The Actual Walrus

 
 

John Lennon received a letter from a pupil at Quarry Bank High School, which he had attended. The writer mentioned that the English master was making his class analyse The Beatles‘ lyrics (Lennon wrote an answer, dated 1 September 1967, which was auctioned by Christie’s of London in 1992). Lennon, amused that a teacher was putting so much effort into understanding the Beatles’ lyrics, decided to write in his next song the most confusing lyrics that he could.

The genesis of the lyrics is found in three song ideas that Lennon was working on, the first of which was inspired by hearing a police siren at his home in Weybridge; Lennon wrote the lines “Mis-ter cit-y police-man” to the rhythm and melody of the siren. The second idea was a short rhyme about Lennon sitting in his garden, while the third was a nonsense lyric about sitting on a corn flake. Unable to finish the ideas as three different songs, he eventually combined them into one. The lyrics also included the phrase “Lucy in the sky” from Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band earlier in the year.

 
 

The Walrus and The Carpenter as illustrated by John Tenniel

 
 

The walrus is a reference to the walrus in Lewis Carroll‘s poem The Walrus and the Carpenter (from the book Through the Looking-Glass). Lennon later expressed dismay upon belatedly realising that the walrus was a villain in the poem.

The final catalyst of the song occurred when Lennon’s friend and former fellow member of the Quarrymen, Peter Shotton, visited and Lennon asked Shotton about a playground nursery rhyme they sang as children. Shotton remembered:

“Yellow matter custard, green slop pie, All mixed together with a dead dog’s eye, Slap it on a butty, ten foot thick, Then wash it all down with a cup of cold sick.”

Lennon borrowed a couple of words, added the three unfinished ideas and the result was I Am the Walrus. The Beatles’ official biographer Hunter Davies was present while the song was being written and wrote an account in his 1968 biography of the Beatles. Lennon remarked to Shotton, “Let the fuckers work that one out.” Shotton was also responsible for suggesting to Lennon to change the lyric “waiting for the man to come” to “waiting for the van to come”.

 
 

The Beatles in costume filming Magical Mystery Tour

 
 

Lennon claimed he wrote the first two lines on separate acid trips; he explained much of the song to Playboy in 1980:

“The first line was written on one acid trip one weekend. The second line was written on the next acid trip the next weekend, and it was filled in after I met Yoko… I’d seen Allen Ginsberg and some other people who liked Dylan and Jesus going on about Hare Krishna. It was Ginsberg, in particular, I was referring to. The words ‘Element’ry penguin’ meant that it’s naïve to just go around chanting Hare Krishna or putting all your faith in one idol. In those days I was writing obscurely, à la Dylan.”

“It never dawned on me that Lewis Carroll was commenting on the capitalist system. I never went into that bit about what he really meant, like people are doing with the Beatles’ work. Later, I went back and looked at it and realized that the walrus was the bad guy in the story and the carpenter was the good guy. I thought, Oh, shit, I picked the wrong guy. I should have said, ‘I am the carpenter.’ But that wouldn’t have been the same, would it? [Sings, laughing] ‘I am the carpenter….'”

Seen in the Magical Mystery Tour film singing the song, Lennon, apparently, is the walrus; on the track-list of the accompanying soundtrack EP/LP however, underneath I Am the Walrus are printed the words ‘ “No you’re not!” said Little Nicola’ (in the film, Nicola is a little girl who keeps contradicting everything the other characters say). Lennon returned to the subject in the lyrics of three of his subsequent songs: in the 1968 Beatles song Glass Onion he sings, “I told you ’bout the walrus and me, man/You know that we’re as close as can be, man/Well here’s another clue for you all/The walrus was Paul”; in the third verse of Come Together he sings the line “he bag production, he got walrus gumboot”; and in his 1970 solo song God, admits “I was the walrus, but now I’m John.”

 
 

To watch the clip from Magical Mystery Tour, please take a gander at The Genealogy of the Style‘s Facebook page: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7r52ZBx0KMI

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The Son of Man in Popular Culture

The Holy Mountain (Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1973) movie poster

 
 

René Magritte‘s The Son of Man appears in Alejandro Jodorowsky’s film The Holy Mountain, on a wall in the house of Jupiter. The film was produced by Beatles manager Allen Klein of ABKCO Music and Records, after Jodorowsky scored an underground phenomenon with El Topo (The Mole) and the acclaim of both John Lennon and George Harrison (Lennon and Yoko Ono put up production money).

