As we all know, it was John’s birthday two days ago. Happy birthday again, Johnny! I’m still listening to my ‘John’ playlist on my iPad, and my LP of choice recently has been Shaved Fish, a 1975 compilation of John’s best hits (until that point in time — he still had Double Fantasy to release. And if that Thing hadn’t fired its stupid gun, John would still be here today. And we might have had more.) So today I thought I would keep on with the Lennon theme and write about four tribute songs written for John. They’re all very different, but they also all are emotional affairs and portray the relationship the singer felt with John. So here goes…
Paul’s ‘Here Today’
As you would perhaps assume, Paul wrote/did the most beautiful John tribute ever recorded. My opinion, anyway. People who think John and Paul hated each other really need to listen to this song. You can’t deny that they were close after hearing it. I really can’t help but tear up when I listen to this song — you will hear why when you listen to it, too.
It was only after I heard this for the first time late last year that I realised that John and Paul were more than just the best songwriters in the history of the world (IMO). They were best friends who loved each other. I’m reading Alistair Taylor’s memoirs at the moment, and I like how he says that (paraphrasing), “John and Paul were closer than brothers.” People sometimes forget that you don’t have to be sexually attracted to another person to love them — that you can love your friends just as much. I think John and Paul are a perfect example of this, regardless of their early-’70s fights. And this song is the perfect testament to their closeness. Thank you, Paul!
George’s ‘All Those Years Ago’
This was the first tribute to John I heard (late last year). I listened to it first probably ‘cos George is my second-favourite Beatle! Very upbeat, but still moving. I especially love the electric piano! And the music video (wow!). And the lyrics…as with the above, people who seriously think that John and George weren’t close, listen to the lyrics, man! The Beatles were all very close, I think. Maybe that is one of the reasons as to why they were so darn fantabulous (there isn’t a word in the English language to describe how fab The Beatles were/are)!
I’ve been doing a bit of research on John and George’s friendship lately, and I found this gorgeous story from John’s birthday, 1970, at which time he was recording ‘Remember’ from Plastic Ono Band with Klaus Voorman and Ringo. To quote the Beatles Bible: “During the session George Harrison arrived at the studio, arriving in his dark blue Ferrari 330 GTC. He presented Lennon with a plastic flower and the pair hugged each other.” 🙂 ! As Yoko Ono said, “John loved George and George loved John. Their friendship was very special.”
Elton John’s ‘Empty Garden (Hey, Hey Johnny)’
I don’t know as much about John and Elton John’s friendship as I do the relationships within The Beatles, but I — like most hardcore Lennonites — know the story of the 1974 Madison Square concert. For those of you who don’t, here it is:
Once upon a time John is recording ‘Whatever Gets You Through The Night’ with Elton (who features on harmony vocals and piano), and Elton tells John that the song will reach #1. John had not had a (solo) #1 yet, and didn’t believe it would, so the two make a bet — if the song is a Number One hit, John (who suffered from stage fright at the time) performs it with Elton at the latter’s upcoming concert in Madison. So the song reaches Number One in the US — his only #1 in his lifetime — and John, defeated, performs it onstage, along with ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ and Elton’s cover of ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’! It would be John’s last onstage appearance. He was going to tour the world in 1981. But that never happened. But I’m not going to brood today.
As for the song itself, all I really know about it is that Elton John does not perform it live as it “brings back too many painful memories” (I don’t blame him). I love it, and like just as much as Paul’s and George’s!
Queen’s ‘Life Is Real (Song For Lennon)’
Whilst — as far as I can see — John and the members of Queen never crossed paths (i.e. never met), this song is still a beautiful tribute to John. The piano is relatively Lennon-esque, and I particularly love Freddie Mercury’s vocals + Brian May’s guitar solo. After John died, Queen would also cover ‘Imagine’ in their concerts, and I believe they cited John/The Beatles as major influences on their work. I think it is just as beautiful as the ones John’s actual friends did, proving again that John was/is loved and sorely missed by nearly everyone in this world.
So there we go! What’s your favourite of the above? Do you know any other tributes for John? Please give me a buzz in the Comments below… I’m thinking of writing my own tribute for John at some point in the feature (I’ve got two songs of my own creation and some Beatles covers to do first), which I promise to upload here when it’s done.
So once again, happy birthday, Johnny! I love you. Good day sunshine! 🙂