“Things were different then.  All is different now.  I tried to explain.  Somehow.”, EV, Hard to Imagine (1993)ish

Edward Louis Severson III recently covered the song “Imagine” at a solo show and in doing so he called it “the most powerful song ever written.”  He’s 100% right.  Beautiful, yet controversial, the song “Imagine” is John Lennon’s masterwork.  One of the rare pop songs that truly makes a person think, “Imagine” offers a glimpse of what the world could be if the human race could ever remove the barriers the separate us (specifically: religion, politics, and material possessions).  Sure, it’s a utopian ideal, but it never fails to make me wonder if I could live without those things, let alone whether the rest of the human race could live without them.  And that is the ultimate power of the song for me…it’s more than just a vision, more than just a dream…it’s a challenge to be a better person.  To be a little nicer.  To be a bit more open to others.  To respect diverse cultures and people.  To be less judgmental.  A powerful song indeed, and it’s all wrapped up in a perfect little 3 minute pop tune with a beautiful melody and a simple piano accompaniment.

The rest of the album is pretty great too.  The yin to Plastic Ono Band‘s yang, Imagine offers the same honest, and at times scathing, look at the world, but sugar coats it in the pop music sensibilities John mastered when he was a part of that other band with which he was once associated.  The result is much less stark than Plastic Ono Band, even if the message is largely the same.  All in all, it’s an attack on the establishment, with John eviscerating business men on “Crippled Inside”, the military on “I Don’t Wanna Be a Soldier Mama”, politicians on “Gimme Some Truth”, and Paul McCartney on “How Do You Sleep?”.  Yet, despite the anger, he still finds time for some honest self-reflection on “Jealous Guy”, “It’s So Hard”, and “How?”, and at the end he is even able to show just a glimpse of happiness in “Oh Yoko!” (and yes, despite her, ahem, eccentricities, Yoko made John happy [most of the time]…and she also inspired him to take his artistry to a whole new level in his solo career).  Top to bottom, the album is a masterpiece, and second in my mind only to Plastic Ono Band in the John Lennon catalogue.  Actually, these two albums were the highwater mark in John’s solo output, as sadly his next several albums were largely forgettable, but that is a story for another time and page…

As much as I like this record, I only picked it up a couple of years ago.  I was heading home from a road trip to the great northern coast and I found it for $7.99 (minus my 10% discount for being a beacon of truth to the underprivileged youth of America) at the Half Price Books in Mentor.  Actually, that Half Price Books always seems to have a great selection of John Lennon albums (I’ve picked up Shaved Fish and Live in New York City there, among other titles).  Why?  Because Northeast Ohio people get it.  Well, most of them do.  Or at least a few.  Anyhow, this album has been in my rotation ever since, along with the rest of the John Lennon catalogue.  I’ve pretty much decided he was the most important musical artist ever, and I will always thank mi madre for spinning Double Fantasy non-stop when I was a kid and the Whiskey Saint for spinning this album and Plastic Ono Band and the Great Ranch in Trumbull Township during my formative years.  As a lyricist, Lennon’s only peer is Bob Dylan.  As a vocalist, he ranks up there with both the great rock and rollers and the great balladeers.  And as a political activist, he did more for the good of the human race than any other artist I can think of (even you, Bono).  Power to the people, right on.  Lennon was the real deal, and obviously it’s a tragedy that his life was cut so short.  For the past year I’ve put together a collection of every solo album, live album, and compilation album (there are a ridiculous number of these), and even the few books he wrote.  The Princess says I am obsessed, but my goal is to make a page dedicated to Lennon on this blog sometime in the near future.  Anyway, it’s something to look forward to, I hope 🙂

Other lists:  “Imagine” is #3 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  See the very first post on this blog (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band) for a list of John Lennon’s other RS accolades.

Ch-ch-changes: This album also dropped four spots from its original position at #76 due to the addition of CCR’s Chronicle and the rise of Radiohead’s Kid A, Paul Simon’s Graceland, and James Brown’s Star Time.

My favourite track: “Imagine”

Honourable mention: “Gimme Some Truth”

Quote 1: “I don’t wanna be a soldier mama, I don’t wanna die.”

Quote 2: “I’ve had enough of reading things by neurotic, psychotic, pig-headed politicians.  All I want is the truth.”

Quote 3: “Imagine all the people living life in peace…”