Tuesday, October 9, 2007
John Lennon, 1940-1980
John Lennon would have been sixty-seven years old today. Sixty-seven! It makes me wish I hadn't already written about "Instant Karma" the other day, because that's probably my favorite Lennon solo record.
The dichotomy of the Beatles has broken out to where, in many of the popular critical imaginings, McCartney was the lightweight pop-music mastermind while Lennon was the true leather-jacketed rock & roller, ever-wary of what he called McCartney's "granny" music. While there's some truth to that, it's also true that Lennon was responsible for a lot of the studio-based weirdness the band propagated in its later years: "Strawberry Fields Forever," "I Am the Walrus," "Revolution No. 9." These are not the works of a ideologue.
Plastic Ono Band, though, is about as raw and stripped-down as it gets -- basically just Lennon on vocals and guitar, Klaus Voorman on bass, and Ringo on drums. "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" it ain't. I wasn't really paying attention at that point, but I wonder: was the Lennon-McCartney bifurcation in the air while the Beatles were still extant, or was it something that developed in the course of their solo careers?
Lennon's granny glasses made their debut, incidentally, on the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely album cover; before then, offstage, he wore thick black government-issued frames (it sounds like he was virtually blind onstage). I wish I had a picture of him in them.