Imagine... All The Outtakes

John Lennon

Number

Year

Format

VT-118 to VT-120

1994

CD / CDR


   Special Features

Comes with a 32 page booklet and slipcase-style box.
  
Packaging:

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Box front  

Booklet front  

Box back  


Disc Variations:

CD

Gold CDR

CDR

"Silver" CDR

3 disc set - The CDs have the same images, but:
Disc 1 - Blue;    Disc 2 - Red;    Disc 3 - Purple
(Note: Discs that don't match the above color chart exist.)
 

The Booklet:

The booklet included with this title features the following information:

- Liner notes stolen by the folks at Vigotone (reproduced below)
- Various John Lennon quotes about the album's contents (reproduced below)

- Track notations (reproduced below)
- An interview with John & Yoko (about Imagine) from an unknown source (not reproduced)

 

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VT-118

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Front Cover

Back Cover

12 Tracks - Total Time: 48:43

The Alternate Album

1. Imagine  (Version 2 - take 1)    (3:14)
2. Crippled Inside  (Take 17)    (3:47)
3. Jealous Guy  (Take 2)    (4:25)
4. It's So Hard  (Take 2)    (2:28)
5. I Don't Wanna Be A Soldier Mama I Don't Wanna Die  (Take 2)   (5:37)
6. Gimme Some Truth     (Alternate vocal) (3:36)
7. Oh My Love  (Take 2)    (2:55)
8. How Do You Sleep?  (Alternate vocal)    (6:45)
9. How?  (Alternate vocal A)    (3:42)
10. Oh Yoko!  (Take 9)    (5:46)
11. "Just A Little Story..."   (Studio monologue)   (0:34)
12. Well (Baby Please Don't Go)  (Take 1)   (5:51)

 

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VT-119

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Front Cover

Back Cover

19 Tracks - Total Time: 68:23

The Outtakes

1. Imagine  (Take 1)   (3:07)
2. Imagine  (Take 2)   (2:55)
3. Imagine  (Take 3)   (3:11)
4. Imagine  (Alternate vocal)    (3:11)
5. Crippled Inside  (Take 2)    (3:49)
6. Jealous Guy (Take 1)   (4:12)
7. Jealous Guy  (Take 7)    (4:08)
8. Jealous Guy  (Take 20)    (4:13)
9. I Don't Wanna Be A Soldier Mama I Don't Wanna Die  (Take 1 with sax)   (5:46)
10. I Don't Wanna Be A Soldier Mama I Don't Wanna Die  (Alternate mix)   (5:53)
11. Oh My Love  (Alternate take 1A)    (2:48)
12. Oh My Love  (Alternate take 1B)    (2:50)
13. How?  (Take 12)   (3:49)
14. How?  (Alternate vocal B)    (3:43)
15. How?  (Original take 2)    (3:42)
16. Oh Yoko!  (Take 7)    (4:11)
17. I'm The Greatest  (Piano demo)    (2:42)
18. Imagine  (Rehearsal)    (2:57)
19. San Francisco Bay Blues  (Impromptu studio solo)   (1:15)

 

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VT-120

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Front Cover

Back Cover

18 Tracks - Total Time: 73:22

The Sessions

1. How Do You Sleep?  (Rehearsal 1)    (1:52)
2. Tuning Jam   (0:40)
3. How Do You Sleep?  (Rehearsal 2)    (4:22)
4. How Do You Sleep?  (Rehearsal 3)    (7:36)
5. How Do You Sleep?  (Version 2)    (5:46)
6. How Do You Sleep?  (Take 2)    (8:11)
7. How Do You Sleep?  (Version 3)    (6:34)
8. How Do You Sleep?  (Alternate vocal B)   (6:15)
9. Oh My Love  (Acoustic demo A - late 1968)   (1:26)
10. Oh My Love  (Acoustic demo B - late 1968)   (1:23)
11. How?  (Piano demo)    (4:33)
12. People Get Ready / How?  (Piano demo - late 1970 - early 1971)   (3:04)
13. Medley: How? / Child Of Nature / Oh Yoko!   (piano demo - late 1970 - early 1971)   (4:26)
14. Oh Yoko!  (Acoustic demo - mid 1969)    (4:37)
15. Oh Yoko!  (Piano demo - late 1970 - early 1971)   (0:57)
16. It's So Hard  (Sax overdub - 7/4/71 NYC)   (6:54)
17. I Don't Wanna Be A Soldier Mama I Don't Wanna Die  (Sax overdub - 7/4/71 NYC)   (4:25)
18. How Do You Sleep?  (Reprise)    (0:19)

 

'Imagine,' both the song itself and the album, is the same thing as 'Working Class Hero' and 'Mother' and 'God' on the first disc.   But the first record was too real for people, so nobody bought it.  It was banned on the radio.  But the song 'Imagine,' which says: "Imagine that there was no more religion, no more country, no more politics" is virtually the communist manifesto, even though I am not particularly a communist and I do not belong to any movement.  You see, 'Imagine' was exactly the same message, but sugar-coated.   Now 'Imagine' is a big hit almost everywhere — anti-religious, anti-nationalistic, anti-conventional, anti-capitalistic song, but because it is sugar-coated it is accepted.  Now I understand what you have to do.

