PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Celebrating John Lennon’s 71st Birthday With Seven Underrated Songs

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.

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?

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.