Thursday, October 28, 2010

Double Fantasy Stripped Down Part II

If I had a dime for every minute of my early adolescence that I stared and studied the back cover of my Double Fantasy album [above] I'd be millionaire many times over. Most touching - to me, anyway - was the note from John and Yoko [you can barely see it, in white text, in the lower right quadrant of the album cover above]: "With special thanks to all the people, known and unknown, who helped us stay in America, without whom this album would not have been made. love John & Yoko."

With her second track on the album, Yoko comes back with another rocker featuring John and Hugh McCracken on two strong guitar solos, not unlike the ones John, Paul and George used on "The End" from Abbey Road. While "Kiss Kiss Kiss" shows the couple in bliss, "Give Me Something" starts a set of three tracks where things are rough between the two lovers. Yoko has said that she wrote much of this song and "I'm Moving" on in 1973-74 when she and John were separated.

The beginning of the track starts with the familiar "Ah-oh, ah-oh" that we hear on the album, but in a slightly different rhythm.

Ah-oh, a-oh
Ah-oh, a-oh OH!

The food is cold
Your eyes are cold
The window's cold
The bed's cold

Give me something that's not cold, come on, come on
Give me something that's not cold, come on, come on
Give me something that's not cold, come on, come on
Give me, give me, give me

The chair's hard
Your voice is hard
Your money's hard
The living's hard

Give me something that's not hard, come on, come on
Give me something that's not hard, come on, come on
Give me something that's not hard, come on, come on
Give me, give me, give me

Here Hugh McCracken begins his guitar solo and is soon joined by John .

I'll give you my heartbeat
And a bit of tear and flesh
It's not very much but while it's there
You can have it, you can have it


One of the great unheralded songs on the album. There is also a back-story to this one. Jack Douglas had previously produced Cheap Trick and convinced John that bringing in some of the band members would give a special edge to both "I'm Losing You" and "I'm Moving On". Finally, John agreed. There was a problem, however: Cheap Trick were also in recording sessions at the same time. Their producer? George Martin. Yes, that George Martin of Beatle fame. Douglas would later joke that he called Martin and said, “You’ve got my band and I’ve got one of yours, can I borrow my band for a few tracks?”

Martin naturally agreed. Cheap Trick drummer Bun E Carlos arrived with guitarist Rick Nielsen at The Hit Factory recording studios. Nielsen almost didn't make it: his wife went into labor and gave birth to their third son that morning. Knowing how badly her husband wanted to play with John Lennon, however, Nielsen's wife consented to allow him to go to the session. Nielsen would later remember, “I don’t think I would have missed being at the hospital for anyone else except for John Lennon!”

With their arrival, the Cheap Trick pair joined regular session bassist Tony Levin and George Smalls on keyboards for the recording of “I’m Losing You”. Douglas, John and all of the musicians were amazed at the sound generated by Lennon and Nielsen trading guitar licks. “It really rocked,” Douglas later said. “John was thrilled.”
Indeed, John was so impressed with Nielsen that at one point he turned to Bun E Carlos and said, "Man, I wish I’d had him on ‘Cold Turkey’ – we had Clapton on that and he froze up and could only play this one riff.”

There was a problem, though. While John may have been pleased with the track, Yoko was not. She would give no reason and Douglas remembered that there was nothing that he could do or say to persuade her that Cheap Trick wasn’t some unknown band wishing to trade on the Lennon name. “And of course John didn’t argue with Yoko,” Douglas said. As for Cheap Trick, they were unaware of any problems in the studio. “Yoko was great to us when we were there – and she said great stuff about us when the track was finally released 17 years later [Yoko released the Cheap Trick version of "I'm Losing You" on the 1998 John Lennon Anthology 4-CD box set],” said Nielsen. “We were thrilled that we got to play on it and when it came out all those years later I felt kind of vindicated as I always thought our version was better than the one on the album.”

The track begins with John telling drummer Andy Newmark, "Count it, Andy." "Is the tempo good?" Newmark asks. "Beautiful, beautiful," John gushes. With that, Andy starts the 'counting'

One, two, one, two, three, four and Andy's familiar drum roll begins the song as John moans,

Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww Whoa.

