As chosen by Roger Daltrey, Ray Davies, Brian Wilson, Alex Turner and more…

24 #9 DREAM
From the John Lennon album, Walls And Bridges (October 1974); released as a single, January 1975. Highest UK chart position: 23
Inspired by Lennon’s fascination with the number 9, this piece of baroque pop featured backing vocals from May Pang, Lennon and Yoko’s PA who became his lover…

May Pang: John had just produced Harry Nilsson’s Pussy Cats album, and he’d created a beautiful string arrangement for the opening track, “Many Rivers To Cross”. John liked it so much he wanted to use it himself. He literally dreamed the rest of the song, including the words “Ah, bowakawa pousse pousse.” Like so many of his lyrics, people searched for the hidden meaning, but there was none. [In the dream], two women were calling his name, which he figured were me and Yoko. It was his idea to have me sing it. He had to turn the studio lights down because I was shy doing those sultry “John”s. When Yoko put together a video for the song in 2005, she included footage of her lip-syncing to my vocal, which is why some people may be confused. John wrote on his Martin acoustic, whenever inspiration struck, which was often. He’d play me his songs and tell me what he envisioned them to be. In the case of “#9 Dream,” he wrote the orchestral arrangements and produced the track in such a way to lull the listener into his dream. He always had his pen and paper ready to jot something down, even by his bed. One of my expressions at the time was “off the wall,” which appeared in “Steel And Glass.” I introduced him to beef jerky, which became the title of another song. He often asked what I thought about a lick or some words, but when he played “Surprise Surprise” [the song Lennon wrote for May], I teared up and was speechless. He joked to me, “It’s that bad, huh?”

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23 GIMME SOME TRUTH
From the John Lennon album, Imagine (October 1971)
A rip-roaring dig at “neurotic, psychotic, pig-headed politicians”, “paranoic prima-donnas” and anyone else who didn’t dig the Ono-Lennon’s Bed-Ins…

Tony James, Generation X/Carbon Silicon: I always loved The Beatles, but I became a real Lennon fan when I first heard Imagine. I used to babysit for Neil Aspinall, who was The Beatles’ personal assistant. I was saving up for gigs and records by babysitting. He said, “I must play you this album John’s just made.”

Here was someone talking about something more than just love songs. Years later, Billy [Idol] and I used to listen to “Gimme Some Truth”. What made it stand out was the lyrical content. We loved the word play – “No short-haired, yellow-bellied son of Tricky Dicky’s gonna Mother Hubbard soft-soap me…”‘ It was brilliant the way the words alliterated, and this cry of passion… We covered it in Generation X. When I last saw Primal Scream, they did “Gimme Some Truth” and they did the Generation X version. When I saw Bobby after the show, he came rushing up and said, “Did you hear ‘Gimme Some Truth’? It’s the Generation X version!”

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22 JEALOUS GUY
From the John Lennon album, Imagine (November 1971)
One of Lennon’s most covered songs, this was a public apology to Yoko over his behaviour following The Beatles split, when his heavy drinking put pressure on their relationship…

Roger Daltrey: My favourite? It’s “Jealous Guy”. I don’t have to tell you why. But I was listening to his voice the other day, his music was on a radio play – his version of “Stand By Me”. Fucking great voice, he had: he was lovely, but again, he had that side of him which could be quite cutting and come across quite nasty. But he was straight up and down – what you saw was what you got. I can’t imagine what their life must have been like. It must have a nightmare. I can see why people go completely mad in this business. How they dealt with it – they couldn’t go out. I suppose it makes you have to hang on to who you are: every day, you have to ask yourself, “Who the fuck am I?” We had a few years of screaming girls, but that was it.

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Page 2
  3. 3. Page 3
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  9. 9. Page 9
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  • RDF

    Yoko comments on John wanting to “dabble in different things” in the Beatles, but the Beatles were so successful “he felt he couldn’t.” Does Yoko ever miss an opportunity to slam the Beatles? John was a pretty smart guy; he was well aware of the radical differentness of “Tomorrow Never Knows,” “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “I Am the Walrus,” “Happiness Is a Warm Gun,” “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey,” etc., etc. Beatle fans are aware of it too. Yoko isn’t.

  • jan french

    i love this song, he’s such a storyteller

  • Bora Boris

    a very hard to read, distractive listcle

  • Tom Haber

    HAPPINESS IS A WARM GUN is not only one of John’s best, it is one of The Beatles best.