John Lennon & Yoko Ono 1971

John Winston Lennon was famously shot to death at age 40, midway through his tumultuous life and storied career, robbing the world of a towering talent and profoundly ambiguous personality.

During the four-plus decades following his unimaginably tragic and senseless demise, much of Lennon’s legacy has become reduced and calcified. For many of the insufferable, apparently unkillable Baby Boomers, Lennon’s death became a convenient excuse for a modified beatification — forever casting him as a kind of petrified Summer Of Love saint, a bespectacled avatar of pacifism and righteous liberal causes. It wouldn’t feel so egregious if the actual John Lennon were not a man so completely oppositional in terms of temperament.

The real Lennon was by turns generous and cruel, ingenious and indulgent, scolding and excessive. His politics were a muddled concoction of radicalism and reactionary impulses.

He was the Beatles unquestionable leader, ruling as much through intimidation as ability. That is not to suggest that his ability was less than awesome — arguably no figure in the rock and roll tradition has ever manifested an equal combination of writing and vocal talent, save perhaps his early hero Chuck Berry. A restless and searching spirit led Lennon down countless musical roads, setting the template for the Beatles experimentations and functionally inventing psychedelia on the fly. Still and to his death, he remained an avowed descendant of Elvis Presley and Sam Cooke, Carl Perkins and Little Richard. Lennon’s twinned and simultaneous devotion to extreme progressiveness and nostalgic traditionalism is a paradox that informed both his art and life.

The Clash once sang “Anger can be power/ did you know that you can use it?” If John Lennon knew any one thing, it was certainly this. The single common denominator that can be said to characterize the vast majority of his music and attitude is most undoubtedly rage. The simplistic, utopian vision of what is probably his most famous solo song, “Imagine,” is best understood as the aspirational flip side to the roiling toxicity that consumed him for most of his time on Earth. Living life in peace was certainly a fantasy, something about which he knew very little. John Lennon was not an easy or peaceable man. John Lennon was anger condensed to lethal doses of pure, unadulterated invective. John Lennon was Kurt Cobain multiplied by Johnny Rotten — in short, a holy fucking terror.

Part of the ongoing fascination with the Beatles evolves from the context and clarification that came from the great early solo records recorded by Lennon, Harrison, and McCartney — the mysteries they revealed, the theories they confirmed. While All Things Must Pass made concrete the notion of George as point man of the Beatles spiritual odyssey and McCartney and Ram underscored Paul’s mastery of melody and colorful chronicling of the mundane, John’s epochal solo debut
[1] Plastic Ono Band laid bare as never before the band’s aggrieved and tortured soul. We knew from Beatles tracks like “I’m A Loser,” “Help,” and “Yer Blues” that Lennon was a man in pain, but it was not until he set out on his own that we could begin to gauge the depth of that despair and the lengths he was willing to go to in order to document it.

The sad and trying details of his childhood and early life — estrangement from his parents, the untimely and accidental death of his mother, the sudden loss of soulmate and artistic foil Stuart Sutcliffe — are the grist for many a Lennon biography. But no retelling, no matter how skillful, can approach the power of Lennon’s own rendering of his specific internal hell on Plastic Ono Band, arguably the most bleak and harrowing collection of music ever conceived and executed by an unadulterated rock star of his magnitude. From the funereal opening bells of the slow-building, gospel-inspired “Mother,” it is instantly clear that Lennon intends to take his already pronounced tendencies towards self-examination to levels of nearly unendurable intensity. Six minutes in, he is fully in practice of his recently endorsed “primal scream therapy,” a kind of in-the-red howling as catharsis, which seems almost deliberately designed to destroy the peerless instrument of his singing voice. The result is ruthlessly masochistic, as is most of the album that follows.

For Lennon, a deep commercial populism always ran neck and neck with his affinity for the difficult and avant-garde, so when he found his solo debut being roundly and unsurprisingly outsold by his former bandmates, his competitive impulses caught fire. Eager to level the playing field, he issued the infinitely more approachable Imagine, an album that succeeded commercially and artistically even as it underscored his fundamental contradictions — the sloganeering digressions of the title track sitting strangely alongside the remarkably mean-spirited swipe at McCartney “How Do You Sleep?” Lennon would continue to periodically make great work throughout the rest of his life, but never again with the consistency or sense of purpose he realized on his first two solo LPs.

