Monday, 18 January 2016

John Lennon: The Best Unreleased Recordings 1968-1980

You can buy 'Remember - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Music Of John Lennon and Yoko Ono' in e-book form by clicking here!

Though sadly John Lennon didn't live long enough to become the 'ninety year old guru' sitting in his rocking chair as always dreamed of becoming, he had a very full and productive life. More home recordings exist for Lennon that probably any other artist in the history of popular music, often turning to the tape recorder when he's got no more than the basis of an idea and a starting point. By the sound of it Lennon had always worked like this, with Paul McCartney working with him on a whole pile of cassettes in the Beatles era - most of which were thrown out by Cynthia or Jane Asher, much to the collective horror of many Beatlemaniacs down the years. The earliest Lennon demo that seems to have survived is a scruffy surprisingly folk-rock version of 'She Said She Said' in 1966 - however there are so many out there that we've cut this article down to just the tapes Lennon made when starting out on his solo career, from the point in 1968 when he began working with Yoko.
However the vast majority of our article comes from one busy period in particular. One o the biggest myths about Lennon was that during his house-husband years of late 1975-late 1980 he never had so much as a musical thought. That clearly wasn't the case as Lennon was as prolific as ever during those years - what he lacked was a desire to go through all the record company hoops to get his music out there. Who knows how many if any of these tapes Lennon would have returned to as part of his 'comeback' or even how long that comeback might have lasted, but we do know that a few of the songs discarded circa 1978 were revived in quite different form for  both 'Double Fantasy' and 'Milk and Honey' in 1980. Interestingly Lennon has adopted a quite different writing style, nine times out of ten using the piano rather than the guitar to interpret his latest muse and as was the habit of a lifetime quite often left his demos sketchy, sometimes coming back to them to extend them when he got struck by another idea. For the most part Lennon sounds oddly melancholy - not as desperately emotional as the early solo years or even the 'Walls and Bridges' era but decidedly 'down' compared to the comeback album and half-finished follow-up.

 One of the biggest myths about Lennon was that he turned his back on music forever There's a particular emphasis on the supposedly 'quiet' year of 1978, right in the middle of the 'house husband years', when a rather melancholic sounding Lennon took to the tape recorder again as and when the muse struck Though not everything Lennon wrote was gold dust, there 's enough promise in what Lennon ultimately abandoned to have filled at least two more albums after the completed 'Double Fantasy' and half-started 'Milk and Honey', most of them piano ballads in the same vein as the 'Threetles' reunion singles 'Free As A Bird' and 'Real Love' (though, generally speaking, most are better, making it odd that Yoko should have chosen the pair of songs she did to give to Paul, George and Ringo). Do please note by the way that Lennon couldn't care less what date it was when he taped most of these , never mind pass the info on to bootleggers, so the dates are general at best - to save time we've lumped most of these tapes under 1978, the mid-year of Lennon's 'retirement' when we know he was writing a lot, though we could be up to two years out either way.  

 However even before we get that far there are plenty of alternate versions out there to enjoy with lots of choice demos and alternate takes from all of Lennon's 'mainstream' solo work well worth being given an official release. If you're a proper longterm Lennon fan you might recognise many of these names from the long-running radio series 'The Lost Lennon Tapes'. A true treasure trove of unheard tapes chosen by Yoko and presenter Elliott Mintz (a Lennon family friend) together, it ran for a ridiculous 218 episodes between January 24th 1988 and March 29th 1992 on the American channel Westwood Radio One Network. That alone should tell you what a mammoth task it is covering everything unreleased Lennon did, so we've only gone with the highlights - the recordings that still desperately deserve a release rather than the ones in the 'it would be nice' category. Many fans expected a lush and pricey series of box sets to follow, but actually Yoko has proved to be impressively reluctant to cash-in on her husband's legacy and so far only one box set appeared featuring these recordings and a good deal of still un-broadcast material as late as 1998 ('The Lennon Anthology'), with a couple of single disc sets 'Acoustic' (2004) and 'The Home Tapes' (as part of the 'Signature' box set of 2010) to follow. Hopefully there'll be at least another box set to come in the future - until then though that still leaves several hundred priceless rare recordings for the bootleggers however (and no doubt Lennon would have approved, being a keen collector of Beatle bootlegs himself!)

1)    Two Virgins Opening (1968)
The 'Two Virgins' recording made on May 18th 1968 didn't actually start with Lennon turning his synthesiser on and Lennon sqauwking but with some playful chat that's actually a lot more interesting than most of the record. Yoko tries to explain to a disbelieving Lennon how to create 'avant garde art' and just 'let his mind go'. He's too busy making jokes though ('You're not going to turn the lights out and leave me alone in the room doing the one note are you?') and interrupting Yoko's wails to ask 'excuse me, am I meant to wait until you finish?' He really tickles Yoko's funnybone - this is the most I've heard her laugh in forty years' worth of recordings!) and Lennon does his impression of the posh Abbey Road engineers counting her in ('Take it from the top won't you love? Bit more sweep as you come round the sidewind!') Yoko apologises, even though it's John whose wasting time (and tape!) leaving Lennon to kindly add 'it's alright - we'll wait for her won't we ladies and gentlespoons?'

2)    A Case Of The Blues (Demo c.1968)
Sounding like a White album era demo, this song isn't so much a blues as a skiffle rocker performed on acoustic guitar. A less intense 'Yer Blues' John speaks about the futility of hiding his feelings when to the outer world they're obvious: 'everyone knows it, it's a case of the blues'. A nicely retro rocker that has an inventive slowing-down section at the end.

3)    Give Peace A Chance (Demo c.1969)
Lennon's just had a bright idea for his honeymoon so gets a quick sketch of it down on tape. More uptempo and angry than the finished product - and obviously without the massed singalongs - Lennon's early idea for the song seems to have been more of a spoof of gospel music, complete with 'right ons' and 'alrights'. Interestingly, the lyrics to the verses which he always considered rushed and 'less important' than the chorus are all here complete, suggesting this isn't a very early draft of the song.

4)    Power To The People (Alternate Version 1969)
The finished version of 'Power To The People' is a communal chant, complete with a large chorus singing along and stomping their feet. A version exists with Lennon singing a solo guide vocal, however, alongside a saxophone part that's barely heard on the finished version. Like many a Lennon song, the final version is so over-produced it loses some of it's raw edge and grit but this rough take is terrific, Lennon coming close to some early primal screaming as he tears into his working class supporting lyrics. Right on, brother!