 
 

Robin Williams in Toys (Barry Levinson, 1992).

The set design, costumes, and promotional poster reflect the painting’s style.

 
 

A parody of the painting, with Bart behind the floating apple, can be seen briefly at the start of The Simpsons episode No. 86  Treehouse of Horror IV (1993)

 
 

The painting appears briefly on the video for Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson’s song Scream , on the “Gallery” section:

 
 

Still from Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson’s Scream music video (Mark Romanek, 1995)

 
 

The Thomas Crown Affair (John McTiernan, 1999)

 
 

The Son of Man appears several times in the 1999 version of The Thomas Crown Affair, especially in the final robbery scenes when men wearing bowler hats and trench coats carry briefcases throughout the museum to cover Crown’s movements and confuse the security team.

 
 

Stranger Than Fiction (Marc Forster, 2006)

 
 

This is not an Apple, illustration by John Cox, 2007

 
 

In the film Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium (Zach Helm, 2007), the painting is seen hanging on the wall half finished; at the end of the film Mr Magorium is seen to be painting the rest of it.

 
 

This painting also shows up at the end of the film Bronson (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2008). British prisoner Charlie Bronson takes a hostage and turns him into this particular portrait

 
 

 In the movie 500 Days of Summer (Marc Webb, 2009), the bowler hat and green apple can be seen in Summer’s apartment

 
 

The cover of the book Rubies in the Orchard: How to Uncover the Hidden Gems in Your Business (2009) has a version of the painting, with a pomegranate

 
 

In Jimmy Liao’s illustrated book Starry Starry Night (2011), the protagonist girl, with the painting illustrated behind her, imitates the painting to express her protest against her parents’ long term fighting.

 
 

In Gary Braunbeck’s novel Keepers (2005), the antagonist figures (the “Keepers” of the title) resemble the nattily-dressed, bowler-hatted figures of Magritte’s painting. Also, in the opening scene of the book, the reference is directly made and explained to this resemblance because of an apple-scented car air freshener printed with the image of the painting hanging in the protagonist’s car.

In Lev Grossman’s 2009 novel The Magicians the antagonist is a man wearing a suit, with his face obscured by a leafed branch suspended in midair.

Living in The Material World

“I’m living in the material world
Living in the material world

can’t say what I’m doing here
But I hope to see much clearer,
After living in the material world

I got born into the material world
Getting worn out in the material world
Use my body like a car,
Taking me both near and far
Met my friends all in the material world

Met them all there in the material world
John and Paul here in the material world
Though we started out quite poor
We got ‘Richie’ on a tour
Got caught up in the material world

From the Spiritual Sky,
Such sweet memories have I
To the Spiritual Sky
How I pray
Yes I pray
That I won’t get lost
Or go astray

As I’m fated for the material world
Get frustrated in the material world
Senses never gratified
Only swelling like a tide
That could drown me in the
Material world

From the Spiritual Sky,
Such sweet memories have I
To the Spiritual Sky
How I pray
Yes I pray
That I won’t get lost
Or go astray

While I’m living in the material world
Not much ‘giving’ in the material world
Got a lot of work to do
Try to get a message through
And get back out of this material world

I’m living in the material world
Living in the material world
I hope to get out of this place
By the LORD SRI KRSNA’S GRACE
My salvation from the material world
Big Ending”

George Harrison

1973

 
 

Photograph of George Harrison chosen for the publicity posters (and for the front cover of the accompanying book) of Living In The Material World. it was taken during the filming for the Beatles movie Help! (Richard Lester, 1965).

In 2007 Martin Scorsese wrote a short cinematographic appreciation of Help! for the book that comes with both the standard and the deluxe DVD box set re-issue of the mentioned film .

 
 

George Harrison: Living in the Material World (Martin Scorsese, 2011) is a documentary film based on the life of Beatles member George Harrison. It earned six nominations at the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards, winning two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Nonfiction Special and Outstanding Directing for Nonfiction Programming.

 
 

The film follows music legend George Harrison’s story from his early life in Liverpool, the Beatlemania phenomenon, his travels to India, the influence of Indian culture in his music, and his relevance and importance as a member of The Beatles. It consists of previously unseen footage and interviews with Olivia and Dhani Harrison, friends, and many others.

After Harrison’s death in 2001, various production companies approached his widow Olivia about producing a film about her late husband’s life. She declined because he had wanted to tell his own life story through his video archive. Upon meeting Scorsese, she gave her blessings and signed on to the film project as a producer.