Lennon’s rock star credentials duly reaffirmed, his personal life proceeded to spiral into ever greater stages of chaos throughout the 1970s, culminating in the infamous and much reported upon “Lost Weekend” — a period of separation from Yoko Ono, where for roughly eighteen months Lennon disembarked to Los Angeles and engaged in flagrant and florid acts of self-destruction. His main accomplice during this period was the great American songwriter Harry Nilsson, who was more than a match for Lennon’s nihilistic appetites and viciously baiting sarcasm. Together they would make many bad decisions and some fantastic music, particularly on the Lennon-produced Nilsson album Pussy Cats, whose reputation has evolved in time from a baffling curiosity into a deservedly beloved outré classic. This was also the period during which Lennon rendered the tonally peculiar, glossily produced and profoundly uneven Walls And Bridges, whose odd collection of lusty rave ups, lovely meditations and half-baked throwaways makes for a fascinating, bipolar listen.

After reuniting with Yoko, and moving back to New York City, Lennon took a much needed and deserved step back from public life, neglecting to release an album of original material for more than five years. By all indications, this was the period of his greatest contentedness, as he enjoyed the fruits of his labor and the pleasures of fatherhood and relative domestic tranquility. Word of his reentry into the musical arena with 1980′s Double Fantasy two LP set understandably triggered great excitement, and while it was no classic, the album features a surfeit of catchy and moving contemplations on life as an adult child of rock and roll. That Lennon sounds something close to happy only exacerbates the hateful irony of his death, which occurred three weeks after the album’s release. There is no telling what great things we may have missed owing to his passing, but few artists were ever better armed to tackle the tricky challenge of remaining relevant while aging gracefully.

A couple of words about the song “Imagine,” which is not on this list: Lennon’s astounding facility for writing instantly memorable hooks meets head on with his occasional weakness for pandering polemics on “Imagine,” resulting in a tune that everyone can sing along with, even as many can’t believe the trite silliness of the lyrics in question. This is yet more proof of Lennon’s capacity as a master craftsman, but it doesn’t necessarily make it a great song or one that has aged well outside of its vintage. It is certainly not, in our view, one of his ten best. This is an earnest judgment and in no way an attempt to foster outrage for its own sake. We encourage those who want to provide a counter-argument to do so in the comment section.

10. “Cold Turkey” (single, 1969)

Second in a troika of Beatles-era-Lennon solo singles, “Cold Turkey” stressfully gallops out the gate with a jittery ferociousness that is simultaneously cathartic and claustrophobic. In it, the caterwauling Liverpudlian describes own experience with heroin withdrawal, the lows, the lower-than-lows, and the I-think-if-we-keep-digging-we-might-get-to-China depths of despair felt when going through such a thing. It’s fucking brutal. Industry buddies Ringo Starr and Eric Clapton are abundantly present on the recording, with the former providing the monster a pulse while the latter electroshocks it with guitar stings that needle and disturb its senses. Lennon, meanwhile seethes and sighs, screams and cries, and the outtro of guttural grunts really articulate the painful labor of kicking addiction. A tough but rewarding listen.

9. “Oh Yoko!” (From Imagine, 1971)

Few romantic ballads hit home as hard as “Oh Yoko!,” a lilting testimony to enduring passion, every bit as melancholy as it is devotional. Over a gentle accompaniment of acoustic guitar and mandolin, Lennon both evokes and exorcises the Beatles by pledging to his wife: “I’d love to turn you on.” The complicated, deeply loving relationship between Lennon and Ono has endured in the public consciousness but perhaps never really been understood. Maybe all we ever needed was to hear this song.

8. “I Found Out” (From John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, 1970)

John Lennon in 1970 was like pure nitroglycerin — unstable, explosive, quickly reactive, and occasionally tied to the Weather Underground. This furious energy lent a ticking time bomb feel to the Plastic Ono Band that is both exhilarating and nervous-making. On the spare, tensile blues of “I Found Out” Lennon vents his spleen at the fraudulent religions and sham spiritual guides that so occupied the imaginations of so many of his contemporaries in the 60s, his own included. But alongside these scales-fallen-from-the-eyes revelations, Lennon also viciously disses and dismisses Harrison and McCartney, mocking George’s dedication to the Hare Krishna and Macca’s inflated sense of self worth (“I seen religion from Jesus to Paul”). This is the artist at his funniest and most withering.

