1972 – Some Time In New York City
One really wonders what John was thinking on this one. In early 1972, he was on top of the world, with Plastic Ono Band and Imagine just behind him, not to mention the entire Beatles' legacy.
I know he got hit up by Tariq Ali and those Red Mole guys and so on, and in those days John was a bit of a sucker for any anti-establishment cause, but what's weird to me is that he seemed completely oblivious to the fact that he was committing career suicide.
My own theory is that John in late 1971 was blissfully ignorant of the reality of mainstream American culture. He had traveled the US on a few Beatle tours, and spent time with Janov in L.A., but was so sheltered by his celebrity that he never really got out and met real people outside of urban centers on the coasts. If you only spend time with artists and scene-makers in New York and L.A. in brief visits, you might get the impression that America is the land of hipsters and trend-setters who are pushing the boundaries of mainstream culture. However, in reality, America is the land of rednecks and farmers, not to mention the Tea Party and the flat-earth society. Likewise, Yoko's knowledge extended to artists in New York City only. What neither of them realized was that releasing an entire LP of anti-establishment slogans was going to go down in flames.
I think John thought he was going to look super-hip and make Paul and George look square and in-the-clouds (respectively) by going all 'street', but in fact he ended up making himself look like an idiot.
I am a Leftist and I have a certain respect for and sympathy towards the smarter-end of the counter-culture of the late-60s / early-70s. Angela Davis, for one, was harmless (less so George Jackson and his brother) and very smart, and has done a lot of good things with her long career, particularly with prison-reform (another worthy topic broached on STINYC). But John seemed to fall for the spiel of a lot of the stupider end of that spectrum, from David Peel to John Sinclair to Michael X (a murderer). Not only that, but he was immersing himself in Greenwich Village and protest-songwriting nearly a decade after Bob Dylan had given it up.
One is tempted to wonder how much sharper, musically, John might have been if he'd stayed home in England. The US was stuck in the cycles of dull stadium-rock through the mid-to-late-70s, but in Britain in 1971-72 Glam-rock took the scene in a new direction (Ringo was on top of that, directing a film about it!), followed by the super-stardom of Elton John and Bowie, both of whom John liked and got on with – not to mention punk going big in 1976. The UK scene was just a lot more at the cutting edge in the 70s, and I think it would have kept John in better stead.
Re: The single. I have some admiration for the sentiments and some of the lyrics to "Woman is the Nigger of the World". But I'm not sure at all that John was aware of how provocative his use of the word "nigger" was. Yoko was a sheltered upper-crust Japanese raised in the 40s/50s, and John a middle-class Scouser from the 50s. I'm not saying they were babes in the woods, but I suspect they did not have the national-cultural awareness that the average American would have had. So, the idea of the song was a good one, but non-Americans throwing around the word "nigger" was probably not the smartest thing.
Anyway, the songs on the studio disc:
Woman Is The Nigger Of The World – This is a quite good song, slightly undone by the inappropriate use of "nigger", and also by Stan Bronstein's horrible sax-solo. The track cooks and has a good message, though. John's vocal is impressive, although it sounds a bit like a first-take. This record, like Imagine, doesn't sound like the vocals were very carefully done. (And, like, really, John? You're the biggest star in the world and you can't hire a decent backing band?)
Sisters, O Sisters – A good-ish, 50s' rockabilly-style tune with another feminist message, this time from the pixie-voiced Yoko. (At least she's not screaming.) It's a reasonably decent tune, I guess, but Yoko's voice just isn't good enough to carry it home. Lyrics are pretty bad, too.
Attica State – Here is where STINYC starts to go really wonky! This song pretty much blows, despite its decent chorus. The main problems here are the horrendous production and (again) the incompetent backing by Elephant's Discharge. John sounds like he's just going through the motions, vocally, and a lot of distortion was applied to his vocal, for no apparent reason.
Born In A Prison – More blow on Yoko song #2. "Wood becomes a flute when it's loved" – okay, not a bad line. But the "sent to a prison called school" part is just a limp-wristed recycling of "Working Class Hero". Horrible vocal by Yoko. More horrible sax by Bronstein. (Decent drums, as we get Jim Keltner at least.)
