Newest Review: ... of Double Fantasy, the album received some very mixed reviews, with some believing it to be almost fatuously self-indulgent, and others... more
The emergence of a gentler Lennon
Double Fantasy - John Lennon
Member Name: GentleGenius
Double Fantasy - John Lennon
Advantages: Mostly easy to listen to, well-structured, thoughtful songs by Lennon
Disadvantages: Sadly, Yoko Ono's input
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 ~~
Summary: A very nice, mostly tender and in places poignant album