On September 9, 1971, "Imagine", John Lennon's second studio album, was released.
This is not just another randomly selected date for the album release. The number "9" has a very big meaning for John Lennon, it can be said that it is even his lucky number so he chose 9.9 as the release date of the album. To illustrate how significant and repetitive the number "9" in John's life is, we note that he was born on October 9, his son Sean was born that day, the first house he lived in was at 9 Newcastle Street, the Beatles' first appearance at The Cavern club was held on February 9, 1961, and the day Brian Epstein discovered them was on November 9, 1961. Even a few songs he wrote included the number "9", such as: "Revolution 9", "One After 909", "Dream # 9" And there are more and more examples.
On one hand, this album is a direct continuation of the roughness of the debut album "John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band", which was released a year earlier. Quite a few songs, especially on the second side of the vinyl, bring up the bitterness, anger, and criticism that dominated the previous album. On the other hand, this album features some more optimistic songs that feature the soft and serene Lennon.
Unlike the previous album, in which Lennon chose a handful of musicians who accompanied him on recordings, including Ringo Starr and Klaus Voormann, the range of artists featured on this album, as well as the range of instruments they play is particularly wider, including George Harrison, Nicky Hopkins, Klaus Foreman, Alan White, Ted Turner, Mike Pinder and more. However, similar to the previous album "Imagine" was produced by John Yoko and Phil Spector.
The album opens with the utopian manifesto and theme song "Imagine". It is Lennon's greatest song, and also the most successful single of his entire career, which over the years has become an international anthem for brotherhood and peace, depicting a utopian world without borders, without religion, without property, and without wars. The list of crowns and titles awarded to the song is very long and among them, third place in the list of the 500 greatest songs of all time by "Rolling Stone" magazine, second place in the "Guinness Book of Records" survey, being part of the prestigious list of "Hall of Fame" list of "500 songs that shaped rock and roll" and more. The foundations for the song were first laid during the sessions for the Beatles' "Let It Be" album but Lennon completed his writing only in 1971 on the Steinway piano which was located in his and Yoko Ono's bedroom at their estate in Ascot, England. Lennon was influenced in writing the song by Several poems from Yoko Ono's book "Grapefruit" from 1963, which includes several sentences beginning with the word "Imagine". Years later Lennon will admit he was a bit selfish when he did not give Yoko Ono the credit she deserves for her influence and concept, but this was corrected in 2017 when Yoko's name was added to the credits list.
The second track "Crippled Inside" is a "cheerful" country track featuring George Harrison playing slide and guitarist Ted Turner from "Wishbone Ash" on acoustic guitar. In an interview with Ted from December 2012, Ted noted that his band was just during the recording of the album "Pilgrimage" when he received a phone call inviting him to be a guest on John Lennon's album. Ted immediately agreed, but bandmate guitarist Andy Powell who received a similar call, refused. Ted said he was put in a Rolls-Royce car sitting beside keyboardist Nicky Hopkins. When he arrived at the studio he saw George Harrison and Ringo Starr who did not play on the album. It was the last song recorded and right after that Ted got to hear the whole album for the first time in the studio.
The third song "Jealous Guy" is one of Lennon's most beautiful. He began writing the song in 1968, during his stay with the other members of the Beatles in Rishikesh, India. The song, originally called "Child of Nature", was performed during the sessions for the band's "White Album", but was eventually abandoned and rewritten for the current album. Yoko said during an interview with her that it was a spiritual not sexual jealousy. The fact that she knows another language (Japanese) and John can not share her thoughts in a language he does not understand, made him write this song. It is interesting to note that Yoko helped John write the lyrics, but this time too she did not receive credit for it, because of the public's negative attitude towards her. Joey Molland and Tom Evans from the band "Badfinger" play acoustic guitar here.
The track "It's So Hard" is a classic blues piece released as a b-side for the theme song "Imagine". Lennon describes in the song the difficulties in life, which all have one solution - "love". The song features saxophonist King Curtis whom Lennon admired, in his latest recording. Curtis was murdered just one month before the album was released in America.
The first side of the vinyl ends with "I Don't Want to Be a Soldier Mama" which brings us to the protest of John Lennon. A monotonous and mesmerizing blues-rock piece that features George Harrison's slide work. The song was recorded during the same sessions as the previous song "It's So Hard" so here too the saxophonist King Curtis is hosted. During those February 1971 sessions, the song "Power to the People" was also recorded and released as a single. Another interesting artist featured here is Mike Pinder from the band Moody Blues. The song won an interesting cover version of the supergroup "Mad Season", which appears among other things on their live album Live at The Moore.
The second side of the vinyl opens with another protest song - "Gimme Some Truth", which similar to the song "Jealous Guy" was also written during Lennon's and the Beatle's stay in Rishikesh, India in 1968. What influenced Lennon to write the song is, among others, "The Mỹ Lai massacre" In the Vietnam War and the cover-up attempts by the U.S. government, led by President Richard Nixon. Lennon explicitly refers to Nixon as 'trick-dicky,' a nickname for Nixon that became popular during the Watergate affair.
Immediately after that comes one of Lennon's beautiful and melting songs "Oh My Love". The first demo for the song was released in 1968, after the sessions for the Beatles' White Album. The lyrics were written by Yoko Ono, who this time received credit for writing together with Lennon, after a miscarriage in the sixth month of her pregnancy. Also in this song, George Harrison participates in playing the electric guitar.
We get to one of the powerful songs from the album "How Do You Sleep?", In which Lennon spares no words against his Beatles bandmate Paul McCartney. Contrary to McCartney's hidden messages against Lennon on the cover of the album "Ram", Lennon goes head-on for the attack and does not spare the arrows of criticism against McCartney, in words like:
"The only thing you done was yesterday And since you've gone you're just another day
How do you sleep? How do you sleep at night?"
It is interesting to note that the person who helped Lennon write the lyrics to the song was Lennon's director Allen Klein, who at the time did one hand with the other three "Beatles" members in a lawsuit against Paul McCartney. Also in terms of music, the opening of the song with the instrument tuning was meant to be a sting aimed at McCartney who opened the "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album similarly. The stings towards McCartney also emerge from the album cover, which includes a picture of Lennon holding a pig's ears, in response to a picture of McCartney on the album "Ram". Lennon receives reinforcement from his Beatles friend George Harrison, who is simply amazing here at playing slide.
We're nearing the end with "How?" A magical and beautiful song that contrasts with the previous song and presents the insecure side of John Lennon with words like: "How can I go forward when I do not know which way I'm facing?". Lennon's touching lyrics and his fragile singing ride perfectly over the orchestral arrangements and minimalist drumming of Alan White who is really reminiscent of Ringo Starr in his playing.
The album ends with an optimistic and happy country-style tone with "Oh Yoko!". Lennon began writing the song in 1968 during his visit to Rishikesh, India. This Love Song melody was influenced by the song "Lost John" by Lonnie Donegan and John Lennon plays here. for the first and last time in his solo career, a harmonica. The person who sings background vocals here is producer Phil Spector. Interestingly, the EMI company wanted to release the song as a single, but Lennon refused.