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.

John Lennon: Rock 'n' Roll

Adam Williams

John Lennon

Rock 'n' Roll

Label: Capitol
US Release Date: 2004-11-02
UK Release Date: 2004-09-27

There is a widening chasm between the necessity of re-releasing classic albums and the compulsion to feed off the bleached bones of departed icons. With the former, conventional marketing logic follows that an album's importance will be revisited with quality bonus material, including extra tracks and enhanced liner note essays. With the latter, the re-release is a poorly disguised attempt to push product on name recognition alone, a practice that smacks of gratuitous opportunism, particularly when the album in question does not merit re-release status.

Such is the case with Rock 'n' Roll, an interesting, albeit unspectacular recording from John Lennon's mid-'70s solo career. Five years removed from the official demise of the Beatles, Lennon had established himself as a quirky musical activist, and the antithesis of his Fab Four persona. Somewhat eccentric, but always outspoken and creative, Lennon released a solo album each of the previous years, with overall mixed results. The perplexing Plastic Ono Band recordings were balanced by more accessible material from Imagine and Mind Games, as Lennon had the personal and professional clout to do what he chose, irrespective of the end result or prevailing public opinion.

With Rock 'n' Roll, Lennon stepped back into his past and saluted some of his own musical heroes. The original album featured a baker's dozen of tracks, each finding Lennon in apparent good humor, jamming and enjoying the studio moments. As with his previous individual efforts, however, Lennon lacked consistency, on the mark as often as he was off. The energized renditions of "Be-Bop-A-Lula" and "Peggy Sue" are tempered by bloated orchestrations of "Ain't That a Shame" and "Do You Want to Dance?", while the slow motion take on "Bony Maronie" is not exactly enjoyable. The most noteworthy aspect of the album was the involvement of Phil Spector, whose mere presence assured controversy. Although not behind the console for every track, Spector's fingerprints are obvious throughout, contributing further to the overall haphazard feel of the production.

Consistent with the pedestrian stature of the album is the reissue inclusion of a paltry four bonus tracks, all of which add nothing of discernible value. In actuality, the tracks tarnish Lennon's efforts as they are, for the most part, ponderous, with "To Know Her Is to Love Her" entering the sonic region of excruciating. An album of promising tributes seemingly veered off into self-absorbed excess, with the former Beatle indulging himself unnecessarily.

As Rock 'n' Roll is not one of Lennon's finest moments, its greatest appeal lies with his most ardent supporters, those who enjoy hearing their hero creating for the sake of creating. Thus, the reissued version will be attractive to such loyalists inclined to purchase any previously unreleased track or rarity, although it offers a minimal amount of extras. For everyone else however, Rock 'n' Roll is not a mandatory part of their respective collections, and relegates the reissue to afterthought status.

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.