1)    Mother (Alternate Take)
if you think the finished take of this song is 'raw', that's nothing on the outtakes. Lennon is so busy spitting out his words he barely plays any piano and Klaus' bass is way down low, so all you really get is the very different vocal and Ringo's drums ticking away like a metronome. Lennon peaks much earlier but clips most of his lines throughout the song short as if sobbing. It is perhaps not quite up to the finished version but it's still hauntingly 'real', especially the 'Children don't do what I have done' verse that's performed at twice the adrenalin of the first half of the song.
2)    I Found Out (Demo 1970)
So far the 'Lennon/Plastic Ono Band' LP has become by far the best represented on outtakes sets with multiple versions of all eleven albums tracks around - enough for a deluxe double disc set at least if Yoko ever wants to re-issue the albums on CD again. A handful of different versions exist though, such as a slightly different and much longer version of 'I Found Out' in demo form. Great as the finished product is I think I prefer the demo version even more, with Lennon truly solo and destroying his acoustic guitar with some very psychedelic guitar slashes in his fury. Although, funnily enough, Lennon's actual vocal is the most 'together' of all the Plastic Ono Band era, dripping with detached contempt rather than wild fury however much of a wreck he's turning his guitar into. There's a solitary lyric change: 'I seen through junkies, I seen through them all, I seen neuroses from Jesus to Paul!'

3)    Remember (Unedited Version 1970)
The finished album take of 'Remember' did not end with the sound of Guy Fawkes blowing up the houses of parliament as per the album, but with a demented fade-out that runs for a full four minutes extra. Lennon appears schizophrenic, telling Klaus Voormann and Ringo (on bass and drums) 'okay - you can stop!' but his fingers have found a great piano groove that he's enjoying too much to end. 'Dur-dee-doo-BAM-bam-bam-BAM-bam-bam-BAM-bam-bam-BAM-bam-bam' he goes over and over again, playing faster and faster so that the track gets more and more hypnotic and out of control while someone (possibly Lennon overdubbed) fiddles around on organ. Lennon starts to sing along and goes into an improvisation ('She was rolling and polling and molling along...') which Lennon credits to Frank Zappa though none of his songs really fit ('Brown Shoes Don't Make It' being about the closest).Enjoying himself Lennon laughs 'avant garde - that's French for bullshit!' and jokingly tells his fellow players 'don't lose it now - this is a serious piece of work!' However it's Lennon who loses his way first, dropping the chords to take up a quick improvisation on the piano's black notes. Till the end though it's thrillingly intense and the album version could easily have lasted up to the six minute mark. A slightly different mix also reveals that the take actually started with a thump of Ringo's drums before Lennon's thick heavy piano chords joined in and that there's a jew's harp being twanged in the background.

4)    God (Demo 1970)
Good as the 'God' demo on the  'Anthology' is it's no match for the rather straighter demo Lennon put together of his song. Sung to a country and western style acoustic backing, the song has a surprisingly upbeat feel unlike the careful thoughtful plod of the finished product. Lennon hasn't added 'Beatles' to his shopping list of broken faith systems yet and instead of pausing for emotional effect simply ploughs on without stopping that 'I just believe in me - Yoko and me!' 'Hallelujah brothers!' he slyly adds at the end despite having just knocked every religious faith ever made off their perch.

5)    My Mummy's Dead (Alternate Version)
Lennon returned to the simple album closer more than any other 'Plastic Ono Band' song. Though less numb with pain and slightly clearer than the finished version, this one is easily the best, capturing more nuances in Lennon's emotional vocal and ending in an instrumental repeat of the 'three blind mice' melody that runs for a full verse instead of simply ending.

6)    Imagine (Alternate Take 1971)
Sung with the same echo as the finished product, but without all the accoutrements and the slightly buried vocal of the finished product, this is a different rehearsal take to the one on the 'Imagine' soundtrack (John even sings the ending 'properly' this time!) Lennon's vocal is right upfront where it deserves to be and it's a great one, full of pathos and emotion that makes up for a rather wobbly Jim Keltner drum part. Interestingly the band back out for the third 'Imagine no possessions' verse' which is performed with the same subtle acoustic vibe as the first verse.

7)    Imagine (Strings Overdub 1971)
I'll be honest with you - despite being a huge Lennon fan I've never really taken to Lennon's most famous song  'Imagine' much. Lennon wrote many better lyrics on the theme and the melody is subtler than most in his catalogue. The first time I fell head over heels for it was hearing the string arrangement part solo, which sounds like the score from the best film soundtrack ever made, sweeping in with sheer unadulterated emotion - and in effect doing the very opposite to Lennon's rather detached performance underneath. This lovely warm arrangement will be a shoe-in if we ever do an AAA classical prom one day!

8)    Jealous Guy (Alternate Version 1971)
Many many alternate versions of this classic song exist all featuring some truly gorgeous Lennon lead vocals. Though the finished version of this song has gone for a more 'dreamy' feel, the rehearsal take is much more up-front and 'human', Lennon's forlorn vocal still smothered in echo but revealing every little nuance. It's all very fitting to a song about apology and being human.

9)    Gimme Some Truth (Alternate Version 1971)
One of the best tracks from 'Imagine' but with the overdubs kept to a minimum and Lennon's acerbic vocal mixed up close where you can actually hear it. And what a vocal it is, as Lennon wraps his tonsils round the line 'no short haired yellow bellied son of tricky dicky's gonna mother hubbard soft soap me for just a pocketful of dope!' An early mix also includes George Harrison's first pass at a guitar solo which isn't quite as polished as the record - this was George's preferred way of working his life-long, playing with the musicians live but coming back to perfect his solo after everyone had gone home. There's a longer fade too with Lennon getting increasingly carried away on his 'all I want are the truths'!  Lennon at his mocking sarcastic best and so much better than the completed mix.

10) I Don't Wanna Be A Soldier (Alternate Version 1971)
One of the 'Imagine' tracks I never much cared for sounds much better heard in a rawer, funkier no-frills version. There's very little here, just Lennon's scratchy guitar, Klaus' bass and Jim Keltner's drumming but the power trio cook up a real storm of noise and Lennon handles his vocal better, getting louder and louder with each passing verse as the recording takes off and soars from a wayward start. A lyric change has Lennon not wanting to become a 'lawyer' rather than a 'failure'. I don't wanna hear the version with overdubs no more, mamma, that finished version doesn't seem to wanna try.

11) Oh My Love (Alternate Version 1971)
The Imagine album's hidden classic, 'Oh My Love' was nearly perfect as it was. And yet the rehearsal take edges closer to heaven still, with less production technique getting in the way of one of Lennon's prettiest vocals of all and a backing track that's just the right side of sloppy. I don't know about the world, but everything is clear in the mix at least.

