Sunday, October 31, 2010

Double Fantasy Stripped Down Part IV

The cover sleeve for the 45-single "Woman" (above). The song was the second of three singles ["(Just Like) Starting Over" and "Watching the Wheels" being the others] from the album Double Fantasy.


This song, Yoko's ode to her two 'boys' John and Sean, is was and always will be the most haunting on the finished album, Double Fantasy. I say the finished album because - as we'll see in a moment - there is a song on Stripped Down that actually out-haunts it. But, for now, we'll focus on this one.

The song - featuring John on Spanish guitar - features three stanzas: one to Sean, one to John and one to both of them. Unlike the album version, the Stripped Down version does not include that Jack Douglas-inspired Star Wars laser conclusion. It also differs in that the middle musical interlude that appears on the finished product instead opens the track on Stripped Down. After John's beautiful guitar playing, the song begins:

You're a beautiful boy
With all your little toys
Your eyes have seen the world
Though you're only four years old
And your tears are streaming
Even when you're smiling
Please never be afraid to cry

You're a beautiful boy
With all your little ploys
Your mind has changed the world
And you're now forty years old
You got all you can carry
And still feel somehow empty
Don't ever be afraid to fly

All you beautiful boys
Creating multiple plays
You like to fence in your world
And settle down when you're old
You can run from pole to pole
And never scratch your soul
Don't be afraid to go to hell and back
Don't be afraid to go to hell and back
Don't be afraid to be afraid


John's love of old-time Blued Grass American country music mixes with a rocked-up love letter to Yoko. Much like "Crippled Inside" (1971)and "I Know" (1973)- two earlier country-type Lennon tracks - "Dear Yoko" features John with a faux-American southern twang at points throughout the song. The tune - written in Bermuda while John and Sean were on vacation while Yoko remained in New York [although John never knew it, Yoko sent them to Bermuda because she had become addicted to heroin and needed them gone to detox at home] - features the English concertina, in this case used to mimic the Blue Grass staple of the accordion.

The album version of "Dear Yoko" ends with John on a verbal riff saying, "It was a sunny night in the fishing boat. It really hit home, you know what I mean? When you come over next time don't sell the cows, spend some time with me and Sean you'll like it. Get in the water". The spoken riff on Stripped Down is different, although in the same vein: it's a postcard John has written home to Yoko back in New York. On the Double Fantasy version, he's chastising her - albeit tongue-in-cheek -for not "getting into" Bermuda the way he and Sean have. He even throws in a mention of Yoko's famous investment in Holstein cows that netted the Lennon's a nifty $120,000 profit. [Unfortunately, the press that the investment received was one of many things that supposedly angered Mark Chapman, who considered it another example of John being a sell-out]. As you'll read in a moment, the spoken riff on Stripped Down is more light and humorous.

The song begins with John trying to figure out what key guitarist Hugh McCracken is in. They have just completed a run through of the song, and John wants to immediately do it again, as he is pleased with what they've just done.

"Huey, Huey? Ah. Ok, let's do it again, right away. A one, two, three, four!"

A-wella, hella, hella...
Even after all these years
I miss you when you're not here
I wish you were here my dear Yoko
Even if it's just a day
I miss you when you're away
I wish you were here today dear Yoko

Even if it's just one night
I miss you and it don't feel right
I wish you were here tonight dear Yoko
Even if it's just one hour
I wilt just like a fading flower
Ain't nothing in the world like our love dear Yoko

Oh, a-hoh Yoko
I'm never, ever, ever, ever, ever gonna let you go
Oh a-hoh Yoko
I'm never, ever, ever, ever, ever gonna let you go
No sir!

Even when I'm miles at sea
And nowhere is the place to be
Your spirit's watching over me dear Yoko
Even when I watch T.V.
There's a hole where you're supposed to be
There's nobody lying next to me dear Yoko

Oh a-ho Yoko
I'm never, ever, ever, ever, ever gonna let you go
Oh a-ho, a-ho Yoko
I never, ever, ever, ever, ever gonna let you go

Even after all this time
I miss you like the sun don't shine
Without you I'm a one track m-m-m-mind dear Yoko
After all is really said and done
The two of us are really one
The goddess really smiled upon our love dear Yoko

Well, well, well, well, well.
Yo-ho-ho-ho-ko !

