Double Fantasy - 1980

Milk and Honey 1984

The Collection 1989

 

 

 

John Lennon

John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band - 6.5

Mother / Hold On / I Found Out / Working Class Hero / Isolation / Remember / Love / Well Well Well / Look At Me / God / My Mummy's Dead

It's difficult to know where to start with comments on Lennon as a solo artist. Immersing yourself in his music can be a daunting experience simply due to the myths that surround him and the obvious flaws in his character. Listening to this album is almost akin to picking up the man's diary. He chose to use music as a confessional and the question is does that add or detract from the music. The answer has to be a bit of both. On a musical level much of this doesn't work at all, but on a confessional level it's probably the rawest and most personal record of all time with Lennon spitting out his vitriol in a kind of "please listen to what I'm saying way." More than any other album in the history of rock music this one demands some knowledge of the artist's life and his past and visiting Liverpool and standing outside his boyhood home and also going to see the excellent film Nowhere Boy have all helped my understanding of a tortured soul. A genius certainly but a very flawed one. But it does take a lot of guts to spill out the inner mind as here. Lennon was in 1970 a man struggling to come to terms with his past and unsure about his future. In 2010 Lennon would have been 70 years of age, ironically on my birthday. It is impossible to imagine Lennon as a pensioner whereas imagining Paul McCartney at 70 is not so difficult. Perhaps that's just that McCartney is still alive but I think it goes much deeper than that.

So what do we make of the songs themselves. They are full of angst, full of reminiscences, almost full of hatred, full of screaming songs that torture the mind. Many herald this as a classic album. I think it falls short simply because of the unceasing anger in songs such as Mother and Isolation. It's almost as if Lennon is permanently sticking two fingers up at the world in an accusatory way. There isn't much lightness, but amongst all the aggression comes the beautifully simple song Love and the whimsy of Look at Me. Whilst being one of his lesser known songs the latter really sums up the man in 1970 "Look at Me, who am I supposed to be." rather says it all. I'm not sure that Lennon knew who he was supposed to be any more than we did at the time of the release and in subsequent years.

The lyrics are bitter on "Mother," accusatory on "Working Class Hero" and bordering on what some people have claimed to be blasphemous on "God." Nevertheless "God" proves how powerfully poignant Lennon could be as a songwriter - "God is a concept by which we measure our pain." This leads into almost a lengthy rant on all the people and things Lennon doesn't believe in. Here was a man in constant mental turmoil. "I don't believe in Beatles, I just believe in me, Yoko and me, that's reality. Sadly John it wasn't

 

Double Fantasy (with Yoko Ono)  1980 - 6

There is obviously a great deal of love and feeling poured into this record and there is only one thing preventing it from being an excellent album - Yoko Ono. Sadly Ono has little musical talent and a supremely dreadful voice that turns virtually all her tracks into a serious whine. Lennon, on the other hand, was at his songwriting best here with excellent songs such as "Just Like Starting Over", "Watching the Wheels," and "Woman". If only this had been a solo album with just Lennon's material. If only. At times this album is quite frightening in its intensity

 

The Collection - 1989 - 6

If ever there was evidence that Lennon veered between the exceptional and the appalling this is it. This compilation - and there is no doubt that apart from Working Class Hero which is omitted, this is the best known music of the ex-Beatle. It shows Lennon to be a complete enigma capable of blindingly beautiful music such as "Imagine", "Love" and "Jealous Guy" but also capable of dross such as Instant Karma and Cold Turkey. Lennon was always interesting, however, flying in the face of opinion. Maybe it is in this light that we should now look at his outpourings.