12) How Do You Sleep? (Alternate Version 1971)
John's damning attack on Paul was never my favourite Lennon moment, but for those who love this song they need to hear Lennon's ice-cold rehearsal version in which he growls his way through his most acerbic lyric, sounding less passionate but more quietly vengeful. A lengthy fade, with George performing some slightly different guitar parts, stretches the song out to some eight minutes but Lennon sounds less than happy with him and ticks George off for 'racing ahead' (so that's two Beatles he's insulted with one track!)

13) How? (Demo 1971)
A suitably stuttering, timid demo for a song about uncertainty, this is clearly a version arrangement of the song with Lennon still feeling his way round the piano keyboard looking for 'clues' about where to go. He's also obsessed with the opening line, repeating it several times and coming up with a slightly different lyric ('How can I go home when I don't know the way, I'm not sure of it!') that doesn' quite work. However what does work is what comes next, Lennon reaching out for some 'Hey Jude' style soul lines and wearily moving to an unhappy minor key for some belated resolution 'wo-a-woah no, we don't know, Yo-o-o-ko' he sighs, the song coming to a halt.

14) Happy Xmas (War Is Over)' (Demo c.1971)
One of the greatest moments in this list, John picks out his festive single's pretty tune on a guitar while singing much more directly to the listener with all that echo and all those sleigh bells (lovely though they are). Lennon's song of hope and peace at yuletide has never sounded more personal or intimate, with Lennon going into falsetto for Yoko's part and 'doo doo doo'ing the lines he hasn't written yet ('...and a happy new year, let's hope it's a good one without any fear'). My copy comes with a charming attached coda that sounds like a 90 second Beatles Christmas Fanclub outtake. 'Greetings from the home of John and Yoko' announces John before Yoko wishes us a happy Christmas and the pair pick out a simple, plodding piano song with the chorus 'merry merry merry Christmas!' John and Yoko end up going into counterpoint harmony (he: 'Merry merry merry Christmas', she: 'John and Yoko want to say Merry Christmas') in a charming festive moment that should have been on the back of the single.

15) Uncle Albert-My Sweet Lord ('Party' cover October 1971)
Lennon had an eventful 31st birthday party. He spent the afternoon at the revived 'You Are Here' art exhibition where he spent most of it scowling at the patrons and answering their questions at a press conference with more questions. The night was a drunken party full of friends (Ringo among them) which quickly developed into a taped singalong. In between bursts of 'Happy Birthday' Lennon tackles two highly sarcastic versions of two recent classic by his fellow Beatles. Lennon doesn't bother to learn Paul's 'Uncle Albert' part but seems keen on the sheer banality of the second 'hand across the water' part which he ad libs and 'doo doo doos' along with, changing the lines to 'hands across the sea' and ending up in his own improvised 'Uncle Albert with nobody' section which bears nothing in common with the original on 'Ram'. Sadly the tapes cuts out here but cuts back in again in time to hear a drunken Lennon singing 'I really wanna see you lord, oh yes I do!' in honour of George Harrison's 1970 hit 'My Sweet Lord'. For all his sarcasm, though, note that Lennon has gone to the bother of learning both songs, proudly rattling off the chord changes in the middle. Well, it makes a change for the usual object of Lennon's wrath 'Yesterday' which was performed in every rendition going from horror movie to crooner!

16) New York City (Demo c.1971)
Moving on to 'Sometime In New York City', many of these demos sound a lot better than the finished products with even Lennon's notoriously wayward sense of time a better match than Elephant's Memory. 'New York City' sounds like a fun up tempo blues in this version with several different lyrics cut from the final version including a very different first verse: 'We was holding Jerry Rubin by the hand, up come a man with a guitar in some sand'. Other lyric changes include 'A sitar trying to be a guitar' and 'I was shooting up speed until I couldn't read, say you got to koo-koo today'. The winner of best line though has to be: 'She was dressed in hot pants which put me in a trance'...

17) Sisters O Sisters (Demo c.1971)
Strictly speaking a Yoko demo, but it features some classic Lennon guitar strumming and some nice background vocals so we've left this classic Ono moment in anyhow. Yoko's vocal is more in tune than the finished version and like her husband Yoko sounds much better solo-tracked without echo as per most of her recordings. The song, always one of 'NYC's better moments, sounds ever more charming in this version, with Yoko sounding genuinely excited and positive.

18)  Make Love Not War (Early Version 'Mind Games' 1973)
Lennon's demos for next single 'Mind Games' were styled after the famous slogan 'make love, not war' but Lennon considered it such a cliché that it was only a stop-gap until he came up with something better ('I know you've heard it before' is his next line). However 'Mind Games' sounds rather good in this early version which is a similar but different take to the version on 'Anthology', running a full two minutes longer. Oh-oh yeah!

19) Call My Name (Early Version 'Aisumasen' 1973)
An early version of the lovely apology 'Aisumasen', Lennon sounds suitably shocked and desperate as he vows to make things up to Yoko, even using her own language to do so. Lennon is struggling with the guitar part and has to stop for a couple of re-takes before finally getting through the song - it's a close run thing, though, given the grief in his voice.

20) I Know (Early Version c.1973)
Another 'Mind Games' demo, Lennon tells us proudly at the start that 'this is a new version with an added middle eight'. Though Lennon appears to be either taping this with a dodgy mike or outside on a very windy day, it's a great performance that's much more likeable and more emotional than the rather timid version that made it to the album.

21) Say It Again ('You Are Here' early version c.1973)
A different alternate take to the one on 'Anthology' this version has Lennon almost whispering the lyric over a more predominantly caribbean backing of steel drums and slide guitars. It's an interesting different direction for an under-rated song and rather fitting in that' the song is all about travel and broadening your horizons. There's no icky female choir either, which is a definite plus!

22) Bring On The Lucie (Demo 1973)
hands down the best song off 'Mind Games', though, is 'Bring On The Lucie' one last burst of Lennon political bile. The finished version will be one of Lennon's greatest anti-Nixon rants but this very early demo sounds more like a sloganeering 'NYC' outtake which has only got as far as the slide guitar riff and a sort of early version of what will become the chporus. 'Free the people now! Jail the judges now! Set the people free! Keep the mothers now! If you want it, now! Do it do it do it now!' Only a fragment perhaps, but still a fascinating fragment.

23) Tight A$$ (Radio Phone-In) (1973)
Another classic clip that's rarely heard, Lennon and guitar are guesting on a local New York radio programme plugging his 'Mind Games' album. He gets a request from a caller to play 'the one after Mind Games on the Mind Games' album but neither she nor he can remember what song that is. So an assistant gets sent off to track down a copy and Lennon finds to his delight that it's his wise-cracking 'Tight A$$'. Lennon performs the song solo as a squirrelly blues that really shows off the taut little riff at the heart of this song and the opening riff goes on for nearly a minute as Lennon tries to remember his words. The song sounds great heard without all the extras and overdubs, as Lennon does his best blues singer impression and the song sounds impressively tough and meaty on this version, showing again what an under-rated acoustic guitar player Lennon was. Now why on earth wasn't this on the 'Acoustic' album for aspiring players? Even I might have given it a go after hearing this gem!

