One of John Lennon’s most melancholy songs, ‘Aisumasen (I’m Sorry)’ was a response to his faltering marriage to Yoko Ono in 1973.

In April 1971 Lennon recorded home demos of three songs: ‘Oh Yoko!’, ‘God Save Us’, and ‘Call My Name’. The first song was released on Imagine, the second was rewritten as a campaign song for Oz magazine, and the third remained unreleased.

Although incomplete, ‘Call My Name’ had the melody Lennon later used on ‘Aisumasen (I’m Sorry)’. Featuring Lennon on guitar and with Ono audible in the background, its lyrics were similar to the song later released on Mind Games. Interestingly, however, Lennon cast himself as the protector, whereas on ‘Aisumasen’ he portrayed himself as vulnerable and needing help.

When you’re down and you’re out
And there ain’t nothing you can do about it
I ease your pain girl – yes I ease your pain girl

Yes all you got to do is call my name
Yes all you have to do is call my name

‘Aisumasen (I’m Sorry)’

Another home demo of ‘Call My Name’ was recorded in late 1971. However, the lyrics didn’t suit the political themes that Lennon was working on for Some Time In New York City, and it remained on the shelf for the time being.

By 1973 “I’ll ease your pain” had become “aisumasen”, Japanese for “I’m sorry”. With Lennon’s marriage to Ono under threat in 1973 – he began his affair with May Pang around the time Mind Games was recorded – his confession of guilt was sincere and from the heart.

The change in tone was remarkable when compared with Lennon’s previous expressions of love towards Ono. Several songs on both John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Imagine were inspired by his love for his wife, but ‘Aisumasen (I’m Sorry)’ found him lost and adrift without her. The song effectively marked the beginning of the Lost Weekend, Lennon’s 18-month descent into alcohol-fuelled hedonism which ended with his reunion with Ono in 1975.

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