New York City – I actually don't care too much for this one. It's a nice boogie, maybe, with a better band behind it than Forgetful Elephant, but it never quite achieves lift-off. John doesn't really help with his first(?)-take, lazy vocal with lots of odd, out-of-rhythm lines that stymie the swing of the song. Some of the lyrics are poor, some are fine. It would have been great if it had had a catchy chorus, but it doesn't. At least it rocks and we get to hear Johnny on pretty good lead guitar. (I actually enjoy this one more on Live in New York City.)
Sunday Bloody Sunday – I like this song! (Love the Wolfe Tones' version – check YouTube.) It's a really good tune with appropriate, probably heartfelt, lyrics. Unfortunately, once again it's the crappy production and Yoko's horrific warbling on the choruses that sink it down into the mire. (Guitar solo, though horribly recorded, isn't too bad – is that John? The sax, for once, isn't bad, but did we need a Bowery-sax solo and a Japanese warbler on a song about Northern Ireland?) You couldn't find a better contrast than Paul’s "Give Ireland Back to the Irish" (diplomatic, kow-towing, simplistic) and "Sunday Bloody Sunday" (rush-recorded, wife-at-the-front, direct and cutting).
The Luck Of The Irish – This is probably the best composition on the album, and supposedly was slated to be the 1st single before being cancelled. A really good song, sunk by Yoko's incredibly crap vocals. I can't tell you what a treasure it was to find (on YouTube) that mix of the song with only John's voice! Lovely tune, despite the awful "blarney stone" line by Yoko. (I've also always been a bit uncomfortable with John's singing "you'd wish you was English instead"... it just seems a bit insulting to Irish people, who, I'm sure, do not wish they were English.)
John Sinclair – This is one of the better compositions on STINYC, and, in fact, is probably the very best 'track' – for once, pretty well-recorded and with some snap and swing, great slide-guitar sound, etc.... but is undone by the ridiculously stupid "Gotta-gotta-gotta-gotta-gotta-gotta-gotta-gotta's" that go on endlessly. Needless to say, John Sinclair was a total dick, and I think John & Yoko were already at odds with him months before this album was even released.
Angela – Very much like "Sisters, O Sisters" – a decent song, Yoko-fied, but sunk by silly lyrics and the poor vocals (John's are awful too). But hell, The Beatles could have recorded this with G. Martin at Abbey Road and it would still sound pretty awful. The song just isn't that damn good. As I was listening to this, the song was 2/3 over and I thought, "For once, Elephant's Dung don't get in the way and ruin the musicianship...!" And then the bloody sax came in again... F***!
I can't believe the line: "They gave you everything except the jailhouse key!" God, that is terrible.
It's not doing John any favors, but compare this fairly awful song to The Stones' great "Sweet Black Angel" (likely about Angela Davis as well) …or Bob Dylan's "George Jackson" ("about" Davis's supposed partner, though we later found out she was a lesbian and I don't think they ever had much in common).
Both those tunes are great. John's is dire.
We're All Water – John's guitar on this is really awesome!! Just for that, it's worth a listen... Okay, not really. Unfortunately, everything about it (yeah, including the damn sax) is horrid, to the point of complete and total incompetence of the embarrassing variety. Then, for good measure, some Yoko-screeching because, ya know, we just might be able to make this track a bit worse!
But hey, how many pop songs do you know that mention Eldridge Cleaver, while comparing Charles Manson to The Pope? This song represents the nadir of John's entire recording career, albeit it was recorded to keep the wife happy.
And yeah, I tried listening to the Live Jam disc. Ugh.
Seriously, what was John thinking with this? Since, apparently, "Luck of the Irish" was canceled as a single just before the album, and the 2nd disc of 2.5-year-old live jams with Frank Zappa (and George Harrison) was added, do you think John realized, just before STINYC was mastered, that the main disc was going to be an embarrassing turkey, and so he decided to throw in the "free disc" to make people look at the whole album more sympathetically?