24) Meat City (Demo c.1973)
Sung almost to the tune of 'She'll be coming round the mountain when she comes', the initial very sparse demo of the hard-hitting 'Mind Games' closer sounds a lot more 'normal' if still not amongst Lennon's greatest triumphs. Lennon has fun with the guitar riff though, turning it into its own lengthy instrumental break and seems to be writing an early version of 'Steel and Glass' in the middle eight which has the same 'na na na hey' middle eight that's missing only the strings (removed from the 'Meat City' studio version. A worried Lennon stops midway through because he can see a red light on his recorder. 'Oh it is on!' he exclaims and gets right back into the groove with a much faster and tighter rendition.

25) Intuition (Demo c.1973)
Lennon's all-singing all-dancing happy song from 'Mind Games' is given the clo0d-hopping piano treatment and it's hard to tell whether Lennon's vocal here is as genuine or whether it's bitter and sarcastic. The chorus isn't written yet, which is a relief to be honest, leaving Lennon to drift off into an unfinished round of piano chords and an abandoned middle eight: 'You know that I can be sure, and you've got to be so sore, you know life can be long and you've got to be so strong'. Lennon may have realised that he's strayed into the chorus from his old song 'How?' and decides to have a trip down memory lane instead, branching out into his favoured 'the dream is over' passage from 'God' to round us out.

26) Going Down On Love (Early Version 1974)
At long last we can hear Lennon scream 'I'm drowning in a sea of hatred!' as if he means it, with a 'Menlove Avenue' styled sparse version of the 'Walls and Bridges' opener. The backing musicians are all playing loose and funky with a real guitar groove going on between Lennon and Jesse Ed Davis. The song sounds very different without all the extra, much moodier than the finished product and with a 'do-eo-o-e-own' vocal wobble that recalls Lennon's similar style on 'I Want You (She's So Heavy)'.

27) #9 Dream (Demos 1974)
Lennon re-recorded his demo for '#9 Dream' several times, sounding suitably sleepy in each of them as if he still has visions of the dream that inspired it running through his head. The tune is there, although both verse and chorus are much shorter here, but the lyric was quite different. 'So long ago - when I was a boy' Lennon sings, in a similar way to 'She Said She Said' but the mood is much more nostalgic. A second demo doesn't get much further than the first, but a third demo finally adds the lyric we know and love right until the middle eight which is proving the hardest part of the song to nail: 'And I walk down the street feeling so fine 'cause I know she is mine...' A fascinating chance to see the progress of Lennon's creative vision.

28) Surprise Surprise (Sweet Bird Of Paradox) (Demo c.1974)
This demo starts in the middle eight ('Well I was wondering how long this could go on...') and treats the song as a sad and lonely blues as Lennon prepares to say goodbye to faithful companion May Pang and go back to Yoko. Lennon has nothing else yet so he simply repeats the one part he has got over and over, ending with a very different line: 'And I know I could never wipe the dream from my eyes'.

29) Here We Go Again (Demo c.1975)
Breaking off from a false start Lennon quips 'Here We Go Again...Again' before turning in one of his best and most polished demos. Hearing this you wonderful quite what Phil Spector added to the finished version (on the posthumous 'Menlove Avenue' if you don't happen to know this gorgeous song) as even the orchestral twiddly bits are there thanks to Lennon's ever-restless guitar which really does seem to be going round in circles. The lyrics are almost there but there's an extra verse in the middle cut out from the record and seemingly aimed more squarely at Yoko: 'Here we go again, everyone's a one-night stand, you never really heard the band, all I wanted was to thankyou mam'.

30) Rock and Roll People (Demo c.1975)
'Rock and Roll People', also released for the first time on 'Menlove Avenue', isn't exactly Lennon's greatest moment but it makes for a great fun demo with Lennon channelling his early Elvis for a bare bones rocker that features Lennon hitting his guitar with his pick between notes. Less cooked than the version made in the studio, the simple setting is much more in keeping with this frivolous song. I just wouldn't change it if I was yous, Lennon!

31) Be My Baby (Alternate Take) (1975)
A simpler arrangement of the 'Rock and Roll' outtake without the Phil Spector backing, this song has Lennon singing in falsetto and sounding not unlike period Mick Jagger. 'Do it ice!' he croons over a lengthy opening as the band pitch in behind him one by one. Without the echo on his voice Lennon's vocal sounds feebler and yet is right on the money emotionally, the whole song turned into a nearly six minute epic by the end. Lennon might have been inspired by hearing Keith Moon's version for his solo album 'Two Sides Of The Moon' (a fellow 'Lost Weekend' drinking buddy) as both are very similar - Keith will do his own version of Lennon B-side 'Move Over Ms L' at the same sessions.

32) Just Because (Drunken Take) (1975)
Proof of how Lennon was in the lost weekend period comes from a fascinating bootleg take of Lennon which will surely never be released, alone with a bottle and his thoughts, singing along to what will become the 'Rock and Roll' closer a good few pints past his best. 'I wanna dedicate this song to the girls, Carol and that other one with the nipples' he slurs, 'all those people James Taylor had!' Without a trace of irony Lennon then bursts into anger-fuelled tears over being abandoned by Yoko: 'Just because you left and said goodbye! Don't you ever think I'm gonna sit here and cry!' Even though Lennon is doing just that. He ad libs the lyrics, 'Just because you think you're so damned smart! Just because you think you can break my heart! But listen darling I would never ever let you go!' Coming to his senses, Lennon nods to the engineer 'I need some excuse for doing this...I need relief from my, uh, obligations!' But he can't think of any so instead Lennon quips 'perhaps a little cocaine will set me right on my feet?' The drugs won't work though and by the end Lennon is more anguished than ever, howling 'Yes sir that's my baby, no sir don't mean maybe' without apparently realising that's a different track. 'Hey! I know you love me - I just want to know you love me - it's all I gotta know!' he screams, 'I just wanna hold you! I need your love so bad it hurts me!' John clearly needs Yoko - thankfully a reunion is right around the corner.

33) Something ('Karaoke' Version c.1975)
The Rock and Roll Band often broke away between takes and jammed some other numbers - usually rather roughshot versions of other rock and roll classics that sounded even worse than what ended up on the album. The band occasionally revived something more interesting though, such as a piano-led version of George Harrison's Beatle track 'Something' which, for once in these sessions, Lennon sings with care and affection. John always referred to this song as his 'favourite' from the 'Abbey Road' album and may well have had Yoko in mind when singing it in a very haunted and fragile way.

