Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Uncategorized
20 August 2014updated 07 Sep 2021 3:59pm

Battle of the Beatles: John Lennon

Fabbest of the four

By Terry Jones

I never really liked John. I thought he was too acerbic and critical. He always seemed to be the nasty one in the group – argumentative and awkward.

And then I caught myself listening to “Imagine”, time after time.

Imagine there’s no countries

It isn’t hard to do

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy
THANK YOU

Nothing to kill or die for

Content from our partners
How industry is key for net zero
How to ensure net zero brings good growth and green jobs
Flooding is a major risk for our homes

And no religion too . . .

And I saw the light! The words speak for themselves: so pure and straightforward – so daring in their simplicity.

I was becoming fixated by the song. I started playing it on the piano, picking it out note by note. That week, on Monday 8 December, John Lennon was assassinated.

I’d first become aware of the Beatles when I was at Oxford – they were playing somewhere or other and I remember mocking the pun in the name. When I first heard them I was entranced, though still snooty about pop music. I bought Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band when it came out in 1967, the first Beatles LP to be recorded in stereo, I believe. I was won over.

When Lennon was killed, I really didn’t know how I felt about it. With “Imagine”, I had begun to see him in a different light – no longer as the argumentative one but as a sublime lyricist. I don’t know how I had overlooked that before. I was an easygoing type and didn’t like troublesome people. But when he died, in such a senseless way, I guess it drew me closer to John.

I looked at his other lyrics. I particularly liked his masterpiece “Grow Old With Me”, freely adapted from Robert Browning’s “Rabbi Ben Ezra”. I’d always thought the wonderful lines – “Two branches of one tree/Face the setting sun/When the day is done” – were from the original poem, but they aren’t. Lennon wasn’t frightened of saying “God bless our love” and for a thoroughgoing atheist he can be forgiven.

I began to love him for being a peace activist – moving to Manhattan in 1971, where his criticism of the Vietnam war resulted in a lengthy attempt by the Nixon administration to have him deported.

“Give Peace a Chance” was written during Lennon’s “bed-in” honeymoon at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, Montreal. A reporter asked him what he was trying to achieve by staying in bed and he returned: “Just give peace a chance.”

He recorded the song on 1 June 1969 at the same hotel. It was originally credited to Lennon-McCartney: he later said he regretted having been “guilty enough to give McCartney credit as co-writer on my first independent single instead of giving it to Yoko, who had actually written it with me”. I know the feeling.

I loved “Woman”, from the Double Fantasy album released in November 1980.

Woman, I can hardly express

My mixed emotion at my

thoughtlessness

And after all I’m for ever in your debt . . .

His marriage to Yoko Ono marked his transition from acerbic critic to warm and thoughtful man. Good for you, John. I love you now and for ever.