7. “(Just Like) Starting Over” (From Double Fantasy, 1980)

The highlight of Lennon’s final release finds him in throwback mode, delightfully evoking the doo-wop of his childhood on an uncharacteristically winsome ode to rejuvenated love. After five years away, Lennon is quick to remind us of his seemingly effortless capacity for rendering a timeless melody. Like so many he has written before, “(Just Like) Starting Over” immediately feels like a song that has always existed in our collective consciousness, just waiting for some genius to snatch it from the ether and make it corporeal. The themes of spiritual renewal and unalloyed hopefulness make the context of its release all the more bitter and poignant — how can a man who sounds so reborn be so recently lost? But the final devastating twist in Lennon’s too often tragic life should not mitigate the sheer joy he radiates here.

6. “Isolation” (From John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, 1970)

One of a handful of devastating ballads on Plastic Ono Band, “Isolation” largely trades desperation for resignation, seeming to wearily recognize absolute loneliness as an inevitable condition of the human experience. Featuring a beautiful, ascending piano line reminiscent of nothing so much as Duke Ellington’s breathtaking standard “In A Sentimental Mood,” “Isolation” covers a great deal of ground over its remarkably efficient 2:52 running time, including romantic love, creeping mortality, and the madness of the things we inflict upon one another.

5. “Bless You” (From Walls And Bridges, 1974)

The tender love letter to Yoko “Bless You” is a highlight on the lost-weekend release Walls And Bridges. The opening strains of the track sound for all the world like “Band On The Run” (released less than a year before Walls And Bridges — is he tweaking Paul again?!), but from there the track opens up into a warm, languid, light jazz workout punctuated by lounge-y electronic piano runs. Sonically, this is a full departure, but it’s an utterly fascinating one. The instrumentation and arrangement work beautifully alongside Lennon’s thoughtful, patient prayer to his estranged wife. There is no venom in these lyrics, just feelings of true love and charity, and the knowledge that he and Yoko’s hearts are forever entwined, regardless of whatever emotional or physical distance lie between them.

4. “Mother” (From John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, 1970)

The traumatic opening track on Lennon’s first solo album suggests a kind of tragedy in perpetuity: “Mother, you had me/ but I never had you.” John’s disenfranchisement from his biological parents is the source material here, but a more pronounced, all-encompassing loneliness is at stake. Over a martial beat and insistent piano riff, the question rises inextricably: if we can be abandoned by those who made us, who in the hell can we trust? The screaming, unanswered fade out makes the answer only too clear.

3. “Working Class Hero” (From John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, 1970)

An acute class consciousness is a crucial but often overlooked element of Lennon’s writing. Hailing from blue-collar and déclassé Liverpool, John clung adamantly to his humble roots, even as he scaled the ladder to unimaginable fortune. “Working Class Hero” brilliantly casts into bold relief the anxiety of these contradictions, rendering the artist’s deepest antitheses in a stark, acoustic ballad reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s “Masters Of War.” He hates the ruling class, and equally despises the “revolutionaries” he has occasionally made common cause with: “And you think you’re so clever/ and classless and free/ but you’re still fucking peasants/ as far as I can see.” A painful recognition that the Age Of Aquarius has meant less than zero.

2. “Jealous Guy” (From Imagine, 1971)

Like many of Lennon’s most famous compositions, it is easy to lose oneself in the inescapable chorus of “Jealous Guy” and fail to take notice of the material’s extraordinary nuance. Here we have Lennon at his most wounded and vulnerable, confessing to every manner of emotional extortion, and somehow still on the defensive. Apologetic, vain and all too human, the Lennon of “Jealous Guy” desperately attempts to work through his deep-seated misogyny, and locate the better person he feels almost certain he can become. That all of this is wed to a melody worthy of anything the Beatles ever produced is still more testament to the artist’s unique genius.