34) Cookin' (In The Kitchen Of Love) (Demo c.1975)
Though a real candidate as Lennon's worst ever song, this stupid little ditty handed straight to Ringo for his 'Rogotravure' album does sound an awful lot better in Lennon's hands. Lennon's funky keyboard playing is interrupted by lots of wild Lennon ad libs and John is clearly still in 'rock and roll party' mood, having fun on a demo that he knows is rubbish but is having fun with anyway. This turned out to be his last ever song before his house-husband phase and points the way ahead to much of his activity to come, with much o his time at the Dakota spent in the kitchen baking bread!
35) Now and Then (c.1978)
Moving on to the house-husband era, we start with what seems likely to have been one of the candidates for the 'third' Lennon demo Yoko handed over to Paul, George and Ringo for their reunion project (George is said to have objected, disliking whatever the third song was - other sources name it as 'Grow Old Along With Me', which would have really benefitted from Beatle harmonies). This song would have been done by them well, whatever the source, a piano ballad similar in feel to 'Stranger's Room' but with a lyric more like 'Jealous Guy'. 'I don't wanna lose you' Lennon sighs 'but if you have to go...' but he can't quite bring himself to finish the sentence. Lennon compares the fiery start of his relationship with Yoko to the present when the fire has cooled down a little but by the end is more hopeful that 'you'll return to me'. Alternately some fans think this is about the Beatles and quote the phrase 'for Paul' supposedly scrawled on the tape casing - this seems to have been a false report by an over-zealous fan, however, and Yoko fits the contents better. Still, a sweet little song whatever the origins.

36) Now She Is A Friend Of Dorothy (c.1978)
One of the developments in the music scene that really fascinated Lennon during his time away was the growing acceptance of the gay and trans-gender communities. Never one to sit back without a comment, Lennon turned to making his own pithy point about the mood - people with 'hot lips and no shame, all fun and no gain'. A funky piano chord part sounds not unlike a happier 'I Am The Walrus' and Lennon sings along with some vocal mannerisms where the drums should go. This sounds like it would have been a fun song had Lennon ever done it with a full band and it certainly has more life to it than many of the mid-househusband demos.

37) Across The River (c.1978)
Lennon had a lot of fun exploring new styles but never more than this cod-hip hop song also titled 'Dakota Rap' on some bootlegs, though it seems more likely Lennon's starting point was reggae. 'Are you still my brown eyed woman from across the river?' he moans before ending up in a medley with another new song 'Howling At The Moon'.

38) Howling At The Moon (c.1978)
Talking of which, this lovely song - also titled 'Memories' on some bootlegs, which is confusing given that another song of that title also exists from this period - is one of the most 'complete' Lennon demos not to make it to 'Double Fantasy' or 'Milk and Honey'. 'Sometimes I get the feeling daylight has come too soon - hoping for something better, just howling at the moon'. Lennon did a lot of his writing into the night, taking care of Sean for much of the day, so might be singing about his creativity here while simultaneously comparing himself to a werewolf who 'comes alive' at night.

39) Memories (c.1978)
Starting with the same piano opening as 'Grow Old Along With Me', the track quickly develops into a very different sort of song, with Lennon seemingly having second thoughts about his 'retirement'. 'Oh memories, why do you have to haunt me when I thought I'd let you go? Release me from your spell!' Lennon sighs, as 'voices' from the past come 'whispering' to remind him of what he's missing. 'Today is all I need to know' Lennon declares positively, but his wistful vocal seems less sure. Some demos have Lennon falling neatly into 'Howling At The Moon' again.

40) Gone From This Place (c.1978)
A close cousin of 'I'm Steppin' Out' this song has Lennon getting ready to run away screaming from a place where he's been trapped, but he stays put after thoughts of his 'momma' telling him to stay (which is a laugh - he surely means his Aunt Mimi not his Mum Julia!) Lennon hasn't got much further than just this one verse, but it's a catchy one and could have grown into quite a lovely song.

41) You Saved My Soul (c.1978)
Sean gurgles in horror at the start of this track and so he might as Lennon plays with the setting on his guitar to make it sound really loud. A simple song with a Buddy Holly feel and a sort of reggae 'cha cha cha', this is a joyous song about recovery from past struggles. Lennon sings 'you save me from my suicide - remember that time when I nearly jumped from the apartment window?' However he sounds less than sad about it and is instead ready to throw a party. Some demos have this song segueing into a harder-edged electric version of 'Serve Yourself', the Dylan parody of the same period that turned up in acoustic form on the 'Lennon Anthology'.

42) Sarah and Billy (c.1978)
'Oo-er, that's a bit high!' jokes Lennon as he's written himself a vocal line that would have troubled even his younger self. The music recalled 'Mind Games' but the lyrics sound more like the sort of fictional creation Lennon would have crucified McCartney for. Sarah and Billy are clearly thinly concealed pseudonyms for himself and Yoko, with Lennon declaring himself 'one hell of a lucky guy' and noting 'all the tears he cried', presumably of joy. Some bootlegs have this listed as a 'Lennon/Plastic Ono Band' outtake but it sounds far more like one from this period thanks to the writing style, the mood and Lennon's deeper voice.

43) Mirror Mirror (c.1978)
Lennon's having a moment of self-doubt: did he really do all those things that the papers say? Did he really live the life of a Beatle he now only half remembers? One of the stronger unreleased demos, Lennon plays an urgent, troubled piano riff that makes for a fine partnership with lines about 'staring into a mirror and wondering - who could it be?!'

44) JJ (c.1978)
Who was JJ? Afraid I haven't a clue - as far as I can tell Lennon never worked with or knew anyone with the initials 'JJ' so it seems likely he's imaginary or possibly Lennon himself. JJ is clearly some sort of a relative to 'Angela', however, the song from 'Sometime In New York City' as both share a vague resemblance in the melody. This re-write is a much better song though, unfinished or not, with lines about how 'JJ couldn't get what he wanted because it wasn't there at all'. There's a nice middle eight that sounds more like Johhny Cash, but alas the demo trails out just two lines into this interesting variation. As was so often the case for Lennon, a television burbles away in the background, a useful 'thinking' device that enabled him to get several ideas for songs (from 'Good Morning Good Morning' to 'I Am The Walrus').

