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"Serve Yourself", a scathing response to Bob Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody".
Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: When Lennon returned his MBE to Buckingham Palace in 1969 (four years after receiving it with the other three Beatles), he enclosed a note giving his reasons: "I am returning this MBE in protest against Britain's involvement in the Nigeria-Biafrathing, against our support of America in Vietnam, and against 'Cold Turkey' slipping down the charts." "Cold Turkey," his most recent single, was turning in a relatively poor performance on the music charts, peaking at No. 14 in the UK and No. 30 in the U.S.
Artistic Stimulation: Although all four Beatles used drugs of one sort or another throughout much of their group and/or solo careers, Lennon, from 1966 through 1969, indulged much more heavily than the other three put together, first becoming psychologically dependent on LSD and then, together with Yoko, becoming addicted to heroin. Although both dependencies caused him considerable suffering, they did serve (again, far more than for his bandmates) as inspiration for some of his greatest songs - most directly "Cold Turkey," essentially heroin withdrawal symptoms set to music.
The Atoner: As evidenced in the songs "Getting Better", "Jealous Guy", and "Woman", in which Lennon expresses remorse for his previous treatment of the women in his life.
He also felt very guilty about being a Disappeared Dad to his first son Julian, and attempted to repair their relationship toward the end of his life.
"There's UFOs over New York, and I ain't too surprised." — "Nobody Told Me"
Bigger Than Jesus: The Trope Namer, although John didn't actually say it. His actual Blasphemous Boast (which wasn't actually a boast, either—Lennon was actually deploring the fact that a pop group could be more important to kids than their religious faith) in 1966 was a claim that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus," which passed without notice in his native England, then landed him and his bandmates in big trouble when the quote was reprinted (out of context) in America.
"Everybody's talking and no one says a word Everybody's making love and no one really cares There's Nazis in the bathroom just below the stairs Always something happening and nothing going on There's always something cooking and nothing in the pot They're starving back in China so finish what you got"
Brilliant but Lazy: Journalist Maureen Cleave wrote of John, "He can sleep almost indefinitely, is probably the laziest person in England."
John even wrote two songs about it: with The Beatles it was "I'm Only Sleeping", and solo it was "Watching The Wheels".
He took five years off of work, 1975-80.
A Rolling Stone article about the pair said that John loved bedrooms and sleep, and his side of the bed was his private sanctuary.
The first verse of "Power to the People" starts thusly: "Say you want a revolution/We better get it on right away!". This is a Call Back to his more skeptical take in his Beatles song "Revolution": "You say you want a revolution/Well you know/We all want to change the world."
The "ting ting ting" of a little chiming bell that opens "(Just Like) Starting Over" on Double Fantasy is a Call Back to the heavy, doom-laden church bell that opens "Mother" on Plastic Ono Band. Lennon said in the last interview he ever gave that this was deliberate, meant to symbolise that he had come through all of his issues.
Christmas Rushed: Double Fantasy was originally conceived as a double album, but John and Yoko eventually opted to put out the songs that were ready as a single album in order to get the record out in time for the 1980 holiday shopping season. The songs left off the album were eventually released, with Lennon's in varying states of completion, on Milk and Honey.
Cloudcuckoolander: So, so very much, which is a big part of why he's still fondly remembered.
During the Beatles' early, pre-fame Hamburg performances, Lennon, goofed up on speed and urged by the owner of the Kaiserkeller club to "Mach Schau!" ("Make a show!"), would pull such stunts as coming onstage naked with a toilet seat around his neck, and taunting his audience by goosestepping around and calling them "stupid fucking Nazis" (they reportedly loved it).
Soon after he took his relationship with Yoko public, the two of them pulled a series of unusual stunts promoting the cause of world peace: holding two "bed-ins" with numerous hangers-on and reporters in attendance, sitting nearly motionless onstage inside a bag for forty-five minutes (contrary to some reports at the time, they didn't have sex in the bag), and mailing acorns to world leaders.
Dead Artists Are Better: Far from a perfect example of this trope, as Lennon had more than his share of critical and popular recognition during his lifetime. Nevertheless, the years following his murder saw his less positive traits, and the unevenness of his post-Beatles career output, largely forgotten in favor of the mythical image (strongly, but not solely, cultivated by his widow) of Lennon as a gentle, saintly prophet of peace. As a result, when Albert Goldman published his negative, sensationalistic The Lives of John Lennon a mere eight years after the subject's death, he received, in addition to justly deserved criticism for his shoddy and selective research, numerous death threats from Lennon fans for daring to say anything negative about him. (Which, given the "prophet of peace" bit, is Comically Missing the Point.)