"Cold Turkey" wasn't very good. The only decent thing here is "Jamrag" by Zappa, which John blatantly stole and tried to pass off as his own (later settled financially).
Just a weird, weird release in every way. Edited versions of "The Luck of the Irish" and "John Sinclair" make very worthy tracks, but the other 8 tracks can be dispensed with. Please.
1973 – Mind Games
Mind Games – Yes, it's a classic. Lyrics inspired by Mind Games: The Guide to Inner Space [book]. John had this tune kicking around since the Let It Be sessions, and finally settled on a lyric and nailed it!
Tight A$ – Forgettable tune. Sounds like John's trying to sound like the house band in a bar in Houston. Does anyone know what he's going on about, lyrically, here? The style of this is not to my taste, and the tune isn't strong enough to push it over.
Aisumasen (I'm Sorry) – Ugh. First of all, "Aisumasen" doesn't make sense in Japanese. What's he's trying to sing is "aisumimasen", which is really formal. I don't think it's something you would say to your wife to express regret, in the modern context anyway. Then, the song itself is just a yawner. I do get a sense of the melodic possibilities of the tune in the lift into the 'chorus', but with this slow tempo and crappy arrangement it really works to kill whatever chance the song has. The only good part is the guitar solo at the end (is that David Spinozza? He also played on Ram).
One Day (At A Time) – Best tune since the 1st one, but this is ultra-lightweight stuff. ("You are my woman / I am your man"... ugh, really John?) Rare example of saxophone working nicely on a Lennon track – thank God it wasn't Elephant's Memory!
Bring On The Lucie (Freeda Peeple) – Pretty good, thanks to the excellent chord-structure, reflected in Pete Kleinow's steel guitar, which is cool. My only beef with this one is the rather limp lyrical refrain of "Free (da) people now – Do it, Do it, Do it, Do it, Do It now". I think John is playing it safe here, which is disappointing. He wasn't going to risk going back to specific 'causes' in lyrics after STINYC completely bombed, so he writes a vague, almost (dare I say it?) 'McCartney-esque' lyric here.
Intuition – I like this one because it's very Lennon. The song kind of runs out of steam after a couple of minutes, but basically it's a very nice tune. Just so John.
Out The Blue – Another really good one. (With 'Aisumasen' and 'Out The Blue', John seems to be already trying to get back Yoko back, and he hasn't lost her yet.) The piano part at the end of this track is really nice. And I love his vocal here – "Anyway! I'll survive!!" Awesome. This one and "Mind Games" are maybe the only two tracks where the bridge is quite satisfying.
Only People – I'd completely forgotten this track for years until hearing it again tonight. There's a nice jaunty riff (here played on piano) trying to get out, but the recording doesn't really bring it out. A near miss.
I Know (I Know) – I like the line about "only learning to tell trees from wood". Again, there's the root of a good song, but it never quite goes far enough. This song is a perfect examples of John's rather undisciplined songwriting missing a Paul McCartney-touch. The bridges in the song is merely functional, but not very interesting musically. In the end, I don't get much of any feeling whatsoever from this track.
You Are Here – Reflection on leaving Japan, while on an airplane? (I can relate.) Unfortunately, little to no musical interest. Snoozer, but a pretty one.
Meat City – Great to hear some fast boogie-rock (after a whole album of mid-tempo mediocrity), but in the end this just passes by in a whirl with no discernible point.
I was pleasantly surprised listening to Mind Games again. It's not as boring as I'd remembered. A few songs I'd dismissed years ago are somewhat better than I'd thought previously. But I was so much older then; I'm younger than that now.
1974 – Walls & Bridges
Going Down On Love – Almost a really good song. The "got to get down" funky bit with ska-rhythm is really cool, but the song doesn't go anywhere from there. There's a lot of 'arrangement' and production here and not much "song". The horns are terrible, and the outro is downright bad.