45) Whatever Happened To (c.1978)
Almost all the house-hsuabdns ongs are ballads, however 'Whatever Happened to?...' is an uptempo aggressive 50s rocker with Lennon dusting off his electric guitar for a quick twirl. So stuck is Lennon on his hot and happening riff that he plays it over for almost a full minute before the song comes in. The lyrics are interesting when they arrive though and seem to talk about Yoko giving up her career to be with him. 'She used to be an artist - but she threw away the key, got a 9-5 job and the most peculiar people always hang around her everyday...' Later versions have Yoko 'keeping her head in the dark, hiding her head in a scarf' and the very Lennonish line that 'she used to be a swinger, but now the rope is around her neck!' At nearly five minutes this is very long for one of Lennon's demos and more substantial than most.

46) Vacation Has Just Begun (c.1978)
A surprisingly jolly acoustic ditty that sounds like something John would normally have given straight to Ringo, this song has Lennon about to go on holiday and enjoying it already even though he hasn't got in the car to travel yet. He sings the chorus in a crooner style suggesting he isn't taking the lyrics all that seriously, but he's clearly bothered by the guitar part as the entire second half of the song is him practising how to play the tricky closing chords.

47) I'll Make You Happy (c.1978)
One of my favourite of the Lennon demos, this is another moody piano-based song that starts off like a pained version of 'I Should Have Known Better' with an elongated 'I-I-I-I-I-I' ending in the line 'I'll make you happy, I'll make you glad. Lennon sounds less than sure though, the haunting piano chords hinting at some darker shadow behind him. Lennon finds himself arriving by accident at 'Cold Turkey' ('One thing I'm sure of - love is so true') and breaks off before adding 'well I never really used those chords - I can use them again'. He picks up the pace a bit to disguise the difference as he sighs @I don't expect you to be happy every day, I don't expect to see you smiling all the time' but wishes that his loved one would brighten up a bit. Right on cue Yoko joins in from the other end of the room, adding a lovely harmony part. A classic in the making?

48) Illusions (c.1978)
Meanwhile, on the acoustic guitar, Lennon is returning to his favourite theme last heard on 'God' about the things that mankind 'makes up' to make life easier for himself. 'Sex and drugs' are 'real', though, and thanks to a lovely 'Oh Yoko' style chorus so is love. Another song that Lennon really should have returned to - unfinished as it is it's a lot more interesting than most of 'Double Fantasy'.

49) Tennessee (c.1978)
A two minute piano ballad that's also more finished than most, 'Tennessee' finds Lennon in a poetic frame of mind about his adopted homeland. 'Oh America, your faded glory will survive' he sighs in the verse before the chorus 'Oh Tennessee your words like water pure and clear, the sadness of your soul reveals the music of your sphere'. Oddly Lennon never did visit Tennessee ever but the lyrics suggest he's talking about a person not a place - early skiffle favourite Tennessee Ernie Ford perhaps, though if that's so why Lennon's singing about him here (Ford will live until 1991) is anyone's guess.

50) Pill (c.1978)
A nicely psychedelic acoustic song that recalls the string part on 'Steel and Glass', it's hard to tell if this song is pro or anti drugs. 'Need a special pill to keep you on the line' Lennon sings, as if he's covering The Rolling Stones' 'Mother Little Helper', before telling us that 'I've got the blu-hoo-hoo-hues'. It's not the deepest or most inventive song Lennon ever wrote but it's very catchy and could have been turned into something nice.

51) I Don't Wanna Sleep Alone (c.1978)
This sounds like a sadder and simpler first draft of 'I'm Losing You'. Like that song Lennon gets panicky because he can't through to Yoko on the phone and it brings back all those bad memories of the 'lost weekend' but here Lennon hasn't even thought about the long term yet - he's just anxious because 'I don't wanna sleep alone'. Lennon tries to get to sleep but 'the shadows on the ceiling keep on haunting me' but knows that 'deep inside we're gonna be alright'. Later versions of this song altered the lyrics to 'Help Me To Help Myself' but this earlier version has more passion about it - the later lyric just reads like a self-help book!

52) I Ain't Got Time (c.1978)
A simple yet effective guitar riff is the backbone of this near blues instrumental. The only lyric is 'I ain't got time der-doodle-dee-doo-dee-doo' but the song is a lot better than simply writing that sentence out would sound and is a rare example of Blind Lennon Jefferson tapping into his blues roots in his solo days despite it being a key part of his 'Beatles' sound.

53) I Watch Your Face (c.1978)
Lennon's back to being contented once again, suggesting this demo comes from later in the run of demos. It's a very McCartneyesque song again, actually, with Lennon delighting in the fact that he can rollover in bed and watch his wife asleep and feel all warm and romantic. The song peters out as Lennon decides to have a go at re-turning his guitar mid-song but the two goes he has at the song both share a pretty tune that again is very Paul in the way it sounds as if it's been around for centuries.

54) When A Boy Meets A Girl (c.1978)
The last completely unused Lennon demo for a while is another lovely song, as Lennon reflects on all the changes that love have on a person. For perhaps the only time in his career, Lennon is willing to embrace belief in a higher power - 'If you give to God everything, you'll get love - you'll find it when a boy meets a girl' (at least I think that's what Lennon is singing - this tape isn't the clearest of demos!) 'When I was a boy I had everything' Lennon sighs, recalling 'She Said She Said' - one of his favourite 'block' lyrics while he figures out where to go with the lyric. Unusually structured, with a melody that never goes quite where you expect, it would have been great to have heard a finished version of this song.

55) Everybody (Early version of 'Nobody Told Me' c.1978)
Set to a funky drum machine beat, Lennon puts down a slow and tentative but still pretty swinging version of his 'Milk and Honey' classic. The lyrics are nearly there and all along the sort of same lines but every once in a while you'll get some changes: 'Everyone's a winner and no one will ever lose, there's a place for us in movies if you're wearing the right shoes' 'Everybody's smoking but no one's getting high, everybody's flying but never see the sky'. The chorus is almost totally different: 'You gotta tell no one nothing or they'll never know it!' Terrific as the finished version is this scratchy demo runs it close, showing off Lennon's sense of humour nicely and the riff works really well on a piano. How on earth did this classic song not make 'Double Fantasy'?!
56) My Life (early version of 'Startin' Over' c.1978)
'Startin' Over' started off as two different songs that were later stuck together. This is (nearly anyway) the verse of Lennon's comeback single as he tells us how 'this life is yours - take it' set to the tune of the introduction. Lennon's less sure of where to go next and after a bit of noodling changes the key and starts singing in a lovely falsetto about how 'I'll dedicate my life to you'.

57) The Worst Is Over Now (early version of 'Startin' Over' c.1978)
Even closer to 'Startin' Over' is this slightly later demo, which almost has the chorus in full. However the rest of the song isn't there yet and Lennon's chorus is 'I think the worst is over now, it's high time it's over now - it'll be o-o-o-o-ver'. Once again Lennon uses a simple drum machine to emphasise the rhythm.

