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Imagine a world without ‘Imagine’

If people want to make a fuss about what a cultural phenomenon the Beatles were, and comment on their innovative and interesting music, well that is just peachy and not at all hard to understand. What is a bit baffling is why so many folks are trying to suggest John Lennon was anything more than a talented musician.

I just watched part of the old recording of his peace-bed thing with Yoko Ono and I was reminded of an old Dirty Harry quip: a man’s got to know his limitations.

“All we are saying is give peace a chance”. And it was true, that really is all he was saying. Lennon said it over and over again. Peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, peace… and presumably felt that just repeating the word over and over again was a better way to convince people that is was a mistake to oppose the communist take-over of South Vietnam… rather than, say, a geo-political critique of US involvement or, say, arguing that preventing communist domination of South Vietnam was not worth American lives or in fact articulating any sort of coherent argument at all. I too would like to imagine a world without war, but I would like to imagine it without tyranny first.

The guy was a buffoon. A talented, gifted, artistic, charismatic buffoon. Just stick to celebrating his art.

65 comments to Imagine a world without ‘Imagine’

  • Verity

    The guy was a buffoon. A talented, gifted, artistic, charismatic buffoon.


  • mbe

    Talented, gifted?

    Give me the Stones any day.

  • Pete_London

    … Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can / No need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man / Imagine all the people, sharing all the world. . . .

    Umm no thanks.

  • asus phreak


    The guy was totally charismatic. Just because he was a schmuck that shouldn’t blind you to the cult like following he had… that means he was charismatic.

  • Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can

    Sure, I can imagine no possessions just fine. All I do is think about Cambodia under the Kymer Rouge. Phnom Penh fell to them 5 years before he was murdered and thus produced a nice society without possessions in which 20% of the population died, so I wonder why he never sang about that?

  • Richard Easbey

    Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can

    Okay. You first–give me everything you own.

    (Try that on one of these neo-Marxists and see what happens. I’v done it, and to date NOT ONE has given me his or her possessions.)

  • The guy’s been dead for 25 years and people are still using him to push their own agenda. So, yes, he was more than just a talented musician.

  • Old Jack Tar

    So, yes, he was more than just a talented musician

    Yes, like the article says, he was also a charismatic buffoon.

  • Verity

    The cult following began with The Beatles being a cult. Anything any of them did was of intense interest. Lennon married the very shrewd Yoko Ono, and did that bed-in deal, which elevated him to the level of eccentric. I don’t know that he was ever personally regarded as charismatic.

    Imagine there’s no Heaven
    It’s easy if you try
    No hell below us
    Above us only sky
    Imagine all the people
    Living for today

    Imagine there’s no countries
    It isn’t hard to do
    Nothing to kill or die for
    And no religion too
    Imagine all the people
    Living life in peace

    You may say I’m a dreamer
    But I’m not the only one
    I hope someday you’ll join us
    And the world will be as one

    Imagine no possessions
    I wonder if you can
    No need for greed or hunger
    A brotherhood of man
    Imagine all the people
    Sharing all the world

    You may say I’m a dreamer
    But I’m not the only one
    I hope someday you’ll join us
    And the world will live as one

    What a load of drug-induced, vapid drek. And it doesn’t even scan. I think John and Yoko knew exactly what they were doing. I mean, they didn’t share their lives with “all the people” did they? “I hope someday you’ll join us”. In the Dakota? Thanks. Don’t mind if I do.

  • Talented?

    Braindead pop maybe, but a talented muso? No… really give me Led Zep, Free etc any day. The fact that Lennon was a terrorist supporting wanker who wrote some of the most vile music ever in the form of ‘Imagine’ and ‘Happy Christmas’.