"I'm here in Bermuda, having a lovely time
Bought all sorts of clothes.
Went down to the restaurant, and had a great meal.
Then threw it up because I felt sick.
Swimming every day.
The water's 190 degrees.
The houses are all pink and blue, and the street's very quiet.
And there's no dirt anywhere.
And it's really quiet.
Anyway, and it's just a lot of ships and things.
And you're right by water.
And you can really see a fantastic view.
And anyway, I thought I'm gonna have this painting painted of me and Sean.
But I'm not gonna tell you 'till I get home.
So I won't write this on the postcard.
But by now you'll have found out
Because I've already had it done.
It's hanging up in your office, Right?
That's true, but on the other hand I'd just like to mention it here.
For the folks back home.
Thank you."


This song - which John envisioned as being the follow-up single to "(Just Like) Starting Over" but which Yoko held back in the aftermath of John's death - is a real upbeat tale of eternal love on the album version. On the Stripped Down version, however, it is haunting, slower and almost other-worldly. It's almost as if Yoko is singing it on Earth and John from the heavens in the aftermath of his murder. None of the upbeat synthesizers are on this version. Instead, it is a foggy, out of space-feel. John and Yoko sing in harmony throughout the song, as these are the same vocal tracks eventually used on the album version.

Every man has a woman who loves him
Rain or shine, or life.
Or death
If he finds her in this life time
He will know
When he presses his ear to her breast

Why do I roam when I know you're the one?
Why do I laugh when I feel like crying?
[John: Yeah!]

Every woman has a man who loves her
Rise or fall of her life.
And in death
If she finds him in this life time
She will know
When she looks into his eyes

Why do I roam when I know you're the one?
Why do I run when I feel like holding you?

Every man has a woman who loves him
If he finds her in this life time
He will know
[John: oh, oh, oh, oh......]


In the aftermath of John's murder, of course, this song took on a morbid and ironic meaning never intended. Yoko would point out, though, that she wrote the song with the addendum - "over for a while" - to the celebration that "hard times are over". Not forever. Not maybe even tomorrow. But for a while, anyway.

As he did with the 1971 Christmas [now classic] "Happy X-Mas (War is Over)", John brought in a choir for this track [the Harlem Boys Choir completed the joyful spirit of "Happy X-Mas"]. The difference, of course, is that Yoko wrote and sings lead on this one, leading John to cry joyously to David Sheff at one point, "I've invented Asian soul music!" Interestingly, at the recording session, which Sheff attended, John and Yoko had the choir sing "One world, one people! One world, one people!" as a fade out of the song. For some reason, however, they opted not to use it and it doesn't appear on Stripped Down,

The album version is a great completion to Double Fantasy. The Stripped Down version, is even better because the choir - the Benny Cummings Singers-Kings Temple Choir - is even clearer, as is John's backing vocal [which includes typical Lennon tongue-in-cheek banter]. On the album version, the song begins with the choir praying. This came as a result of a quick observation by Douglas as he watched the choir warm up, "Get that!" Douglas yelled an engineer. The result is the now-familiar "We thank you for the glory in our hearts, right now! We thank you right now! Thank you, thank you!" While that is missing from Stripped Down, the clapping and harmonies of the choir are more clear on Stripped Down. As is John's wicked enjoyment of the two worlds - Japanese vocals and American gospel - colliding. The result is classic John Lennon.

John: "Ah!"
It's been very hard
But it's getting easier now
Hard times are over, over for awhile
The leaves are shining in the sun
And I'm smiling inside
You and I watching each other on a street corner
Cars and buses and planes and people go by
But we don't care
We want to know
Wanna know in each other's eyes
That hard times are over, over for some time
[John: "Yeah!"]

Hard times are over
Hard times are over
Hard times are over, over for awhile
[John: Hard times are over. Hear ye, hear ye. Come what may!]

It's been very rough
But It's getting easier now
Hard times are over, over for awhile
The streams are twinkling in the sun
And I'm smiling inside
You and I walking together 'round the street corner

Hard times are over
Hard times are over
Hard times are over, over for awhile
[John: A collection will be taken. It's an offer you can't refuse. Heh, heh, heh]

Hard times are over
Hard times are over
[John: Hard times are over!]
Hard times are over, over for awhile
[John: Yeah, yeah, yeah]
Hard times are over
[John: In an unfortunate mocking of "Happiness is a Warm Gun", When I hold you - in my armchair...]

Hard times are over, over for awhile!
[John: Heh, heh,. heh. D'Oh! That's all folks, hah, hah, hah]

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