As chosen by Roger Daltrey, Ray Davies, Brian Wilson, Alex Turner and more…
18 HOW DO YOU SLEEP?
From the album, Imagine (October 1971)
A scorching evisceration of Paul McCartney (“The only thing you done was yesterday/ And since you’ve gone you’re just another day”) supported by some stinging slide-guitar from George Harrison…
Ian Hunter, Mott The Hoople: He’s pissed off. He’s always good at that. He could be bad-tempered at times, and that worked with his vocal, with the nostrils flaring. With “How Do You Sleep”, he had a cause – real or imaginary – and it adds to the performance. The lyric was maybe uncalled for, but he and Paul were having a do at the time. It pissed me off that people picked sides between them after The Beatles split. It’s amazing those two wound up in a band. It was only a matter of time before they got fed up, because they weren’t the same. Paul was always middle, John was very left. It’s a great song. Simple, which was John’s strength. It has that great “Lennon sound”. He wasn’t keen on his voice, he double-tracked it and covered it with all kinds of shit, and that became very powerful. He wasn’t willing to suffer fools either, and sometimes treated people not too well. A lot of guys were like that then. And John would let ’em have it. Which is an honesty you don’t often see.
17 THE BALLAD OF JOHN AND YOKO
The Beatles single (May 1969). Highest UK chart position: 1
“Christ, you know it ain’t easy,” sang Lennon, as he recounted life with Yoko, lived in the glare of the media spotlight…
Marianne Faithfull: I got to know Yoko through her exhibition at the Indica Gallery [in November 1966], through John Dunbar, the founding father of the British arts scene. I understood the attraction between John and Yoko. I could never see John happy being in Weybridge, in a normal bourgeois life. He was keen on The Beatles for a long time, maybe too keen in a way. He submerged himself too much, to the point where they were like one person. So John went in an extreme other direction. And Yoko was his way out. Nobody can imagine what it was like to be a Beatle. Then there’s all that incredible baggage they each had. I was fascinated with John and Yoko’s bravery – living their life so publicly. But they managed very well. “The Ballad Of John And Yoko” is a brilliant summary of their life so far, as well as being a great tune. It all rushes by, which is just how their life must have seemed then. I think John did manage to shake off The Beatles eventually, particularly with the Plastic Ono Band record. It’s a sparse record, the opposite of what the Beatles were doing. Yoko and I still keep in touch. I was invited to her tower of light ceremony [the Imagine Peace Tower in October 2007] in Reykjavik, which was very moving. It was fascinating because Yoko had a letter from John in which he said he’s seen the day when she would be able to do it. I love that.
16 WORKING CLASS HERO
From the album, John Lennon: Plastic Ono Band (December 1970)
Brutal dissection of class, fame and religion furiously delivered by Lennon, armed only with an acoustic guitar…
John Lydon: The Beatles were poisoned for me when I was young because my mum and dad played them all the time, so it would drill into my head like rusty nails. You know what I mean? “She loves you, yeah yeah yeah…” It’s hard to get that stuff out of your head. I remember hearing “Working Class Hero” while I was in a pub with Malcolm McLaren, about 1975, when we were just starting the Pistols. He took us across the road for one drink each – ah, so kind that man! – and “Working Class Hero” was on the jukebox. It stuck in my mind, because it was such a relevant and important record. I’d heard it beforehand, but then it didn’t mean much. This time I related to it. The anger and the bitterness seemed utterly genuine, the words came out with such passion and violence. That was part of the building block for me, of songwriting in the Pistols. That you could shift into these larger aspects – class hatred, anger, resentment – and get it right.