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During the summer and autumn of 1980, and after having (apart from a few little contributions to other people's music and some 'messing around' sessions) had a break from the music business to concentrate on a life of domesticity, John Lennon felt able to return to the recording studio to make a new album.
The first result was Milk And Honey which later during 1981 saw some chart success, with the second and final being Double Fantasy. The first single released from Double Fantasy, (Just Like) Starting Over, was given a decent amount of radio airplay and it slowly began to creep up the charts, step by step.
Very shortly after the release of Double Fantasy, came that fateful day when Lennon was murdered. Perhaps in a macabre way - I don't really know - Lennon's death appeared to spur a massive resurgence of interest in his work, causing both the Double Fantasy album and the single (Just Like) Starting Over to instantly shoot to the no.1 spot in December of 1980. The follow-up single from the album, Woman, also rocketed to no.1 in January 1981, but the third single, Watching The Wheels, only made it to no.30 in April 1981. It could be possible that by April of 1981, the initial grieving fervour over Lennon's death maybe losing its edge might be some indicator as to why Watching The Wheels didn't climb quite so high in the charts, or another reason may have been that by April 1981, most Lennon fans had already bought the album, so didn't bother buying the single.
The content of Double Fantasy is largely personal to Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono, perhaps with some people viewing most of the songs as containing an almost embarrassing level of intimacy, but a much larger body of people felt that the album to be his very best work. Before Lennon's death and just after the release of Double Fantasy, the album received some very mixed reviews, with some believing it to be almost fatuously self-indulgent, and others proclaiming it to be a deep, passionate, honest and emotional catalogue of self-proclamation.
Although I love Double Fantasy as a whole, for me there are a couple of dodgy, almost 'no-no' tracks on there, one of which is Yoko Ono's self-penned Beautiful Boys. I don't have any axe to grind over Yoko Ono as I believe that, although somewhat strange, her to be a genuine person with her heart in the right place, but her avant-garde style of singing/songwriting, particularly on this track, presents to me as an awkward, ham-fisted effort at expressing her devotion and dedication to her husband and son, Sean. It obviously is meant to be 'twinned' with Lennon's own dedication to who was the then little Sean, but to me it is merely a grating, agitating noise. As far as Lennon's own Beautiful Boy is concerned, I find it a very pleasant, non-mawkish message from father to son where the words are sensible yet caring, approached from a day to day life stance as opposed to the gushing deluge of over-emotional slop that other parent to child songs through the decades have been. I also very much like the use of sound on Beautiful Boy, faint noises of children's laughter as they play, and the gentle swishing of waves rolling up onto the seashore. Also, there is the addition of the ringing bell, which appears on a couple of other Lennon-penned songs from his Beatle days, and I assume that sound to be something from his own childhood, a subjective yet very important memory he obviously felt he wanted to include in a song dedicated to his younger son.
My two favourite tracks on Double Fantasy are Woman, and I'm Losing You, the former perhaps having been a victim of over-play, hence possibly weakening its original impetus, but nonetheless for me is a sincere message from Lennon (and self-confessed) to all the women in his life who he'd mis-treated, like an apology given through the art of song. I'm Losing You has a quiet mood of desperation and impending gloom, with Lennon recounting a time a few years earlier when he feared his relationship with Yoko was headed for the rocks.
The remainder of the album is comprised of thoughtful, mostly gentle, relaxing songs which on the surface sound like perhaps an even throwaway deviance from Lennon's earlier, much more hard-hitting material, but listened to carefully, the tunes are carefully constructed, with the lyrics containing a very gently penetrating depth....a personal music picture book of Lennon's gradual sink-down from angry revolutionary, into his chosen lifestyle of contented family man....the words of the track Watching The Wheels conveying this perfectly, albeit tinged with a slight sadness.
It is of course impossible to say whether Double Fantasy would have been such a big seller had Lennon not been murdered, because it was already travelling up the album charts and it may have reached no.1 (or not?) if Mark Chapman hadn't have fired the bullets that ended the life of a legend. Many Lennon fans welcomed his comeback into the music business, yet others felt he'd long passed his prime and should go back to baking bread....I fall into the former of those two groups.
Overall, Double Fantasy is a mostly very easy to listen to album, being a catalogue of personal Lennon songs that depicted what was going on in his life at the time, peppered with a couple of less appealing offerings from the I'm sure well-meaning, but nowhere near so musically talented Yoko Ono. As for whether the album is a must to grace any respectable music-lover's collection is a matter for debate, due to the two different sides of the preference camp that Lennon's die-hard fans fall into, but my personal feelings are that yes, it is a very worthwhile, mostly pleasant catalogue of easy-listening material which comes out of the head and heart of one of the world's best ever singer/songwriters. Although I don't play my own copy of Double Fantasy too often, I feel that my world of music would be a poorer place without it, and although I find it almost impossible to disassociate the album from the memories of Lennon's untimely death, for me it is a mostly tender expression of a man who had come full circle in life, finding the inner contentment and peace which he had ultimately been craving.
