Jealous Guy

Imagine album artwork - John LennonWritten by: Lennon
Recorded: 24 May, 4-5 July 1971
Producers: John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Phil Spector

Released: 8 October 1971 (UK), 9 September 1971 (US)

John Lennon: vocals, acoustic guitar
Nicky Hopkins: piano
Joey Molland: acoustic guitar
Tom Evans: acoustic guitar
John Barham: harmonium
Klaus Voormann: bass guitar
Jim Keltner: drums
Alan White: vibraphone
Mike Pinder: tambourine
The Flux Fiddlers: strings

Available on:
Imagine
Power To The People - The Hits
John Lennon Anthology

One of John Lennon's best-known songs, Jealous Guy had its origins in The Beatles' 1968 trip to India, where they studied meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Jealous Guy - Imagine (Remastered)


The song was originally Child Of Nature, which Lennon taped a demo of at George Harrison's Esher bungalow before the recording sessions for the White Album.

My song, melody written in India. The lyrics explain themselves clearly: I was a very jealous, possessive guy. Toward everything. A very insecure male. A guy who wants to put his woman in a little box, lock her up, and just bring her out when he feels like playing with her. She's not allowed to communicate with the outside world - outside of me - because it makes me feel insecure.
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

The original lyrics were inspired by a lecture given by Maharishi about a "son of the mother nature", which also influenced Paul McCartney's song Mother Nature's Son. The similarity meant Child Of Nature was never seriously attempted by The Beatles, although it was performed during the Let It Be sessions in January 1969.

[Mother Nature's Son] was from a lecture of Maharishi where he was talking about nature, and I had a piece called I'm Just A Child Of Nature, which turned into Jealous Guy years later. Both inspired from the same lecture of Maharishi.
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

When Lennon began work on Imagine, he cast aside the 1968 lyrics and rewrote them about Yoko Ono. However, in an interview published in the February 1985 edition of Playgirl magazine, Paul McCartney revealed that Lennon wrote it with him in mind.

He used to say, 'Everyone is on the McCartney bandwagon.' He wrote 'I'm Just a Jealous Guy,' and he said that the song was about me. So I think it was just some kind of jealousy.
Paul McCartney
Playgirl

Although the lyrics appear to be about a relationship, if one reads them as being about McCartney it provides a revealing insight into Lennon's viewpoint on The Beatles' breakup, and a counterpoint to Imagine's How Do You Sleep?, Lennon's vitriolic attack on his former songwriting partner.

Jealous Guy was the last song John Lennon ever performed in public. In 1977 he stayed for two months in the presidential suite of Tokyo's Okura Hotel, while Yoko Ono was visiting relatives. One day he was playing an acoustic guitar and singing the song to himself, when a Japanese couple accidentally arrived in the suite after taking the elevator to the wrong floor.

The couple sat and listened as Lennon performed the song, after which they left and walked back to the elevator. Although nobody at the time knew it, this is believed to be the last time members of the public ever saw Lennon perform a song.

13 responses on “Jealous Guy

  1. Elsewhere Man

    I was never a big fan of this song until I heard the Anthology version. The Imagine version’s good, but it’s a bit over produced with the strings and whistling and the whole Wall of Sound bit. A nice George Harrison slide guitar in place of the whistling (or humming on Anthology) would have been perfect.

      1. Elsewhere Man

        True enough. “Be My Baby,” “Then He Kissed Me,” and “River Deep And Mountain High” are true examples of the WoS. I just think that even being reigned in or “not being given his head” by John, Phil’s productions of “Jealous Guy” and “Imagine” are slightly over done. The harmonium on Anthology sounds better than the strings. John’s piano playing is too perfect on the album version while the lower octave, looser sounding piano on Anthology sounds terrific. Plus, I always love John’s warts-and-all vocals on his demo’s and early takes as much and sometimes more than on the finished records. He was too critical of his own singing. He was an egotistical prat about just about every one of his other talents (“I can make a guitar speak”), but when it came to his singing he was far too modest and never satisfied.

        Same with Paul. How anyone could be dissatisfied with “Oh! Darling” is beyond me…

  2. Scottmasson

    “Overdone” in reference to any production that goes beyond guitar, bass, vocals, and drums is one of the easiest, most over-used descriptions this side of 1955. Back in your grandparents and great grandparent’s era….recorded music was usually always orchestrated. Big Band, classical, dixieland, Hollywood, Tin Pan Alley, etc. People who fear orchestration are thick. “Imagine” and “jealous guy” are flawless productions on a musical level. They’re incredibly minimal, well-placed, and balanced. Don’t confuse your opinion with the truth.

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