Here in some stranger's room
Late in the afternoon
What am I doing here at all?
Ain't no doubt about it
I'm losing you
I'm losing you

Somehow the wires have crossed
Communication's lost
Can't even get you on the telephone - no mamma
Just got to shout about it
I'm losing you
I'm losing you

Well, here in the valley of indecision
I don't know what to do
I feel you slipping away
I feel you slipping away
[John counts, "one, two, three, four"]
I'm losing you
I'm losing you

Well now, you say you're not getting enough
But I remind you of all that bad, bad, bad stuff
So what the hell am I supposed to do?
Just put a Band-aid on it!
And stop the bleeding now
Stop the bleeding now

Welllllll. Whoooo. Ah.... Humph. Humph, Humph. Ahhhhha Way-hoooo!

Hmmmm. I'm losing you
Oh, I'm losing you
Well, well, well

I know I hurt you then
But hell, that was way back when
Well, do you still have to carry that cross? Drop it!
Don't want to hear about it
I'm losing you
I'm losing you
Don't want to lose you now

At this point as the song begins to fade out, the assumption has always been that John sings, "Long, long, long gone." With Stripped Down, though, we learn that he is really singing an old traditional song called. "Long Lost John". He finishes that up by slipping into Joe Williams' 1935 standard "Baby Please Don't Go". So back to our fade out...

Long, long lost John. [
Makes a sound like someone who is gasping for air]
Long, long lost John. [Gasping]
Long, long lost John. [Gasping]
Ah, oh, baby please don't go. Baby please don't go.....


One of my favorite tracks on the entire album. The guitar work by McCracken and Lennon make it a tight ball of energy as Yoko basically tells the mid-1970s John to take a hike.

While on the album there is a natural fade into the song from the conclusion of "I'm Losing You", here we hear the familiar counting before the guitars begin, and Yoko starts to lay into John:

Save your sweet talk for when you score
Keep your Monday kisses for your glass lady
I want the truth and nothing more
I'm moving on, moving on you're getting phony

You didn't have to tell a white lie
You knew you scarred me for life
Don't stick your finger in my pie
You know I'll see through your jive
I want the truth and nothing more
I'm moving, moving on we're getting phony

When you were angry you had love in your eyes
When you were sad you had dream in your voice
But now you're giving me your window smile
I'm moving on, moving on it's getting phony

I'm moving on. Moving on. Moving on. Moving onnnnnnnnnn!


A song that has such meaning for me. For years when it looked as though I might never have children, this song brought a deep sadness. Even years before those adventures, the sadness of John singing, "I can hardly wait to see you come of age" - knowing what we know but he did not - made it painfully beautiful. The song, though, is not just powerful to me, but I think to every father. I saw a BBC documentary with Paul McCartney on YouTube recently, from 1982. Paul had apparently recently discovered "Beautiful Boy" after months of being unable to play the album following John's murder. On the documentary, Paul is talking about John and says, "Everything you need to know about John is on this record." With that, Paul plays the song for the interviewer. Soon, Paul's eyes well with tears as he mouths silently 'Beautiful, man. Beautiful.' That's how powerful the song is.

The song on Stripped Down is not much different from the studio version, although it is even more poignant in that - without the overdubs - the feelings John has for Sean come through even more clear on this version.

Not to make it too heavy, though, John jokes just prior to beginning his guitar strumming, saying "We'll change the rhythm around a little and do something a little more slow. Sit down, there."

Close your eyes
Have no fear
The monster's gone
He's on the run and your daddy's here

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy

Before you go to sleep
Say a little prayer
Every day in every way
It's getting better and better

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy

Out on the ocean sailing away
I can hardly wait
To see you come of age
But I guess we'll both just have to be patient
'Cause it's a long way to go
A hard row to hoe
Yes it's a long way to go
But in the meantime

Before you cross the street
Take my hand
Life is what happens to you
While you're busy making other plans

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy

Before you go to sleep
Say a little prayer
Every day in every way
It's getting better and better

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy
Darling, darling, darling
Darling Sean

Whispering: Good night, Sean. See you in the morning. Go back to bed.....

I always needed an emotional break after listening to that song before turning the record over to side 2. And so it shall be with this entry. Next time, I'll be emotionally ready for side two.

copyright 1980 John Lennon & Yoko Ono
copyright 2010 by EBBP Redux. If you are reading this on a blog or website other than EBBP Redux or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

No comments:

Post a Comment