  • RAB

    It’s an axiom of popular music over the … well shit! forever! that nobody actually listens to the words.
    Until someone in Rolling Stone or NME does it for you.
    What you feel is the beat, the pulse the vibrance of it all. The words just dont come into it.
    Parse and analyse “Imagine” and you come up with a cretinous statement of socialist ideas, espousing the “Working class hero” as all there is to be.
    This coming from a bloke who was middle class (oh and whoever uptop thought the Stones were revolutionaries- Mick LSE, Keith Westminster chorister, Brian, the founder, Cheltenham Grammar. Only the bass and drums were plebs.) and had more money than you can think of.
    I suppose just like that quote he made all those years ago about being bigger than Jesus, he has come to be, on this anniversary, in his own country just that.
    I will always love the music but he was as flawed and fucked up as me but his heart was in the right place, as I hope mine is.

  • fooltomery

    Here’s something to try to imagine: Yoko Ono giving up her wealth and possessions.

    Can’t do it, eh?

  • I don’t know that he was ever personally regarded as charismatic.

    Fawned over by millions in spite of (because of?) his more idiotic traits, and with a global cult that out lasted him… how can he not have been charismatic? You might not be able to see it but just look at the evidence. He was clearly hugely charismatic.

  • Hey, Perry, who ended the terror inflicted by the Khmer Rouge (hint: it wasn’t the US or the UK)?

  • Bravo Perry

    This bugs me every time I walk past that silly memorial with the mosaic that says “Imagine’ in Central Park.

    A few weeks ago I was waiting in line to buy some stuff at a drug store and the muzak played ‘Imagine’. I could have puked, the line “I hope some day you’ll join us’ is pure Marxist Leninist crud.

    Perhaps somebody should do a satirical music video with pictures of the parades in Red Square and some film of the Killing Fields and the Boat people.

  • Verity

    John Lennon was communist slime, but perhaps, as Perry insists, charismatic. I always find thin, pasty faces, unfocussed eyes and weak voices enhanced by echo chambers very charismatic, myself. Doesn’t everyone?

    A lot of this was down to Yoko, who was a great promoter. Maybe still is. I think she is still yowling into microphones.

  • Sheesh… tell us how you really feel. “The guy was a buffoon.”

  • Verity

    It was not me who wrote Lennon was a buffoon. I don’t think he was a buffoon. He was something more dangerous – far left.

  • guy herbert

    I was very enthusiastic about Imagine until I realised the line was not, as I had thought: “Or brotherhood of man,” when I felt cheated of some genuine imagination.

    But there are still plenty of things that seem worth investigating outside the conventional leftist vision: no heaven and hell, check; no countries, check; nothing to kill or die for, check; no religion, check; peace, check; no posessions… interesting, how would that work, then, John? No need for greed or hunger? Sounds a worthwhile ambition to me.

    The Lennon I find creepy isn’t the Lennon of Imagine, but the more posturing politics of Working class hero–as RAB points out, composed and performed by an impeccably middle-class (more so than me, anyway) multimillionaire and his much more privileged wife.

    But you are all too harsh. The man was a musician who went to art-school in the beat era, then spent 20 years in a fame bubble. It’s absurd to be outraged by his feeding-back of the trendy politics of the time.

  • Lennon created songs his generation remembers fondly, but his navel-gazing expeditions to India and the Primal Institute never qualified him to understand, let alone teach anyone about, the causes of war or peace. He’d be just as clueless as the “Live-Aid” nitwits whose noisy, self-righteous blundering accelerated the deaths of thousands of Africans.

    “If men want to oppose war, it is statism that they must oppose. So long as they hold the tribal notion that the individual is sacrificial fodder for the collective, that some men have the right to rule others by force, and that some (any) alleged ‘good’ can justify it — there can be no peace within a nation and no peace among nations.” — Ayn Rand

  • Robert

    A Perfect Circle did a great cover of this song for their covers album, eMotive. The singer, whose name I fail to recall at the moment (he also sings for Tool), sings it wonderfully while the music drones on in the background and gives it an appropriately horrific feel to the song. I’m not sure if that’s what they were going for, though, considering it was an album of anti-war covers.