1. “Instant Karma!” (single, 1970)

Lennon recorded and released “Instant Karma!” months before the Beatles announced their official breakup, amidst an air of apocalyptic rancor. Lennon seems like a guy who is capable of holding grudge for 200 years if he lives 50, and there’s the slightest sense that he’s calling out his bandmates here. It’s not all simple schadenfreude though, and there’s a lot of dichotomies in the lyrics – personal and political, utopian sentiments juxtaposed with vengeful meanness — and this is all gloriously tempered by the blindingly bright and positive chorus that is so infectious it can rattle around the synapses for days on end if left untreated. The song is also the maiden voyage for Phil Spector with any of the Beatles and his results are nothing short of ecstatic – Wall of Sound meeting glam in an alley with a switchblade in a velvet sheath. “Instant Karma!” is an exhilarating gesture and proof that Lennon didn’t need anyone — even the Beatles — in order to make timeless music.

Comments (78)
  1. Imagine that

  2. ummmm….what about “God”? hello—!!!

  3. Mother and Jealous Guy are fabulously sad songs. Two of my favourites for sure. I never liked Working Class Hero, though I think it’s probably more about the sentiment than the song.

    I’m sick of Imagine by now, but obviously that should be in here. In fact, I assume it was omitted just because it’s obvious that it would be in here.

  4. dream # 9, love, oh my love, how do you sleep…..

  5. For those who scrolled through the list and didn’t read the introduction about the exclusion of “Imagine” :

    “This is an earnest judgment and in no way an attempt to foster outrage for its own sake. We encourage those who want to provide a counter-argument to do so in the comment section.”

    Behave yourselves.

    • Personally, I think “Imagine” is trying to do something that “Give Peace a Chance” had already done. I also think the latter is a better song, but wouldn’t include either in my subjective list.

  6. you got to got to got to got to got to got to got to got to set him free

  7. I’m down with this list, but for what it’s worth, I would’ve included “Beautiful Boy” and/or “Nobody Told Me”.

  8. No Steel and Glass? Someone’s gonna wish he wasn’t born at all.

  9. Thank you for not including Imagine.

  10. “shot to death at age 40, midway through his tumultuous life and storied career” – no, he wasn’t shot to death midway through his life. he was shot at the end of it.

  11. Mind Games.

  12. I Found Out is #1 for me. Good list.

  13. Love, Hold On John, Mind Games, #9 Dream, Watching The Wheels, Real Love (demo version) and yes, Imagine. For me, the triteness of the song is redeemed by the “you may say I’m a dreamer” line, because he’s acknowledging the utopianism of the lyrics. And that melody’s just so so stunning, even after having heard it way too many times.

    • Also Remember, Grow Old With Me and just the other day I came across a great lo-fi demo called Solitude (that eventually became I’m Losing You). Anyway, that’s a solid top 10. Well done.

  14. This is a question for whoever read the intro: Was Sutcliff really Lennon’s artistic foil? Wasn’t that McCartney? I think it was McCartney – it’s what propelled their progressive streak in the Beatles. It’s what accounted for the playful sense of melody and the seething passion in all the songs they worked on together. Without those two “foiling” each other (is that a phrase?) the Beatles wouldn’t BE what they were/are.

    Anyway, Instant Karma is the best,

    • Yeah, I was confused by that too. Never really heard anybody refer to Sutcliffe as his foil. As far as I know, Sutcliffe died after leaving the band anyways.

  15. I believe you when you say that not including “Imagine” was in “no way an attempt to foster outrage for its own sake,” but that’s exactly what’ll happen regardless.

  16. Pretty sure I’m going to be covered in an avalanche of hate but here goes….

    Am I the only one that thinks that the vast majority of his solo material is absolute drivel? Without Paul and his pop sensibilities John’s stuff feels disjointed and hookless. I get that John is an “artist” , btw. But somewhere in the middle of all that muck there has to be a song, right?

    Hate away, gang.

    • Drivel may be strong, but I think I can get on board with “overrated.”

      Not saying that he didn’t write some great tunes post-Beatles, but a lot of it really doesn’t do much for me.