- John Lennon

 

Liner Notes:

From the standpoint of the nineties, what's most remarkable about the Imagine album is the fact that it was all but recorded in a week at the Lennons' home studio.   John and Yoko then flew to the States for Phil Spector to supervise the overdubbing of strings, and the final vocal takes; then they returned home to shoot the material for their "Imagine" feature film, immediately began editing work, and then knocked off a double album for Yoko as an aside.

But Imagine was not the product of a single burst of energy and need which created Plastic Ono Band songs.  Its earliest composition, the delicate ballad "Oh My Love," dated back to late 1968.   Piano-based on the album, it was nonetheless firmly in the mould of Lennon's 1968/69 guitar picking songs, constructed around familiar ebb-and-flow melodic patterns.   Early takes of the song, heard before Spector added his New York sweetening, highlighted the delicate balance of the recording, with finger bells and a triangle supporting the fragile piano chords.

"Gimme Some Truth" had been premiered during the January 1969 Beatles sessions.  Since then, Lennon had heightened the song's biting invective, throwing in contemporary references to "Tricky Dicky" Nixon, provided a memorable three-note guitar riff to hold it together, snarled a tough, sneering lead vocal, and finally forced George Harrison to sum up the whole song with a precise and cutting guitar solo.  On the final take, Lennon howled out his final message - "All I want is the truth" - until the band ran out of steam, and he pronounced: "This is the truth."   In New York, Spector persuaded him to fade the track long before then, and so it didn't appear on the record.

"Jealous Guy" was the other vintage song on the Imagine album.   In this case, though, only the tune was familiar: Lennon had originally written it in India as "Child Of Nature," in which form it was still being vaguely considered by The Beatles as late as January 1969.  Its new words were another confession of guilt to Yoko which opened, suitably enough, "I was dreaming of the past."  The lyrics were as sincere and honest as anything on Lennon's previous album, and they offered a disarming glimpse of the macho ex-Beatle discovering feminism through an examination of his own faults.  Even before Spector added his New York strings, Lennon had duplicated their part with an organ; "Jealous Guy" was always meant to be lush.  Also added in New York was Lennon's delicate whistle over the final verse, which added another layer of vulnerability to his admission of wrong doing.

The shift in mood from "Jealous Guy" to "How Do You Sleep?" on the same record is the final proof of John's mercurial nature. "Sleep?" was a vicious assault on his ex-songwriting partner, which accused, judged and convicted him on counts of dishonesty, lack of talent, hypocrisy and - most heinous of all, it seemed - living with "straights" (unlike the ultra-avant garde Lennons, of course).   When the album came out, Lennon was unusually coy about the song - "I could have been writing about myself," he offered in his defense - but the lyrics pulled no punches.  Allen Klein, who had his own good reasons for disliking McCartney, added the sly couplet that rhymed "yesterday" with "another day," but the rest was Lennon's entirely unbalanced swipe at an old, dear friend - which is how (on "Dear Friend") McCartney chose to reply when he cut his next album at the end of 1971.

Once again, it was Spector who gave the piece a lasting artistic life.  Early takes of the song had lasted eight minutes or more, with Nicky Hopkins vamping away on electric piano, and George Harrison throwing in a delicious slide solo, apparently unperturbed by Lennon's address to their mutual ex-colleague, "How do you sleep, you cunt."  With Spector in command, the repeat of the first verse was chopped out, and Phil underscored the attack of the lyrics with the most vicious string sound every caught on record, which soared over the guitar boogie riffs before screeching to a halt at the end of each chorus.

Spector performed similar magic on "I Don't Want To Be A Soldier," a long, doomy rage against military madness and social expectations.  In its original form, "Soldier" sounded like a hybrid of "Cold Turkey" and "Well Well Well" - a raw funk riff churning beneath a muddy mesh of rhythm sound, before Lennon built up towards a catharsis that was only fulfilled when the say solo came roaring in.   Little of that drama survived on the record: in its place, Spector substituted a volcanic echo which makes Lennon sound as if he's performing from beyond the grave.

"It's So Hard" was an equally powerful performance, a conventional blues where the grittiness of the guitar riff which electrified the song was matched by the oriental-flavoured strings.  The lyrics took the burden of life-after-primal-therapy and stripped it down to the message of the title line, with Lennon growling out lines like "you gotta be somebody / you gotta worry" like a native New Yorker.  And like Buddy Holly on "Peggy Sue," Lennon played a guitar part that acted as both rhythm and lead, while the band laid down a minimalist backing.

