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


From the John Lennon & Yoko Ono album, Double Fantasy (November 1980)
Written for son Sean, then 5, and partially inspired by the writings of French psychologist Emile Coue, “Beautiful Boy” sees Lennon extolling the simple joy of fatherhood…

Liam Gallagher: My song “Little James” was inspired by “Beautiful Boy” and “Hey Jude”. More “Beautiful Boy”. People who’ve got any soul will realise that there’s a day when you go home and put your feet up and cuddle your kids. If anyone slags it off, they’ve either got no heart or they don’t know what the meaning of life is. They just go out and do-do-do-do-do the same thing every day. So fuck them. You can’t win with these people. They’re going, “You’re the wild man of rock, you’re this, you don’t fucking care,” and when you do show a bit of caring, they call you a poof… Originally, I wanted it to be acoustic. Have you heard Lennon’s demos? They’re dead crackly, and it’s just on a guitar, and that’s the way I’d like to write music. But if it’s gonna go on an Oasis album, it’s gotta be big, hasn’t it? So then I played it Noel, he went away with the band and he goes: “What do you think of this?” I went: “It’s fucking top.”


From the John Lennon album, Walls And Bridges (October 1974); released as a single October 1974. Highest UK chart position: 36
Lennon’s first solo US No 1, with Elton John guesting on keyboards. Lennon later joined Elton on stage at Madison Square Gardens in November 1974, for what would be his last public performance…

Klaus Voormann: I got a call from John asking to come to New York to play on his new record. He was getting some friends together – Jim Keltner on drums, Jesse Ed Davis on guitar – so it sounded like a good idea. I think we did the whole of Walls & Bridges in two weeks.

We didn’t do any rehearsals. John would come in each day with a new song, play it to us and we’d go from there. We never got chord structure or anything like that, but he gave each of us a piece of A4 paper with the words on. We’d make our parts up on the spot and if he liked it, he’d give you a little grin.

He’d be wearing his denims, usually with his cap on, very low-key. He was completely on the level – you could tell he just wanted to be a member of a band again.

We’d start in the afternoon and work through the night, although by the end of the fortnight, we’d sometimes start about nine in the evening [laughs]. We would only break for food. John would say: “Let’s have Blintzes!” – he loved to have their pancakes with blueberries and cream – or we’d have Chinese – but then get back to work.

This was during his Lost Weekend and it was party time. There was booze, and people heading to the bathroom to sniff stuff. I never saw John drunk in the studio, or stoned, but there was a lot of cocaine around. John would say: “Fancy some nose?” So it was that and a little hot sake.

I remember the day we did “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night” John was very excited about it. It’s a happy song, but there’s a sadness to it. You could tell he was missing Yoko, and he was cutting loose. We’ve got an expression for it in German – he was painting over his pain.

The recording is way too fast. Elton John wasn’t there – he came in and did his overdubs later – but Arthur Jenkins [percussionist] and Bobby Keys [saxophonist] were, and as the night wore on, each time it got faster and faster. It ended up almost twice the speed it started out! Bobby was playing all the wrong notes, too, which didn’t help! But John was pleased with it -it was all about capturing the feel and atmosphere in one take. Who cares about the speed and a few bum notes, y’know? John was right, of course – it was his first solo number one in America.


B-side of The Beatles single, “I Want To Hold Your Hand” (November 1963). Highest UK chart position: 1
Inspired by Lennon’s love of doo-wop and home to the Beatles first great three-part harmony. An instrumental version appeared on the A Hard Day’s Night soundtrack…

Ian Hart, actor Backbeat/The Hours And The Times: This song of longing and lost love breaks my heart when I try to sing it. It’s a perfect short love song, but as always with John’s songs, there’s something more to it; the plaintive quality of Lennon’s voice in the chorus is enough to make you cry. I’ve always loved “This Boy” and have various memories of it. They sang it on Morecambe & Wise, and the Ed Sullivan show in the States, neither of which I probably saw until I started doing research for The Hours And The Times.

But it’s the use of George Martin’s instrumental version in A Hard Day’s Night that provokes the greatest response in me. Ringo, egged on by Paul’s granddad, goes on his lonely journey, feeling like an outcast. It’s only a short scene, but the song perfectly matches the rejection and longing Ringo’s character feels in the movie. I owe my career in a way to John, and a lot more besides. I would never have worked with Ken Loach or Neil Jordan, and I wouldn’t have many of the friends I have. This boy wants you back again: cheesy but true.

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