Saturday, January 27, 2007

John Lennon - Remember

This is a recently released collection of songs by John Lennon, as a solo artist. The CD is currently being sold in Starbucks.

While listening, I got the distinct impression that John thought of himself as an “Artiste.” A critic once said of Billie Holiday that, career-wise, she was at her best as a nightclub entertainer but that after the success of her song, “Strange Fruit,” she began thinking of herself as an Artiste, and as a result, went into decline. I suspect that for John, his equivalent of Strange Fruit was getting involved with Yoko Ono.

I do find the combination of Lennon’s writing and singing voice to be refreshing. As a solo song-writer, he was damn good at times, but he was no Bob Dylan. Of course, we do not know what he might have written had his life not been cut short.

Many of the songs here bore me, but there are a few goodies. I absolutely love, “Instant Karma! (We All Shine On).” It is an exuberant affirmation of personhood, purpose, and self-esteem. I never tire of it. If you have problems with the concept of Karma, just think of it as Grace instead.

Lyrically, most of the songs are good, with a few select exceptions. I recall some hipster-type critic years ago, maybe it was in the Village Voice, praising the artistic merits of, “Working Class Hero.” It may be from the gut and full of rage, but that doesn’t make it a good song. I would also put, “Mother,” in the same category, a from-the-gut, courageous confrontation with his demons but not a great song. “Remember,” is another attempt at reckoning with upbringing, and I keep skipping over it. The liner notes claim that several songs in the collection are deeply philosophical. I am not so sure about that but they are a deep, hard look at himself and his relationship with the world.

“Sean’s Little Help,” is a loving cutie. Sean at age four tries singing, from memory, his father’s, “A Little Help from My Friends.” The dialogue from John shows him as such a wonderful, loving father.

Bob Dylan was one of the few popular musicians that John Lennon could consider a peer, and John was still alive when Dylan went through the three albums of his born-again phase. Accordingly to Yoko Ono, his song, “God,” was intended as a dialogue with Dylan. Apparently, the bottom line with Lennon was that he did not believe in any absolute truths. Anyway, the song is fairly provocative, if self-centered.

“Imagine,” is simply a great song. I don’t need to say anything more about it.

“Going Down On Love (Instructions Only),” is not a song but instructions being given by Lennon to musicians in the studio, while trying to record the song. It is very interesting to hear his voice and observe his personality. He knew exactly what he wanted.

I used to like the song, “Nobody Told Me.” I am not sure if this recording is the same one that was played on the radio. It doesn’t seem to move me as much.

Maybe I'll go back and give more of a listen to the songs I've been skipping over, like "Remember." Or maybe I've just outgrown any interest in deconstructing childhood.


Blogger d. chedwick bryant said...

I totally agree with this post, the whole Atriste thing can ruin things. I'm glad Lennon inspired Bob to go electric, but I suspect Bob would have eventually anyway.

2:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A lot of the Plastic Ono Band LP material was heavily influenced by Arthur Janov, but I see the changes in quality of his solo material largely due to the fact that he wasn't challenged as much without the other three Beatles.

12:17 AM  
Blogger kabloona said...

I now think that Working Class Hero is a better song than what I thought above--I now think it is good but short of great. The combination of music, voice and lyrics are rather arresting.

12:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a lot of background on many of those songs in this book. I don't think it was really Yoko that caused the decline, but complacency in general (while with Yoko, he wrote his songs for the White Album, Let It Be, Abbey Road, etc. plus all the solo songs you mention).

7:12 PM  

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