      • Some artists are untouchable….Lennon certainly classifies as that. Consider it diplomatic immunity. Applaud your overrated debate but come back down to earth, man. His disjoint or lack of hook approach was premeditated and it still didn’t stop him from continuing to be a influential force. His hatred for pop band association was excruciating and it started long before the band breaking up and his casue certainly outweighed his music career as the years passed, but still…. Plastic Ono Band, Imagine, Mind Games, Walls and Bridges! Double Fantasy!

    • Way too strong – he release two classic albums right out and then mostly fell into an uneven career of still-brilliant songs surrounded by meandering filler.

      George had a similar solo trajectory, but none of that takes away from All Things Must Pass or Plastic Ono Band, for example.

  17. Wow! After rolling all the list without reading the introduction, I realized I wasn’t expecting “Imagine” in any place here. So thank you, for dedicate space and words to some amazing Lennon songs. These 10 songs are so great, I can’t decide an order. Maybe I would add “God” and in one of the higher spots, but nothing else.

  18. When I saw the “10 best john lennon songs” link I just knew that Imagine wouldn’t be on here and that there would be a paragraph explaining how it’s overrated. It’s getting predictable. Regardless, I’m more disappointed with the exclusion of God, cause that one’s a stinger. I also really love My Mummy’s Dead, even though it’s only 43 seconds long

  19. So happy not to see “Imagine” on the list. I’ve never been able to stand that song or its sappy, cloying lyrics.

  20. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • Well, you could argue that “Teen Spirit” really isn’t among Nirvana’s 10 best songs, though I’d disagree. But “Imagine” is just a really, really dumb song that has unaccountably attained immortality. I’ve already ranted about it, but props to Stereogum for having the onions to omit this one.

  21. I really like this list but Mind Games and God!!

  22. Personally I definitely would have gotten rid of “Bless You” to make room for “God”, but overall I think you did a pretty good job with this one.

  23. It’s somewhat terrible, but I’ve always loved “Woman Is the N*igger of the World.” Yeah, it’s preachy and it’s off the worst pre-70s Beatles solo album, but it’s also big and ballsy. Plus, John’s vocal delivery is pretty amazing. “New York City” is a pretty great song off that album too.

    There are also a couple versions of songs off “Anthology” that are way better than the studio tracks released on the mid-70s albums. “One Day at a Time” is one that particularly comes to mind.

    Can’t really fault you for sticking with the early and late stuff with a few exceptions. I’m a sucker for “Watching the Wheels,” but good list.

  24. This whole list is just perfect. My favorite sentence: “John Lennon was Kurt Cobain multiplied by Johnny Rotten — in short, a holy fucking terror.”

    The other day I was listening to Instant Karma and wondering if it might not be the greatest song ever.

  25. Would have liked to see Love, God, Whatever Gets You Thru The Night, and Watching The Wheels but I can’t complain too much because Oh Yoko! made it at least.

  26. Big fan of Beautiful Boy myself, that song and the accompanying video is like a sweet dream.

  27. ” arguably no figure in the rock and roll tradition has ever manifested an equal combination of writing and vocal talent”

    Paul McCartney, maybe?

  28. You’re clowning if you think Paul is as good of a singer as John.

  29. Generally agree that it’s a solid list, and I’m very glad to see “I Found Out”, which I feel I’d seen people kind of take for granted before, but is absolutely near the top of my list. Good call on “Oh Yoko!”, too.

    I’d definitely get “Mind Games” and “Remember” on there, though, and I always liked “Nobody Told Me” a lot, too.

  30. Just about any song from “Plastic Ono Band” would fit on this list, and I’m happy to see a couple included from this mostly forgotten-about gem. In fact the whole list contains nothing I’d bark about.

    Best of all (and I’m also happy to see I’m not alone on this) is the exclusion of “Imagine.” It is not only Lennon’s most overrated song, it might be the most overrated song ever. The lyrics are superficially profound but on closer inspection absolutely insipid and inane, and the tune is something Lennon could’ve pounded out in 10 minutes and probably did. I guess it’s a credit to his voice that this song was a hit; I can think of no other reason.

    • I’ve tried to stay away from all this, “thank you for not including Imagine, it’s a terrible song” revisionist hyperbole, but I just can’t. The song was a hit, and continues to touch people generation after generation, because we live in a dark, complicated world. The fact that the song is so simple, and so “light”, is exactly the point. It touches people precisely because the sentiments contained therein are easy to understand.

