Double Fantasy

Double Fantasy - John Lennon and Yoko OnoRecorded: 6 August-13 October 1980
Producers: John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Jack Douglas

Released: 17 November 1980

John Lennon: vocals, electric guitar, keyboards
Earl Slick, Hugh McCracken: electric guitar
Tony Levin: bass guitar
George Small: keyboards
Michelle Simpson, Cassandra Wooten, Cheryl Mason Jacks, Eric Troyer: backing vocals
Howard Johnson, Grant Hungerford, John Parran, Seldon Powell, George 'Young' Opalisky, Roger Rosenberg, David Tofani, Ronald Tooley: horns
Matthew Cunningham: hammer dulcimer
Andy Newmark: drums
Robert Greenridge: steel drum
Arthur Jenkins: percussion

Double Fantasy Stripped Down (Remastered) - John Lennon & Yoko Ono

(Just Like) Starting Over
Kiss Kiss Kiss
Cleanup Time
Give Me Something
I'm Losing You
I'm Moving On
Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)
Watching The Wheels
I'm Your Angel
Beautiful Boys
Dear Yoko
Every Man Has A Woman Who Loves Him
Hard Times Are Over

John Lennon's comeback album after five years out of the public eye, Double Fantasy was also the last to be released in his lifetime.

His career break had come about after his 1974 reunion with Yoko Ono, whom he had separated from in the previous year. He had pulled himself back from the excesses of the Lost Weekend, had settled his court case with Morris Levy over plagiarism charges, and after issuing the hits collection Shaved Fish in October 1975 he found himself without a record deal for the first time since 1962.

That month also saw the birth of his second son, Sean, and Lennon gratefully took the opportunity to devote time to bringing him up, to re-evaluate his lifestyle and contemplate the future. The business-minded Ono became the main breadwinner in the household, while Lennon became the bread-maker.

There is great satisfaction. I took a Polaroid of my first loaf. I was overjoyed! I was that excited by it. I couldn't believe it! It was like an album coming out of the oven. The instantness of it was great...

But then it was beginning to wear me out, you see. I thought, What is this? Screw this for a lark. I'd made two loaves on Friday and they'd be gone by Saturday afternoon. The thrill was wearing off and it bcame the routine again. So the joy is still there when I see Sean. He didn't come out of my belly but, by God, I made his bones, because I've attended to every meal, and to how he sleeps, and to the fact that he swims like a fish.

John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

It was a role he relished, at least temporarily. Househusbandry proved a welcome break from the mayhem that had enveloped Lennon for most of his adult life, but he quickly became bored, an inertia which often resulted in depression.

Although Lennon continued writing music throughout his house husband period, the absence of a record deal left him with a series of half-completed sketches. Unable to read or write music, he recorded many demo tapes of these compositions, but often lacked the discipline necessary to finish them.

Nonetheless, these fragmentary works formed the basis for many of his songs on Double Fantasy and its posthumous follow-up, Milk And Honey. In 1980 interviews Lennon claimed that the songs came to him in a sudden burst of creativity, but the truth is somewhat more prosaic: the songwriting muse never left him and he continued making music right through his temporary retirement.

Yoko Ono encouraged him to travel, in an attempt to fend off his listlessness. He visited Hong Kong, South Africa, Egypt and Florida, but the most significant was a two-month trip to Bermuda in June 1980. He sailed there with a small crew on board a 43-foot sloop, the Megan Jaye,

During the journey the ship encountered a mid-Atlantic storm, and the boat was pounded by 20-foot waves. The crew members each succumbed to seasickness, leaving Lennon and the ship's captain Hank Halstead above deck. After two days at the wheel Halstead needed to sleep and left Lennon in charge.

Lennon had some previous experience of sailing, and Halstead remained with him for an hour to ensure he was familiar with the ship's controls. Once alone on the deck, Lennon found the experience a transformative one.

I was there driving the boat for six hours, keeping it on course. I was buried under water. I was smashed in the face by waves for six solid hours. It won't go away. You can't change your mind. It's like being on stage; once you're on there's no gettin' off. A couple of the waves had me on my knees. I was just hanging on with my hands on the wheel - it's very powerful weather - and I was having the time of my life. I was screaming sea chanteys and shoutin' at the gods! I felt like the Viking, you know, Jason and the Golden Fleece. I arrived in Bermuda. Once I got there, I was so centered after the experience at sea that I was tuned in, or whatever, to the cosmos. And all these songs came!
John Lennon

The experience revitalised Lennon, and a visit to a nightclub, where he was struck by the similarity of the B-52s' Rock Lobster to some of Ono's recordings, gave him the impetus to return to the studio. He recorded a number of complete demos in Bermuda, which were intended as reference works for the session musicians he recruited for his first original album in five years.

In Bermuda Lennon also found a title for the collection. Double Fantasy was the name of a freesia, and appealed to Lennon's concept for the album: presenting his songs alongside Ono's, a collection celebrating their lives together and offering themselves once again to the world.

13 responses on “Double Fantasy

  1. Tweeze

    I don’t play this album because it takes me right back to that time and then I have to relive it. I had just retired for the evening and my phone rings. My mother, so very aware of my total idolization of the Beatles and, especially, John, was on the other end, “I just heard some news that John Lennon was shot.” All I could think was, “Why would anyone want to do that?” I flipped on my radio and that was the only thing on the news, “John Lennon is dead.”
    I had plans to visit New York in January of ’81 to do exactly what I’d been wanting to do since the mid ’60s – go meet John – just shake his hand. Then this – it must be some kind of cosmic joke. Even until today I am entirely stunned. This bothered me – indeed – but then a recording source in Louisiana had informed me that John and Paul had been social of late and were, indeed, considering seriously working together though not necessarily in a Beatle capacity. That possibility alone, and I like to think it was true, makes this album harder to listen to.
    I wasn’t terribly impressed with John’s work here but it wasn’t embarassing either. I’m one of the apparently rare people who like Yoko’s work, though there are times when she probably shouldn’t sing. “Woman” edges very nicely toward early Beatles’ in atmosphere while “Dear Yoko” ends up sounding like what John should have been doing on the rest of the album – letting it hang loose and having fun. “Every Man Has A Woman….” is the one that is the hardest for me to shake. The melody is peculiarly haunting and, on this version, John and Yoko’s harmonies work very well. Interesting lyrics here.

