Released: 8 October 1971 (UK), 9 September 1971 (US)
Appearing directly after the vitriolic ‘How Do You Sleep?’ on the Imagine album, How? showed the other side of John Lennon: insecure, uncertain and unafraid to reveal his weaknesses to the world.
Lyrically, How? would not have been out of place on the soul-baring John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. It shows Lennon struggling for meaning after The Beatles’ disintegration and Primal Therapy left him exposed and vulnerable, attempting to make sense of his fame, status and relationships.
Musically, jettisons the raw production of Plastic Ono Band, in favour of the “chocolate coating” of Imagine. The performance, too, is more sophisticated than the raw rock ‘n’ roll of its predecessor, with stop-start syncopated beats mirroring Lennon’s uncertainty over which way to turn.
A series of home demo versions of How? were recorded by Lennon on piano in late 1970. The recording sees Lennon toying with the verses, with the lyrics undergoing some changes before he entered the studio. In the demo, Lennon ruefully sings: “How can I go home when home is something I have never had?”
The middle eight, too, was missing from the demo, and when written provided a solitary note of positivity in an otherwise unremittingly rueful performance. How? remains one of Lennon’s most affecting and effective solo recordings.