A new book about the making of his 1971 solo album restores his artist wife to her crucial role in his musical life. She looks back to a time of peace and love and anger
On 29 January 1971, a letter was sent to a stately home in Berkshire confirming a bulky delivery, a birthday present for the buyers wife a grand piano, spray-painted white and costing 1,891. Later that year, a photograph of the buyer playing the instrument would be turned into a poster folded inside his new album. After that, it would also feature in a memorable music film. The exalted status of this piano was established, some would say, in May 1971, when John Lennon used it for the recording of the title song for the LP Imagine.
This letter from Steinway & Sons is featured in Imagine John Yoko, a luxurious scrapbook about the making of what is arguably John Lennons best-known and most-loved solo album. Beatles geeks will salivate over it. Here are hand-written lyrics on hotel notepaper, detailed maps of Lennon and Yoko Onos Tittenhurst Park home and its grounds, annotated boxes of audio tape, pencil sketches, postcards and two letters written by Lennon at the height of his campaign for peace. Both are angry: one arguing against New York Times journalist Craig McGregors accusations that the Beatles imitated and exploited black music (It wasnt a rip-off, it was a love in) and another to Paul and Linda McCartney some time after the Beatles break-up that nearly boils over with rage (I was reading your letter, Lennon begins, and wondering which middle-aged cranky Beatles fan wrote it).
Other voices and faces, many from archive interviews, fill the book too: band members, session players, studio assistants and producers (including Phil Spector) sit alongside Michael Parkinson and Dick Cavett, who both interviewed Lennon and Ono on their chatshows. Theres also a particularly touching entry from Lennons oldest son, Julian, who recalls the joy of being invited to his dads country pile after a period without contact they go boating together, drink Dr Pepper and play on a Mellotron. Polaroids of father, son and stepmum on the estates lake accompany his memories (It was the first time that he actually called me in quite a long time it was wonderful).
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