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John Lennon’s final album, 1980’s Double Fantasy, is a stirring mixture of songs about love and family as well as plenty of odes to unabashed rock ‘n’ roll. This new version, Double Fantasy Stripped Down, features the original album as well as Lennon’s original mix, which pares down the instrumentation and gives more focus to Lennon’s amazing vocals.
JOHN LENNON & YOKO ONO - DOUBLE FANTASY (STRIPPED DOWN)
1. (Just Like) Starting Over
2. Kiss Kiss Kiss
3. Cleanup Time
4. Give Me Something
5. I'm Losing You
6. I'm Moving On
7. Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)
8. Watching The Wheels
9. Yes, I'm Your Angel
11. Beautiful Boys
12. Dear Yoko
13. Every Man Has A Woman Who Loves Him
14. Hard Times Are Over
Since 1975, the year his son, Sean was born, John Lennon's life had seen some unaccustomed tranquility, later called the Dakota Days.
While John had devoted himself to fatherhood and domesticity, he asked Yoko to supervise their business affairs. The exchange of roles which they exercised, gave food for thought to all couples then and now.
But at the time, the wider world could not comprehend what John was doing. John's withdrawal as a recording artist was unprecedented.
Suddenly, in 1980, a welcome surprise was heard. John went into the studio with Yoko to make the next album.
From its inception, then, Double Fantasy was a John and Yoko collaboration, just as their early "avant garde" albums had been. And in its "Heart Play" of alternating viewpoints, it formalised a pattern they'd instinctively adopted on Some Time In New York City.
Yoko: "We thought Double Fantasy was a fresh and unique idea. John was concerned that another singer/songwriter couple might do an album of this format before us, and thought it was important to do this album right away. But nobody did it, and nobody has done it since then. It was probably not a very easy record to make for any singer/songwriter couple. We were just very lucky that we didn't even have a fight between us while making it. It was a miracle."
"After the five-year hiatus, for John to come out and do his album, the whole of the music industry was totally, totally excited and they all wanted John's music and was not very happy, that I was there. So, while we were recording, John really had to protect me, in so many ways."
Double Fantasy was a brave album on John's part, and not only for his loyalty to Yoko. Here was a man whose image was frozen in rock 'n' roll, with all its connotations of youth, rebellion and extremity. Yet his goal this time was to address middle age, and the generation who had grown up with him, and to consider questions - of parenthood, of marriage, of mature relations between the sexes - that pop music scarcely touches.
The silvery tinkle of bells that introduces '(Just Like) Starting Over' was a deliberate contrast to the ominous tolling that opened John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band ten years earlier. Double Fantasy was to embrace the future with hope, and treat the past with affection. Two heroes of his youth, Elvis Presley and Roy Orbison, are playfully mimicked in John's first track, a life-affirming celebration of the new decade just dawning. Yoko responds with 'Kiss Kiss Kiss', flagrantly sensuous; in the Lennons' mind, "double fantasy" had definite erotic aspects.
Yet this was not a one-dimensional depiction of bliss. 'Cleanup Time' tells of John's resolve to face the future in better shape, but Yoko's 'Give Me Something' is a stinging challenge to show emotional engagement. 'I'm Losing You' and 'I'm Moving On' plunge still deeper into discord, the former like an echo of John's "Lost Weekend" record Walls And Bridges, the latter a second instance of Yoko as the impatient realist.
"It's not a happy go lucky album," she affirms. "John's song 'I'm Losing You', even now when I hear that, I get choked up. And 'I'm Moving On' Well ... that was how we were."
Tensions melt with wonderful suddenness in 'Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)', John's tender song for Sean. Within the narrative flow of this album, it's as if the arrival of a child has wrought a transformational magic. 'Watching The Wheels' is the contented father's defiance of a world so silly it thinks he could possibly have any role more important. And in 'Yes, I'm Your Angel', the parents enjoy a little recuperative time together. We reach the album's pivotal point, perhaps, in John's outstanding 'Woman' - a song that is often compared with his 'Girl' of 15 years earlier, as a measure of the man's personal development. In Yoko's 'Beautiful Boys' we hear a stirring message of encouragement for any man on such a path.
The remaining songs serve to consolidate this hard-won harmony. John's 'Dear Yoko', propelled by exuberant Buddy Holly gurgles, shines with the same pure joy as Imagine's 'Oh Yoko!'. Her own 'Every Man Has A Woman Who Loves Him' is similarly sweet. And her wistful 'Hard Times Are Over' draws the story to Its graceful conclusion - though its message is subtly qualified, we note, by the cautious addition of "for awhile" ...
There would, of course, be no further recordings issued in John Lennon's lifetime. It's true there were still some unheard songs, most notably on Double Fantasy's intended sequel Milk And Honey - but they were for another day. On December 9th, 1980, the world awoke to ponder what it had lost.
Thirty years has passed. And in 2010, the year of Lennon's 70th birthday, Yoko was happy to know that EMI was planning a big tribute to John. She wanted to do something very powerful to enhance the project. 'Stripdown,' she heard, was what musicians were doing now.
"That was right up John's alley. So I asked Jack Douglas, the co-producer of the original Double Fantasy, to join me to make this edition. Both Jack and I were the closest people to John when we were making the original Double Fantasy. I'm sure John's sudden passing was painful for Jack, too.
