Where was there left to go after John Lennon’s declaration that The Beatles’ dream was over? His début solo album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band contained a postscript, a 50-second song fragment about the loss of his mother which brought the collection full circle.
‘My Mummy’s Dead’ was a solo performance recorded with just vocals and electric guitar. It was a low-fidelity mono recording made at a house on Nimes Road, Bel Air, California, where Lennon and Yoko Ono stayed while undergoing Primal Therapy with Dr Arthur Janov.
Lennon recorded two takes of the song; another appeared on the Acoustic album in 2004. A simple four-line song based on a three-note melody, it was perhaps the most raw and emotionally-naked piece of songwriting he ever wrote.
All these songs just came out of me. I didn’t sit down to think, ‘I’m going to write about my mother’ or I didn’t sit down to think, ‘I’m going to write about this, that or the other.’ They all came out, like all the best work of anybody’s ever does.
Lennon Remembers, Jann S Wenner
‘Mother’ and ‘My Mummy’s Dead’ bookended John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. Whereas he’d began the album with primal howls of anguish, it ends with weary acceptance. If this was Lennon’s attempt at closure for the heartbreak of 15 July 1958 which he had never fully addressed, the effect was of numb emptiness rather than sorrow.