It is sad to know we’ve been robbed of the songs that were to come from John Lennon. He was a master of his craft and made music that was personal and unique. In partnership with Paul McCartney, and later as a solo artist, he wrote songs that have become the soundtrack of the Sixties and Seventies. He covered a wide range of subjects in his work, from the Vietnam conflict and women’s rights to his own search for peace of mind, and in doing so, he became a mirror for two generations. Throughout his life he experienced acute loneliness, which he used as raw material:
When I was younger
So much younger than today ...
The song ‘A Day in the Life’, written with Paul McCartney, has that lyrical quality tinged with sadness which is evident in so much of his work. It evokes that confused period of the late Sixties when optimism turned to cynicism.
I read the news today, oh boy
About a lucky man who made the grade ...
The overwhelming success of the Beatles imposed an intolerable strain on their equilibrium. The group achieved the status of Royalty without the equivalent protection. It is understandable that Lennon took refuge in drug-taking, both as a fashionable release and also in an attempt at rediscovering his own identity. The ‘Across the Universe’ lyric, from the Beatles’ final album Let it be, has the hallmark of a psychedelic experience.
Words are flowing out like endless rain
Into a paper cup ...
Lennon’s talent was not confined to song-writing and he had two books published containing poetry and whimsy. Here is a piece taken from A Spaniard in the Works:
Azue orl gnome, Harased Wilsod won the General Erection, with a very small marjorie over the Torchies. Thus pudding the Laboring Partly back into powell after a large abscess. This he could not have done withoutspan the barking of thee Trade Onions, heady by Frenk Cunnings (who noun has a SAFE SEAT in Nuneating thank you and Fronk (only 62) Bowels hasn’t.)
Sir Alice Doubtless-Whom was – quote – ‘bitherly dithappointed’ but managed to keep smirking on his 500,000 acre estate in Scotland with a bit of fishing and that.
The Torchies (now in apperition) have still the capable qualities of such disable men as Rabbit Bunloaf and the very late Harrods McMillion. What, you arsk, happened to Answerme Enos (ex-Prim Minicar) after that Suez pudding, peaple are saying. Well I don’t know.
In the same book he showed that he was well aware of the British media’s reputation for making and breaking people, especially pop stars. He wrote a skit on the columnist Cassandra,‘Cassandle – the Way I See It’:
How many moron of these incredible sleasy backward, bad, deaf monkeys parsing as entertainers, with thier FLOPTOPPED hair, falling about the place like Mary PICKFORD, do I have to put up with? The way I see it, a good smell in the Army would cure them, get rid of a few more capitalist barskets (OOPS!) Not being able to stand capitalism, I fail to see why those awful common lads make all that money, in spite of me and the government in a society such as ours where our talent will out.
The songs written with McCartney, by virture of their being well rehearsed and shaped by group effort, have a more positive construction than his later work, which contains very personal statements. If there is a common theme in his solo songs, it is that peace and love can conquer pain and misery.
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try ...
It is the supreme irony that when he had at last found inner contentment, his life was taken by an assassin. A song from his last album, Double Fantasy, called ‘Watching the Wheels’, says this:
When I say that I’m OK they look at me
Kind of strange ...