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!