      Now, I would challenge ANYONE to write a song that simple, that good, that touches so many people for so long. Its an incredible difficult thing to do. Unfortunately, as society keeps moving forward and constantly believing whatever is “new” and “now” is better, people often start viewing the art of the past as “simple”, or worse, ironic. “This Land Is Our Land” is another song that comes to mind a long the same lines. There is nothing ironic about either of them, although to modern eyes, they can easily be viewed as such. And to the men who wrote them, simple had nothing to do with it, they were speaking truths, as they saw they saw them during their time.

  31. The “Best Songs” lists on this site seem to be a continuous exercise in contrarianism, despite the authors claims. Not even including imagine is like the list of Joy Division songs which didn’t have “Love Will Tear Us Apart” at number one.

    While it’s great to view things with fresh eyes, these lists come off as trying to bait the reader and court controversy (which I seem to be playing into).

  32. Nice list. I love all the wonderfully catchy shit on Double Fantasy too like Watching the Wheels, Cleanup Time, Dear Yoko, etc.

  33. Thanks for being the only music writer I’ve read to give an accurate account of John Lennon’s actual personality, which in no way resembles the way he is talked about or depicted. For someone like me who was born in the early 80s, it came as a bit of a shock to actually review full-length interview footage with the man and see how unkind and cynically he could be, and how completely vapid his politics were.

  34. Saw the title of this article and prepared myself to instanly hate it, then i read it, and well…thanks for gving me a rage boner for nothing

  35. “A restless and searching spirit led Lennon down countless musical roads, setting the template for the Beatles experimentations and functionally inventing psychedelia on the fly.”

    Think I have to call ‘bullshit’ on this statement. After all these years you’re still peddling the myth that Paul had little to do with their pushing the envelope musically. Paul was the one hanging out with the underground artists and musicians in London while John was living in the suburbs. Hell, he introduced him to Yoko.

  36. The trouble with “Instant Karma!” being “proof that Lennon didn’t need anyone — even the Beatles — in order to make timeless music” is that George Harrison plays guitar on that track.

  37. Like quite a few other people I believe “Mind Games” and “Beautiful Boy” should be on the list. So maybe lets just add them and call it a top twelve.

  38. OMG no “Silly Love Songs?” Trolling complete. In all seriousness, great list. Sadly it is too sparse of a discography to warrant a top ten album list. [sigh] If only he was not struck down. I envision that he could have had the triumphs that 90s Cash, Young, and Dylan had.

    • Oh I agree completely about possible latter career triumphs. And I have no doubt he would have worked with the members of the Beatles again, if not done a full-on Beatles project. He and George Harrison’s passing will forever leave some very interesting “what ifs?” out there in the musical universe. With all the massive tours Paul and The Stones have done (separately, just so no one confuses my point) over the last couple decades, I just can’t imagine that John and George wouldn’t have been interested in seeing where they could go with their old mates in that environment if they had all survived (ya know, sound that actually fills a stadium, modern lighting, real security).

  39. Great list! “Imagine” is a great song (natch), but was never really one of my favorites of his. I love “Instant Karma!” at #1. That song is just bursting at the seams with everything that made Lennon great–rock & roll, idealism, melody, weirdness.

  40. No “Whatever Gets You Through The Night,” one of the earliest, subtlest and most winsome jumps by a rocker onto the the then-nascent disco bandwagon (around the time of its release, Lennon in interviews had said he was enjoying records such as Shirley & Company’s “Shame Shame Shame”) and one where his regrettable political naivete was kept in check by the sensuality of a groove and studio camaraderie with Elton John? Bollocks!

  41. “Lennon was the unquestionable leader of the Beatles..”

    oh, that’s fucking completely questionable. mccartney absolutely co-ruled that band with him. they may have hated each other later on, but it’s mccartney/lennon in the writing credits more often than not, and then when it’s not it’s more or less split evenly between the two. discounting mccartney like that destroys any credibility writing about the beatles, lennon or him you’re trying to portray.

    and no watching the wheels? fuck this.

    ::gets in car and speeds off listening to wings::

    • THIS. McCartney was always the soul of the Beatles. Lennon was a HUGE part of the band, but without Paul, they would have fallen apart after Revolver. He was the ambitious one that kept them sharp for as long as was possible.

