We All Shine On: The Stories Behind Every John Lennon Song

We All Shine On: The Stories Behind Every John Lennon Song

by Paul Du Noyer


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As author Paul Du Noyer writes: "Of the Beatles, it is still John that we revere the most -- as a passionate spokesman, a witty yet vulnerable man, sometimes muddled and sometimes exceptionally perceptive, and above all a songwriter of towering ability." The solo work that Lennon produced in the final decade of his life, from 1970 to 1980, is more poignant and introspective than that produced by Beatle John. Isolation, revolution, addiction, love, anger, confusion, self-doubt and self-analysis are among his multifaceted themes. In fact, the complete body of his solo recordings is as detailed, intimate and candid as any autobiography.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062734914
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 07/01/1997
Pages: 128
Product dimensions: 8.51(w) x 11.02(h) x 0.41(d)

Read an Excerpt

Paul McCartney's "Let It Be" and Paul Simon's "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" had, almost simultaneously, struck a pseudo-religious note in the 1970 hit parade. John was openly contemptuous of "Let It Be," but he was to write the third of these definitive rock hymns himself. "Imagine" is probably the most widely-revered of all John's songs, including those by the Beatles. Here, at least, he bettered Paul, whose solo work could never surpass a song like "Yesterday" in popular affections. The restful opening notes of "Imagine" still strike a deep chord in people of all beliefs. Strangely, not even its explicitly secular message has stopped the song becoming a favourite at modern-minded religious events.

But the currents that run through "Imagine"'s lyrics are muddy, as was Lennon's attitude to the Christian faith he was raised in. "I'm a most religious fellow," he told Playboy in 1980. "I only now understand some of the things that Christ was saying in those parables." As a child he attended Sunday School and sang in the choir. Christian hymns would have been his first formal engagement with music, just as the Christian God was the first philosophical concept he had to wrestle with. Therefore the church-like tenor of "Imagine" was quite natural for him, especially as he composed it on the piano rather than the guitar. And the subjects it covers -- from the existence of God downwards -- were themes that nagged at him for years.

As the lyrics unfold we are asked to imagine a universe sans heaven or hell, and a world where people live for the day instead of the afterlife. Religion, like nationhood, is cited as a cause of conflict. Can we imagine ourselves without them, or material possessions, and living in global harmony? He'd ended his previous albums by declaring that "the dream is over." He begins this one by announcing a new dream, and inviting us to share it. There was something nearly clairvoyant too in John's critique of national boundaries. The US immigration service would become the bane of his life, and the fight for US citizenship his longest-running battle.

"Imagine" has its origins in Yoko Ono's book of poems, Grapefruit, published in 1964. In it, Yoko begins each poem with a similar invocation. Thus, Tunafish Sandwich Piece starts, "Imagine one thousand suns in the sky at the same time...." Rubber Piece begins, "Imagine your body spreading rapidly all over the world like a thin tissue...," and Cloud Piece is quoted on the album sleeve itself: "Imagine the clouds dripping. Dig a hole in your garden to put them in." John would later say that he should have given Yoko a co-writer credit for the song. But, he told Playboy, "I wasn't man enough...I was still full of wanting my own space after being in a room with the guys all the time, having to share everything."

The second source of inspiration was a prayer book given to John by the US comedian Dick Gregory. Advocating "positive prayer," the book advised that to receive anything from God, we must first imagine it for ourselves. This idea impressed John greatly. The day before he died he was still expounding "projection of our goals." If we wish for a positive future we should exert our mental energy and visualise one. In 1980 he observed how this idea, once considered wacko, was now being adopted by everyone from business organizations to sports stars. If we conceive of the future as something violent, like Star Wars, then we run the risk of creating precisely that.

Sitting in the spacious white music room of his agreeable English manor, imagining "no possessions," Lennon was accused of hypocrisy. But his Utopian dream, with its wistful existentialism, tapped a vast reservoir of feeling in the post-War world. The song has become a standard. John's own opinion was typically perverse. He stood by John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, believing it more "real" than anything else he'd done. But the softer tones of "Imagine" represented compromise, or even sell-out. "'Imagine' was a sincere statement," he told NME's Roy Carr in 1972. "It was 'Working Class Hero' with chocolate on. I was trying to think of it in terms of children." When Paul McCartney was so incautious as to praise "Imagine," Lennon quickly fired back: "So you think 'Imagine' ain't political?" It's 'Working Class Hero' with sugar on for conservatives like yourself."

Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Text Copyright © Paul Du Noyer 1997

Table of Contents

Foreword 6(2)
CHAPTER 1 Shining On
CHAPTER 2 John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band Give Peace A Chance; Cold Turkey; Instant Karma!; Mother; Hold On; I Found Out; Working Class Hero; Isolation; Remember; Love; Well Well Well; Look At Me; God; My Mummy's Dead.
CHAPTER 3 Imagine Power To The People; Imagine; Crippled Inside; Jealous Guy; It's So Hard; I Don't Want To Be A Soldier; Gimme Some Truth; Oh My Love; How Do You Sleep?; How?; Oh Yoko!
CHAPTER 4 Some Time In New York City Happy Xmas (War Is Over); Woman Is The Nigger Of The World; Attica State; New York City; Sunday Bloody Sunday; The Luck Of The Irish; John Sinclair; Angela.
CHAPTER 5 Mind Games Mind Games; Tight A$; Aisumasen (I'm Sorry); One Day (At A Time); Bring On The Lucie (Freda Peeple); Nutopian International Anthem; Intuition; Out The Blue; Only People; I Know (I Know); You Are Here; Meat City.
CHAPTER 6 Walls And Bridges Going Down On Love; Whatever Gets You Thru The Night; Old Dirt Road; What You Got; Bless You; Scared; #9 Dream; Surprise Surprise (Sweet Bird Of Paradox); Steel And Glass; Beef Jerky; Nobody Loves You (When You're Down And Out); The Rock 'N' Roll Album.
CHAPTER 7 Double Fantasy (Just Like) Starting Over; Cleanup Time; I'm Losing You; Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy); Watching The Wheels; Woman; Dear Yoko.
CHAPTER 8 Milk And Honey I'm Stepping Out; I Don't Wanna Face It; Nobody Told Me; Borrowed Time; (Forgive Me) My Little Flower Princess; Grow Old With Me; John Lennon's Legacy.
Chronology 124(2)
Discography 126(2)
Index 128

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We All Shine On 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Any book on john lennon gives his views on life,good,bad,it is in all of his music. this book holds the key to understanding john's thoughts,what troubled him about are world,his thoughts on how to make things better.It really rings true today,after the terror america has encountered.We have his music his words of wisdom to hear in this book. To me thats the same as him being here.some thought him to be wrong back then.They don't think that way now, I hope. READ THIS BOOK! it should be required reading in high schools!! I'm a lennon-ite,hope you are too....All you need is love