John Lennon: vocals, electric guitar
Earl Slick, Hugh McCracken: electric guitar
Tony Levin: bass guitar
George Small: keyboards
Michelle Simpson, Cassandra Wooten, Cheryl Mason Jacks, Eric Troyer: backing vocals
Andy Newmark: drums
Arthur Jenkins: percussion
As with The Beatles’ ‘I Am The Walrus’ and ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’, and Lennon’s solo album track ‘God’, ‘(Just Like) Starting Over’ was made from three unfinished songs. These were written by Lennon in 1979 and 1980, and finished as one shortly before the Double Fantasy sessions began in August 1980.
‘My Life’ provided the basis for the introduction; ‘Don’t Be Crazy’ was adapted for the middle section; and ‘The Worst Is Over’ became the verses and chorus. None was completed to Lennon’s satisfaction, although demos of each were recorded.
‘My Life’ was a work-in-progress written during Lennon’s househusband years at the Dakota. He recorded the song at least three times on piano towards the end of 1979, and four times on guitar. It was a love song written for Yoko Ono, which began with the words: “My life, take it/It’s mine to give, take it/Let me live in you/My life, take it/It’s yours/Do what you will/I dedicate it to you.”
One version of the song contained the line “Life is something that happens while you’re making plans”. Lennon later adapted the words for the Double Fantasy song ‘Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)’.
One of Lennon’s guitar demos of ‘My Life’, recorded in 1980, was included in the 1998 box set John Lennon Anthology, and on the highlights collection Wonsaponatime. Despite having different lyrics to ‘(Just Like) Starting Over’, it uses largely the same chords for the opening lines.
Around this time Lennon was working on another song, ‘Don’t Be Crazy’, which he recorded in 6/8 time on piano. Despite remaining unfinished and containing draft lyrics (“Why don’t they leave us alone? We cannot shave your hairy legs for you…”), it eventually became the the middle section of ‘(Just Like) Starting Over’, beginning with the line “Why don’t we take off alone?”
A third work in progress known as ‘The Worst Is Over’ became the final piece of the jigsaw. Lennon recorded this on piano with a drum machine backing in 1980; the chords and melody were used for the main part of ‘(Just Like) Starting Over’, but the lyrics came later. One of Lennon’s recordings of ‘The Worst Is Over’ used the verse melody of ‘Don’t Be Crazy’ as a chorus.
After taking a trip to Bermuda in June 1980, Lennon began work on Double Fantasy in New York’s Hit Factory studio. Although Lennon had written a number of songs for the record, some – including ‘(Just Like) Starting Over’ and ‘Cleanup Time’ – remained unfinished.
‘Starting Over’ and ‘Cleanup Time’ were sorta written on the run after I’d finished all the other work of writing the other ones. They just sort of came. They were like the fun after the work is finished. I was still in Bermuda.
All We Are Saying, David Sheff
Prior to entering the studio Lennon recorded a demo of ‘(Just Like) Starting Over’. Performed on a guitar with a drum machine backing, the song’s final structure was in place even if the lyrics were not. “Why don’t we take off alone,” ran the middle section. “Spend a weekend in an old hotel. A little place without a phone, a second honeymoon would do us well.” One of the early verses even harked back to his Beatles days, with a reference to Lewis Carroll’s poem ‘The Walrus and the Carpenter’: “The time has come, the walrus said, for you and I to stay in bed…”