  42. I strongly suspect Imagine isn’t on this list because it’s NOT one of his 10 best solo songs, but rather because of the cultural baggage the song carries. Can anyone seriously tell me that if aliens landed on Earth, and loved rock and roll and pop music, hearing John Lennon’s catalog for the first time, that Imagine wouldn’t be a standout track? I’m not saying it’s without question his best song, though I think the consensus among the entire free-world would be that it is, I’d put Jealous Guy there, but it certainly belongs in the top 10. Had it not been the cultural phenom that it was, I’m certain it would have been on this list.

    Tracks on this list that “Imagine” is without question better than:

    Cold Turkey – Non-melodic, and overly literal. A poor man’s Yer Blues. Doesn’t belong on the list at all.

    I Found Out – The author really loves John Lennon’s poor attempts at bluesy rock songs. The highlight of this song is the “I, I found out” refrain. Want a better example of the same type of song from the same album? Listen to “Remember,” which is essentially the same kind of proto-Spoon song, and a better one at that.

    Bless You – This seems like a desperate attempt not to weight this list too heavily towards the 69-70′s era. I’m sorry, this is a mediocre tune at best. Some good instrumental moments, but the song itself is sub-par. Just imagine John Lennon playing this solo acoustic. You’d be bored to tears.

    Working Class Hero – Wouldn’t be in my top 15. Again, non-melodic and overly-literal. On what planet is this a better song than Imagine? And if Imagine’s lyrics are silly, then what about the 8th grade angry young man poetry that makes up these lyrics?

    None of those belong on this list.

    However, here’s a list of tracks that do belong on this list:

    Oh My Love
    Whatever Gets You Through The Night
    Mind Games
    Beautiful Boy

  43. I love these lists because they often force me to revisit artists I haven’t listened to in a while…case in point John Lennon’s solo work. I mean, wow, these ten songs remind me of what an absolute force he was. Sure, most of his solo work pales in comparison to the Beatles songs (although I do think Plastic Ono Band might be his greatest overall statement) but these songs do seem to tower over much of his bandmates solo stuff (and I do actually like McCartney’s solo work and think All Things Must Pass is untouchable). One point I would like to make is that I’ve always felt that Walls and Bridges is an underrated album: good call on “Bless You” but you could have included “Going Down On Love” “Scared” and “#9 Dream” in a top ten and I wouldn’t have complained.

  44. I honestly think people are being too hard on his politics. Fundamentally speaking I wouldn’t say he was off on too much, regardless of if it sometimes came off awkward.

  45. Where is “God” from his first post-Beatles album? How did that song not make it on the 10 Best Lennon songs? For me, that song is a mind-blower from so many different angles that it’s hard to know where to start. Lennon knew the 1st line in the song was so strong, prickly and bold that he had two sing it twice! Then, he goes on to deconstruct several cults of personality (Jesus, Hitler, and Elvis), all the way down to his own persona as a Beatle. BRILLIANT! The purpose: to rebuild a new image, a new era in which he could break from history and its expectations of him, then, make his new life (with Yoko) his new reality. Again, it’s deep, simple and bold.

  46. Where is “God” from his first post-Beatles album? How did that song not make it on the 10 Best Lennon songs? For me, that song is a mind-blower from so many different angles that it’s hard to know where to start. Lennon knew the 1st line in the song was so strong, prickly and bold that he had two sing it twice! Then, he goes on to deconstruct several cults of personality (Jesus, Hitler, and Elvis), all the way down to his own persona as a Beatle. BRILLIANT! The purpose: to rebuild a new image, a new era in which he could break from history and its expectations of him, then, make his new life (with Yoko) his new reality. Again, it’s deep, simple and bold.

  47. I would honestly like someone to explain to me in what way the notion of disagreeing with people who murder other people for the fairy tales they tell their children to make them behave, what plot of land on top of which they happened to have been delivered from the womb, or how many pieces of colored paper or shiny round pieces of metal they have would be considered “trite.” When you call this “pandering” are you saying the people who are opposed to murder are in some way misguided?

  48. I can’t believe they left off that “Ebony and Ivory” song he did with Michael Jackson. That’s at least top 5.

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