Herefers to this phenomenon in "Nobody Loves You When You're Down and Out"
Everybody loves you when you're six feet in the ground
"Time wounds all heels." (on his immigration fight, after he finally got his green card in 1976) (he swiped that line from Groucho Marx)
The Dead Rise to Advertise: Encouraging us to donate to One Laptop Per Child. It's a good cause and all, but still unnerving. A "'portable' computer with built-in monitor" DID exist in John Lennon's lifetime. . The screen size looks somewhat like the OLPC. They should have made a pun of that perhaps?
Disappeared Dad: When John was five, his father Freddy abandoned his family after a heated marital argument and didn't re-establish contact with his son for twenty years (conveniently re-entering his life, twice, after the Beatles became famous).
John himself towards Julian, his son with first wife Cynthia, due to the Beatles' constant touring, John's growing boredom with Cynthia and conventional domestic life, and his numerous infidelities. During Lennon's "lost weekend" period of estrangement from Ono (see below), he managed somewhat to repair his relationship with Julian. That's why the track "Ya Ya" from Walls and Bridges has the then-11-year-old Julian on drums.
Averted with John and Sean, his son with Yoko. As a househusband from 1975 to the end of his life, Lennon was a doting and enthusiastic father.
Distinct Double Album: Some Time In New York City contains one album of new studio material and one album of live recordings.
For Doom the Bell Tolls: An ominous tolling church bell opens "Mother", the Grief Song that opens Lennon's first solo album, Plastic Ono Band. Referenced ten years later on Double Fantasy (see Call Back above).
Generation Xerox: John spent his childhood separate from his mother (her having left him with his aunt Mimi when he was five), and he felt regret and anger about it throughout his adolescence, but towards the end of his teenage years resumed contact with her for a few years and patched up their relationship — only for her to be killed at the hands of a drunk driver. Julian was left by John with Cynthia for the vast majority of his childhood and became a Disappeared Dad for Julian's entire childhood and adolescence. Towards the end of his teenage years, John came back into contact with him, and they slowly patched up their relationship over the next couple years. Only for John to be murdered by a crazed anti-fan.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: "Imagine," by Lennon's own admission, "is virtually The Communist Manifesto" set to music, "even though I'm not particularly a Communist and I do not belong to any movement". (It could arguably be considered more similar to the writings of anarcho-communists like Pyotr Kropotkin and Emma Goldman, who took issue with some of Marx's ideas). Of the song, Lennon told NME, "There is no real Communist state in the world; you must realise that. The Socialism I speak about ... [is] not the way some daft Russian might do it, or the Chinese might do it. That might suit them. Us, we should have a nice ... British Socialism."
"Pornographic priestess" and "you let your knickers down" in "I Am The Walrus"; the "tit tit tit tit" backing vocals in "Girl" (not to mention the very clear reference to the inhalation of marijuana in the chorus); the drug references scattered throughout The Beatles' latter-day songs—he loved this trope. He was much more blatant in his solo career, but cases like "Tight A$" and "Meat City" still show a bit of it.
A God Am I: Following an LSD trip in May 1968, he was convinced he was Jesus reincarnated and convened a private meeting with his bandmates the next day to tell them so. They wisely humoured him and said they needed time to mull it over before announcing it to the world. Sure enough, by day's end he'd forgotten all about it and instead spent the night recording Two Virgins (and engaging in other non-virginal activities) with Yoko.
Greatest Hits Album: Shaved Fish in his lifetime. Lennon Legend, The John Lennon Collection, and others after his death, most recently Power to the People: The Hits.
Grief Song: "Mother" and "My Mummy's Dead," which respectively open and close his album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. Later, his death inspired several, including his old Beatles bandmate George Harrison's "All Those Years Ago," released five months after Lennon was killed. In a rare reunion of ex-Beatles, Ringo Starr also played drums and Paul McCartney the bass on the single, which reached No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard chart.
Several other artists released mourning songs for John, including Elton John's "Empty Garden", Joan Baez's "Sgt. Pepper's Band", Queen's "Life Is Real", and, most recently, Bob Dylan's "Roll On John". Stevie Nicks says that "Edge of Seventeen" is for both Lennon and her Uncle Jonathan who had died suddenly of cancer the same week.