58) I'm Crazy (Early version of 'Watching The Wheels' c.1978)
Using the same distinctive piano lick but taking the song in a completely different direction, this demo of the song is like a sombre version of what is to come. Interestingly the lyrics are almost all there although Lennon stutters on a few of them, suggesting this song is brand new and there's an entire third verse cut from the finished product: 'People say I'm stupid giving my money away, they give me all kinds of names and addresses designed to save me financially, I tell them I'm doing fine just watching the flowers grow, 'but surely you'll not happy boy you don't own the whole damn world'?'

59) Stranger's Room (Demo c.1978)
The original demo of this song included on the 'Lennon Anthology' fades after three minutes and a bit of 'bee bop' scat singing from Lennon, but actually runs for almost the same length again. Lennon kicks back into the song again at a faster lick after the lengthy instrumental break and even throws in an extra verse: 'Checking the over-time, doing all of the socialising, trying to keep my mind clear, try not to over-do it, can I stop bleeding now?' Lennon then whistles his way to a proper finish.

60) Woman (c.1978)
Way way too over-polished and overcooked on the record, I much prefer the sweet acoustic demo of 'Woman' to the one the rest of the world knows (and an earlier, gentler demo of the song to the one released on 'Lennon Anthology'). Lennon sings double tracked  even on the demo but his vocal is so much more sincere. Hearing this you can understand why 'Double Fantasy' producer Jack Douglas raved so much about the demos he was given and wished he could have release those instead - the magic is here, at the point of creativity, not in a studio where it was overdubbed into submission!

61) I Don't Wanna Face It (Demo c.1978)
Though losing the manic energy and urgency of the completed version, Lennon's demo of his 'Milk and Honey' song is another good 'un. Lennon is rather far from his tape recorder microphone, suggesting he isn't recording this too seriously but his vocal is a good one and his sturdy acoustic playing is a neat match for the song's strident riff.

62) Forgive Me (My Little Flower Princess) (Demo c.1978)
The demo for this under-rated 'Milk and Honey' track actually sounds a lot more finished than the abandoned studio version ever did. Lennon sings more directly than he did on the re-recording and again uses twin acoustic guitars to create a nice choppy sound. Alas Lennon's unused third verse is almost unbearably poignant: 'Forgive me, just one more chance and I'll show you, let's take off and dance where we left off, the rest of our lives will be our best yet!'

63) Free As A Bird (Demo Version c.1978)
Why oh why did the Threetles use the lesser, hissier demo of 'Free As A Bird' when they could have used this one? Lennon's vocal is sharper and all the more poignant unadorned of their overdubs. You wonder what the Lennon recording this simple demo in a few dashed minutes would have thought of his colleagues having a hit single with the song and using it as the basis for their reunion project? Interestingly the middle eight ('Whatever happened to...') which we were all led to think had been written by Paul and George is here in the demo complete until Lennon stumbles over the last line. This version may be a simple pigeon compared to a giant bald crested eagle, but pigeons can be beautiful too you know.

64) That's The Way The World Is (c.1978)
Sounding like one of the lush, orchestral songs from 'Imagine', this piano demo has a graceful quality missing from some of the more throwaway Dakota demos and features a single line that will re-appear in 'Real Love' ('Why must we be alone?') Lennon doesn't have the rest of the song yet and doesn't go to the chorus, but in terms of the pure opening this is actually a better song.

65) Girls and Boys (Early Version 'Real Love' c.1978)
The 'actual' demo of the Threetles' other reunion song 'Real Love' appeared on the 'Imagine' film soundtrack in 1988 (which sold several thousand copies at the time despite being rather forgotten today), so it isn't actually rare at all. However the previous version, with very different lyrics is up for grabs. This version has the chorus 'it's real life' instead of 'real love' and starts off with the second verse and skips the first. Most interesting of all is the middle eight which would have made a nice song a lot stranger, Lennon recalling the middle of 'Isolation' as he sings 'I don't expect you to understand...The kingdom of heaven is in your hands, I don't expect you to wait for your dreams, it's too late for crying now it seems'. It's a lovely moment in a song that had so much more to offer than what Paul, George and Ringo did to it.

66) Something Is Wrong (c.1979)
At last a dating! However sad to say Lennon sounds even sadder than he did in 1978, with easily his most suicidal song since 'Walls and Bridges'. The descending chords of this one really have the feeling of something slipping away but by bit as Lennon howls the title out over and over. What could have caused such sorrow?

67) Solitude (c.1979)
Just as painful but even more remarkable is the moving 'Solitude', a nearly six minute piano ballad that's quite remarkable. 'If you walk away what can I say?' says Lennon as he contemplates another 'lost weekend' looming ahead, this time knowing how painful it would be to bear and a life 'with nothing much to do'. Lennon's clearly afraid of living alone with no one around him yet still stubbornly persists 'I'll never never never never change my mind'. Every so often Lennon interrupts his sad simple piano chords that have 'trapped' him for a sudden five-note riff that seems to be mocking him and showing him how much more of life there used to be with someone by his side. At last, some three minutes in, Lennon finds a hopeful optimism as like 'I'm Steppin' Out' he grasps for some normality ('Every morning when I get up I hold it in my sugar bowl and you know it blows my soul!') Suddenly we're back into the piano demo of 'Stranger's Room' but this version sounds even more lonely and desperate with Lennon 'wishing I was dead!' Recalling 'Cold Turkey' he sighs that 'my head is full of dope' and he can't think straight. Coming to a faltering full stop Lennon sighs that things might get better some day 'but some day's too soon when you left this room'. Truly remarkable, this is perhaps Lennon's best performance past his retirement, presumably left on the shelf because it doesn't fit our 'image' of what Lennon's final cosy years were like.

68) Borrowed Time (Demo and Alternate Take c.1979/1980)
'Let's not be so German about this, err with apologies to anyone of German national descent!' Regular readers will know that I rate the posthumous 'single 'Borrowed Time' very highly indeed, a classic slice of Lennon pop that manages to be catchy and simplistic yet very profound as Lennon laughingly looks back on the antics of his younger days 'full of ideals and broken dreams my friend' and sighs how much better life is in middle age. The demo is gorgeous too, with Lennon performing the entire reggae part on his guitar as he delivers a marvellously sassy vocal full of energy and enthusiasm. A different take to the one on 'Milk and Honey' isn't quite as special as the one that was chosen but it is pretty darn special all the same, with a delightful keyboard part cut from the final mix and a much more 'home-made' feel about it all that's highly in keeping with the sentiment of the lyric. Instead of the ad libbed spoken word finale Lennon puts on a Jamaican accent and sings the chorus one last time, ending the song with the single line 'Ah it all seems so bloody easy doesn't it?' Lennon is clearly still getting used to the song, opening with the line 'it's four bars at the beginning and after that it's every man for himself!'

