I love the Beatles. That’s… a little hard to hide. The solo careers? Those I run hot-and-cold on.
George Harrison’s solo work — especially All Things Must Pass, Cloud 9, Brainwashed, and his work with the Wilburys — is phenomenal. Except for the mid-70s and early-80s — Dark Horse and 33 1/3 aren’t especially memorable.
Ringo Starr? Always listenable, if nothing remarkable, yet I think he’s had a run of good albums since Vertical Man a decade ago, if not Time Takes Time a few years before that. And his Christmas album — I Wanna Be Santa Claus — is nearly required listening.
Paul McCartney? He has peaks. And he has valleys. I put it like this one time, “Paul needs to lay off the fucking weed.” There’s a line in Wonder Boys, when Hannah is telling Grady about her reaction to his book, and she says, “Your characters aren’t making decisions,” and it’s because Grady’s pot-smoking has dulled him to the decision-making process. Paul McCartney’s solo career is like that. He’s vastly talented, yet his music sounds like everything he comes up with is worth hearing. The songs that get a lot of airplay — like “Freedom” or “Vanilla Sky” — are songs that anyone in control of his mental faculties would realize were not… that… good. And that leads to a lot of boring music. That’s not to say there aren’t gems, but they’re usually album tracks buried under a layer of pot-induced dross. However, I do like Memory Almost Full; it’s McCartney’s best album since Flaming Pie a decade ago, which was his best album since Flowers in the Dirt a decade before that. I find Wingspan, McCartney’s two-disc greatest hits collection of his Wings decade, to be an absolute chore to listen to. And yet, the man is nothing short of a brilliant showman; I saw him in concert five years ago, and it was fan-fucking-tastic.
And that brings us to John Lennon.
What prompted this was something Julio Angel Ortiz wrote on his blog one day. He’d listened to John Lennon’s album Mind Games, and I left a comment that was along the lines of, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” I realized I hadn’t listened to Mind Games in a number of years, so I put it in, and then decided that maybe it was time to revisit the Lennon canon.
Over the next few weeks I’m going to tackle John Lennon’s solo career. I’ve embarked this week on a roughly chronological listen of his solo output. Which means that I’m going to be rediscovering some songs, even some albums, that I simply haven’t listened to in a long, long time. Roughly once a week, I’ll be posting an essay-like thing on a particular period of Lennon’s solo career, a seven-part series all told.