As chosen by Roger Daltrey, Ray Davies, Brian Wilson, Alex Turner and more…
Taken from the album, John Lennon: Plastic Ono Band (December 1970); released as a single, December 1970. Highest US chart position: 43
Inspired by primal-scream therapy, Lennon confronts his abandonment issues head on, delivering a raw, revelatory glimpse inside his psyche…
Lee Ranaldo, Sonic Youth: Like Dylan, Lennon’s someone who has done so much that your favourite song could change from day to day, depending on where you’re at. “Mother” came out of this Janov Scream Therapy, and he was the kind of person who could take things that were going on in his personal life and channel them into his musical life. That was impressive to me. It came out in early Beatles songs – like “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” – he was starting to channel things into his songs, and those early solo records, like the vituperative condemnation of Paul in “How Do You Sleep”, he was channelling this stuff directly into his music in this incredible way.
I always loved “Mother” – it’s really bold and audacious in the way it ends with the screaming lines of lyrics. It’s so emotionally appropriate and so true to who he was and where he was. It never fails to move me.
26 I’M SO TIRED
Taken from The Beatles album, The Beatles (November 1968)
Composed at the Maharishi’s retreat, and recorded during an all night session at Abbey Road, Lennon’s jaded ode speaks volumes for his boredom at being a Beatle.
Jarvis Cocker: John was my favourite Beatle. When I was a kid I thought I’d like to be like him, ’cause he had glasses. I thought that proves that you can be a pop star and wear glasses. “I’m So Tired”, I’ll have that. Lyrically I like the way he calls Sir Walter Raleigh such a stupid get, and the way he manages to get that mundanity into something quite intense. It made me realise that you could actually write songs like that. He’s just listing things that have pissed him off and he can’t sleep and he doesn’t know what to do with himself, ’cause he’s fallen in love. Getting all the little detail into it was an inspiration for me. Also, that’s one of the ones with the easiest chords. When I bought my Beatles’ Complete Guitar Book I got discouraged ’cause they always seemed to have all these sustained 9ths and I couldn’t play them. Then I realised “I’m So Tired” is quite simple and I managed to master that one.
From the album, John Lennon: Plastic Ono Band (December 1970)
Bitter attack on idolatry, culminating in a denunciation of The Fabs themselves. “And so, dear friends, you just have to carry on…” is all the optimism Lennon can muster, consigning Sixties’ idealism to the dustbin…
John Leckie, engineer: I can’t say I was in awe of Lennon, because at that time, The Beatles weren’t that hip. I’d done George’s album [All Things Must Pass], which had so many different musicians that it became a challenge, but it was straightforward with John and Yoko. There were only three people in there and very focused. Yoko was there all the time, offering comments and guidance, and [co-producer] Phil Spector. Spector certainly wasn’t the tyrant in the studio. He was sitting back, letting John and Yoko do their thing. I’m not sure he understood it, though. I remember it being a lot of fun. It was Ringo, John and Klaus [Voorman] – mates. I went back into Abbey Road recently and got the old 8-track tapes out. That was fantastic in itself. You forget how many takes and experimentation went into that album. It was very conscientiously done, almost matter-of-fact. There’s about three days’ worth of recordings of “Mother”. He tried “God” out on electric guitar first, found it wasn’t working and tried it on piano. John would play a song through and through until he came up with the magic take. We’d start recording around six in the evening and often go on until eight in the morning.