  • pommygranate

    Why single Lennon out for writing trite lyrics. All pop stars since the dawn of time have written about

    i) peace, man
    ii) i love you baby
    iii) lets all hold hands and the world will be a better place

    Maybe this is why rap is so exciting to today’s middle class kids. Because they write about

    i) murder
    ii) the sexual slavery of women
    iii) finding and shooting gays

    Imagine that.

  • J

    Thank you pommygranate for the first interesting post in this thread.

    MY campaign for rational thought forces me to comment on:

    “Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can

    Okay. You first–give me everything you own.”

    This smart Alec remark is vacuous of course. Me giving you all my posessions has no effect on the total amount of possessions in the world. Therefore, one who wishes to reduce the amount of possessions to 0 would have no reason to perform such an action.

    If you had said “Okay, You burn everything you own”, then you might have had a point, but, alas, you didn’t.

    Meanwhile I want to start a competition for ‘most widely liked figure that Samizdatas will still pour childish scorn on’. I’m guessing Jesus might win it, but maybe latent conservatism lurks beneath the libertarian facade that will prevent some from slagging of Jesus as a charismatic, dangerously far left buffoon.

  • Pollo

    John Lennon talking about politics is like Perry de Havilland talking about music.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Lennon was a fine musician, quite witty at times and of course one of the songs that would no doubt appeal to libertarians was “Taxman”, in the album Revolver, nicely taking the piss out of Edward Heath and Harold Wilson. Let’s not forget that Lennon left Britain partly because he wanted to be a tax-exile.

    And there’s the irony. Lennon could be sharply intelligent and also a prize berk. This is quite common in showbiz. I don’t get too hung up on the political views of musicians. For example, I don’t give a monkey’s what Brian Wilson or the late Stevie Ray Vaughan thought. They were both geniuses.

  • Karl Rove

    Give Ireland back to the Irish
    Give Lappland back to the Lapps
    Give America back to the Injuns
    And give Yoko back to the Japs.

    Also, what do we understand by “charismatic”? Literally it just means anointed. I.e. – oily.

  • sesquipedalian

    There is no doubt, to many musicians, that he was very good at writing melodies.
    There are no songs in the world which are analysed
    to the same degree as Beatles songs (especially the songs usually credited to Lennon).
    The real problem is the rabidly lefty music industry for which lennon is just par for the course.

  • guy herbert

    J – Haven’t you failed to imagine that what makes things possessions is that they are possessed, not that they are things? The idea that society could function without forms of property is an interesting one, and not obviously wrong.

    Jonathan – Taxman is attributed to George Harrison.

  • Hey, Perry, who ended the terror inflicted by the Khmer Rouge (hint: it wasn’t the US or the UK)?

    Oh that would be the Vietnamese. And your point is…? Let me guess, “Gee, see those mass murdering commies aren’t so bad after all as they were just common-or-garden mass murderers rather than indulging in true mega-death like the Khmer Rouge, so it was wrong to oppse them”?

    Was that your point? Do tell.

  • will prevent some from slagging of Jesus as a charismatic, dangerously far left buffoon.

    Far left buffon no; but annoying socialist hippy yes.

    Guy was going to point out that Taxman was a Harrison song not a Lennon one.

    What really annoys me about those who apologise for Lennon’s misdeeds are their constant references to his being naive or misguided. Wonder if they would feel the same if he supported Hitler (were he alive at the time).

    A bit about who Lennon gave money to here.

  • guy herbert

    A.I.D, I’m sure he got the chance to give plenty of money to people with minds that hate. If you are rich and free with your money then lots of people will want to take it ooff you. But if a deposition by David Shayler repeating something from files he claims to have seen at some time (why would he have been shown them) quoting an MI5 source in the WRP is all the available evidence then frankly it is not very damning.