According to Scorsese, he was attracted to the project because “That subject matter has never left me…The more you’re in the material world, the more there is a tendency for a search for serenity and a need to not be distracted by physical elements that are around you. His music is very important to me, so I was interested in the journey that he took as an artist. The film is an exploration. We don’t know. We’re just feeling our way through.”

Throughout 2008 and 2009, Scorsese alternated working between Shutter Island and the documentary.

To watch the trailer, please, take a gander at The Genealogy of Style‘s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228?ref=hl

Lennon and The Psychedelic Experience

Come Together, drawing by John Lennon

 
 

The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead (commonly referred to as The Psychedelic Experience) is an instruction manual intended for use during sessions involving psychedelic drugs. The book is dedicated to Aldous Huxley and includes a short introductory citation from Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception. Part of this text was used by The Beatles in the song Tomorrow Never Knows (1966).

 
 

Recording Give Peace a Chance. Left to right: Rosemary Leary (face not visible), Tommy Smothers (with back to camera), John Lennon, Timothy Leary, Yoko Ono, Judy Marcioni and Paul Williams

 
 

Timothy Leary once recruited Lennon to write a theme song for his California gubernatorial campaign against Ronald Reagan (which was interrupted by his prison sentence due to cannabis possession), inspiring Lennon to come up with Come Together (1969), based on Leary’s theme and catchphrase for the campaign. Leary was also present when Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, recorded Give Peace a Chance (1969) during one of their bed-ins in Montreal, and is mentioned in the lyrics of the song.

The original last verse of the song refers to: “John and Yoko, Timmy Leary, Rosemary, Tommy Smothers, Bobby Dylan, Tommy Cooper, Derek Taylor, Norman Mailer, Allen Ginsberg, and Hare Krishna”. In the performance of Give Peace a Chance included on the Live Peace in Toronto 1969 album, Lennon openly stated that he could not remember all of the words and improvised with the names of the band members sharing the stage with him and anything that came to mind: “John and Yoko, Eric Clapton, Klaus Voormann, Penny Lane, Roosevelt, Nixon, Tommy Jones and Tommy Cooper, and somebody.” The third verse contains a reference to masturbation, but Lennon changed this to “mastication” on the official lyric sheet. He later admitted this was a “cop out” but wanted to avoid unnecessary controversy.

To watch the music video, please take a gander at The Genealogy of Style’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228?ref=hl

Emphasizing the Positive

Ceiling Painting (Yes Painting), Yoko Ono, 1966

 

Yoko Ono‘s activities as an artist span a truly broad variety of genres: art, music, film, and performance. Her work over the past four decades has taken her around the world, in which process she has come to influence a great number of people, starting with John Lennon.

Back in November 1966, she exhibited her Ceiling Painting (or the YES Painting) at the Indica Gallery of London. Viewers had to climb up a white ladder in the center of the room, from where a magnifying glass hanging from the ceiling allowed them to view the word “YES” written in tiny letters on a framed piece of paper affixed to the ceiling. In fact, the work brought Ono and John Lennon together for the first time – some say that she used the work to seduce the already-married Lennon. There is a famous episode in which Lennon, having climbed up the ladder and read what was written, said, “I would have been quite disappointed if it had said ‘NO,’ but was saved by the fact it said ‘YES’,” The two married in 1969.

 

 

The “YES” in the title of the exhibition symbolizes the way that Yoko Ono emphasizes the positive in her works and activities. The following quote illustrates that attitude: “‘YES’ was my work and John encountered it and he went up the stairs and he looked at this word that said ‘Yes.’ At the time I didn’t really think it would be taken so personally. But I don’t really connect it with John as much as I connect it with my view of life. My view of life is the fact that there were many incredible negative elements in my life, and in the world, and because of that I had to conjure up a positive attitude within me in balance to the most chaotic … and I had to balance that by activating the ‘Yes’ element. ‘Yes’ is an expression that I always carried and that I’m carrying.”

 

Yoko Ono with her installation: Sky Ladders in her exhibition Sognare, Museo di Santa Caterina, Treviso, Italy Photo by Stephan Crasneanscki, 2007

Confidence in the Eyeglass

The bloodstained glasses of John Lennon. Photo tweeted by Yoko Ono on what would have been her 44th wedding anniversary to Lennon, March 21, 2013

 
 

Confidence in the eyeglass, not in the eye;
in the staircase, never in the stair step;
in the wing, not in the bird
and only in you, and only in you, and only in you.

