Revisiting John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s 1980 comeback album “Double Fantasy”

A sample of what the 1980’s would had brought to John Lennon’s career and a reminder of what he would had brought to us

Revisiting John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s 1980 comeback album “Double Fantasy”

John Lennon’s solo career produced several memorable songs and albums during the short period it lasted, he successfully shifted into a musical direction different from everything he did with The Beatles, whilst McCartney’s 1970 debut album “McCartney” was mellow, pop friendly and in some ways nostalgic, Lennon’s 1969 debut album “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band”, was visceral, daring, experimental and made for the sake of his own musical evolution. But as the 1970’s went on Lennon started gradually to lose interest in making commercial records and touring. Despite the masterpiece that is the 1971 “Imagine”, albums like “Sometime In New York City” from 1972, were clearly made primarily as a political statement rather than for the music itself. Still, Lennon always had a different sparkle that distinguished him from the rest of his former band-mates: the fact that it was so easy for him to compose a catchy hit song, developing an unique style and the desire to evolve musically without getting stuck in musical trends. From 1975 to 1980 John Lennon dedicated himself exclusively to be a father for his son Sean, it seemed that he finally had lost the interest in keeping a musical career, aside of some random home made demos and spontaneous recording sessions and collaborations with friends, there wasn’t any signs that showed his interest in getting back to the music industry. But Lennon never ignored what was happening around him as new trends like Punk Rock, Heavy Metal, Electronic Music and New Wave started to emerge. As the 1970’s came towards and end, Lennon started to feel the need to do music again and even considered touring. After five years absorbing new sounds and new music, finally he stepped in the studio to get back in the game as the 1980’s were beginning. But he didn’t went alone, Yoko went with him, and they recorded the album together, featuring 14 songs, 7 by John and 7 by Yoko, the couple were both signed by Geffen Records in 1980 after the word was out that Lennon was back in the studio.



“Double Fantasy” it’s one of the best Lennon solo (or with Yoko) albums, aside of “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band” and “Imagine”, this is the album that includes some of Lennon’s, and Ono’s, finest songwriting through a new modern Rock approach. The track list on the album it’s carefully put together, as a dialogue between the two of them, it opens with “(Just Like) Starting Over”, one of the best songs in the album and the last biggest hit he had during his lifetime. The song, is sometimes is reminiscent of a classic Beatlesque Lennon songwriting and the late 1950’s/early 1960’s love songs, the second song of the album “Kiss Kiss Kiss” by Yoko Ono it’s a strong track, one of Yoko’s best, it has a Punk/New Wave beat where Yoko can finally express her vocal style without any restrictions (she was heavily criticized during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s for her experimental and avant-garde vocal technique and music style), it’s no wonder that Lennon felt that the current New Wave and Punk scene had a debt to Yoko, the song also famously features Ono gasping heavily and appearing to reach orgasm. “Cleanup Time” by Lennon it’s a New Wave/Rock song that bares sometimes similarities to David Bowie’s “Fame” which was co-written by Lennon and also Bowie’s “Station To Station” period. “Give Me Something” by Yoko it’s a Punk shaped song, fast and featuring a screeching guitar solo, “I’m Losing You”, a powerful track, classic Lennon style, with poignant lyrics and music, considered by some to be the best song in the album. It is followed by Yoko’s “I’m Moving On” which is sort of a “I’m Losing You” part 2, the foundations for the rhythm and melody are similar and it’s intended to create the dialogue effect between the two tracks. Side 1 closes with “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)”, a lullaby song he wrote for his son Sean, possibly the most famous lullaby ever made in Rock music. Side 2 opens with another Lennon great song, “Watching The Wheels”, a song in which he talks about life and his new life, he sings: “When I tell that I’m doing Fine watching shadows on the wall/ Don’t you miss the big time boy you’re no longer on the ball?/ I just had to let it go” it seems to be a reference to the last 5 years of his life. “Yes, I’m Your Angel” by Yoko it’s a music-hall style song, reminiscent of the 1920’s and 1930’s ballads, different from every other track in the album, but that is one of the charms on “Double Fantasy”, the diversity on it. “Woman” by John Lennon became one of the most famous tracks on the album, a love song he wrote for Yoko, and it’s clearly that their love was still growing strong in 1980; what some people might had called a temporary infatuation back in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, was now proven to be real love. “Beautiful Boys” by Yoko it’s a somber experimental ballad followed by the upbeat “Dear Yoko” by John, a happy song where he once again shouts his endless love for Yoko Ono in almost childish vocals. Closing the album are two Yoko tracks, “Every Man Has a Woman Who Loves Him”,an early synth-pop song, and “Hard Times Are Over”, maybe the most reminiscent of the “Sometime In New York City” songs period in the album.



“Double Fantasy” was released on November 17th, 1980, less than one month after, John Lennon was murdered at age only 40 by Mark David Chapman who earlier that day took a photo with Lennon signing his copy of “Double Fantasy”. John was promoting the album and planning his comeback tour when Chapman’s lunacy ended all. One of the biggest tragedies from Lennon’s murder was the fact that then, after the release of “Double Fantasy”, the world knew he had still so much more good songs to do and to give us. “Double Fantasy” it’s a sample of what the 1980’s would had brought to John Lennon’s career and a reminder of what he would had brought to us. Lennon was the Beatle who wasn’t afraid to experiment and as The Beatles back in the 1960’s changed the whole music industry, had Lennon lived through that faithful 1980 December night, who knows how music could be today.

Side 1
1 “(Just Like) Starting Over” John Lennon
2 “Kiss Kiss Kiss” Yoko Ono
3 “Cleanup Time” Lennon
4 “Give Me Something” Ono
5 “I’m Losing You” Lennon
6 “I’m Moving On” Ono
7 “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)” Lennon

Side 2
8 “Watching the Wheels” Lennon
9 “Yes, I’m Your Angel” Ono
10 “Woman” Lennon
11 “Beautiful Boys” Ono
12 “Dear Yoko” Lennon
13 “Every Man Has a Woman Who Loves Him” Ono
14 “Hard Times Are Over” Ono

Personnel (partial):
John Lennon: lead, harmony and background vocals; rhythm and acoustic guitars; piano and keyboards; arranger and producer
Yoko Ono: lead and background vocals; arranger and producer
Jack Douglas: arranger and producer
Earl Slick: lead guitar
Hugh McCracken: lead guitar
Tony Levin: bass
George Small: keyboards, piano, synthesizer
Andy Newmark: drums
Arthur Jenkins: percussion
Ed Walsh: Oberheim synthesizer

Produced by: John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Jack Douglas
Recorded during: 7 August – 22 September 1980 at The Hit Factory, New York
Released: November 17th, 1980
Label: Geffen

Singles:
“(Just Like) Starting Over” Released: 20 October 1980
“Woman” Released: 12 January 1981
“Watching the Wheels” Released: 13 March 1981
“Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)” Released: 11 April 1981



Strongest tracks: “(Just Like) Starting Over”, “Kiss Kiss Kiss”, “Give Me Something”, “I’m Losing You”, “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)”, “Watching the Wheels”, “Woman”, “Dear Yoko”

Watch the 1981 music video “(Just Like) Starting Over” by John Lennon





Listen to “Double Fantasy” on Spotify

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