Not only as a member of one of the most well-loved bands in music history, but also as a solo artist, John Lennon managed to release a lot of great of music during his tragically short career. Though we instantly identify him with such hits as “Help!”, “I Am the Walrus”, “Imagine”, “Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)”, and more, let’s look at seven of his lesser-known songs. Despite their lack of fame, these songs give us a window into the world of a truly talented man, who would have turned 71 years old this Sunday.
Yes, “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” is a Beatles song, but despite the Lennon/McCartney copyright this song has John written all over it. What “Yesterday” is to Paul McCartney, I equate “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” to John. Both songs revealed to the world that these two aren’t just band members; they are future solo geniuses waiting to change the world with their music.
The vast majority of the lyrics to “Well Well Well” are just that. In fact, that phrase is repeated twelve times throughout the song. But when a song manages to be this catchy and well-played, the lyrics aren’t really that important. This is a jam.
Despite the fact that he once denounced Paul McCartney’s music as being merely “pizza and fairytales”, John Lennon could also describe love in simple terms. And in “One Day (At a Time)”, he does it surprisingly well. As to be expected, many critics rejected it (and the Mind Games album), but the song has one famous fan: Elton John. He covered the song and released it as the B side to another great cover: “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”.
I could go on and on about how underrated of an album Mind Games is and how it’s possibly his best album, but that’s not what we are here for. Instead, let’s bask in the awesomeness that is “Meat City”. (I know “awesomeness” isn’t really a word, but it seems fitting.) Music (and life) doesn’t always have to be so serious, sometimes we just need to rock out to something very well done, and “Meat City” fits that bill. Lennon pasted several fragments of separate songs to create this rocker, which became the B-side to the “Mind Games” single.
Recording sessions for 1975’s Rock N’ Roll album could be described as an out-of-control party, but Lennon certainly isn’t laughing it up on “Just Because”. Recorded during a trial separation from his wife, Lennon truly sounds heartbroken here, with a range of incredible anguish in his voice. Though the lyrics seem as if they were written by him or made for him, the song was originally released by Lloyd Price in 1957, where it stalled at No. 27 on the charts.
True Fact: “I’m Steppin’ Out” is the only John Lennon song to mention “Sesame Street”. (Although he does do a mean Cookie Monster impersonation at the end of “Hold On”.) Not to mention, it might also be the first song about being a stay-at-home dad (or as John called it, a househusband). His first recorded song after a five year break from the music business, you don’t have to be a celebrity fresh off of hiatus to get the energetic feeling behind this song. Oddly, “I’m Steppin’ Out” wouldn’t be released until 1984’s Milk & Honey. Even more odd was that it only reached No. 55 in the US singles’ chart. C’mon, people!
“I Don’t Want to Face It” was so underrated that John Lennon himself probably didn’t think too highly of it. Written in 1977 and recorded in 1980, it’s been said that he wanted Ringo Starr to record and release the song instead. But John’s peppy take on a song about depression and despair would eventually see the light of day on Milk & Honey.
But that’s just one opinion. Which seven songs would go in your playlist of lesser-known John Lennon songs?