Jealous Guy

Imagine album artwork - John LennonWritten by: Lennon
Recorded: 24 May, 4-5 July 1971
Producers: John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Phil Spector

Released: 8 October 1971 (UK), 9 September 1971 (US)

John Lennon: vocals, acoustic guitar
Nicky Hopkins: piano
Joey Molland: acoustic guitar
Tom Evans: acoustic guitar
John Barham: harmonium
Klaus Voormann: bass guitar
Jim Keltner: drums
Alan White: vibraphone
Mike Pinder: tambourine
The Flux Fiddlers: strings

Available on:
Power To The People - The Hits
John Lennon Anthology

One of John Lennon's best-known songs, Jealous Guy had its origins in The Beatles' 1968 trip to India, where they studied meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Jealous Guy - Imagine (Remastered)

The song was originally Child Of Nature, which Lennon taped a demo of at George Harrison's Esher bungalow before the recording sessions for the White Album.

My song, melody written in India. The lyrics explain themselves clearly: I was a very jealous, possessive guy. Toward everything. A very insecure male. A guy who wants to put his woman in a little box, lock her up, and just bring her out when he feels like playing with her. She's not allowed to communicate with the outside world - outside of me - because it makes me feel insecure.
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

The original lyrics were inspired by a lecture given by Maharishi about a "son of the mother nature", which also influenced Paul McCartney's song Mother Nature's Son. The similarity meant Child Of Nature was never seriously attempted by The Beatles, although it was performed during the Let It Be sessions in January 1969.

[Mother Nature's Son] was from a lecture of Maharishi where he was talking about nature, and I had a piece called I'm Just A Child Of Nature, which turned into Jealous Guy years later. Both inspired from the same lecture of Maharishi.
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

When Lennon began work on Imagine, he cast aside the 1968 lyrics and rewrote them about Yoko Ono. However, in an interview published in the February 1985 edition of Playgirl magazine, Paul McCartney revealed that Lennon wrote it with him in mind.

He used to say, 'Everyone is on the McCartney bandwagon.' He wrote 'I'm Just a Jealous Guy,' and he said that the song was about me. So I think it was just some kind of jealousy.
Paul McCartney

Although the lyrics appear to be about a relationship, if one reads them as being about McCartney it provides a revealing insight into Lennon's viewpoint on The Beatles' breakup, and a counterpoint to Imagine's How Do You Sleep?, Lennon's vitriolic attack on his former songwriting partner.

Jealous Guy was the last song John Lennon ever performed in public. In 1977 he stayed for two months in the presidential suite of Tokyo's Okura Hotel, while Yoko Ono was visiting relatives. One day he was playing an acoustic guitar and singing the song to himself, when a Japanese couple accidentally arrived in the suite after taking the elevator to the wrong floor.

The couple sat and listened as Lennon performed the song, after which they left and walked back to the elevator. Although nobody at the time knew it, this is believed to be the last time members of the public ever saw Lennon perform a song.

28 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.

  7. ja

    When people disagree its likely about what they’re thinking. How can one person disagree with what someone else says they are feeling? Respectfully, it seems impossible for one person to say they know without question what John was thinking — more possibly its a reflection of what that one person is feeling. Remember John kindly, he had a lot of good points.

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