So we hadn't been in touch. But now I'm glad I reached to him this time. We worked well .. and fast, since we were both there for the original recording."
Stripped Down was re-mixed by Yoko and Jack Douglas in Avatar Studios in New York.
"I'm so glad I decided to do this." says Yoko. "I never liked the way songs were mixed in the 70s and the 80s, raising the tracks and burying the voice. In this Stripdown, John's voice comes across so powerfully. His voice, his diction, are all very clear in these remixes. His voice is going back to the days of John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. His soul was talking to you directly then. Now it is in Stripped Down. In that sense, this is the first Double Fantasy you'll be hearing ... with John's natural voice, and his lyrics clear as a bell. He is brilliant. No other rocker was ever able to come near him in his voice, his passion, and in his articulation. He is a modern day Shakespeare in his diction. And Stripped Down shows this."
John Lennon's singing voice really deserves to be heard in a pure state. It's Yoko's belief that John's thoughts and feelings - so timeless in their relevance - should sound as immediate as he wished his message to be. Experienced this way, the songs have much the same immediacy as his powerful solo debut John Lennon/ Plastic Ono Band. Freed from the legacy of sometimes dated technology, these are now recordings for today, and of course, for the future.
Double Fantasy A Heart Play
by John Lennon & Yoko Ono
DISC 1: STRIPPED DOWN
Produced and Remixed by Yoko Ono and Jack Douglas.
Remix Engineer: Jay Messina.
Assistant Engineer: Justin Gerrish
Mixed at Avatar Studios, New York City.
Re-Mix preparation at West End Sound NYC. AID transfers done at Sony Battery NYC.
Transfer Engineer: Tim Sturges.
Mastered by George Marino at Sterling Sound NYC.
A&R: Rob Stevens
DISC 2: ORIGINAL ALBUM
Produced by John Lennon, Yoko Ono and Jack Douglas.
Engineer: Lee DeCarlo.
Assistant Engineers: Jon Smith, James Ball, Julie Last.
Guitarists: John Lennon, Earl Slick (Courtesy of Columbia Records), Hugh McCracken.
Bass Guitar: Tony Levin.
Keyboards: John Lennon, George Small.
Drums: Andy Newmark.
Percussion: Arthur Jenkins, Jr.
Oberheim: Ed Walsh.
Voice: John Lennon, Yoko Ono.
Background Singers: Cas Mijac aka: Michelle Simpson, Cassandra Wooten, Cheryl Mason Jacks, Eric Troyer (Courtesy of Chrysalis Records), Benny Cummings Singers - Kings Temple Choir (Courtesy of New Birth Records).
Drum: Robert Greenidge on 'Beautiful Boy'.
Hammer Dulcimer: Matthew Cunningham on 'Watching The Wheels'.
English Concertina: Randy Stein.
Horn Players: Howard Johnson, Grant Hungetiord, John Parran, Seldon Powell, George 'Young' Opalisky, Roger Rosenberg, David Tofani, Ronald Tooley.
Musical Associate: Tony Davilio - also Horn Arrangement on 'Yes, I'm Your Angel'.
Production Assistants: Frederic Seaman, Toshihiro Hamaya
Recorded and Remixed at Hit Factory, New York.
Single Remix at Record Plant, New York.
Mastering at Sterling Sound, New York. Mastered by George Marino
Art Direction: John Lennon, Yoko Ono.
Artwork: Christopher Wharf/Art Hotel
All tracks © Lenono Music except 2, 4, 6,9,11, 13,14©Ono Music
Remaster Project Production Producer: Yoko Ono.
Remastered by George Marino at Sterling Sound, 2010.
Art direction by Yoko Ono.
New 2010 front & back cover drawings by Sean Lennon (based on photography by Kishin Shinoyama).
Design by Peacock.
Artwork Co-ordinator: Karla Merrifield.
Photo research: Xilonen Oreshnick
'Peace Brother' drawing by John Lennon
Sleeve notes by Paul Du Noyer.
Additional Photography: Bob Gruen, Nishi F. Saimaru, Kishin Shinoyama, David Spindel, Allan Tannenbaum
Gatefold images: John and Yoko leaving the Dakota, first day of recording - August 4, 1980: Paul Goresh
John and Yoko on 44th Street, last day of recording - December 6, 1980: © Bob Gruen/www.bobgruen.com
Special thanks to:
Starting with Jack Douglas, our original Co-producer, I'd like to thank him and the musicians who have been involved in the making of the original Double Fantasy. You were all brilliant and wonderful. I still love each one of you.
I would like to give a special thanks to David Geffen for giving John and I the freedom to make the album in the way we wanted to. This album would never have been made without your wisdom of allowing us to be us.
And thank you Sean, after many days of hesitation, you finally did the drawings for the front and back covers of this very special Stripped Down CD for your dad and your mom. All sorts of memory of that time came back to you, you said .. I know how hard it must have been. This is a thank you from me and your dad.
Finally, John. Thank you for having done the album with me, at the time of such importance for your career.
I was a very lucky woman. We made a bit of a mess out of our lives, didn't we? I know we never thought that. But we did. Though for you and me, it was grand all the way.
I love you! Yoko