Confidence in wickedness, not in the wicked;
in the glass, but never in the liquor;
in the corpse, not in the man
and only in you, and only in you, and only in you.

Confidence in many, but no longer in one;
in the riverbed, never in the current;
in your pants, not in your legs
and only in you, and only in you, and only in you.

Confidence in the window, not in the door;

Confidence in the eyeglass, not in the eye;
in the staircase, never in the stair step;
in the wing, not in the bird
and only in you, and only in you, and only in you.

Confidence in wickedness, not in the wicked;
in the glass, but never in the liquor;
in the mother, but not in the nine months;
in destiny, not in the gold dice
and only in you, and only in you, and only in you.

César Vallejo

Humanistic Paeans for the People

When it comes to exposing the truth, both William Blake and John Lennon have done it successfully. The Human Abstract and Imagine are both memorable pieces that have encouraged people to develop new perspectives of society. From the start of each piece, the writer sparks the reader’s imagination of a world without the barbaric standards set by organized religions. Lennon recognized that a mutual fear of other countries’ motives, along with contrasting religious ideals in the world, created unnecessary war. It is almost as if Lennon was amending Blake on his warnings of the deadly wars that would results from society being placed under a heavy cloud of religion. The rhythm and instrumental background of John Lennon’s Imagine successfully reflects the mood of William Blake’s The Human Abstract. A slow, constantly flowing rhythm, such as the piano in Imagine fits perfectly into the background of Blake’s poem. The statement that both of these writers made, although cautiously unaccepted at first, live on forever and will be applicable to generations to come.

 
 

The poem was originally drafted in Blake’s notebook. The illustration shows a gowned old man with a long beard who kneels with his legs outspread. He raises his arms to grip the ropes as if he tries to free himself. There is a tree trunk with a broad base on the right and the edge of another on the left. The colour of the sky suggests sunrise or sunset. A muddy river runs along the lower edge of the design in front of the man. The picture portrays the supreme God of Blake’s mythology and the creator the material world, whom Blake named “Urizen” (probably from your reason), struggling with his own nets of religion, under the Tree of Mystery, which symbolically “represents the resulting growth of religion and the priesthood (the Catterpillar and the Fly), feeding on its leaves”.

 
 

William Blake was a mystic. His poetry, illustrations, and songs were embedded with obscurity to evoke bizarre and unique thoughts within the reader. His poems and paintings were regarded as two flames that introduced new, intellectual concepts to society. However, the population saw and still sees his work as impure, though not many people have had the motivation to move past that barrier and dig deeper for Blake’s true intentions. Blake was often categorized as anti-Christian, but he felt that this was exaggerated.Although his ideas were different than his peers, he felt that no one’s thoughts should be entirely rejected.

In William Blake’s book titled Songs of Experience, released in 1794, his poem named The Human Abstract depicts the false virtues that the Church casts upon society, along with the detrimental effect it presents in the human brain. It describes how religious figures use a cruel combination of pity, mercy, fear,and war to bind everyone in society to only one form of good. The symbols and mythological figures behind the stanzas give trustworthiness to an idea that was vastly rejected in Blake’s time. The poem and the illustration of Urizen, chained to the earth, leave the reader with a realization of the true, barbaric intentions of the Church and a shared desire with Blake to revolt against them.

John Lennon’s popularity with the Beatles allowed him to reach a broad audience with his solo songs. Just like William Blake, he wanted to present a unique message to the reader that could evoke a new manner of thinking and behavior in society. Both Blake and Lennon saw the destruction that was being created by the wars for religious dominance and desired a way to awaken people’s perspectives through their writing. John Lennon had a deep interest in finding out the truth, which eventually developed into an anger toward the system, politicians, and hypocrisy of important figures in the world.

 
 

J

 
 

John Lennon wrote Imagine to address his fellow citizens with a new, refreshing idea of a peaceful state of mind. When the song was written, there was a myriad of war, political battles, and religious controversy brewing in the United States with the decision to enter the Vietnam War. Lennon was one of the many protesters against the War, choosing to spend time only with his wife, Yoko Ono, in their apartment.