  • RAB

    When Lennon got killed a friend of mine was working for NME. NME had had a document in the post that claimed the Chapman was a CIA mind controlled killer a la the Manchurian Candidate.
    So we teamed up and got sent to New York and Hawaii to check it out.Yes we knew it was bullshit from the start, but would you pass up an all expenses trip?
    Anyway during the jaunt we picked up hundreds of documents under the freedom of information act relating to FBI, CIA and even Embassy survailance of Lennon. They make very embarrassing reading for Lennon.
    In the early 70’s he was hanging out with Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies and giving them money but whenever he was expected to turn up to major demonstrations and events he was invariably too stoned to be arsed.He used to give money to the IRA too, probably out of pure sentiment, he being half Irish, and coming from Liverpool the world capital of emotional incontinance.
    He was a rich, wooly minded hippy and giving money was all he could really do, and even then it was’nt much.
    Like I said I’ll always love the music and leave it at that.

  • “Emotional incontinence”. Yep, that’s John to the life. His main crime was that he justified emotion as the answer to everything. “He’s a Beatle being allowed to say that so hurrah! we don’t ever have to think about anything again. Just feel!”

  • Pavel

    Imagine world without loony leftist moonbats. It isn’t hard to do.

    As much as I appreciate his music, I despise the message. He should have stuck with lyrics about women, that was his strong point.

  • One of my guilty pleasures of classic rock is The Guess Who’s “Share The Land”

    “Maybe I’ll be there to shake your hand
    Maybe I’ll be there to share the land
    That they’ll be givin’ away
    When we all live together
    I’m talkin’ ’bout together now”

    Those guys had such a way with hook-structures, and they rolled right over me in the most glowing days of me youth, especially as I was starting to really play guitars; “Share The Land” hit me like a bomb on the radio in 1970. All the chord changes are just right, and those guitar lines and Burton’s voice are just murder.

    But I can’t stand the thought of those words, so I never play it. I just can’t do it.

    “Bus Rider” is a pissy little hack on people who actually go to work for a living, but I do find that lick irresistible. It’s all a damned shame.

  • Dale Amon

    Oh come on guys. Most of us were silly leftist moonbats back then. The music and life was good and it was fun. We grew up. The memories are still good and I’d not change it. And I still like all of the music. Especially Guess Who. I play them all the time.

    The real reason the 60’s happened was the baby boom. We won’t see the like of that again, so we are unlikely to see a world re-shaped to the liking of kids because of their sheer numbers. While this may be good for society in the long run… it sure as hell was a lot of fun being there when it did happen!

  • John Lennon’s real talent lsay in his ability to reinvent himself..from middle class art student to Liverpool hardcase Teddy Boy..to Beatle and onwards to Hippy Peacenik.This latter was a odds with the cruel streak that he had.

  • John Lennon was a particularly acute version of nearly universal wave of stupidity going on then. As Billy Beck points out, it is regrettable that many great songs are marred by stupid or even evil lyrics. The 60s was a mixed bag, and musicians who stuck to the music made a bigger contribution than the ones, like John, who went into the “guru” business. Whoever said, “give me the Stones”, I say “right on”.

    I say “almost universal” because some people had the wit to see how stupid all of this was. Merle Haggard’s tune “Rainbow Stew” is a well-aimed bit of mockery at all this Lefty utopian nonsense:

    When the world wide war is over and done,
    And the dream of peace comes true.
    We’ll all be drinkin’ free bubble-up,
    And eatin’gthat rainbow stew.
    When they find out how to burn water,
    And the gasoline car is gone.
    When an airplane flies without any fuel,
    And the sunlight heats our homes.
    One of these days when the air clears up,
    And the sun comes shinin’ through.
    We’ll all be drinkin’that free bubble-up,
    And eating that rainbow stew.

  • Verity

    Lennon was an arsehole. He used to beat up women. He deserted his wife and son to run off with the lovely Yoko and they didn’t hear from him for years. Not that an artists’ life has anything to do with his talent, but Lennon was so preachy with it, dispensing little lessons for humanity. And I hate peaceniks.

