Lennon and Ono had released their songs together on the same album before, but the balance was never as even as on Double Fantasy. Subtitled ‘A Heart Play’, the album largely alternated songs sung by each of the couple, although Lennon closed the first half and opened the second, and Ono’s Every Man Has a Woman Who Loves Him and Hard Times Are Over closed the album.
They decided to sign to David Geffen’s new label Geffen. Although it was well known in the music industry that Lennon had returned to studio recording, Ono wished the work to remain under wraps until the master tapes were ready.
Lennon later explained that Geffen was the only label head to agree to a deal without hearing the songs first. An alternative view, however, is that Geffen pleased the couple by agreeing to negotiate with Ono, whereas other labels were interested in only Lennon’s songs.
Lennon’s comeback was hotly anticipated by critics and consumers, and Lennon and Ono embarked upon a weighty promotional schedule. This focused mainly on the US broadcast and print media, and in the first few weeks on sale the album accordingly performed better there than in other countries.
Double Fantasy had its worldwide release on 17 November 1980. In the United Kingdom it made its chart début on 22 November at number 27, and the following week rose to 14. Thereafter it fell to positions 25 and 46, proving that the curious collection of songs of nostalgia, domestic contentment and disco wasn’t to everyone’s taste.
In the United States it fared better, charting at number 25 before rising to 12 and then 11. After Lennon’s death on 8 December 1980, however, the public quickly grew hungry for his music, and Double Fantasy rose from 11 to number one. It remained at the top of the chart for eight weeks.
In the United Kingdom it rose from 46 to number two, where it stayed for seven weeks, before peaking at number one for a fortnight from 7 February 1981.
The first single from the album, (Just Like) Starting Over, was also a worldwide chart-topper, and subsequent singles Woman and Watching The Wheels were also commercial successes.
Double Fantasy won the 1981 Grammy Award for Album of the Year. Yoko Ono received the award at a ceremony held on 24 February 1982.
Double Fantasy Stripped Down
In June 2010 it was announced that remasters of Lennon’s solo back catalogue would be reissued to commemorate his 70th birthday. One of the releases was Double Fantasy Stripped Down, a two-CD set featuring artwork by Sean Lennon.
Double Fantasy Stripped Down was released on 4 October 2010. The first disc contained the remastered album, while the second removed many of the earlier studio embellishments to present the songs in a simpler fashion. Produced by Yoko Ono and Jack Douglas, the remixed version was intended to bring Lennon’s vocals to the fore.
Double Fantasy Stripped Down really allows us to focus our attention on John’s amazing vocals. Technology has advanced so much that, conversely, I wanted to use new techniques to really frame these amazing songs and John’s voice as simply as possible. By stripping down some of the instrumentation the power of the songs shines through with an enhanced clarity. Double Fantasy Stripped Down will be complemented by the original album in the 2CD format. It was whilst working on the new version of this album that I was hit hardest emotionally, as this was the last album John released before his passing.