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Saturday, October 09, 2010

I stand alone in this, I'm sure
Posted by Jill | 6:45 AM
Imagine is one of the worst, most pretentious pieces of claptrap ever composed.

Today is John Lennon's 70th birthday, if he were still with us. As the musicians with whom I grew up start to wane into their late sixties and approach seventy, it simply serves as a reminder that even though having no children lets you kid yourself for a long time that you're staying in one place and not getting older yourself, time marches on.

I have to wonder how Lennon would have been viewed had he not been murdered that night in 1980. Because with all the unreleased tracks and all the biographies and all the recollections of Lennon's life and music both with and without the Beatles that have appeared over the last few years, and from the vantage point of time, it becomes more clear every day that Lennon/McCartney was greater than the sum of its parts. Looking at both John Lennon's and Paul McCartney's post-Beatles careers, we can see how desperately these two guys needed each other to do what they did. Without Paul McCartney to temper Lennon's tendency towards pompous self-importance, Lennon's music veered off into pretentious self-indulgence. Without John Lennon to temper McCartney's tendency toward sappiness, McCartney is more like a Tin Pan Alley pop composer than an influential musician.

The irony is that the most interesting post-Beatles career was had by the late George Harrison, whom it turns out may have been the most gifted Beatle of all.

There will be much typing done today and conversation about the greatness of John Lennon, but while there's no denying how influential he was, that influence was as part of a duo. I mean seriously:

If that were not John Lennon, would anyone have listened to it?
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Anonymous Anonymous said...
Yes?! John's first two solo albums were, for the most part, excellent; his later work degenerated into whatever. Paul lasted for a couple more albums before his work degenerated into whatever.

I remember driving over to the nursing home to see my mother for her last Mother's Day - she would die about a month later - and Lennon's "Mother" (first solo album) came on and almost had me in tears. No great lyrics, but his emotion was in them.

George was my favorite Beatle, but aside from "Something", "Here Comes The Sun", "I Me Mine", and "Savoy Truffle" (and maybe "Taxman"), I would be hard-pressed to think of anything he'd done that came up to the standard set by John and Paul.

Mind you, I was in college in the first few post-breakup years, so I was able to listen to each's albums repeatedly and without distractions - I'd really get to know the albums. Now, I'm lucky to give a new album a complete listen before switching back to some oldies I know and love! :)

P.S. Love your blog - I read it every morning!

Blogger PENolan said...
I totally stand with you.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I wasn't a fan of the Beatles. I can only listen to the same music 3 or 4 times in a day and not hate it.

I went to a party to listen to the The White Album. Twice through and me and the Beatles were quits.

George was the only one that I paid any attention to when the official group broke up. Still feel he was underrated.

Blogger mileslarboy said...
I'm glad (thrilled, actually) to see someone else say it. I've always thought that IMAGINE is THE most overrated song in the world.

Anonymous mandt said...
You are so right on. As I view it from a perch of 65, the Beatles were dips and are still dips---geriatric has beens. Still can't hold a candle to the evilness of Mick J. or the genius of Clapton. All in all it's still Yoko's happenings and royalties .

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Ooooh...you hate John Lennon...and think the Beatles were overrated! Imagine sucked and all those ignoramuses who liked it were just too ignorant to realize it. You're all sooo cool. True hipsters. I know everyone who reads this post and the associated comments will be very impressed.

Anonymous phil d said...
"Without John Lennon to temper McCartney's tendency toward sappiness, McCartney is more like a Tin Pan Alley pop composer than an influential musician."

Crazy talk, albeit conventional wisdom. The very same year that Lennon released his comeback album, which was full of sentimental material like "(Just Like) Starting Over" and "Beautiful Boy," McCartney released an album that essentially consisted of him farting around with home recording equipment and sequencers, and contained such weirdness as "Coming Up," "Temporary Secretary" and "Frozen Jap."

Blogger Larchmont Kid said...
I was still 16 when Beatlemania washed over American shores. It was thrilling then, and much of the music still thrills me today.

Sure, I've probably heard She Loves You, I Want to Hold Your Hand and Love Me Do more than enough times...but if one pops up on oldies radio and I haven't heard it in a while, I still get goosebumps. My favorites among the earliest work are the ones that haven't been played to death, like Little Child, Don't Bother Me, From Me To You.

Among the later - and solo - material, some I like, some I dont. And I do like 'Jealous Guy.'

After McCartney's first post-Beatles album, I really don't like much of it. Wing? Eh.

But I do notice lately a Beatles backlash, even among people of my generation. And I don't get it. I remember when the Dave Clark Five was gonna crush the Fab Four.

Certainly there have been other great artists, with great material, but that doesn't mean you have to diss those boys from Liverpool.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
spoken like someone who doesn't understand musi or where it comes from.

Blogger Batocchio said...
You really don't like "Jealous Guy," huh? Haha. In general, most of The Beatles' solo albums are uneven, much more so than their work together – the solo efforts typically have a few good songs per album or one standout. Some of the albums are strong as albums, listened to all at once, but don't have an easily excerpted single. Plastic Ono Band and All Things Must Pass are probably the best overall, but there's some good stuff elsewhere, too. In any case, John wrote "Jealous Guy" back during "The White Album" and it was one of about four songs that didn't make the cut, and then he wrote new lyrics for it later on. So it's actually a Beatles-era tune. BTW, you might want to check out the Slate series on the Lennon-McCartney collaboration, on how they made each other better:


Anonymous Anonymous said...
Dear god, "Jealous Guy" is so bad, I haven't heard it in at least 15 years (hell no I'm not clicking that link!) yet it still gets stuck in my head! (I had "Imagine" on cassette--not easy to skip tracks in those days!)

So simpering, so pathetic... to think that the man who once sang "You Can't Do That" would be whining "I was feeling insecure" so annoyingly just a few years later.

Anonymous Dayv said...
Quick, to the keyboard! Someone is *wrong* on the internet!

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I love this song. The thing I admire most about the beatles and the stuff that they did solo, is that they are willing to change their music and experiment. I can't think of a group that changed as much as the beatles did. and the beatles did it in about 6 years. From "She loves you." to Abbey Road. An amazing transformation. The stones or any other group almost always tried to say the same things in the same way. I love the stones but the beatles were better artists.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Paul continued to right sappy shit, up until whatever the last crappy thing from him I heard, which is whatever the last thing I've heard from him, was.

John wrote stuff that made you think, and about the experience of life, and wrote more and more of it was that way the older he got.

I like most of what John wrote, as much of his stuff as nearly any other artist that I've heard. You're entitled to your opinion. So what?

Of the two of them, I'd much rather stick with John, a much better writer, a much better human, and a much more interesting person.