Several poems from Yoko Ono’s 1964 book Grapefruit inspired Lennon to write the lyrics for Imagine—in particular, one which Capitol Records reproduced on the back cover of the original Imagine LP titled Cloud Piece, reads: “Imagine the clouds dripping, dig a hole in your garden to put them in.” Lennon later said the composition “should be credited as a Lennon/Ono song. A lot of it—the lyric and the concept—came from Yoko, but in those days I was a bit more selfish, a bit more macho, and I sort of omitted her contribution, but it was right out of Grapefruit.” When asked about the song’s meaning during a December 1980 interview with David Sheff for Playboy magazine, Lennon told Sheff that Dick Gregory had given Ono and him a Christian prayer book, which helped inspire in Lennon what he described as:

The concept of positive prayer … If you can imagine a world at peace, with no denominations of religion—not without religion but without this my God-is-bigger-than-your-God thing—then it can be true … the World Church called me once and asked, “Can we use the lyrics to Imagine and just change it to ‘Imagine one religion’?” That showed [me] they didn’t understand it at all. It would defeat the whole purpose of the song, the whole idea.

With the combined influence of “Cloud Piece” and the prayer book given to him by Gregory, Lennon wrote what author John Blaney described as “a humanistic paean for the people.”

 

Paen: from the Greek παιάν (also παιήων or παιών), “song of triumph, any solemn song or chant.”

A Reversal of Gender Roles

Annie Leibovitz’s original 1980 photo

 
 

26 October 1993

 
 

26 October 1993 is the title of an artwork created in 1993 as a collaboration between English artists Henry Bond and Sam Taylor-Wood both of whom were involved in the Young British Artists or YBA scene of contemporary art. It consists of a pastiche or remaking of a well-known photographic portrait of John Lennon and Yoko Ono that was made by Annie Leibovitz a few hours before Lennon’s murder.

In his 2001 book High Art Lite, art historian Julian Stallabrass states that the Bond/Taylor-Wood version offers a “reversal of gender roles” (however, the original also has Lennon and Ono in the same position). Stallabrass also states that:

The work refers to naïve 1960s idealism, though not entirely mockingly, rather asking the viewer to contrast the situation in the 1990s with the 1960s … for such artists, it is clear we are living in a time of the twilight of ideals.

Commenting on the photo-work in 2010, Taylor-Wood said:

The bizarre thing is that I’d completely forgotten about that piece until it was brought up in an interview … I don’t remember what drove us to make it. Must have been high concept in there somewhere, but God knows what it was. I guess there’s a running interest in male vulnerability in my work, so maybe it’s just that.

The authorship of this artwork has been contested with both artists, at different times, assuming control of the image and asserting origination/intellectual property; indeed, it has been suggested that the photographer that the pair hired to shoot the photograph also later claimed authorship of it.

Sam Taylor-Wood befriended Yoko Ono in 2009, during the making of Nowhere Boy, her acclaimed film about John Lennon’s early years. They are survivors. Somehow, Yoko has lived through Lennon’s assassination (on 8 December 1980). Sam has coped with cancer (colonic and breast). Each woman has experienced painful separation. Forty-five-year-old Sam’s father then mother left her when she was a child. Yoko’s daughter Kyoko was abducted by her second husband, American art promoter Tony Cox, when she was eight and Yoko did not see her again until Kyoko was 31. Yoko also had to weather the disapproval of conservative, aristocratic parents when she first got together with Lennon. They put out a press release saying: “We are not proud of Yoko Ono.” On a more trivial level, there is the older woman tag they have had to live with – Yoko was seven years older than John; Sam Taylor-Wood is more than twice the age of 22-year-old Aaron Johnson, who played John Lennon in her film and is father to two of Sam’s four daughters. There is going to be so much to talk about.

For the Other Half of the Sky

Front cover for the 45rpm vinyl single Woman by John Lennon. The photograph was taken by Jack Mitchell

 
 

Woman is a song written and performed by John Lennon from his 1980 album Double Fantasy. Lennon wrote it as an ode to his wife Yoko Ono, and to all women. The track begins with Lennon whispering, “For the other half of the sky …”, a paraphrase of a Chinese proverb (“women hold up half the sky”), once used by Mao Zedong.

This song was chosen by Lennon to be the second single released from the Double Fantasy album, and it was the first Lennon single issued after his death on 8 December 1980. The B-side of the single is Ono’s song Beautiful Boy.

