Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us, only sky
September 9, 1971. John Lennon’s second solo/post-Beatles album “Imagine” is released. It’s highlighted by the title track, which immediately became an anti-war anthem. Fifty years later, it remains an iconic part of Lennon’s solo catalog of work,
However, there’s more to this album than only “Imagine” the song. In my opinion, the album itself was more than a little overrated. While there are some good to great moments, there’s plenty that could have been better. Let’s take a look:
Why not start with the BAD:
a, It doesn’t compare with his work with The Beatles. That might be a fair criticism, but at the time of this release, the end of the band was still recent. The feelings were raw. Paul McCartney’s early work was certainly compared to his Beatles work, so why not Lennon’s? Neither was nearly as good. The only Beatle you could say was as good or better was George Harrison.
b. The direct shot taken at Paul McCartney in the song “How Do You Sleep” was inane. It’s understood that the feelings between the two were still bitter but lyrics like “The only thing you done was yesterday / And since you’ve gone you’re just another day” seem petty.
c. “Oh Yoko!” makes me cringe. Someone who writes a song like that should never talk about anyone writing silly love songs.
d. More overproduction by Phil Spector. I thought these guys hated the wall of sound that Phil brought to the “Let It Be” album, or maybe it was only Paul. Still, Phil did it again on this album. What works for The Ronettes doesn’t work for John Lennon….and did it really work for The Ronettes?
Now for the GOOD:
a. “Imagine”, the song. Fifty years later, it still holds up. I bet you hear the word imagine and can start singing the song. It’s a forever piece of music.
b. There’s more than just the one hit on this record. “Jealous Guy” and “Gimme Some Truth” are excellent tunes. We needed more of those and less “How Do You Sleep” and “Oh Yoko!.”
c. This album is much better than McCartney’s 1971 release, “Ram”….much, much better! This might sound like faint praise but I bet it was important to both Paul and John back in 1971.
My feelings about this album are much the same as they were fifty years ago today. The good and the bad cancel each other. But one thing that does remain is the song “Imagine.” I imagine you’ll be hearing it today as well as fifty years from now.
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one
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