House Husband: Although he admitted in his 1980 Playboy interview that they had a staff of domestics to do the housework, which means that basically he spent five years loafing about at home (and, more positively, spending time with his son).
Loafing, literally. He went on a bread-baking trip. He said the first time he made some, it was "like an album coming out of the oven." He gave away hundreds of loaves.
Sean has verified that his father really did do most of the day-to-day caring for him and it was not (as Goldman had it) just a put-on for photo ops and publicity.
Within the Beatles Lennon is also sometimes seen as the most creative, intelligent, original and innovative member. Despite the fact that Paul McCartney is an equally strong candidate for that title, save for the part that he hadn't the same badass "cool" rebel image Lennon had.
Iconic Outfit: The green army jacket. and granny glasses (whether dark or regular)
After the breakup of the Beatles he had a habit of exaggerating his contributions to a few songs. Most notably he claimed that he wrote 70 percent of "Eleanor Rigby", a claim that even his childhood friend disputes.
Lighter and Softer: While Imagine does have "Gimme Some Truth," "I Don't Want to Be a Soldier" and "How Do You Sleep?", that Lennon could go in a year from singing "The dream is over the dream is over" in "God" to singing "You may say I'm a dreamer but I'm not the only one" in "Imagine" suggests that he got something out of his system.
List Song: "God" is mainly a list of things Lennon doesn't believe in.
Live Album: Live Peace in Toronto 1969, and after his death, Live in New York City, a recording of the famous 1972 Madison Square Garden concert.
Missing Mom: Although the free-spirited Julia Lennon agreed to have her more responsible sister, Mimi, do the practical work of raising her son, she and John had a close relationship, more like best friends...until she was killed by a drunk driver when he was 17. This was the defining tragedy in Lennon's life, finding artistic expression in "Julia" (from The White Album) and, more directly and painfully, in "Mother" and "My Mummy's Dead" (which respectively opened and closed Plastic Ono Band). This also helped him bond with Paul McCartney, who'd also lost his mother at a young age.
Nephewism: Raised by his Aunt Mimi after his parents broke up. His father was unaccounted for and his mother was living with another man, which her sister thought was a bad atmosphere for a five-year-old boy.
N-Word Privileges: In 1969, in the U.K., in the course of being interviewed by a Nova magazine reporter, Yoko said, "... woman is the nigger of the world"; three years later, John published the song "Woman is the Nigger of the World" (1972) - about the virtually universal exploitation of woman - proved socially and politically controversial to U.S. sensibilities. It's worth noting, though, that many prominent black entertainers of the day were among the most ardent defenders of the song.
Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: After moving to New York city, Lennon's natural Liverpool accent slowly started to become less prominent. Paul McCartney once recalled getting a phone call from him and not recognising his voice since he sounded much more American.
Protest Song: Many. Some Time in New York City, in fact, was basically an entire protest album. Lennon's strident advocacy during this period helped make Some Time in New York City a critical and commercial failure.
He learned the lesson and later protest songs like "Bring on the Lucie (Freeda People)" from Mind Games work better in pop song terms.
Real Life Writes the Plot: Lennon liked to write in the first person. As his career went on and especially after he met Yoko Ono his music became more personal and even exhibitionistic, with a lot of songs dealing with his relationship with her and his own search for truth, love and wisdom in life.
"The Reason You Suck" Song: "How Do You Sleep?", from 1971's Imagine, directed toward Paul McCartney at the depth of their mutual hatred. A response to Paul's "Too Many People" from Ram, released earlier the same year. (The two buried the hatchet a few years later.)
Plastic Ono Band, to the fans, the Beatles, everyone and everything who ever crossed him, pissed him off or that he had ever believed in over the course of his life to that point.
"Steel And Glass" from the Walls And Bridges album. Reputedly a Take That against Allen Klein, the latter-period Beatles/Apple manager.
Toxic Friend Influence: Has claimed that, partly out of jealousy towards his friends' stable family lives, and partly out of his fear he would grow up miserable with a boring "respectable job" and having conformed to authority figures' wishes, would deliberately peer pressure his friends into rebelling against them and joining him in rebel-rousing. This would extend to Paul McCartney and Paul's father.
Un-Person: John's first wife, Cynthia Lennon, was reduced as a dead weight he had been forced to marry in a shotgun wedding. They had been together for ten years, but after John started using drugs they divorced. He later claimed to never have written love songs about her and that their marriage was rushed because of her pregnancy.