 
 

 
 

In an interview for Rolling Stone magazine on 5 December 1980, Lennon said that Woman was a “grown-up version” of his song Girl (which was, by the way, the last complete song recorded for Rubber Soul) . On 5 June 1981, Geffen re-released Woman as a single as part of their Back to Back Hits series, with the B-side “(Just Like) Starting Over“. In 1965, Lennon’s then-songwriting partner and fellow Beatle band mate, Paul McCartney, had written a different song entitled Woman for Peter & Gordon using a pseudonym. Thus, both Lennon and McCartney have individual credit for writing different charting songs with the same title.

Must Be Santa

Mick Jagger

 
 

John Lennon and Yoko Ono

 
 

Jimi Hendrix

 
 

Kurt Cobain and Chris Novaselic

 
 

Alice Cooper

 
 

Iggy Pop. Galleries Lafayette ad campaign

 
 

Ronnie Vannucci Jr.

 
 

Brandon Flowers

 
 

Bruce Springsteen and Clarence Clemons

 
 

Flea

 
 

Bette Midler

 
 

Katy Perry

 
 

Cee Lo Green

 
 

Mariah Carey

 
 

Destiny’s Child

 
 

Elvis Presley

 
 

Bono

 
 

Ian Anderson (lead vocalist of Jethro Tull)

 
 

Bob Dylan. Must Be Santa (Nash Edgerton, 2009)

 
 

Based on a German drinking song, Must Be Santa is structured as a call and response, with the lead singer posing the question of who has a certain feature, with a chorus responding that Santa Claus has said feature. After every other verse, the list of features mentioned up to that point is reiterated, followed by the chorus of “must be Santa” repeated three times and ending with “Santa Claus.”

In November 2009, Bob Dylan covered Brave Combo‘s version of the song in a polka style for his Christmas album, Christmas in the Heart. The New York Daily News described Dylan’s version as such: “It’s sort of unclear if Dylan (…) was aiming to celebrate the holiday, or gently poke fun at the music’s Norman Rockwell-esque simplicity.”

Hope is the Thing with Feathers

Yoko 1, Archival pigment print on cotton rag paper, Emilie Halpern, 2010

 
 

Bianca Jagger

 
 

Isabella Rossellini

 
 

Anjelica Huston

 
 

Hope is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Emily Dickinson

Having Come Full Circle

1970

ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE:

“Do you have a picture of “when I’m 64”?

JOHN LENNON:

“No, no. I hope we’re a nice old couple living off the coast of Ireland or something like that, looking at our scrapbook of madness

 
 

 
 

This was the first single released from Double Fantasy, and the first new recording Lennon had released since 1975. It was released as a single on 20 October 1980 in the US and four days later in the UK. Although its origins were in unfinished demo compositions like “Don’t Be Crazy” and “My Life”, it was one of the last songs to be completed in time for the Double Fantasy sessions. “We didn’t hear it until the last day of rehearsal,” producer Jack Douglas said in 2005. Lennon finished the song while on holiday in Bermuda, and recorded it at The Hit Factory in New York City just weeks later. The original title was to be “Starting Over“. “(Just Like)” was added at the last minute because a country song of the same title had recently been released by Tammy Wynette.

 
 

The album took its title from a species of freesia, seen in the Bermuda Botanical Gardens, whose name Lennon regarded as a perfect description of his marriage to Ono.

 
 

It was chosen by Lennon not because he felt it was the best track on the album, but because it was the most appropriate following his five-year absence from the recording industry. He referred to it during production as the “Elvis/Orbison” track, as he “tongue in cheek” impersonated their vocal styles; at the start of the 2010 “Stripped Down” version of the song, Lennon says “this one’s for Gene, and Eddie, and Elvis… and Buddy.” The uplifting bell at the intro of the song serves as the antidote to the morose bell sound which opens Lennon’s first solo album, Lennon seeing it as his having come full circle.

 
 

Photo credit: Kishin Shinoyama

How They Won the War

“…And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong
And so happy Christmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let’s stop all the fight
A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear…”

John Lennon

 
 

Jake Gyllenhaal in Jarhead (Sam Mendes, 2005)

 
 

Third studio album by Irish rock band U2, released on 28 February 1983. The album has come to be regarded as U2’s first overtly political album, in part because of songs like “Sunday Bloody Sunday“, “New Year’s Day“, as well as the title, which stems from the band’s perception of the world at the time; Bono stated that “war seemed to be the motif for 1982.”

