The Late, Great Johnny Ace


John & Yoko

Today is the anniversary of John Lennon’s birth, and like many of my rapidly aging peers I was at least partially shaped by the words and sounds so eloquently espoused by the “Smart Beatle.”

Taking inspiration from the always inspirational Johnny Bacardi, I’ve decided to pay tribute to one of rock’s finest lyricists and vocalists by listing my 10 favorite solo tracks by Mr. Winston Ono O’Boogie Lennon.

Sorry there’s no songs from The Beatles. That would take all day to compile!

(Although I do love “I’m So Tired.”)

1. Instant Karma! (We All Shine On) (Non-Album Single) – An immortal catch-phrase bolstered by Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound and jackhammer percussion courtesy of Yes’ future drummer!

2. I Found Out (Plastic Ono Band) –  Brutal, stripped-down rock accompanied by brutal, stripped-down lyrics. Whether he knew it or not, Kurt Cobain owed his career to this track.

3. Jealous Guy (Imagine) – Devastating ballad.

4. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) (Non-Album Single) – A less preachy – and in many ways more subversive – peace anthem than “Imagine.”

5. Woman Is The Nigger Of The World (Some Time In New York City) – An outrageous statement that makes a world of sense once you give it a bit of thought. Catchy, too.

6. Tight A$ (Mind Games) – A great Dylanesque throw-away.

7. Nobody Loves You (When You’re Down And Out) (Walls And Bridges) – Written as a potential hit for Frank Sinatra, the desolate lyrics and Lennon’s weary voice spell out the emotional toll of the singer’s infamous “Lost Weekend.”

8. Stand By Me  (Rock ‘N’ Roll) – John seeks solace through classic rock ‘n’ roll. The accompanying album – put together amidst great personal and professional turmoil – was his last word for five years.

9. Beautiful Boy (Double Fantasy) – Given the tragic events following the album’s release, this touching  lullaby is utterly heartbreaking.

10. Walking On Thin Ice (Non-Album Single) – Sure, “Walking” is a Yoko song that technically shouldn’t count. However, the track was clearly a labor of love for John and his searing guitar solo conclusively proved that – as the man himself brashly stated years before – he could make the six-string instrument “howl and move.”

Thanks for all the great music John, and happy birthday to Sean Lennon as well!

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3 thoughts on “The Late, Great Johnny Ace

  1. Good choices. Rather than Walking… (good as it is – and obviously a good choice for being the song whose tapes he was carrying when shot) I'd go for Grow Old With Me or one of the tracks from Menlove Ave. I agree Tight A$ is the best choice from Mind Games, but that's more because it's not a very good album than anything else…I'd also stick in the live version of Cold Turkey from Live Peace In Toronto somewhere…

  2. Thanks Andrew!Grow Old With Me very nearly made the cut, but I really wanted to include a bit of John's skronky guitar work with Yoko. (I almost put in Why from Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band … but I'm not quite sure if many people have even heard that.Cold Turkey is also a good choice and I'm definitely going to have to give Menlove Ave. another listen someday. I haven't heard that in years …

  3. Yeah, the live "Cold Turkey" is pretty awesome…Zappa, baby.I tried to make a list of these, but it was way too hard. "Remember" made it on; also a mention of how I've always thought "Nobody Told Me" is a musical sequel to "Instant Karma"…"Gimme Some Truth" topped the list, "Woman Is The Nigger Of The World" is a remarkable song any way you slice it, perhaps the natural sequel to "Working Class Hero" except I'm not so sure it really is a sequel…at least, not in the sense "Nobody Told Me" is…There were a couple other things on there. "Mind Games" was actually one of them, for the way it absolutely blew my twelve-year-old head CLEAN OFF when I heard it…and then never even heard of it again for another five years, 'til I started to think I'd hallucinated the whole song…But man it's hard to separate these out from formative childhood experiences…I actually think very highly indeed of both "Free As A Bird" and "Real Love". Suppose that's outside the parameters, though…

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