Lennon re-emerges from middle-age retirement
Out of all the ex-Beatles, it was John Lennon who seemed to garner the most attention, and for good reason. Lennon was one of the most cultural and political figures the Pop world has ever known. The moment he stated in 1966 that “We’re more popular than Jesus right now” set him on an intellectual collision course with the establishment, not so much in England, but America, where he would ultimately live with his wife and soul-mate Yoko Ono.
Following 1975’s Rock ‘n’ Roll album, Lennon went into hiatus, spending time with his son, and just basically living the existence of a domesticated husband for the next several years. In other words, he went into retirement. Unsurprising considering the life he once led as a Beatle, and all the mania which came with it.
However while he was locked away in relative seclusion at the Dakota Hotel in New York City, the man was still writing songs, compiling a collection of home-made demos, some of which would find their way onto 1980’s Double Fantasy, an LP Charles Shaar Murray described as “fantasies for the over-40’s.” An apt description if there was ever one, because if anything, this album is a prime example of what happens to millionaire rock-stars who are happy to remain within their comfort zone.
Lennon was never New Wave, however the irony of Double Fantasy is that Yoko was, so much so that while John seems comfortably numb, Ono sounds remarkably cutting edge when compared to her husband’s more conjugally-focused numbers.
Lennon’s voice is in fine form on opener “(Just Like) Starting Over,” which is a perfectly crafted piece of old fashioned pop music if there ever was. Yoko’s “Kiss Kiss Kiss,” “Give Me Something,” and “I’m Moving On” are each noteworthy art-pop specimens in their own right, Kookaburra imitations and all, but that’s not why people bought the record.
Lennon’s endearing “(Beautiful Boy) Darling Boy” is simply wondrous, and an immortal anthem to parents. On “Watching The Wheels” he admits his own indifference when it comes to world affairs. Coming from someone who once proclaimed that “war is over,” clearly this was a man tired of trying to solve all of society’s problems. Still, it was one his best compositions in years, and proved that the magic was always there.
“Dear Yoko” is a New York update of 1970’s “Oh Yoko,” while Ono responds in kind with the eclectic “Yes, I’m Your Angel” and “Beautiful Boys,” both of which are far more appealing and memorable than Lennon’s domestically-themed “Cleanup Time.”
However John redeems himself with the excellent “Woman,” a Freudian pop tune if there was ever one, and the superb “I’m Losing You” (another ode to Yoko), perhaps the best he’d cut since “How Do You Sleep.” But like most dominating mothers when it comes to their compliant sons, Ono has the last word, with the eerie “Every Man Has A Woman,” and the old fashioned sounding “Hard Times Are Over,” where Yoko resembles Tokyo Rose doing Janis Joplin.
Despite the insipid album cover, Double Fantasy would unwittingly prove to be Lennon’s final will and testament. The album may have Ono written all over it, but it is John’s compositions which ultimately remain in the memory.
And while he undoubtedly had a fixation with his wife, it was an obsession which inspired him to write music. Then again, every poet needs a muse, and fortunately his survives to this day.