John Lennon would be 79 years old this coming October – ouch!
That means that it’s been almost forty years since the release of his final album with Yoko Ono entitled “Double Fantasy”. FORTY YEARS … incredible.
Anyway, as I’ve said before time has a way of sneaking up on you so today I thought I’d take a look back at the Lennon’s final album together and reminisce a bit about the era.
The reason I’ve decided to trip down memory lane back to 1980 and the “Double Fantasy” album in particular was because of an interesting (and sad) article that came out in the New York Times last week called “The Day the Music Burned”.
“The Day the Music Burned” details a fire in the backlot of Universal Studios in 2008 that burned quite a lot of priceless film and video archive material as well as supposedly over 500,000 master tapes of some of the biggest recording stars of the 20th Century including Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, The Carpenters, Guns N’ Roses, Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana and Yoko Ono. Yoko Ono?
You see John Lennon and Yoko Ono were signed to Geffen Records in 1980 and apparently a lot of Geffen Records masters were destroyed. Did that include tapes from the “Double Fantasy” sessions?
No one is absolutely sure as a lot of the material stored at Universal was haphazardly cataloged and whether John Lennon masters or multi-tracks were there wasn’t mentioned. It may just be Ono’s solo work that was included in the fire but probably only Universal or Ono know for sure.
In any case I’m guessing Yoko Ono may have them stored safely herself somewhere but it got me thinking about the “Double Fantasy” album nonetheless and it started my mind wandering back in time.
I was 14 years in the Fall of 1980 when the “Double Fantasy” album was released. I remember it well. The first single from the album, “(Just Like) Starting Over”, had been released a few weeks prior the album’s November release so I was anxiously awaiting getting my hands on the full record.
I didn’t really get into The Beatles or the solo Beatles work until around 1975 so I had never experienced the release of a new Lennon album in real time until the release of “Double Fantasy”.
I vividly remember trying to scour the radio for my first listen of “(Just Like) Starting Over” in early October when it was released and finally stumbling upon it late at night in my parents bed as they had a radio on the nightstand that I listened to before I went to my own bed to sleep.
My first listen of “(Just Like) Starting Over” struck me as just okay but the song grew on me until I feel in love with it in the weeks leading up to “Double Fantasy’s” release.
I managed to get the “Double Fantasy” album on its release day as my neighbor’s mother worked at a local mall and bought it for me that day and I paid her for the album when she got home from work.
Playing the album I was pleasantly surprised that I really loved all of John Lennon’s songs especially “Watching the Wheels” and “I’m Losing You”. Ono’s songs not so much at least at first. I grew to like them but in the CD age I usually program around them I must admit though in all honestly they’re not that bad.
It’s an understatement to say the the events of December 8, 1980, when Lennon was gunned down by an obsessed fan, are burned into my memory forever tainting my feelings for “Double Fantasy” as a more melancholy experience than my initial joy at hearing new Lennon material.
Some things become a total time capsule of a period and “Double Fantasy” is now imprinted in my mind as a reminder of the Fall of 1980 as well as the death of John Lennon.
So this brings me to today’s post which highlights three CD versions of the “Double Fantasy” album that I happen to own: a 1994 MFSL gold CD, a Japanese CD of the 2000 remaster with bonus tracks and the most recent CD a SHM-CD also from Japan from 2014.
Really, none of these CDs sounds bad at all. If I had to choose I’d definitely say the best sounding version is the 1994 Gold MFSL CD. It’s smooth and clear with nice bass and has a pleasant analog sound that really is a joy from start to finish.
The 2000 remastered CD sounds fine but a tad bit loud. I do enjoy the bonus tracks though. The Ono song “Walking on Thin Ice” is especially chilling and poignant as it was the song John Lennon was working on the night he was killed.
I happened upon this 2000 Japanese version of the remastered CD and was drawn to the huge, beautiful box that it comes in so naturally I had to buy it. I love the look of this set, the artwork is done so well it really reminds me of the first vinyl issue of the album. It just takes me back.
The SHM-CD from 2014 is the most recent CD release of this album and it sounds quite good. Again a bit loud but good. I prefer the 1994 gold CD but this version is nice and the SHM-CD has really nice bass so this version is definitely a fun listen.
As usual you can take a gander above and see photos of these three CDs.
These Lennon songs on“Double Fantasy” are some of my favorite of his solo catalog and while they may not be as cutting as the songs on his first solo album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, they hold more memories for me and that wins this album a special place in my heart.
I hope that the multi-tracks for these sessions still exist as I would love to hear a complete“Double Fantasy” sessions box like the recent “Imagine” box set because Lennon was in a more playful state of mind at these sessions and practically all the banter as well as songs from these sessions were recorded on tape.
Well, that’s it for 1980 for now.
Until next time, take care and be well!