POSEUR ALERT: Ever since The Digital Bits DVD review site started linking to Matt Rowe’s Music Tap Website, I’ve enjoyed its coverage of new CD, DVD-A and music-oriented DVD releases. But this review of a new version of John Lennon’s Imagine album, released on CD by Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs, shows the typical, and very silly reaction that so many have towards its title song:
The tremor felt around the world on the eve of John Lennon’s murder was that of John turning into the demigod that he has since become. That has accelerated throughout the decades since his death culminating in a reverence for his body of work that encompasses not only his Beatles production and everything that he brought to them but also, his solo work. None of those works shine more brilliantly than his Imagine.
Imagine is home to his most well known composition, the song that represents not only his entire output but also the cosmic sphere of that strange and elusive force known universally as peace. Peace was something that Lennon actually believed could be effected in his lifetime. Little would he know that the very anti-thesis of peace would be his demise.
First of all, there was no tremor “felt around the world on the eve of John Lennon’s murder”. There was a certain amount of disappointment towards John’s 1980 comeback album, which combined mildly interesting songs like the vaguely Elvis-sounding “Starting Over” with a collection of typically horrid Yoko Ono tunes. But believe me, the Monday of his murder was a very typical day, capped by a very typical Monday Night Football game featuring the Dolphins and Patriots, where Howard Cosell broke the news to many viewers (including myself) that Lennon was shot.
Second, in 1980, with the Soviet Union trying to invade Afghanistan, and plotting to then introduce communism to Central America, while the Ayatollah Khomeini was holding Americans hostage in Iran, and an American economy in the midst of the worst economy in 50 years (to coin a phrase), peace was a long way away–and freedom for much of the world an even more difficult task. (Why is it that the left loves the idea of peace, but doesn’t seem to understand that freedom is even more important?) It would take somebody who understood that peace through strength, not peace through surrender and passivity, was the only possible way to achieving those goals.
Meanwhile, Lennon’s song “Imagine”, while containing a nice melody and backing music, is grossly overrated by a left, which 30 years after its recording, no longer believes many of its key lines about a color-blind society. as Thomas Hibbs wrote, a few weeks after 9/11:
For all the calls to embrace difference, the song that has emerged as the post-Sept. 11 anthem of the rock community is John Lennon’s “Imagine,” a song that imagines all difference away. Thus does current rock oscillate between two extremes, neither of which is much help in thinking through our current crisis. Admittedly, Lennon’s song is not so much about practical politics as it is about an inspiring and hopeful ideal of peace. But how, one cannot help but ask, are we to imagine the road toward this world beyond all national and religious differences, beyond possessions, with nothing “to kill or die for,” where we all live in the moment? Clearly not by the old religious answer, which has to do with God’s decisive and transforming intervention into history. Instead, “Imagine” is a sophisticated advertising jingle for Communism. In what it fails to say and especially in its hypnotic and placid melody, “Imagine” is a deeply dishonest song. Tracy Chapman’s “Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution,” with its warning that “poor people are going to rise up and take what’s theirs” is more honest about the violence necessary for revolution. If we must have Lennon, let’s at least have him as part of the Beatles, whose wry and ambivalent “Revolution” is superior to anything Lennon produced as a soloist.
I love many of Lennon’s compositions with the Beatles, and even a few of his less political solo songs, but worshiping “Imagine” (the song, less so the album as a whole), is a sign of a skull full of mush of proportions that would make Professor Kingsfield want to hit the thinker on the hands–or maybe the head–with a ruler moving at warp speed.
But that shouldn’t be taken as a slam against the rest of Rowe’s site. He does a thorough job of reviewing new music releases. He just needs to be careful when it comes to thinking through his hero worship.
And to be fair, he might very well say the same about me, as well.
One more thing: it’s curious to see that Lennon’s widow Yoko, who watched her husband die a bloody and violent death, seems to have moved beyond the idea of non-violence and peace through submission.
At least as it applies to suicide bombing enemies of Israel, of course.
UPDATE (10/18/03): I was way too harsh on Rowe, who’s actually a very reasonable fellow.