Friday, November 07, 2008

John Lennon: Listen To This Book

by John Blaney

John Lennon: Listen To This Book covers the records issued by John Lennon in Britain and America from his debut in 1968 to his latest album of archive recordings. Packed with over 500 illustrations the book reviews each release, providing information about recording locations and personnel, label variations, promotional releases and chart positions. An essential source book for seasoned collectors and those new to Lennon, it is a comprehensive guide to:

- Every officially released Lennon recording
- British, American and Japanese releases
- Apple, Geffen and Polydor label variations
- Promotional releases
- Interview discs


As one quarter of the Beatles John Lennon recorded some remarkable music. The music he made as a solo artist was every bit its equal. In just twelve-years he recorded an extraordinary body of work that encompassed avant-gardism, agitprop, rock 'n' roll and pop. Although Lennon's music-making took many forms, he always stayed true to the ideas and ideals he'd established with the Beatles. Themes that encompassed personal and universal love, self-knowledge, liberation, utopianism and idealism were honed to perfection. He also perfected his songwriting which, like him, could be simple or complex, transparent or opaque, base or urbane. Lennon used his songs to tell the world of his feelings, his thoughts and desires. Whatever the subject, Lennon expressed himself with a compelling honesty. At times he was perhaps too honest. His probity challenged, it questioned and it shocked. It made him all the more intriguing, all the more human.

The records he made are tangible reminders of a quixotic mind, visceral musician, sensitive songwriter, passionate individual and family man. If you want to trace Lennon's development as a musician, thinker and rock star, then his records provide an audible map for you to follow. But Lennon's records did more than reflect, they redefined popular music and had a marked impact on the cultural and political landscape from which they emerged. To say that they changed people's lives wouldn't be an over statement. Jerry Rubin, for one, had his life turned around by one of Lennon's songs, long before he met him. Through his songwriting, Lennon touched the hearts and minds of people from Liverpool to Tokyo. At their best his songs challenge the listener to reconsider and question the world they inhabit. They are personal epistles that resonate around the globe, offering hope and inspiration. They proffer a genuine desire for change, for personal development, for a revolution in the head that will benefit all humanity.

In the years following his death, Yoko Ono has maintained her late husband's legacy with a string of archival releases that have contributed to his slim but select oeuvre. The amount of material issued has been considerable: respectfully and carefully managed, it now outweighs that released in his lifetime. These albums have revealed aspects of his work that, had he survived, would have remained unknown. All too often posthumous releases betray an artist's reputation. This can't be said for the majority of Lennon's posthumous albums, which have sustained the exceedingly high standards set in his lifetime. Whether recording a home demo, leading a band through a rehearsal or recording a guide vocal, Lennon simply couldn't give less than 100%.

Listen To This Book sets out to trace the recordings that Lennon left behind and, I hope, shed some new light on them. While it is primarily a discography, it also reveals the influences and stories behind the songs. It collects together for the first time in one book information about label variations, promotional records chart positions, recording locations and much more. Entries are arranged chronologically. The book begins with Lennon's debut solo album, Two Virgins, and ends with his latest, John Lennon Acoustic. Information about each record is broken down into discrete parts. Song titles are followed by the artist's name, release date and catalogue number. Chart positions from Billboard and BMRB/Music Week are provided for American and British releases. Japanese chart positions, taken from 'Oricon', are also provided. As a comparison, I've included an appendix that gives chart positions for Lennon's single releases, excluding re-entries, from Billboard and Cash Box and Music Week and NME. In addition, each song has been assigned an index number followed by the song title, composer credit, recording personnel, recording studio, recording date and producer credit. Where songs appear on more than one release, a cross reference is provided. A song index, to help trace each song and the record it appears on, has also been provided.

Appendices for British, American and Japanese discographies provide the following information: release date, title, record label, catalogue numbers for LPs, 8-tracks, reel-to-reel tapes (US only), CDs, 7-inch singles, 12-inch singles, cassette singles (UK only), CD singles and promo singles. An appendix to the main John Lennon discography details interview records and discs issued with books. Information about Capitol, Geffen and Polydor label variations issued in America is also provided.

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