The Ultimate John Lennon Playlist From An Ultimate John Lennon Fan Part Two
There are two big differences between tripping John Lennon and all other psychedelia, even UK, even Traffic, and that the first is even Lennon’s good trips feel like bad trips, and the second is that he takes his leap into the imagination from English poets like Edward lear and novelists like Lewis Carroll: it is the dark face of whimsy and it permeates everything from “Rain” to “Cry Baby Cry”.
I’m Only Sleeping – This isn’t a pleasant, dozey song, and it isn’t narcolepsy, this is a drug induced stupor, rattled by barbiturates taking you to the edge of death. Lennon might think we’re crazy running round at such a speed, an odd comment for a man who hadn’t stopped in five years, but the only way he can slow down is with a lot of help. It is 1966 and Lennon has already seen the dark hue threatening the Paisley dream.
She Said She Said – Is the other shoe dropping, based around a great pun that mostly work’s in the UK (the “you’re making me feel like I’ve never been born”). It is a real nightmare bad trip song, and is yet another song where Lennon deals with his life by absenting himself from it. Death and, rebirth, like that, haunts his songs on Revolver, it is just pre-summer of love but Lennon can’t get out of his own sense of horror. Yes, his Dad deserting him, but it is Julia who is here, who is messing with his mind, his jealousy, his wishes, his loss, his insecurity, his Freudian nightmare. Sometimes he fights through, sometimes he sinks in.
Strawberry Fields Forever – If this is a childhood memory, it is a pitch-black memory. Lennon wants to take you down to a field that belongs to an orphanage near his house, and the nightmare is of the loss of Julia AGAIN. Forget everything else, even forget George Martin’s hyper-clever but finally irrelevant mixing of two takes at different speeds. Yes, it is woozy. But if the series of outtakes on Anthology taught us anything, it taught us that Martin only made the great a little greater. Lennon needed no help for this dive into the deepest recesses of his mind, a Jungian world that moves around in strange surrealism always alighting at the same place: the death of his mother.
All You Need Is Love – This, “Give Peace A Chance,” and “Imagine,” are pan-world pacifism par excellence, they are secular hymns of human glory to a power greater than the one, the power of the many. This is another reason why Lennon was simply a genius, he made the subjective and the objective the same thing, the power of the individual and the power of the crowd coming together in a prayer but not to God no, for each of us to each of us, in this together. It’s also a hoot, and a satire, and the triumph of Beatleism.
Good Morning Good Morning – Or as Helen Bach has dubbed it, the rooster song. This is what I mean by even the good trips being bad trips. How can a song that kicks off with “Nothing to do to save his life,” be good news. Even the guitar solo is tearing at him and it’s so hard to pinpoint what is troubling him, why is this day where he decides to roam afield, so terrible. It’s like he is a ghost in his song, he wanders the city aimlessly, in a world that is like a ruin. It’s like what is just outside Lennon’s vision on “A Day In The Life” is the world of “Good Morning Good Morning”. The world here is post-apocalyptic.
A Day In The Life – This is the prequel to “Good Morning Good Morning” -who is the dreamer and who is the dream? Turn me on dead man…
I Am The Walrus – Lennon at his most Lewis Carroll, in a nightmare dreamscape of anthropomorphism, a pigs in the sky (taking over from Lucy) place where the Beatles become metamorphosed into their guiding spirits from hell, even sneer strangeness almost unbearable in its police alarm horror. Maybe heroin was an improvement.
Baby You’re A Rich Man – Just before Brian Epstein died, Lennon expressed his equal parts love and contempt for his manager. No one can really doubt that Epstein loved Lennon and that Lennon, always the tease, found it funny. Rumor has it, Lennon’s original lyric was “Baby you’re a rich fag jew…” That also makes sense…
Yer Blues – As a member of the Beatles, the White Album was Lennon, one last time, at his most involved. Needless to add, every great moment was his. The name of the song notwithstanding, this wasn’t faux blues, this wasn’t satire, it was, to its bone, a scream of complete agony as twelve bar blues.
Revolution 1 – Lennon would soon become highly politicized but he never got closer to the reality of pop politics than he got in this repudiation of violence and insistence upon seeing the plan. “You know it’s gonna be alright” is exactly what we needed to hear.
Cry Baby Cry – In the land of the aristocracy, the Windsor’s play cruel tricks on their children for a laugh. Lennon, who once told em to rattle their jewelry (he wanted to say rattle your fucking jewelry but…), manages to slam the royal family and figure out his Carroll obsession
Dig A Pony – from the rooftop concert, one of Harrison’s great solos and one of McCartney’s great backing vocals, and Lennon using strong and magical imagery to describe his love for Yoko.
Across The Universe – The rule of thumb is that Phil Spector destroyed the song, though that must depend upon what you consider destroyed. It works better without the strings but the strings don’t kill the mantra and don’t kill the ultimate respect offered Asian philosophy.
One After 909 – This looks like one that the boys really wrote together, an early 60s rocker of the first order and John and Paul really singing it together.