by Garrett Sawyer
John Lennon wasn't just a prominent figure in the world of rock and roll. He was rock and roll. Only Elvis could be said to be more dominant than the Beatles.
As a solo artist Lennon was unique, producing a string of chart hits. But even some of his lesser songs are powerful and memorable.
Here's my personal version of the best John Lennon songs from the early part of his solo career that never made it to Billboard's top 40.
This was the leadoff track from his first true solo album "Plastic Ono Band" and the song that he intended to be a single (it never made it).
He and Yoko were undergoing Primal Scream with Dr. Arthur Janov at the time; Lennon was dealing with the breakup of the Beatles and the death of his mother, who was run over by an off-duty police officer named Eric Clague when he was only 17.
Lennon started the song with a church bell which he had slowed down in order to make it sound more ominous. The instrumentation was simple and sparse: Lennon on piano, Klaus Voorman on Bass and Ringo on drums.
Lennon simply played the chords, letting the harmonics of the piano notes do the rest to fill the spaces in the measures.
The lyrics are raw: personal loss at full volume, his mother to death and his father to work (he was a seaman). In the end he repeats over and over again "Mama, don't go! Daddy, come home!" rising with each repetition to a childlike scream.
Lennon added the screams after the rest of the vocals were finished. He kept trying this night after night. The results were double-tracked, reverbed and echoed to achieve the final shattering result (Sample Lyric: "Children, don't do what I have done. I couldn't walk so I tried to run").
2) "Working Class Hero"
This song was a bit of a misnomer because Lennon, for whatever personal heartaches he suffered, was actually raised middle class. You'd never know that from listening to this song, however, because he nails it perfectly.
This just goes to show you how far you can go with just your voice, a single acoustic guitar and a truckload of real talent. Lennon strums and sings a vivid picture of growing up scared, abused and confused.
As Lennon himself told Rolling Stone "I think it's for the people like me who are working class - whatever, upper or lower - who are supposed to be processed into the middle classes, through the machinery, that's all. It's my experience, and I hope it's just a warning to people" (Sample lyric: "As soon as you're born they make you feel small by giving you no time instead of it all").
In my next segment I'll continue with more of the best John Lennon songs from the early part of his solo career. If you haven't heard these by now you've got a treat in store.
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