At the time of writing, Double Fantasy can be purchased on Amazon as follows:-
New: none currently available
Used: from £4.40 to £22.95
Collectible: only one currently available @ £20.00
On CD, re-mastered, entitled Double Fantasy Stripped Down:-
New: from £8.06 to £25.99
Used: from £7.79 to £16.78
There are also, on vinyl, various imports available, together with single tracks from the album which can be downloaded in .mp3 format.
Some items on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.
(Just Like) Starting Over
Kiss, Kiss, Kiss
Give Me Something
I'm Losing You
I'm Moving On
Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)
Watching The Wheels
Yes, I'm Your Angel
Every Man Has A Woman Who Loves Him
Hard Times Are Over
NB: Some special edition issues of Double Fantasy contain bonus tracks.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
Double Fantasy is the last solo album by John Lennon before his murder in 1980 by Mark Chapman. It was recorded at the Hit Factory between August and September 1980, released by the Geffen label and is 45 minutes long. It was produced by John Lennon, his wife Yoko Ono and Jack Douglas.
It was possibly this album that led to the death of John Lennon, an event that can be traced back to the release of Paul McCartney's single 'Coming Up'. For five years Lennon had happily enjoyed his semi-retirement in New York, raising his young son Sean and retreating from the media spotlight. But one night while watching television Lennon saw the video for McCartney's 'Coming Up' and he was visibly upset that his old writing partner had finally returned to form and written a catchy hit song. He was spurred into action and began writing new material from then on, saying in his own words that he was "happy to be doing nothing as long as Paul was writing rubbish".
It was Lennon's return to the limelight that drew Mark Chapman's attention, after he began to look for a new target to kill after several failed attempts to assassinate President Ronald Regan.
Viewed with that hindsight, Lennon paid a hefty price for this album and it seems truly sad that when playing this album one cannot help but be drawn to think about Lennon's death.
The track listing for the album is a mix of songs written by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, which unfortunately appear in alternating succession to each other, instead of having one side of Lennon tracks and another side for Ono's. While Lennon produced a fairly good collection of songs, Ono's are truly terrible and a tremendous waste of time.
The main single from the album "Just Like Starting Over" is a truly poignant moment, as the singer declares how this moment in his life is just the beginning, when in reality it was very close to the end. As a song it rolls along and has a great tune to it. "Beautiful Boy" and "Watching the Wheels" are also very good songs about life in the slow lane, and though highly personal, are something we can all relate to.
The album is probably worth listing to thoroughly once or twice, though it is hardly a classic album. I'd advise you download the individual Lennon tracks from itunes, though if you also download the Ono tracks you must be a true fan!
01. (Just Like) Starting Over
02. Kiss Kiss
04. Give Me
05. I'm Losing
06. I'm Moving
07. Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy
08. Watching The Wheels
09. Yes, I'm Your
12. Dear Yoko
13. Every Man Has A Woman Who Loves
The last album, poignant of course, with the recent news that there is going to be the release of 'Help me to Help Myself', this is meant to be the final track Lennon recorded on the day he was shot, it brings sharply into focus 'Double Fantasy' The album was a return for Lennon and session out takes show a happy and eager Lennon laying down track after track, many of which went on to form 'Milk and Honey', but this is where for me the album falls down, the demos are great raw and full of that ttwist of Lennon, yet the finished version often sounds over produced and weak. yoko Onno does not dothe album any favours she had no real musical talent to speak of, in fact the only musical talent she had was the one she was married to. the album does contain some great Lennon tracks though. 'Just Like Starting Over', complete with bells at the start to match 'Mother' from 1970, it's a brilliant track based around a typical simple Lennon riff, 'Losing You', powerful and emotional. All in all an excellent album for the Lennon tracks alone, worth buying and having in your musical collection.
Yes there are some great Lennon tracks on here, why he put Yoko's on I'll never know, there again love is blind must be deaf as well. Yoko aside there really are some great tracks on here Watchin the wheels, Beautiful Boy and Woman. One line i'll always remember "Life is what happens while your busy making other plans" There again i'm biased I used to pay half a crown to see the Beatles and Lennon was always my favourite.
Half of this album is really good and shows John Lennon back on form. The other half consists of songs that have been written and performed by Yoko Ono and to be honest with you they aren't far from awful. The beginning of the songs sound pretty good, but then she starts singing and you can't listen to any more. However, the songs written and performed by Lennon are of the high quality that you would expect from him and confirm his position as one of the greats of pop music. I haven't got a clue why Lennon decided to include Yoko Ono's songs because the album could easily have survived without them. Still, it's worth listening to.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Just Like Starting Over
2 Kiss Kiss Kiss
3 Clean Up Time
4 Give Me Something
5 I'm Losing You
6 I'm Movin' On
7 Beautiful Boy
8 Watching The Wheels
9 I'm Your Angel
11 Dear Yoko
12 Every Man Has A Woman Who Loves Him
13 Hard Times Are Ove