  2. kezron9

    Hey why did John claim to have lost his muse? Is he meaning that he didn’t have the urge to release music? I read the books by his assistant Fred Seamen and the tarot advisor Charlie Swan ( John Green) and they claim he lost his muse also basically quoting John. But I’ve heard the great demos from 76-80. Mostly the ones from 79-80 ended up on DF. But many of the songs are in rough from, but the melody and music is almost the same on double fantasy. Also the song topics are basically there too with many of the lyrics being present also on the demo. I think in Bermuda he fully completed these song but I dont consider that losing your muse just lack of motivation. Any with input? Many of the demos are on youtube and are fantastic.

    1. Julian

      Well, John tended to exaggerate a lot in interviews, so he might say that all the songs SUDDENLY came to him in Bermuda, but the truth of the matter is he has been working on them for a while. What’s sudden about it is that in Bermuda John finally decided to take those demos to the studio and make an album. Suddenness is true but in a slightly different way.

      1. Jack

        Indeed there is a clear example of this in the movie ‘Let it Be’ where joins appears to be pretending to write the lyrics of ‘across the universe’ on the hoof when in fact he had recorded a version of this song more than a year previously.

  3. GK

    “Its hard to listen to this album without thinking of when it came out, and then being left with it after he died, it has so many memories.
    In the summer of 1980, I saw a photo of John and Yoko coming out of the Hit Factory in New York in the newspaper. Not been seen hardly for 5 years, and there he is, “cool” as you like with a brief case and hat. A new album on the way after people saying he would never record again…..
    Hearing the lead single “Just Like Starting Over” which got some mixed reviews, hearing it for the first time was great anticipation! I got the album on release, “Clean up time” (the only JL track from DF not on the John Lennon Collection) is a good “funkyish” guitar track, with great lines like “no friends and yet no enemies”. “I’m losing You” was a personal favourite, great vocal, good track, biting lyrics all the way through,”Beautiful Boy” is a classic, always moves me as a song.”Watching the Wheels” was class in 1980, and still sounds so after so many years. I never liked the “Dear Yoko” track, thought it was a little corny…….”Woman” was and is beautiful, a mature Lennon track.
    These were and are matched with the Yoko tracks that sounded very upfront on production, and I read a review at the time that said they were more advanced than John’s.”Kiss Kiss” was on the b side of “Starting Over”, a strong track, I like “I’m Moving On”, “Beautiful Boys” has good lyrics, linking in John at 40 and Sean at 4, and the dangers of “Boys toys” and “war mongering” (could apply to today couldn’t it?). There are one or two others that were emotive at the time, but less so now.
    The new cd has the “Help me to help myself”,demo, an undiscovered little “gold nugget” from John…..full of premonition…..
    The sadness with what happened to JL, quite apart from the personal tragedy, was the fact that JL still had more songs, he would have developed as he got older, not to say he would have got better, just different, and no less interesting.
    Sonically, “Double Fantasy” (still a great title!) sounds fantastic!”

  4. Hammer 109

    There are songs on this album I love as much as any of Lennon’s works. Not crazy about “Clean Up Time,” which is heavy handed and kind of abrasive. But “Starting Over,” “Watching the Wheels,” “Dear Yoko,” “Woman” and, of course, “Beautiful Boy,” are all great. Lennon really puts his heart into these lyrics. Yoko’s songs also work for me for the most part. She tones it down just enough but they are still interesting. Ah, John. Almost 35 years later and we still miss you so much.

  5. Graham Paterson

    In late 1980 the news that John Lennon was releasing a new album after a hiatus brought massive anticipation. I remember hearing (Just Like) Starting Over on the radio and loving it. That song Woman, Watching The Wheels,Clean Up Time and the utterly poignant and sad,(for obvious reasons), Beautiful Boy are great songs. I got this album the following March after Lennons tragic death for my birthday. No wonder Paul McCartney picked Beautiful Boy as a Desert Island Disc. So much hope and renewal cruelly taken away weeks after its release.

  6. David (from Peru)

    I’ve just posted a video on YouTube with a mix between Imagine and Watching The Wheels (the Double Fantasy Stripped Down version). Both songs are great and share many (harmonic) similarities, so I said “It’s easy if you try”, worked for 8 hours straight with Audacity and made this little mixed version (WtW as the backing track + Imagine vocals). Hope you can check it out! It is at: /watch?v=HrIsTWyMNQg

  7. Graham Paterson

    Six weeks or so ago when I made my comments on Double Fantasy, it was remiss of me to not mention I’m Losing You. It is one of the best songs on the album. Great lead guitar and Lennon’s lyrics and vocals are great.

  8. Aaron Clausen

    There’s some good material here, even some of Yoko’s songs are fairly listenable. But in general, when compared against Plastic Ono Band and Imagine, and even Walls and Bridges, it’s pretty pedestrian. The sole exception is Losing You, which carries the signature of John’s ascerbic side. Double Fantasy’s greatness comes from the tragedy that too soon followed its release. Like Sgt. Pepper, it’s reputation is as much about the historical context as about the songs.

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