  • Verity

    Well, Dale, I was never a lefty moonbat and I never went in for lefty drivel, even when very young.

    Lexington, Merle Haggard always has good lyrics, and he always sings them as though he understands them. I like “If We Make It through December”. It has nothing to do with the state of the world. Just the state of a relationship between a man and a woman.

  • I was never a lefty moonbat when I was young either. Being young is no excuse for supporting terrorists, left-wing nutcases or dictators. I am sick to death of people my age and older using that lame excuse to cover for their idiotic beliefs in their youth.

    The music and life was good and it was fun.

    Actually no most of music was complete crap that required the listener to be on various substances to have any impact whatever. The amount of 60s music that doesn’t sound complete rubbish 40 years later and sober is v. rare to be sure. How do I know this? I have to listen to a hell of a lot of reissues from that era and most of it is 100% crap.

  • RAB

    You’re all getting a bit curmugeonly now!
    Louis Armstrong, when asked about music said that there were only two types- Good and Bad.
    Doesn’t matter what category, the 3 minute pop single, a great jazz track or a Beethoven symphony.
    He also said that 99% of every type of music was crap.
    Which having listened to 40 years of it, I have to concur. I happen to know and love the 1% and the Beatles music was well inside the wire.
    I do not want to have to come back and slap legs again.

  • Shtetl G

    Bah, I’ll take Peter Tosh:

    Everyone is crying out for peace, yes
    none is crying out for justice
    Everyone is crying out for peace, yes
    none is crying out for justice

    I don’t want no peace
    I need equal rights and justice
    I need equal rights and justice
    I need equal rights and justice
    got to get it
    Equal rights and justice

  • RAB

    Um, bleeding hell!
    What right on lyrics!
    Not a bit re-pe-tic-ous.
    As someone who actually met Bob Marley,
    let’s just say there was a lot of staring into the far distance, a whole heap of soon comes but not a lot of action. Plus a load of very dodgy songs amongst a few gems.
    But we can trash that particular pop icon later .
    When’s his anniversary?

  • Verity

    Frankly, I like “A doo ron ron ron, A doo ron ron.” Although “Har de ding-dong, a-ring-a-ling-a-ling” has a good message, too.

  • Brian

    I’m reading this post while listening to music by a really ‘talented musician’. J.S.Bach, Violin Concerto (BVW 1041). Bach’s cat had more musical talent in it’s smallest paw that that worthless whining piece of socialist rubbish had in his entire body.

  • Verity

    Why couldn’t he wear contacts, or normal glasses, for god’s sake? Stupid, self-regarding poseur. (John Lennon, that is. Not Bach’s cat.)

  • Pete_London


    Thanks for the info that Lennon beat up women, I genuinely didn’t know that. It’s pure speculation, but would it be more widely known if he wasn’t a hippy dippy peacenik?

  • Dale Amon

    Well, I *was* a mostly lefty moonbat at the time, and it is fond memories of hot summer afternoons high in the park with KQV blaring from the radio while we ran about Flagstaff Hill throwing frisbee and then settled in to playing guitars and attracting partners for the evening and night of parties and loud music at someones house with Grateful Dead and Little Feat playing at 11 on the volume dial in the black lighted room with the parachutes overhead and the bean bags on the floor where people were sitting around in circles or else out on the back porch around the keg…

    Yes, those were *wonderful* times.

  • Dale Amon

    I might add that it is the very defense of that life style that turned me libertarian… when the left turned towards the same anal retentive control freak run someone elses life ideas as the right had always had, there was simply no place for me there.

  • My favorite Beatle’s song was “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road.” I don’t know who wrote it; but, for me, it symbolizes the great meaning of the 60’s.

  • RAB

    Verity, you missed an ” a ding dong” at the end.
    Tsk. You know that unless it’s there the whole thing doesn’t scan and makes no sense at all!

