Wednesday, October 14, 2009

John Lennon 14: Imagine Soundtrack and Lennon

Part of Yoko’s continued re-establishing her husband’s legacy included authorizing a syndicated radio show that served up hours of unreleased music and interviews with people willing to chime in about it. It also coincided with a feature-length documentary, right around the time of Albert Goldman’s hachet job.
The Imagine soundtrack was the obvious tie-in to that film, and the marketing folks most likely wanted to make it as accessible as possible for neophytes. While it’s admittedly convenient to have a nice pile of Beatle classics alongside John’s solo hits, collectors didn’t really need another version of “Help!” or “In My Life” in their racks. But it does present a nice round musical look at John, and going through his recorded history chronologically tells volumes more than the idea that his life started in May of 1968.
As for the alternate tracks, this was the first official appearance of “A Day In The Life” with a clean intro. The live take of “Mother” is also a clever change of pace. The quick run-through of “Imagine” to the session guys who’d never heard it before nor imagined (sorry) that it would become such a famous song is charming. Even the unfinished quality of “Real Love” was obvious to the Threetles when they embellished it in 1995. Again, the album is a good introduction, especially if it leads the listener to the original albums. Which was the idea anyway.

By the time the film was gathering dust in video stores, the box set had become a big deal in music retail. Consumers expected great packaging with a well-rounded overview; collectors wanted this plus better sound and rare stuff. The Lennon box set sits on the fence between complete and holy grail, while being neither.
It starts naturally with “Give Peace A Chance”, then gives what was the first CD appearance of four tracks from Live Peace in Toronto. All of Plastic Ono Band is represented. And that’s just the first disc. Disc 2 has all of the Imagine LP save “I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier”, a dip into Some Time In New York City and a couple of tracks from the One-to-One shows, ending with a smattering of the more notable tracks from Mind Games.
Disc 3 has most of Walls And Bridges, plus a sampling of both the Spector and non-Spector sessions for Rock ‘N Roll, but sadly includes “Angel Baby” over the then-unreleased “Be My Baby”. The three live tracks from the Elton John concert fittingly close out the disc. Disc 4 is an idea that should have existed on its own: all John’s Double Fantasy and Milk And Honey tracks, plus the “solo” remix of “Every Man Has A Woman”, without Yoko’s songs to interrupt them. This is the preferred way to take these in.
With all the space on these discs, there could have been more album tracks, or at least more rare or unreleased stuff, but they’d also promised that an official Lost Lennon Tapes box would be out shortly. (It took eight years.) The booklet keeps it simple with all the lyrics but no other annotations. Therefore the music stands for itself, and while we can argue all day about the songs that were left off, it’s still a pretty listenable box set. And a rare one too, as it was never widely available.

John Lennon Imagine: Music From The Original Motion Picture (1988)—3
John Lennon Lennon (1990)—4


  1. i heard lennon's demo track of watching the wheels the other sunday. which album is that available on?


  2. There's one version on the "Acoustic" collection, plus Wikipedia says one was featured in a recent Seth Rogen movie.