Although he lived with May Pang during his separation from Ono, the hard-living lifestyle he adopted for a time in Los Angeles took its toll on Lennon’s wellbeing. He drank copiously, and for a time lived with the similarly-hedonistic Harry Nilsson, Keith Moon and Ringo Starr.
As so many times before, Lennon turned his life experiences into art. ‘Scared’ was the most soul-baring moment on Walls And Bridges, but its emotional rawness harked back to his earlier confessionals on John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Imagine. Indeed, were it not for the string and brass overdubs, ‘Scared’ would not have sounded out of place on either of those releases.
The Lost Weekend was not all spent drinking and carousing in Los Angeles; the period during the middle of 1974 in particular was one of Lennon’s most productive. But his break from Ono did allow him moments of contemplation. On ‘Scared’ Lennon stripped away the bravado and arrogance he often hid behind, and saw him opening up to reveal his flaws:
Hatred and jealousy, gonna be the death of me
I guess I knew it right from the start
Sing out about love and peace
Don’t wanna see the red raw meat
The green eyed goddamn straight from your heard
Prior to recording Walls And Bridges, Lennon spent 10 days in rehearsals with his band. Edited extracts from these July 1974 sessions were later released on the 1986 collection Menlove Ave, and showed how the song began as a stark and sparse performance driven by staccato piano chords and ominous-sounding bass guitar. Lennon sang “I’m stoned” in the second verse, words which were later replaced by “I’m scarred”.
An alternative take of ‘Scared’ from the Walls And Bridges sessions was released on the 1998 box set John Lennon Anthology.