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The Lipstick Page Forums Beauty & Fashion Blog
Culture Notes: John Lennon part 1

Posted by Colleen Shirazi, Friday, January 18, 2008 7:43 PM (Eastern)

When I was a kid, I idolized John Lennon. I'm old enough to remember the day the Beatles disbanded...or rather, I have this tiny glimpse of the neighborhood kids and me playing on the street. I'm picturing it as summer, a bunch of kids wearing shorts and goofing around in the neighborhood. In the warmth of golden late afternoon sunlight, someone mentioned the Beatles had broken up. It sounded strange, unreal. This memory coincides with a few others of this time in my life, like the kids down the street setting up their own haunted house.

When I was...thirteen? fourteen?...I got hold of Lennon Remembers, the Rolling Stone interviews he and Yoko Ono had done in 1970, read it cover to cover...and later on, the Playboy interview (1980), which still brings a smile:

PLAYBOY: The word is out: John Lennon and Yoko Ono are back in the studio, recording again for the first time since 1975, when they vanished from public view. Let's start with you, John. What have you been doing?

LENNON: I've been baking bread and looking after the baby.

PLAYBOY: With what secret projects going on in the basement?

LENNON: That's like what everyone else who has asked me that question over the last few years says. "But what else have you been doing?" To which I say, "Are you kidding?" Because bread and babies, as every housewife knows, is a full-time job. After I made the loaves, I felt like I had conquered something. But as I watched the bread being eaten, I thought, Well, Jesus, don't I get a gold record or knighted or nothing?

From Lennon Remembers, I read about the songs on John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, the first record Lennon had released after the break-up, long before I actually heard any of them. Bear in mind, the record emerged for me in 1970's Norfolk, Virginia, which is like a conservative sandwich filled with conservative meats, moistened with conservatism, and served on a highly conservative plate. Songs titled "Working Class Hero," "God," "My Mummy's Dead," etc., didn't exactly get much airtime back then.

When I finally bought the record, I was amazed how melodic the work was. For whatever odd reason, I'd had the impression of this wildly atonal explosion of radicalism, but it was really quite nice. Lennon would subsequently make lusher music, funkier music; he would do Elvis, covers of 1950's tunes, a lot of things really, given a period of only ten years...but it was the first album that was, in my opinion, the most beautiful. Even with the Primal Scream stuff. :D

John Lennon - Isolation (1970)

As much as "Imagine" the single has been played, what begins side 2 of the album Imagine (1971) is the most scintillating burst of...words, followed by a smokin' guitar solo by George Harrison.

John Lennon - Gimme Some Truth

I don't remember much of 1973's Mind Games. "Mind Games" the single was widely played on the radio, and "Out the Blue" was a nice little tune.

Walls and Bridges (1974) was better, though some of the production was pretty rough. "What You Got," for example, was a fantastic song, but the voice on it was raspy (I could probably sing as well). "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night," a duet with Elton John, was pure pop perfection. From the Wiki:

The recording featured Elton John on backing vocals and piano alongside the Muscle Shoals Horns. While in the studio, Elton bet Lennon that the song would top the charts, and such was Lennon's skepticism that Elton secured from him a promise to appear on stage at one of his performances should the record indeed hit number one. When the record did achieve that feat, Lennon appeared at Elton John's Thanksgiving performance at Madison Square Garden on November 28, 1974.

There was also the highly accessible (now there's a totally 70's word for ya, along with "derivative") #9 Dream. But let's play something you probably haven't heard:

John Lennon - Bless You

It's too much to cover in a single post, so I'll try to pick this up later.

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Colleen Shirazi continues to blog here: Life of Colleen
2 comment(s)
January 18, 2008 8:59 PM, Blogger Dain said...

Mmm... thank you. You know, there are people who don't like The Beatles? It was a smart mix, Paul for the popular-catchy tunes and John for the philosophical edge. I wonder if we'll ever see anything like them again, though Radiohead reminds me of The Grateful Dead a little.

January 18, 2008 9:32 PM, Blogger Colleen Shirazi said...

At the risk of sounding like a complete git, "Video killed the radio star." :D

I think radio in the West has lost its power. If I think about the 70's, or even the 80's...people were slaves to their radios and records, perhaps the same way they are now slaves to the Internet.

In that regard, it would be hard to replace the Beatles. If you wanted a new Beatles, they would have to come from a place where people are still addicted to music.


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