John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album artworkWritten by: Lennon
Recorded: c.26 September - 23 October 1970
Producers: John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Phil Spector

Released: 11 December 1970

John Lennon: vocals, piano
Billy Preston: piano
Klaus Voormann: bass guitar
Ringo Starr: drums

Available on:
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
John Lennon Anthology

On his debut solo album John Lennon closed the book on many aspects of his past. Much of the record was devoted to his troubled relationship with his parents, but The Beatles - in many ways his surrogate family throughout the 1960s - still loomed large in his life and career. On the song God he finally broke the spell, telling the world that the dream was over with his stark revelation: "I don't believe in Beatles".

God - Plastic Ono Band (Remastered)

John Lennon always had ambivalent feelings towards religion. His 1966 claim that "We're more popular than Jesus" had caused eruptions of anti-Beatles sentiment across the world, and the chorus of 1969's The Ballad Of John And Yoko led to further disquiet over its use of the word 'crucify'.

Other references were less overt. In his lengthy 1970 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Lennon explained that the Rubber Soul song Girl explored his fascination with religion.

I was just talking about Christianity in that - a thing like you have to be tortured to attain heaven. I'm only saying that I was talking about 'pain will lead to pleasure' in Girl and that was sort of the Catholic Christian concept - be tortured and then it'll be all right, which seems to be a bit true but not in their concept of it. But I didn't believe in that, that you have to be tortured to attain anything, it just so happens that you were.
John Lennon, 1970
Lennon Remembers, Jann S Wenner

God, the penultimate song on John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, was composed in Los Angeles while Lennon was undergoing Primal Scream therapy.

He rented a house in Bel Air, which is a very ritzy area here, and we talked about things. He said: 'What about God?' and I would go on and on about [how] people who have deep pain generally tend to believe in God with a fervency. And he said: 'Oh, you mean God is a concept by which we measure our pain.' Just bang. I would go all around it and he was there, just like that. And that was John. John could take very profound philosophical concepts and make it simple.
Dr Arthur Janov
Classic Albums: Plastic Ono Band

Lennon recorded several demos of God in the house on Nimes Road, Bel Air, where he stayed during his course of therapy. One of the recordings was included on 2004's Acoustic album. Playing a distorted acoustic guitar, Lennon began with a semi-spoken introduction in the style of a gospel preacher.

I had a mission from above. And I'm here to tell you that this message concerns our love. The angels must have sent me to deliver this to you. Now hear me now, brothers and sisters.

Some of the words were different in the demos: Zimmerman was known as Dylan, and the phrase "Yoko and me" was absent. The "dream is over" section was also missing; instead Lennon sang the verse and litany once again.

Like a lot of the words, they just came out of me mouth. It started off like that. God was stuck together from three songs almost. I had the idea, 'God is the concept by which we measure our pain'. So when you have a [phrase] like that, you just sit down and sing the first tune that comes into your head. And the tune is the simple [sings] 'God is the concept - bomp-bomp-bomp-bomp' 'cause I like that kind of music. And then I just rolled into it. [Sings] 'I don't believe in magic' - and it was just going on in me head. And I Ching and the Bible, the first three or four just came out, whatever came out.

I don't know when I realised I was putting down all these things I didn't believe in. I could have gone on, it was like a Christmas card list - where do I end? Churchill, and who have I missed out? It got like that and I thought I had to stop... I was going to leave a gap and say, just fill in your own, for whoever you don't believe in. It just got out of hand. But Beatles was the final thing because it's like I no longer believe in myth, and Beatles is another myth. I don't believe in it. The dream's over. I'm not just talking about The Beatles is over, I'm talking about the generation thing. The dream's over, and I have personally got to get down to so-called reality.

John Lennon, 1970
Lennon Remembers, Jann S Wenner

8 responses on “God

  1. Graham Paterson

    A John Lennon masterpiece off his greatest album. Wonderful how this song builds and builds. Lennons great singing with fine piano work by Billy Preston. The message on it obviously shocked a lot of people at the time.

  2. Jan

    Lennon for me by writing this (and Anyway) was Close(r) to GOD,
    God within US all Speaks the Truth,
    Lennon also wrote All I want is the Truth…
    For me he was Part of Our Journey Surching our way Out of here, Planet Pain… etc
    He invites us to go Home , Remember us Going home , 2 of us also and All You Need is Love ALLL Inspired by Holy Spirit
    or God, But in the True way God Loves us to Hear, and Remember our True Home… THANXX SO MUCH Brother JOHN
    I Never forget You and See You in Heaven!!
    Grtz Jan
    I Paint the Light You sing about Dear John

  3. Drew

    As a big John fan, I find myself feeling somewhat uncomfortable with this song, which comes as a surprise to me. I like the overall sentiment but it becomes too gratuitously sentimental at the end I feel, with the lines about him now being John and repeatedly saying the dream is over. I hope I haven’t committed blasphemy in saying that, it’s just a personal feeling, but I’ve yet to see it reiterated elsewhere online so perhaps that’s just me. Yes the Beatles broke up, but I don’t feel it needed to become some narrative. If anything, this song feeds into that myth.

  4. John E Beal

    So did John the musical genius embrace the belief that the there is a Holy Great Spirit of Love that exists in a place not accessible by mortal means ????

    1. Bozo

      Nevermiiiiimd (Gilda R.) The Beatles used lyrics “God and heaven” and John L walked the path of this life gracefully; with peace, love, serenity and musical talent better than most of us. I shall continue listening to Beatle music during my recovery. May the Great Love Spirit pour Love, peace and serenity on all his love children this Holliday season! Ancient Serene Choctaw Hippie signing off. People who hate people will never know the Creator, cuz the Creator is Love. All we need is Love. Rock on

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