Throughout the album sessions, Lennon recorded his initial guide vocals while the instrumental tracks were being taped, giving the music a live feel missing from most superstar sessions.  Nowhere does that vibe survive in better shape than on "Crippled Inside," a jaunty piece of rockabilly that gently took the rise out of Lennon's psychodramas on his previous album.  With honky-tonk piano and some startling dobro work (the latter from George Harrison), "Crippled Inside" was Lennon's most relaxed piece of music in years, an effective tribute to the country-blues rock 'n' roll which had inspired him in the fifties.

"Oh Yoko!" caught much of the same spirit, with Spector's production giving an unexpected richness to what was essentially a small band recording.  Spector also joined Lennon for the falsetto harmony vocals, having performed much the same function a few months earlier on George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord."  The basic mix of the song was much longer than the final cut, lacking the first harmonica solo and the backing vocals, though Lennon's final play-in-a-day excursion round his harmonica was there from take one.

"How?" was the Imagine song which came closest to the purity of the Plastic Ono Band album.  Having set the mood on his December 1970 demo, Lennon merely extended the song during the sessions, added the delicious middle section (which harked back to the self-encouragement of "Hold On") and letting the lyrics, with their series of unanswered questions, speak for themselves.  Spector added some tasteful strings, and some echo on the piano, while Lennon took the opportunity in New York to re-cut his rather hoarse lead vocal.

In terms of sound, "How?" was also a dry run for the Imagine title track itself.  On the first day of sessions at the Lennons' Tittenhurst Park Studios, John had taken the band aside and played brief piano renditions of the songs they were going to record.  As participants Jim Keltner and Nicky Hopkins both recall, "Imagine" stood out from the first, both for the power of its lyricism, and the haunting simplicity of its melody.

At this distance, it's hard to separate the song from the myth, which would have us believe that "Imagine" is Lennon's finest song, his ultimate statement of hope for the world.  The song's lyrical structure - a series of ideas each calling for imagination - is directly based on Yoko's book Grapefruit, which is why in later years Lennon admitted that he should have given Yoko a co-credit on the song, as he did on "Oh My Love."  In Yoko's art, the concept - the dream, if you like - is as important as the result.  Lennon wanted results as well, but he followed Yoko in believing that dreaming of a desired event made the event itself more likely.  The wider the dream, the more likely a change in the world: hence "I hope someday you'll join us / and the world will be as one."

There are countless alternate versions of "Imagine" in existence, but all of them simply capture the path to the finished arrangement, without shedding any fresh light on the song.  Before the strings were added in New York, however, and Spector pumped up the piano echo, "Imagine" sounded stark and strangely sinister, with the piano, bass and drums left dry on the tape, casting no shadow.  Like "How?," this halfway mix would have fitted onto a soundalike successor to the Plastic Ono Band album; but to increase the audience for his message, Lennon chose to allow Spector his head, coating the basic tracks with a thin veneer of sweetness which bridged the gap between cult acceptance and mass commercial appeal.

Though Lennon never intended to include non-original material on the finished album, he did use the Imagine sessions to record a studio take of "Well (Baby Please Don't Go);" the Walter Ward song which he'd performed a few weeks earlier with Frank Zappa and the Mothers in New York.  Freed from the need to convey a message, Lennon turned in a tight, intense piece of R&B, fuelled by a chugging sax riff, some "Cold Turkey" style guitar, and Plastic Ono Band rhythm section.  In between the repeated verses, he took control for a free-form guitar solo, its feel more important than the actual notes, before Bobby Keyes rekindled the spirit of The Coasters' records of the fifties with a King Curtis-like sax break.  "Well" was presumably cut as a potential B-side, but it remained unissued.

The only other outtake to have surfaced from the Imagine sessions was a much more spontaneous affair.  While the engineers set up for a new song, Lennon broke into an impromptu rendition of Jesse Fuller's vintage "San Francisco Bay Blues;" complete with authentic acoustic blues picking.
  

The above text was written by an unknown writer under the pseudonym John Robertson.  We have used this text without the knowledge of Mr. "Robertson," but we want to acknowledge his expertise and give him credit for his impeccable research and insights.  If you are a fan of John Lennon, and you must be if you have this set, do yourself and Mr. "Robertson" a favor and get a copy of his fascinating book The Art Of John Lennon, if you don't already own one.  We guarantee you will love it!

 

"'Imagine' was a sincere statement.   It was 'Working Class Hero' with chocolate on."

- John Lennon

 

"'How Do You Sleep'... was like Dylan doing 'Like A Rolling Stone,' one of his nasty songs.  It's using somebody as an object to create something.  I wasn't really feeling that vicious at the time, but I was using my resentment towards Paul to create a song.  Let's put it that way.   It was just a mood.  Paul took it the way he did because it obviously, pointedly refers to him, and people just hounded him about it, asking, 'How do ya feel about it?'  But there were a few little digs on his albums, which he kept so obscure that other people didn't notice 'em, you know, but I heard them.  So I just thought, Well, hang up obscure!  I'll just get right down to the nitty-gritty."

- John Lennon

 

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