In November 1980, John Lennon and Yoko Ono released ‘Double Fantasy’. It was John’s first album release since 1973’s flop, ‘Mind Games’ and less than a decade since he had moved to New York City.
The intervening years had seen major changes in the couple’s life. Mind Games had been a massive flop in comparison to his 1971 album ‘Imagine’. With initial encouragement from Yoko, John disappeared on an 18 month bender (his ‘lost weekend’) before returning to the fold and the birth of their son, Sean.
Double Fantasy was an album from John and Yoko. Both artists had found inspiration to write songs that felt somewhat autobiographical documenting events and feelings from the past 7 years of their lives.
The album tracks were laid out to give both artists equal billing. One song from John, one from Yoko then another from John, and so on through the album.
A quick look at the track names will give you some idea of the thoughts and emotions carried into these sessions.
“(Just Like) Starting Over” – John
“Kiss Kiss Kiss” – Yoko
“Cleanup Time” – John
“Give Me Something” – Yoko
“I’m Losing You” – John
“I’m Moving On” – Yoko
“Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)” – John
“Watching the Wheels” – John
“Yes, I’m Your Angel” – Yoko
“Woman” – John
“Beautiful Boys” – Yoko
“Dear Yoko” – John
“Every Man Has a Woman Who Loves Him” – Yoko
“Hard Times Are Over” – Yoko
(Just like Starting Over) feels like a fresh approach to their recording and their relationship. Give Me Something talks of distance and rejection,
The food is cold, Your eyes are cold, The window’s cold,The bed is cold
There are definitely moments of love on this album. “Woman” speaks of John’s love for Yoko. Beautiful Boy is warm lullaby for their new son, “Darling” Sean. ‘Beautiful Boys talks of Yoko’s ‘boys’ Sean and John, with their little toys and ploys.
But for me the album is most encapsulated by the final song, Hard Times are Over.
It’s been very hard, it’s getting easier now
Hard times are over, over for a while
The leaves are shining in the sun, and I’m smiling inside
You and I watching each other on a street corner
Three weeks after release, John was shot dead in New York City.
8 December 1980, The Dakota, New York, United States
On release, the album was overlooked. Some critics felt the lyrics were too simplistic, or they were negative to Yoko’s involvement. After his tragic shooting the album climbed the charts and became the Grammy Album of the Year in 1981.
For me, the album is one of his deepest and most personal records showing them both to be flawed. Whilst Imagine will remain John’s most cherished song, ‘Hard Times are Over’ sums it up.
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