Why I Hate That Song Everyone Else Loves So Much
There are a lot of things I don’t like that everyone else seems to love, and there are many things I love that most others don’t seem to care for . . . I’m honestly not trying to be difficult, it’s just the way things are. John Lennon’s universally celebrated song ‘Imagine’ is one of those things everyone eagerly announces they love, that I just don’t get . . . at all. But before I get directly to the song, let me offer, briefly, a bit of an apology/explanation of why, perhaps, I seem to so commonly see things differently than most folks.
My temperament, my disposition, my general make-up is such that I tend to be very analytical about things, I see things in a very critical manner . . . I consider and examine and investigate things to, often, an excruciating degree. In debates or simply friendly chats about movies, religion, history, social issues, etc, etc, I will commonly have to be told to stop . . . I never lose my head, I never ever get contentious or belligerent, I don’t try to ‘prove’ I’m right or anything like that – I simply have an interest to stay with a topic, to study and deliberate over an idea until everyone else has pretty much had enough of it some time ago. This is a good and useful attribute at my desk – it’s not so great a character feature in more social settings.
So, for instance, the kind of thing that happens is this; to this day many in my generation (the 60’s baby boomers) might certainly know who Eric Clapton is – he’s the guy who sings ‘Wonderful Tonight’ and ‘Tears In Heaven’ . . . many will even know that he was in several different bands, that he did ‘Layla’ when with Derek & The Dominos, and many will know that he was in the very significant band and Cream. But I think most who knows these facts came across them haphazardly by decades of attention Clapton has received . . . like being the only man inducted into The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame three times (for 3 different bands), perhaps they heard a friend mention Clapton being in Cream, perhaps they noticed a magazine or tv mention that he was in Derek & The Dominos, etc.
But for me, when I was a kid and heard The Yardbirds, I wanted to know who that was playing guitar, and when Clapton left The Yardbirds to play with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers I started to watch for anything Clapton did. So when the band Cream was announced to be forming I knew who Clapton was and was eager to hear what he was going to do next . . . and then onto Blind Faith, a stint with Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, then Derek & The Dominos, etc. I’m of course far from the only kid who knew of Eric Clapton’s long and distinguished career, but not all the kids who knew of Clapton and who loved The Beatles knew that it was Clapton playing on ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, and far fewer who knew he played on Aretha Franklin records, King Curtis, Leon Russell, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Ray Charles, and many other’s records, and played with John, Paul, George, and Ringo all as The Beatles and then separately.
And though it’s become a good bit more publicized in the last couple of decades, few kids went back into the Blues artists that Clapton loved and learned so much from . . . on my honeymoon my young bride and I had $200 to spend on pot & pans and all those things we needed to return with to set-up housekeeping – we came home with $200 worth of LPs by Blind Willie McTell, Elmore James, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Albert King, etc, etc, etc. My point is, one reason I so commonly see things differently than most folks is not that I’m trying to be different or contrary, it’s just that my natural inclination about things can be a bit more intense and thorough than most folks . . . because I approach and give attention to things differently, often my conclusions are different. At least that’s one aspect of it that makes some sense to me. I commonly like things most folks don’t and I commonly don’t like things that most folks do – I don’t want to be an outsider, I don’t try to be different, but I have to be the ‘me’ that I actually am . . . and I don’t like John Lennon’s song ‘Imagine’ . . . at all.
Let me start very directly; I think the melody is mundane . . . it’s not ugly sounding, it’s not bad, but it’s just not that big a deal, it’s not really pretty. If you take away John Lennon and take away the words (I’ll get to those in a minute) and put any unknown singer singing about . . . actually, as I think about that tune used to sing about being in love, about being with, being close to the one you adore, it suddenly sounds a good bit more pretty of a melody to me – perhaps, for me, it’s just the lyrics and all the hoopla that’s attached to the song. Ok, so here’s very basically what I don’t get about that song – no kidding!? “You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one, I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will be as one” . . . who hasn’t thought since they were a child wouldn’t it be better if there were no wars, if no one was hungry, if religions didn’t fight against each other . . ?! . . Lennon sings about “Imagine all the people, sharing all the world”, he sings about “A brotherhood of man” and asks “I wonder if you can” . . . the song asks if the rest of us can imagine a world at peace and everyone getting along, etc – and I’m asking, who doesn’t think that way?!
The song is celebrated for, for what? For advancing a dream we all have and wish could be – I just don’t get it . . . has anyone ever listened to that song and thought ‘Hey, being nice and kind – that’s a much better idea, I was planning on being mean but now I’ve changed my mind’, or has anyone listened to that song and thought ‘I’ve always felt that way, but I never thought of peace and love in terms of no wars and everyone being nice, etc’? The song, to me, just isn’t saying anything that everyone doesn’t already get and it’s not saying in it any profound or poetic way that merits it’s near universal ‘one of my favorite songs’ acclaim . . . and, there is that bit of condescending ‘I wonder if you guys can even get what I’m imagining’ over an idea that I imagine is common and a longstanding dream of the entire planet – like, we all ‘get it’ and always have.
But, for me, music is always about the music. The sentiment of the song, I don’t disagree with at all, I just don’t think there is anything new or profound or clever or especially poetic about this expression of the sentiment – but as a song, as a melody and singing and just how the record moves (or not) you, John Lennon had so many other songs that are so gigantically superior to ‘Imagine’ that it’s (I’m just being honest) a bit irritating how much universal acclaim that song gets.
For example; this song is about the very opposite of 'Imagine' both in musical style and sentiment - but listen to the raw power and urgency of Lennon’s vocals here . . . this is such a better piece of music ~
Listen to the hauntingly bottomless heartache of Lennon’s vocals here . . . a much better song than 'Imagine' ~
. . . and talk about hauntingly bottomless heartache, a very simply melody made very special by Lennon's earnest and poignant vocals ~
. . . or here, this is one of the very best Rock & Roll vocals ever recorded - this should be mentioned far more that 'Imagine' . . . if we're talking about music ~
But here is the clincher for me; when people talk about The Beatles, or when they even just talk about John, the comments are frequently along the lines that Paul was cute but wasn't deep and only sang love songs all the time, while John (it's commonly asserted) had depth and sang about significant ideas and crucial issues, etc - but, really, there's nothing deeper, no more significant idea, no more crucial issue than love . . . and musically, Paul was far 'deeper' than John. John was great, apart from 'Imagine' I like nearly all his music, and I count him one of the great Rock singers ever . . . I have nothing against John - but to me, any number of Paul's songs are far deeper and far better musically than John's. I listen to this one below, and (again, to me) it makes 'Imagine' sound like a kind of silly attempt to say something important . . . that everyone already knows. Looking forward to taking the one you love on a picnic - that's important.