 
 

John Lennon in How I Won the War  (Richard Lester, 1967)

 
 

Iain MacMillan designed the cover for the couple’s single Happy Xmas (War Is Over), where he skillfully morphed photographs of John and Yoko together.

 
 

Originally a protest song about the Vietnam War, “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” has since become a Christmas standard, frequently covered by other artists and appearing on compilation albums of seasonal music, and named in polls as a holiday favorite “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” was the culmination of more than two years of peace activism undertaken by John Lennon and Yoko Ono that began with the bed-ins they convened in March and May 1969, the first of which took place during their honeymoon. The song’s direct antecedent was an international multimedia campaign launched by the couple in December 1969—at the height of the counterculture movement and its protests against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War—that primarily consisted of renting billboard space in 12 major cities around the world for the display of black-and-white posters that declared “WAR IS OVER! If You Want It – Happy Christmas from John & Yoko”. Although this particular slogan had previously appeared in the 1968 anti-war songs “The War Is Over” by Phil Ochs and “The Unknown Soldier” by The Doors (which features the refrain, “The war is over.”), its subsequent use by Lennon and Ono may just be coincidental; there is no evidence to confirm whether or not they were acquainted with these prior works.

They Shall Be One Flesh

21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof.

22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from a man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

Genesis, Chapter 2

The Bible

 
 

“Saying whatever you want it to say. It is just us expressing ourselves like a child does, you know, however he feels like then. What we’re saying is make your own music. This is Unfinished Music.”
John Lennon

 
 

The bottom of the front cover has a quote from Paul McCartney – When two great Saints meet it is a humbling experience. The long battles to prove he was a Saint. On the bottom of the back cover it reads “May 1968. Made in Merrie England.”

 
 

Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins is an album released by John Lennon and Yoko Ono in November 1968, on Apple. Following Lennon’s wife, Cynthia Lennon, going on holiday, it was the result of an all-night session of musical experimentation in Lennon’s home studio at Kenwood. Lennon and Ono’s debut album is known not only for its avant garde content, but also for its cover. The album cover features Lennon and Ono naked, which made the album become controversial – to both the public and the record company, EMI, who refused to distribute it. To calm down the controversy, the album was sold in a brown paper bag, and distributed by Track and Tetragrammaton, in the UK and US, respectively. The album, while failing to the chart in the UK, reached number 124 in the US. The album was followed by Unfinished Music No.2: Life with the Lions.

 
 

Original photo

 
 

Lennon and Ono used a time-delay camera, which was set up by Tony Bramwell, to take nude photographs of themselves for the album’s cover, which were taken at 34 Montagu Square, in Marylebone (London), the location of a flat leased out by Ringo Starr. in early October 1968. Lennon explained that they “were both a bit embarrassed when we peeled off for the picture, so I took it myself with a delayed action shutter.” The front cover showed them frontally nude including Lennon’s penis and Ono’s breasts and pudendal cleft, and both Lennon’s and Ono’s natural pubic hair, while the rear cover showed them nude from behind including their buttocks. Lennon’s idea was to have the nude shot for the front album cover. Neil Aspinall said that Lennon gave the roll of film to an Apple employee, known as Jeremy, with instructions that the pictures were to be developed. Jeremy said that the pictures were “mind-blowing”, Aspinall, however, said that “Everything was always “mind-blowing” to Jeremy” then going on to say: “but – just that one time – he was actually right. He couldn’t believe it.”

 
 

 
 

The cover provoked an outrage, prompting distributors to sell the album in a plain brown wrapper, covering the nude front cover. Quotes from Genesis Chapter 2 were placed on the back of the brown bag, which were chosen by Derek Taylor. The album’s title came from the couple’s feeling that they were “two innocents, lost in a world gone mad”, and because after making the recording, the two consummated their relationship. Lennon had said that the album cover “just seemed natural for us. We’re all naked really.” Ono saw the cover as a significant declaration: “I was in the artistic community, where a painter did a thing about rolling a naked woman with blue paint on her body on a canvas; […] that was going on at the time. The only difference was that we were going to stand together, which I thought was very interesting […] it was just standing straight. I liked that concept.” Copies of the album were impounded as obscene in several jurisdictions (including 30,000 copies in New Jersey in January 1969). Lennon commented that the uproar seemed to have less to do with the explicit nudity, and more to do with the fact that the pair were rather unattractive (and the photo unflattering; Lennon described it later as a picture of “two slightly overweight ex-junkies”).