Whatever Gets You Thru The Night – Never cared for this, but I enjoyed it more than usual today. Maybe the key is not hearing it often? It's certainly got a lot of energy, which is welcome, and hearing John and Elton together on record is cool. I think what lowers this song a lot is the God-awful horns. They are really bad. If we got rid of those, and replaced the horn-charts with some cool Clapton guitar solos or something, it'd be a much, much better song, thin and kind of 'throwaway' as it is.
Old Dirt Road – I like this one. It's mostly a really good tune, but is just lacking a good bridge. The bridge John came up with is rather poor, and cries out for Paul. Unfortunately, this prevents it from being a truly great song, but it's still quite a good one. Over-produced, though. (Would be interesting to know what Nilsson contributed to this one, as co-writer.)
What You Got – This is really good song. The LP cut cooks with gas, and it's just a really nice track. The verse-to-chorus chord change is fabulous and really catchy. The only limitation is the poor production (again), which is overly-slick and "busy". Would be interesting to know when he wrote this, exactly, to ponder if it's a Yoko-reflection.
Bless You – Another good (but not great) one. This is very "70s"-sounding slow-jam R&B, like it could have been done by Smokey Robinson or someone. I really enjoyed John's vocal while listening to this tonight. It's cool. For once, the production doesn't interfere with the song, and we can really hear the gentle guitar-picking that fills in spaces between verses. A worthy track.
Scared – Not bad, but never quite goes the distance. The descending chord pattern ("scared, scared, scared") is cool, but there's really not much else to recommend about the song. (The "hatred, jealousy" bridge is not very good.) Taking it as the final cut on Side 1, it's fine.
#9 Dream – Easily the best pure melody on the album. This track seems to have gotten more popular and universally-loved over the ensuing decades. [One thing I can never forgive Yoko for is inserting herself into the video for this, as if it were her voice and not May Pang's saying "John!". That is awful.] Appropriately went to #9 on the US pop charts.
Surprise, Surprise (Sweet Bird Of Paradox) – "She makes me sweat / And forget who I am". John was certainly red-hot for May! Even though he stopped living with May Pang shortly after this record came out, he evidently still carried a torch for her until his death, and, if you believe May, was still visiting her and sending her messages right 'til the end (I personally don't doubt that at all). Still, the "I - love - her" parts at the end sound a little forced to me, as if predicting the end of something temporary....
Steel And Glass – As everyone notes, this is "How Do You Sleep Part 2", for Klein, yet another father-figure who John felt let him down. Comparing them, I think "How Do You Sleep" has much the better chorus, but this one has more interesting lyrics. (It's almost creepy how John sings exactly the same melodic phrase as "How Do You Sleep" in the end of each long note, and the orchestration, and saxophone, play nearly the same melody as on the earlier song.) Jesse Ed Davis was a big contributor to John's music around this time, and I love the effect on his electric guitar on this track.
Beef Jerky – Nice little jam. Tight. (Didn't need the horns... again.)
Nobody Loves You (When You're Down And Out) – Great song! As usual on Mind Games and Walls & Bridges, it's over-produced, but anyway it's a cool song. I think I prefer the demo, though.
Ya-Ya – Throwaway rehearsal with Julian, to piss off Morris Levy.
This has always been a fascinating album to me because it's the only Lennon album without Yoko influencing the recording, or directly influencing John, at all. Sure, he's thinking of her in a few of the lyrics, but this album is a product of John's summer 1974 in New York City, living in mid-town with May Pang. By all accounts, he was in good shape then, happy and productive. (Yoko later tried to include this period in John's "lost weekend", but in fact he wasn't lost at all – he was strong and healthy.)
Anyway, even though I don't like some of the busier production aspects and I would delete 90% of the horns if I could, I still think this is a good album, albeit not rave-worthy. It just sounds very confident, unlike the previous two (actually the previous four, in a way). It sounds really focused, like John was dialed-in in the studio and knew what he wanted. The only limitation to the songwriting and John's performance is that the album isn't overly strong melodically, by John's standards, though there are some strong tunes.
