Midweek Music Moment: Double Fantasy, John Lennon

So is it the quality of the songs or the fact John Lennon was murdered three weeks after Double Fantasy was released that makes it special?

There’s a lot of good things to say about Double Fantasy. But there’s an equal amount of bad, with bad spelled Y-o-k-o O-n-o. While you don’t criticize a friend for their choice of spouse, it doesn’t mean you have to like what the spouse does. With hindsight, it’s a shame Lennon’s last LP — and his first in five years — contained an equal number of his songs and Ono tunes (using that word loosely).

Released on Nov. 17, 1980, Double Fantasy shows a different John Lennon. His songs are about domestic life (“Cleanup Time”) or son Sean (“Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)”) but mostly about Yoko (“Dear Yoko,” “(Just Like) Starting Over,” “Woman”). They reflect his recent life as a stay-at-home dad. There’s no political message or “bagism.” For the most part, it is a mild and mellow Lennon showing. among other things, that he can write “silly love songs” as well as, if not better than, anyone.

While evidently seeking to paint a sonic portrait of a couple making a complete whole, alternating virtually every Lennon track with one of Ono’s songs is grating. Had there just been Lennon tunes or fewer Ono songs, Double Fantasy would have been vastly improved. I think it’s more than a safe bet that the album hit number one and won a Grammy for Album of the Year solely on the strength of Lennon’s contribution.

Fortunately, somone who recorded their own cassettes (or CDs today) could create a version with only the Lennon songs — and have room to work in earlier personal favorites. Still, question exists whether the Double Fantasy material would have held up to scrutiny had there been subsequent new Lennon albums. Some could — and do — view it as almost too domesticated and nice.

Regardless of our views of Ono or her songs on this release, there is some measure of satisfaction knowing Lennon’s last recordings were good songs and that he was happy. What else would you wish for a musician?

Life is what happens to you
While you’re busy making other plans

“Watching the Wheels,” John Lennon, Double Fantasy

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