Jealous Guy

In the studio

Jealous Guy - Imagine (Remastered)

Jealous Guy was recorded on 24 May 1971 at Ascot Sound Studios, the eight-track facility John Lennon had installed at his Tittenhurst Park mansion he shared with Yoko Ono.

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.

Joey Molland
Without You: The Tragic Story Of Badfinger, Dan Matovina

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.

Chart success

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.

27 responses on “Jealous Guy

  1. Elsewhere Man

    I was never a big fan of this song until I heard the Anthology version. The Imagine version’s good, but it’s a bit over produced with the strings and whistling and the whole Wall of Sound bit. A nice George Harrison slide guitar in place of the whistling (or humming on Anthology) would have been perfect.

      1. Elsewhere Man

        True enough. “Be My Baby,” “Then He Kissed Me,” and “River Deep And Mountain High” are true examples of the WoS. I just think that even being reigned in or “not being given his head” by John, Phil’s productions of “Jealous Guy” and “Imagine” are slightly over done. The harmonium on Anthology sounds better than the strings. John’s piano playing is too perfect on the album version while the lower octave, looser sounding piano on Anthology sounds terrific. Plus, I always love John’s warts-and-all vocals on his demo’s and early takes as much and sometimes more than on the finished records. He was too critical of his own singing. He was an egotistical prat about just about every one of his other talents (“I can make a guitar speak”), but when it came to his singing he was far too modest and never satisfied.

        Same with Paul. How anyone could be dissatisfied with “Oh! Darling” is beyond me…

  2. Scottmasson

    “Overdone” in reference to any production that goes beyond guitar, bass, vocals, and drums is one of the easiest, most over-used descriptions this side of 1955. Back in your grandparents and great grandparent’s era….recorded music was usually always orchestrated. Big Band, classical, dixieland, Hollywood, Tin Pan Alley, etc. People who fear orchestration are thick. “Imagine” and “jealous guy” are flawless productions on a musical level. They’re incredibly minimal, well-placed, and balanced. Don’t confuse your opinion with the truth.

  3. Scott

    I heard this song in a movie about the Beatles, in which there was a love triangle between Stuart, Astrid & John. John was jealous. He liked Astrid too. But she fell in love w/Stu – & then Stu left The Beatles to be w/ Astrid. Which made sense to me w/ the lyrics. Collective Soul does a good version of this song.

  4. Graham Paterson

    One of the best songs off the great Imagine album. Beautiful piano work by Nicky Hopkins, especially at the beginning. John Lennon at his most vulnerable. I love the whistling.One of the highlights of the film Imagine is where it shows the recording of this. Like the title song Imagine, a great collaborative production between he and Phil Spector. Always conjecture about who this song is about ,Yoko? Paul? Either way this is one of Lennon’s best.I love Roxy Musics 1981 cover of this, released as tribute after his death. Magnificent.

  5. Anna

    With Cynthia recently passing, my thoughts have been going to her. And I can’t help but to think this song is about her. I mean, John was possessive over her and the lyrics seem more about Cynthia rather than Paul or Yoko.

    1. sertaneja

      However, John himself told Paul it was about him. It seems the problem is only because it is a romantic song. People are homophobic, we know. Most people are. But those who feel uncomfortable, ( I don’t) remove the romantic bit. After all is quite possible to add something romantic only for being more popular. Also to let Yoko think it was for her. LOL Anyway, it makes sense to be about Paul. They were fighting. John was terribly rude composing How to do you sleep. Deep inside they both liked each other in spite of all problems. Very natural to include another song saying he was sorry, and he didn’t mean to hurt him. It’s totally acceptable.Much more sense than for Cynthia, who was not with him anymore. John used to write only about what he was living at that moment. But of course, though he had Paul in mnd ( if Paul told so I see no reason to doubt) he could also have thought about everybody else he hurt in his life.


    Wait, where is “Child of Nature” on Anthology? It wasn’t on any of the original 3. Also, I think most of you all are thinking too narrowly. John Lennon was a brilliant, complex person(duh). As a songwriter, the meaning of your lyrics are often directed or more accurately sourced from a variety of inspirations. My opinion is the song, or parts of it, ARE about Paul (new idea I had never heard but makes sense), and definitely about Cynthia, and definitely about Yoko, and other women he had been with in his life. So, it can also be looked as an apology from him to all the women in his life, and thus women in general. That’s often how lyrics work. True, obviously, sometimes you’re obsessed with one person or subject, but otherwise it gets grey quickly, and you don’t even know yourself necessarily where it all came from, where one influence ends and another begins. A lot of song- (or any kind of) writing is inspired by all sorts of things, consciously and subconsciously. Sometimes the writer themselves may not realize until afterwards, sometimes years later, exactly what was going on in their mind, or emotionally. I find lyrics (especially in the case of someone like Lennon, who’s writing was SO from the heart) are often more about what you’re feeling than thinking, and that makes the waters much muddier if you’re truly honest with yourself.

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