Even though this album can't be called as good as Plastic Ono Band or Imagine – because it simply doesn't have as many good songs, and those earlier ones sound more natural and more “classic rock” – it does sound more confident and assured than Imagine, and of course it has more instrumental diversity than POB. It's just a very interesting record, and, speaking selfishly, I would have liked John to have carried on without Yoko (and Sean, I guess) for more years to come, to see what he would have done as a solo artist without his wife as his undeserved equal-billing collaborator.
By the way, I hadn't realized that the excellent "What You Got" was on the B-side of “#9 Dream”. Must rank as one of the better two-sided solo Beatle singles....
1975 – Rock'n'Roll
Be-Bop-A-Lula – Really good cover; I've just never been overly fond of the song.... John and Paul both were enamored of it.
Stand By Me – I've never liked John's version of this – vocal too aggressive and not sensitive enough. This earned single status and charted, so it's become undeservedly well-known.
Medley: Rip It Up/Ready Teddy – I adore Elvis's take on these both, but John's medley is a bit too slow and has way too many horns! Pare it down, please.
You Can't Catch Me – It's almost like he's trying to make it sound as much like "Come Together" as possible!
Ain't That A Shame – Not a great song, and horrible horns again.
Do You Wanna Dance? – Not the best arrangement as a reggae-tune, but such a good song it's a treat to hear John sing it. This is likely what "Borrowed Time" would have sounded like if he'd lived to finish it.
Sweet Little Sixteen – What the hell was he thinking here? Fabulous song ruined by John.
Slippin' And Slidin' – Not a great song to start with, and – yet again – a horrible arrangement with horns.
Peggy Sue – Predictably, we're on solid ground here. A ballsy take on it, and a great one. Love John doin' Buddy's hiccup! This track is awesome.
Medley: Bring It On Home To Me/Send Me Some Lovin' – Good except for horns.
Bony Moronie – Glam rock guitar? Just not a good song.
Ya Ya – Well done, I guess, just never that great a tune.
Just Because – Not a very good cover.
It will be clear that I enjoyed the Buddy Holly tunes more than the others, which makes me wish John had done a whole LP of Buddy Holly songs. There's too much fat on the tracks of most of these cuts, not only the horns but other stuff. Would have sounded awesome if done on two-track, mostly live, with maybe one overdub.
1980 – Double Fantasy
I go back and forth on John's Double Fantasy songs – sometimes I love them; sometimes I just like them. The one aspect of his performance on this album that doesn't really come off, for me, is his voice. It's particularly average on "(Just Like) Starting Over", which is another reason it was an odd choice for a single.
He really needed something uptempo to hit radio in late 1980, rather than another wimpy "Yoko I love you" song, which, frankly, nobody wanted to hear. I think the best song on offer for this purpose might have been the effervescent "Nobody Told Me", which, even in its embryonic state (as we hear it today on Milk & Honey) was great! Had he done it up properly and had it out as the "comeback" single, I think it would have been received really well. Then, after that, he could put out maybe "Beautiful Boy" and "Woman".
We all know John was insecure about (of all things!) his voice, especially after years of being out of action. I wonder sometimes if Jack Douglas didn't pander to John a bit too much in the 1980 sessions, and, as a result, didn't really get the best vocal performances out of him.
Anyhoo, the songs (John’s and Yoko’s):
(Just Like) Starting Over – Quite a good song; easy-on-the-ears melody. Production and voice are too reedy, though. Fats-Domino-like piano and tune are cool, but where's the bass? Anyway, tune. (I love the "look out!" part near the end.)
Kiss Kiss Kiss – Not really worth much. (By the way, she's saying, "Hold me!" and "More, More!" in Japanese as she orgasms.)
Cleanup Time – Not bad groove, and okay tune. This is a good example of a track where his voice just isn't as good as it used to be. Sadly, even in 1980, John couldn't give up on the horns. They're awful.
Give Me Something – At least it's short.
I'm Losing You – Quite a good song, I like this one. (The eternal question: Who exactly was he "losing"? Yoko? May Pang? Mimi?)
