Today would’ve been John Lennon’s 80th birthday had he still been alive. To acknowledge this occasion I’ve made a couple of playlists that celebrate his music, both with the Beatles and without. I don’t feel there’s too much I can write about John Lennon that hasn’t already been written so I’d thought I’d shine a light on the reason we all fell in love with him in the first place, his extraordinary songs.
I’m first and foremost a Beatles fan rather than a John Lennon fan. In my first playlist is where you’ll find a large selection of John’s best contributions to the Beatles canon and the songs of his that mean the most to me. Most of this playlist (if not all of it) will be familiar to the majority of you, but I do wonder, have you ever just listened to the John songs on their own without any from Paul, George and Ringo popping up? I don’t think I’ve ever really listened to The Beatles in this way before. We obviously know that John wrote and sang on some of the very best songs ever recorded, but damn, take a look at how many there are. I haven’t even included them all. It’s a work of genius.
Playlist 1. John Lennon at 80 : With the Beatles
I’ve always found it hard to choose a favourite Beatle. I have Paul days and John days. For a while I’ve suspected that I’m most likely a Paul guy but when I tried to make a list of my top 10 Beatles songs I was surprised to find that they were mostly John’s.
I’d find it a hell of task to exclude the likes of Ticket to Ride, In My Life, Strawberry Fields Forever, A Day in the Life, Dear Prudence, Come Together or Don’t Let Me Down from my absolute favourites. (My Top ‘10’ Beatles playlist currently has 14 tracks.)
My post Beatle John playlist is an altogether different beast.
John Lennon at 80: Solo Years
In recent years I’ve been listening to more and more of John’s solo records, but it’s a harder body of work to get into, even for a huge Beatles fan like myself. It’s intentionally less polished (compared to The Beatles) and very raw in parts. His later songs clearly miss the touches and contributions that Paul, George and Ringo lent to his earlier songs, but I don’t think he was ever trying to match The Beatles on his own. Other than the fantastic Imagine LP (and maybe Plastic Ono Band at a push) John didn’t really record any albums that are start to finish classics. Which is why I’ve put together this playlist of the post Beatles John songs that I enjoy the most. It works kind of like a solo John double album. Well, that was my intention anyway.
If you go in expecting songs as good as the ones he made with The Beatles you’re going to be disappointed, but there’s plenty to enjoy here. Again I’ve left some stuff out. I don’t really need to hear Imagine again for a while and I’ve never really taken to songs like Give Peace a Chance or Power to the People. I guess when I first heard those songs I thought they sounded quite dated and of their time but Power the People is sadly more relevant the ever. How crushing it would’ve been for John that so little has changed.
In the song Thou Shalt Always Kill, Scroobius Pip reflects that The Beatles were “just a band.” Well, they were and they weren’t. But I’ve been thinking something similar about John this week. ‘John Lennon, just a man?’ Well, maybe he was and maybe he wasn’t. He was flawed, undoubtedly. But what an inspiration. Yes, he was a human, a friend, a husband and a father. Only he was bigger than that. He was “bigger than Jesus”. He was a BEATLE, a legend, a leader and a lover. He was the Walrus, but now he’s gone.
Happy ‘80th’ Mr. Lennon. What a waste that you never got to see it x