69) Cleanup Time (Demo c.1980)
We know this demo has to come from late on because it was written after the 'Double Fantasy' sessions had started, inspired by a comment made by producer Jack Douglas. More together than many of the other piano demos, Lennon almost has the complete song, although the track comes with the odd tag line 'there's really nothing to it, show them mothers how to do it' over the ascending chords where he simply screams 'ahhhh!' in the final version.

70) I'm Steppin' Out (Alternate Take c.1980)
'Well he finally gets the kids to bed and goes to his owwwwwn space!' Lennon's clearly abandoned another take and got the band to pile straight into this one before they're quite ready and is raring to go with an urgent vocal that's rawer but just as fun as the 'Milk and Honey' one. The main riff for the song is simpler here which suits this stripped bare rocker about escaping commitment and responsibility. There's a whole cutr verse too: 'Called up the doctor but he was sick to death, he don't make house calls anymore, he's gone out dancing just to sweeten up his breath, he left a message on the floor'. No, I don't know what to make of it either! The lengthy ending is already there but not yet Lennon's delightful ad lib ('I won't be back till one!...or two...or three.......or four...')

71) I'm Losing You (Alternate Take c.1980)
Yet another variation on the many 'Losing You's' already out there, this one is played by the session musicians as a sort of slowed down blues -the sort of unoriginal thing Led Zeppelin got away with for years. Lennon's snarky vocal is a good one though, as he spits out the lyric like a man possessed. There's a great criss-crossing guitar solo too, much more menacing than the faster version that appeared on the album.

72) Life Begins At Forty (c.1980)
John and Ringo were both born in 1940 and had both recently celebrated their 40th birthdays when Lennon made his comeback. The very next set of session dates Lennon had booked when he died was for his old drummer who'd been promised this song along with 'Nobody Told Me' and a possible cover of Blondie's 'Heart Of Glass' (John's idea - Ringo sounds less convinced judging by their correspondence!) 'Forty' was a country-and-western song written by Lennon the week of his birthday on a nice new guitar Yoko had bought for him. Ringo would have done it nicely in a 'Beaucoups Of Blues' kind of way but the country pastiche doesn't really suit Lennon whose too 'authentic' for this kind of inauthentic rubbish. Still the lyrics have their moments: 'They say that life begins at forty - but if that's true then I've been died for thirty-nine!' Ringo was too heartbroken to record the song himself for his 'Stop and Smell The Roses' album (which would have been the first Ringo album to feature all three Beatles in many a long year) and Yoko has chosen not to release it either, perhaps because of the terrible irony of the title: Lennon actually died at forty and this was his last birthday, although clearly he doesn't know that yet.

73) Dear Yoko (Demo 1980)
'Welcome to Bermuda' invites Lennon before introducing us to a charming and even more Buddy Holly-ish demo of the 'Double Fantasy' closer. Lennon's multi-tracked vocals show off more range and care than the rather sloppy studio recording and this simple reading of the song suits this simple tale of devotion much more somehow. Lennon gets the giggles on the 'oh Yoko' chorus and shows off with some neat finger picking during an extended solo near the end with lots of flamenco flourishes as a choir of Lennons sound like The Beach Boys. Charming. Another take starts with Lennon intoning the song like he's a Hollywood romantic lead.

74) Cleanup Time (Alternate Take 1980)
'Are we all going to come in at once or do we sneak in like the old days?' Heard stripped down to bare basics in a 'Milk and Honey' kinda way 'Cleanup Time' sounds sooo much better. Lennon starts the song with a half-verse singing the first half of each line from the first verse before hitting the song properly and sings the song with the same guttural screaming vocal we're more used to hearing from his past. However Lennon isn't in a bad move - far from it, he's veering off into mock accents and comments to the other musicians throughout. There's a 'dur-dur-dur-dur-doo-dum-dum' riff that got cut from the final version too - a shame as it works rather well.
75) Woman (Alternate Take 1980)
'I still feel like I'm in the fucking Beatles with this track!' Ditto the rougher, leaner version of 'Woman'. Better than the song itself though is Lennon reminiscing about the old days in between takes to get the lead vocal right, comparing the 'breath-in' to Beatles song 'Girl' and unwittingly insulting McCartney with the remark 'the only thing we didn't have in them days was a good bass!' (a joke given what appeared on the record but it does sound rather good here!) Lennon also talks about his love of double-tracking, refusing to single-track record anything after this. However not for the first or last time Lennon's fears about his voice are unfounded - his heavily echoed single-tracked vocal is a masterpiece, so much better than the finished version on the record.  
76) Beautiful Boy (Demo c.1980)

Finally, Lennon's gorgeous demo of his lovely song for Sean has even more of a reggae-calypso feel, as Lennon overdubs the rattle of what sounds like a biscuit tin. This demo is similar to the one released on 'Home Tapes' but better, with a slightly more together vocal. Though the guitar clearly can't compensate for an entire backing band, Lennon's vocal is already right on the money and the sudden sly change of keys in the middle eight ('Life on the ocean, sailing away...') is even more gorgeous than the record. Some copies of the tape close with Lennon reading Sean a bedtime story and whispering 'goodnight Sean, see you in the morning' just as he does on the record - although the effect is spoiled by a crowd of people (including Yoko) shouting 'Goodnight Sean!' at the tops of their voices instead!

What a collection of demos that reveal so much more about Lennon than the albums. Let's hope that there'll be a 'Lennon Anthology Two' set one day as there's so much of worth still sitting in the archives or broadcast on the 'Lost Lennon Tapes' series - this is honestly just the surface, the 'essential' unreleased Lennon if you like and there are many other good bits out there. That's still plenty for now though - join us next week for yet more Lennon in the form of his live and compilation albums, plus a run-down of every avant garde and Yoko Ono solo LP for good measure. And after writing all that lot I'll be steppin' out - but I'll be back the week after don't worry...


'Imagine' (1971)

'Sometime In New York City' (1972)

'Mind Games'(1973)

'Walls and Bridges' (1974)

'Double Fantasy' (1980)

'Milk and Honey' (1982)

Non-Album Recordings 1969-1980

Live/Compilation/Unfinished Music Albums 1968-2010

The Best Unreleased Lennon Recordings

Surviving TV Clips 1968-1980

Essay: Power To The Beatle – Why Lennon’s Authenticity Was So Special

Landmark concerts and key cover versions

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