I'm Moving On – Don't stick your finger in my pie!
Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy) – I'd say this is the best track John recorded post-Imagine. It's just perfect. Holds up extremely well. Lyrics fantastic. Great melody. The bridge in the song is killer, too. One of the best tracks anybody in the world released in the late ’70s / early ’80s.
Watching The Wheels – Great song. He was working on this tune for years, going back to at least 1977 if not earlier. It was worth the labor, as this arrangement is fantastic. Great vocal, too. Everything works.
Yes, I'm Your Angel – Ugh. With angels like this, who needs devils...?
Woman – Probably the most McCartney-esque tune John ever wrote. Just really amazing chords/harmony. Maybe the arrangement could have been better, though. And the drums are incredibly boring.
Beautiful Boys – The vocal here might be worse than Linda McCartney on "Cook of the House" (quite an achievement). This is horrible.
Dear Yoko – I quite like this one in the Bermuda-video demo, or just 'in the raw' in general, but the production on this LP track is like a thinner Walls & Bridges sound. Vocal is also slightly irritating. Just sounds really plastic. (And did we really need another I-need-Yoko song? No, we didn't.)
Every Man Has A Woman Who Loves Him – Meh.
Hard Times Are Over – I like this song... Yoko’s vocal timbre? Not so much.
Not a great album, unfortunately, but certainly an interesting one with several highlights. It runs the gamut from a few of the best songs John ever wrote in his life to Yoko tracks that would actually lower the quality of Some Time in New York City.
Had Yoko not pushed herself into the record and ruined it, it might have been great. But, knowing what we know happened (John's murder), would an actual John Lennon LP have been finished before 1981 if she hadn't? Maybe not.
1984 – Milk & Honey
The first posthumous (for John, anyway) album. During 1981 to 1983, Yoko worked on her songs to make a kind of Double Fantasy Part II. And let me tell you, all that effort really paid off as nearly every track she cut is a classic today, earning praise from all music fans who.... ah, forget it. Here we go:
I'm Stepping Out – Obviously a guide vocal, a bit rough and some slightly out-of-tune moments (weak falsetto on choruses, too). This a really great song. The guitar-sound is a lot like Andy Summers in The Police in 1980. Good chords, cute lyrics. Newmark's drums sound like they're recorded better here than on Double Fantasy (I'm listening to the 2010 [?] remaster, so I don't know if they made it sound less "80s" or not.) I like this tune very much. (I just wish John had finished it properly with a 'real' vocal.) Class song.
Sleepless Night – Band sounds good, nice little chunky riff. Yoko sounds like Yoko, however, but at least there's tons of reverb on her voice. Not entirely unlistenable.
I Don't Wanna Face It – More guide vocals by John off the top. He also sounds a bit pitch-rough, to say the least. This track kind of reminds me of "Cleanup Time", but it's brighter... yet it's worse. Very craftsmanlike. Kind of cheesy, too, but maybe it's his rough falsetto that's giving me that impression. Guitar is tough but not very attractive.
Don't Be Scared – Given that we know a Yoko song is coming, the title must be ironic. Who the heck's on backing vocals? I assume this one is mostly from 1983... Not horrid, but forgettable enough.
Nobody Told Me – The rare, catchy and ebullient Lennon solo tune! Awesome song. Vocal is thin and unfinished, but he hits most of the notes and sounds good. (I love the "most peculiar, mama... WHOA!") The best songs from 1980 have a very light-of-touch, spacey sound that's epitomized in this track. The best thing to say about this tune is that it always puts a smile on your face.
O' Sanity – "It's only sane to be insane / Psychotic builds a castle and neurotic lives in it / I don't know what to do with my sanity / When the world's at a verge of calamity."
Borrowed Time – Holy crap, I love this song. It's so bloody poignant off the topic, as the music starts to swell, and he sings, "when I was younger... when I was younger". I also like how John sings, "Now I am oldER", with a sort-of American accent. Again, I wish we had the 'real' finished vocal, but then again it's even more emotional to hear him so natural and unaffected. My heart breaks when he croons, "good to be older... less complications, everything clear". The backing to this track is just beautiful, so perfect. According to some sources, John wasn't satisfied with his band's performance, but I doubt that 'cause they sound great. I wonder if he just felt a bit shy to release such a personal lyric with a reggae/calypso feel.
