Perhaps one of the most influential and important artists of all time, John Lennon‘s reputation as a political activist was deemed as being insincere, with some of the 60s/70s radical activists naming him as an ‘ignorant poseur’. He never did anything whatsoever that deserved wild acclaim within the political realm; that’s what my grandma would tell you anyway, and she was what you would call a ‘Beatlemaniac’ back in the 70s. However, Lennon’s music suggests otherwise, as themes of peace and unity play strong principal roles throughout his entire career, with personal trauma and the relationship with his mother frequently incorporated into his music.
After his marriage to Yoko Ono in 1969 (that provoked some animosity when recording the ‘Let it Be’ album) his music became incredibly experimental. Lennon started drawing inspiration from Arthur Janov’s primal scream therapy, acting as a psychological catalyst, allowing Lennon to let out a lifetimes worth of repressed trauma from the death of his mother. His music, mostly produced by Phil Spector, who was later convicted for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson in 2003, was internationally celebrated and eventually gained a celebratory compilation album released by EMI Records (a scheme to make more money, but hey ho). The album was only released in Asian and Australian markets despite Lennon being born and raised in Liverpool.
Personally, I would argue this album is not necessary. It’s not as if Lennon’s music is not celebrated; this album hardly makes any difference to his legacy and international acclaim from The Beatles. The first track of the album is a remix of ‘Give Peace a Chance’ which features ‘The Voices of Asia’. The remix is ridiculous and is a perfect example of a criminal attempt at ‘modernising’ a record for current demographics. Instead of making the record ‘hip’ as I’m sure Yoko Ono set out to do, it jeopardises the message relayed in the original record. It’s quite frankly embarrassing what Yoko Ono chose to do with her late husband’s music. The Bollywood vibes to this remix has a harsh undertone of cultural appropriation considering neither of the two came from backgrounds as such. I’m sure many will see it as positive that giving peace a chance must be applied to all cultures, but to apply these motifs of other cultures in a ‘remix’ and 25 years after Lennon’s death, it just seems stale, unnecessary and artificial. The music video further emphasises the absurdity of the entire affair, making Yoko Ono somewhat of a laughing stock as she emerges from a dust cloud, sporting a short pixie hair cut. Whilst the album does include other cultures and influences from other genres, it still doesn’t excuse the butchering of Lennon’s meticulous and scrupulous method of songwriting and recording.
Sure, if you want an album with all of Lennon’s most commercially successful records with hints of Bollywood vibes here and there, then this may be for you, but otherwise, I’m not a fan. However, I shouldn’t let my personal dislike distract from the album turning 15. This album shows how John Lennon’s music is everywhere, every genre and every method of lyric writing and producing. And, of course, it should be his companionship of songwriting with Paul McCartney was ground-breaking and still, today is historically the most successful in all of music industry history.
You can listen to the remix version of ‘Give Peace a Chance’ below via EMI, and make up your own mind about whether it ‘jeopardises’ the original’s message.