Aisumasen (I’m Sorry)

Mind Games album artwork - John LennonWritten by: Lennon
Recorded: July-August 1973
Producer: John Lennon

Released: 16 November 1973 (UK), 29 October 1973 (US)

John Lennon: vocals, guitar
David Spinozza: guitar
Peter E 'Sneaky Pete' Kleinow: pedal steel guitar
Ken Ascher: keyboards
Gordon Edwards: bass guitar
Jim Keltner: drums

Available on:
Mind Games

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

Aisumasen (I'm Sorry) - Mind Games (Remastered)

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 Yoko 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

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.

6 responses on “Aisumasen (I’m Sorry)

  1. Tweeze

    This is one of the songs on this collection that should have lost the reverb entirely – or, at the very least, turned it way down. It is a strong and beautiful melody that should be heard, but John is hiding behind that effect – again. The entire ensemble of songs here suffer the same fate unfortunately. And, yes, most of us could do without the Yoko references because it eliminates the casual listener from really sharing in the result. As soon as he sings ‘Aisumasen Yoko-san’ the song is yanked away – also a fate of too many really great Lennon tunes. This song almost sounds like it’s about to come to a complete halt by the burden of the tempo and the ambiguous instrumental arrangements which don’t really wake up until the very end of the song. But this is a really good tune and John’s vocals are quite good even if buried under the mush. It’s too bad. I’d love to get my hands on the raw tapes and remix this.

  2. Bradley

    Gotta disagree, Tweeze. The reverb is a little heavy, yeah, but it’s still very effective in evoking the dreamy world that all of MIND GAMES is looking for. Remix it with a little less reverb if you must, but it’s the verb that sets up Spinozza’s solo so that it can RIP through with such clarity and precision. And invoking Yoko brings the listener right into Lennon’s world — it doesn’t push us away, it pulls us right into his most intimate world. This song would’ve been right at home on the White Album, and in fact Spinozza once told me that he was going for a bit of Octopus’s Garden in tone for the solo — surely one of the best guest solos on a Beatle or Post Beatle record. This song is an under-rated gem, a real masterpiece of melody, mood and brilliant performances all ’round, if a little to ‘verby.

  3. Eric

    I’m very much with you here Bradley.This is one of my all-time favourite John Lennon songs and (in a funny kind of way) I’m almost glad it goes un-noticed by so many as it feels like my little secret.

    As for your issues with the track Tweeze, how can referencing Yoko possibly garner such a strong reaction that it “yanks away” the song itself? Does that ethos run common for “Hey Jude”? My mother isn’t called Mary, but “Let It Be” doesn’t suffer for me. What about “Julia” on the White Album? Maybe it’s just an irrational (but not unique) emotion directed at the love of John’s life – Yoko?

    For me, being allowed into the acutely personal life of (arguably) the most important/influential men in modern times is the icing on an already delicious cake.

  4. Philo Beddoe

    I think he used too much reverb and should have left Yoko out also

    he used music as personal therapy instead of reaching out to us speaking to us and thinking of us it’s too self centered and looking back its a sad reflection of his pathetic mommy complex and inner weakness

    She was rather repulsive as a person controlling and a selfish egomaniac but poor Johnny didn’t have the proper Cajunas to meet the needs of a real woman instead he was the needy one ….sad

    He was a genius nonetheless but his earlier stuff was expressive without being too weepy and self centered

  5. Graham Paterson

    This is one of the highlights of the Mind Games album. As Joe says this is a real signpost to his separation from Yoko and the beginning of the Lost Weekend. A real lead in to what was to come on Walls and Bridges.

Leave a reply