  • If you want lyrics I’d go for ‘Here I go Again’, ‘Ain’t no love in heart of the city’, ‘Back in Black’, ‘Kashmir’ a bit o’ ‘Cat Scratch Fever’ or even ‘Devil Went Down to Georgoa’.

    Braindead twee 50s lyrics are useful for irritation…

  • Dom

    I always liked what Robert Elms had to say on the matter.

    That mawkish, manipulative dirge, in which the multi-millionaire with one temperature-controlled room in his Manhattan mansion just to store his fur coats, whimpers “Imagine no possessions…” is the most sickly and irritating song ever.

  • r4d20

    ” Therefore, one who wishes to reduce the amount of possessions to 0 would have no reason to perform such an action.”

    and the award for vaccuousness goes to…….the standard leftist excuse for hypocricy.

    The old “I shouldnt have to live up to my principles until everyone else is forced to as well”.

  • I met Bob Marley at his house in Miami (he was a neighbor and a friend’s father) and he was perfectly with it. He was rather friendly and acted just like anyone else’s father would meeting a young friend of their son.

    His music was pretty good as was Peter Tosh’s.

  • I did a short northeastern US tour with Peter Tosh. (1980, I think.) Everybody’s wives and kids were on the road with ’em, and they all walked around with giant spliffs burning all day long. No babe in the woods in those years, I was nonetheless astounded.

    I was never a lefty anything whatever. Never in my life. I had big, big problems with a lot of 60’s-70’s music and I still do, even though the general aesthetic of the project was right down my alley.

    Still, even the lyric outlook has its moments now & then:

    “Why don’t you take a good look at yourself
    and describe what you see,
    and baby, baby, baby, do you like it?
    There you sit, sitting spare like a book on a shelf rustin’,
    ah, not trying to fight it.
    You really don’t care if they’re comin’; oh, oh,
    I know that it’s all a state of mind.”

    (Led Zeppelin — “Misty Mountain Hop”)

  • Robert

    So who wants to write e-mails to Fox News saying that if they want to be fair and balanced they need to mention the late Dimebag Darrel (ex-Pantera, Damageplan) for every time they mention John Lennon.

    Mind you Dime wasn’t political, and they both probably smoked enough pot to cause shortages, but he was a Southerner from Texas and the most metal sombitch in recent memory. I mean that’s technically right wing, right?

  • Or how about Stevie Ray Vaughn; but mentioning Dimebag would be cool too. Fox still seems to suffer from the belief that all rockers are lefties. Whenever they want someone on that is not a total leftie and a muso; they tend to go for some country person. Fox need to get more libertarian rockers on too like Ted Nugent and oh er maybe a little ole’ band from London town called Growing Old Disgracefully?

  • Joke

    What did the first Deadhead say to the second after they ran out of dope.

    “Man this music sucks.”

  • The version I heard of that joke puts them at a live show.

  • What irks me is having to admit that watching the Lennon Bed In documentary last night how so much of what the man said was unarguable. He sounded like a libertarian for chrissakes.Check it out:The revolution devours its children.The new boss is the same as the old boss. We need an inner revolution.

    Of course there was some anti capitalist crap as well in the mix.I lay awake last night trying to unravel it all with no great sucess.

    Give him A Plus for musical genius indeed -although wasn’t Paul the most talented and pennned the Great Beatle songs?

    The pacifism was untenable, as he cited Ghandi.How would Ghandi have fared in Nazi Germany?The British were a noble enemy.A Lie in or a Peace in wouldn’t have impressed the SS psychos now would it?

    In fact the holocaust was the ultimate refutation of pacifism.

  • Scott Burgess has found an Observer article with some of his less libertarian comments. In fact it sounds rather more like George Galloway to me.

  • Verity

    niconoclast – nothing in John Lennon’s vapid outpourings sound libertarian to me. An “inner revolution”? Are you serious? As in, “Give peace a chance”?