Your Hands – Ugh.
(Forgive Me) My Little Flower Princess – I like this one, but it's clearly unfinished. I think it could have been a pretty solid tune, if not great. A few too many John tunes from 1980 have this light, slightly fluffy vibe to them, but then again he may never have even issued this one had he lived.
Let Me Count The Ways – This makes me ill.
Grow Old With Me – Always loved this one. I don't mind too much that we don't have a 1980 studio cut of it, because this rough demo is very haunting, as if recorded from the grave. I grock his vocal on it. The melody of the verses is so lovely.
Just to add, I am quite fond of the 1998 George Martin-orchestrated "Grow Old With Me". That's about as good as we're going to hear it, performed by John anyway. There are quite a few alternate-mix versions of this song on YouTube. I'm glad that "Grow Old With Me" is turning out to be one of his enduring compositions, played at weddings and so on. That's what he had in mind when he wrote it.
You're The One – Good grief, the backing sounds like Men At Work! I give Yoko some back-handed credit here for putting her longest cut at the end, so listeners could switch it off beforehand.
All six Lennon songs here are quite worthy, even if I'm not enamored of "I Don't Wanna Face It" (I do think it suffers the most, however, from the once-over guide vocal that isn't very good). The best four cuts are all John classics, and the fifth best ("Flower Princess") had potential but likely isn't even finished as released – it seems to cut off before the song is even complete.
Some people prefer the slightly unfinished John songs on this one to the more familiar tunes on Double Fantasy, and I can understand why. The weird thing is that no John Lennon 1980 album, which simply collects the best of his own tracks from that final year, has ever been issued, even though Yoko has flooded the market with the Acoustic album and endless re-issues of John's 1970s' stuff (with pictures of herself inserted into them, naturally). What could possibly be the reason such an obviously essential item has never appeared in the shops? I just can't imagine who on earth wouldn't want to pare down the 1980 tracks by removing Yoko's brilliant cuts! I cannot think of a single person – say, someone who had legal representation of John's body of work – who would be willing to block such an obvious move, a move that would permanently assign Yoko's already-ignored tracks to the garbage-bin of music history? I mean, whose colossal ego could possibly hold up such a winning release of John-only music??? There is just no answer.
1986 – Menlove Avenue
Quite odd and unnecessary hodgepodge LP of mostly Rock'n'Roll and Walls & Bridges outtakes and unreleased tracks. In the '80s, Yoko seemed really confused as to what to do with John's recordings. (As opposed to more recent times, during which she has seemed confident and purposeful, but misguided.)
Here We Go Again – Mediocre at best; I understand why John never issued it.
Rock'n'Roll People – Average at best, but at least some energy.
Angel Baby – Good song, mediocre cover.
Since My Baby Left Me – Awesome song, decent cover (even though he got the title wrong).
To Know Her Is To Love Her – Awesome song, horrendous cover.
Steel And Glass – Very nice 'rawer' version of familiar LP track; nice drums and guitar.
Scared – Nice, also more 'raw'. Vocal a bit rough, but a more intimate recording.
Old Dirt Road – Love this song, and this is a beautiful take.
Nobody Loves You (When You're Down And Out) – Interesting, but just a rough rehearsal.
Bless You – Rough, but holy crap his voice is amazing on this!
The enormous disappointment here is "To Know Her Is To Love Her". Maybe John did a crappy version to spite Phil Spector (who wrote it) in the studio, but this is a beautiful song that John totally owned at the Cavern and on BBC recordings in 1962-63. The whole arrangement here is just crap.
"Steel and Glass" is probably better than the LP version. Actually, the whole 2nd side (the Walls & Bridges stuff) is consistently strong, and arguably a better listen than the too-many-horns-spoil-the-broth real album.