In the studio
Among the musicians present for the recording were Joey Molland and Tom Evans from Badfinger. The band received a telephone call from Lennon’s chauffeur asking if they’d be interested in taking part.
He said, ‘John Lennon’s doing his new album and he wants to know if a couple of you guys could come down and play a little guitar?’ We said, ‘Well, you know… okay, I guess.’ I mean who wants to go to John Lennon’s house? I mean ‘Who cares?’ It was a bit of a scene because, who was it going to be? Was it Pete and Tom? Or Tommy and Joey? Well I was definitely going. That was it, I was gone. I mean this guy’s the greatest writer we’ve had. It was quite difficult even getting dressed…
We cruised down to Lennon’s place in Surrey. He had a beautiful estate there and his house was very different. Instead of paintings and things he had hammers and screwdrivers hanging on the wall in frames, black carpets everywhere. There was a stepladder where you climbed up and looked through a magnifying glass on the ceiling. It said, ‘YES’. We spent about half an hour in a daze looking at all his stuff, the jukebox, the Sgt Pepper room, his magic stuff…
Finally, in walks John Lennon and he’s really bug-eyed, really gone – ‘Hello everybody!’ He was shouting. It was eleven o’clock at night and he’d just gotten out of bed. There was a bunch of people there: Nicky Hopkins, Klaus Voormann, Jim Keltner, Mike Pinder and he was really brusque with us, really almost rude, but not rude. I was just in awe, just ga-ga. Then he sits down on the stool and starts playing Jealous Guy and I’m so flabbergasted I can’t play. He was singing and I’m literally astounded, ‘It sounds like John Lennon.’
So we recorded acoustic guitars on that and John said, ‘You can fuck off now if you’d like.’ Of course he wasn’t being like, ‘Fuck off.’ It was like, ‘Do what you like.’ … One of the most exciting nights of me life.
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Mike Pinder from The Moody Blues was also invited to play the Mellotron, but the instrument proved temperamental and so he played tambourine instead.
Prior to one of the takes, Lennon announced: “Here’s a message to all Northern Song shareholders. Here’s another half-million.”
The strings were overdubbed in early July 1971 at Record Plant East in New York City. They were performed by The Flux Fiddlers, members of the New York Philharmonic.
Jealous Guy was not issued as a single in the UK or US in Lennon’s lifetime. However, as with all the Imagine songs, a video was made in 1971. It featured studio footage of Lennon singing the song, interspersed with film of Lennon and Ono travelling by hearse to a lake in the grounds of their Tittenhurst Park home. The couple were then shown boarding a rowing boat on the lake. The outdoor sequence was mostly filmed overhead from a helicopter.
In November 1985 Parlophone released it in the United Kingdom with ‘Going Down On Love’ on the b-side. The single reached number 65 in the charts.
In the United States the song was released as a single in 1988, and peaked at number 80 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Jealous Guy remains one of John Lennon’s most-covered songs. Perhaps the most notable version is Roxy Music’s, which was released in February 1981 with the words “A tribute” on the sleeve. It became the band’s only UK number one hit, spending two weeks at the top of the charts in March 1981.