Most of us have been through a bad breakup at some point in our past. In the world of music, there wasn’t one much more visible or clearly full of animosity than early 1970s John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Not only did they break up the Beatles, they started taking musical shots at each other with their solo albums. That is not the most notable element of the album “Imagine”, by John Lennon, but it certainly sticks out. At its best, this album, which is rated #223 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, is John at his symbolic and hopeful self. I find it to be a much more enjoyable album than his previous release, “The Plastic Ono Band”.
Of course, the title track “Imagine” stands out as a John’s most timeless and recognizable song, and even more so than any Beatles track, was the song the world listened to in tragic mourning when John was shot and killed on the streets of New York in December of 1980. To the most cynical, this song may be a bit too much, but for idealistic people like me, the message is powerful and the melody with John on piano is beautiful. Another standout track from side one of this album is the regretful ballad, “Jealous Guy”. However, if you know John’s history with women, it is a bit ominous, not completely unlike seemingly innocent early Beatles tracks like “You Can’t Do That”.
“How Do You Sleep” is the clearly identifiable attack track on Paul; it is hostile and aggressive and pretty insulting. It also happens to be a pretty funky and edgy track. Interestingly enough, George Harrison once again appeared on this album, and on this track. Let there be no mistake, in the aftermath of the Beatles breakup, it was clearly John, George and Ringo vs. Paul in the battle of hard feelings.
The rest of the album is a bit hit or miss, although still a better collection of tracks than his previous album. I liked “Crippled Inside”, “It’s So Hard”, which reminds me a bit of the opening of “Revolution”, and “Gimme Some Truth”. John remained a troubled and complicated individual, but he was continuing to make solid forward progress as a solo musician with this album, and gave us one timeless song that will forever be his number one trademark. He is assuredly the only Beatle of the four who was so closely and primarily associated with a solo song, so that certainly serves as another point of validation for this effort.