Just under a year after releasing John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, John Lennon’s Imagine arrived. The sophomore album has several hard hitting songs but is not as stark as it’s predecessor. “Gimme Me Some Truth”, also the name of a recent greatest hits compilation, starts with no introduction and speaks about the liars on all sides of the political and media spectrum. “I Don’t Want To Be A Soldier” has a jam feel to it with similar lyrics repeated throughout. At nearly six minutes long, “How Do you Sleep” is an edgy track that digs into former bandmate Paul McCartney while mentioning Sgt Pepper, “Yesterday”, and the Paul is dead rumours. It’s hard to notice the music when for 50 years most have only focused on the lyrics.
Produced along with Phil Spector and Yoko Ono, it’s not all savage critiques and offers some beautiful moments. “Oh My Love” co-written with Ono, is a lovely piano lead track that offers a clean sound with no strings added as Lennon sings, “oh my love, for the first time in my life/my eyes are wide open”. “How” sees Lennon question which direction to go before the sunny pop of “Oh Yoko!” ends the album on a bright note.
The two most well known songs arrive on the first half of the album. “Jealous Guy” started as a track originally written during The Beatles album before being left off then repurposed with new lyrics. The chorus of “I didn’t mean to hurt you/I’m sorry that I made you cry” is still devastating and the apologies likely don’t make up for the regret. Just one track in, the title track is the album’s highlight. One of the most well known songs throughout the world, “Imagine” mixes spirituality without religion, no country borders, a dash of communism, and a lot of love. The song is one of those that seems to have been around forever and is one of the most powerful in the rock and roll canon. Both the Imagine song and album are among John Lennon’s greatest achievements.
Upon the break-up of The Beatles in the spring of 1970, John Lennon and Yoko Ono decamped to the US to take part in Primal Therapy sessions. The rawness of those classes, lead Lennon to record this official debut released in December 1970. Here, Lennon is backed by the Plastic Ono Band with him and Ono producing with assistance from Phil Spector. Recording was quick, beginning on September 26th and ending a month later.
At times John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band is spare and minimal as Lennon touches on family and the relationship with his parents, especially his Mother numerous times. First single and album opener “Mother” is a devastating way to open an album. “Mother, you had me but I never had you” cuts deep. The album closes with “My Mummy’s Dead”. At a mere 52 seconds, the vocals sound like they were recorded onto a tape recorder.
“Working Class Hero” is an equally powerful track as the opener– “as soon as you’re born they make you feel small” It’s another track that makes it’s intent known in the first line. An understated song that is filled with quiet rage and reminds of Dylan’s 60’s work. The intro to “Love” is long and takes awhile to come to the listener’s attention before Lennon sings “love is real, real is love”, “Isolation” sings of Lennon and Ono just being a boy and girl. To contrast the quieter sounds, “Well Well Well” has a White Stripes thump to begin, filled with distortion and a harder edge. The foundation of “Remember” is a driving rock and roll beat before a gun shot brings it to a close.
On his debut, John Lennon with the help of Yoko Ono leaves the 60s behind. “God” lists all the things that Lennon does not believe in including the bible, Buddha, and the Beatles before declaring that the “dream is over”. What he does believe in is himself and Yoko. Personal, direct and raw John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band is regarded as one of Lennon’s finest with a bucolic cover that looks amazing on vinyl… even if we only have the CD.