Nobody Told Me ( John Lennon Cover ) 08.31.09
No one was more shocked than me when we started hearing a new John Lennon song on video shows and radio stations everywhere at either the end of 1983 or the beginning of 1984. I mean, John had been dead for over three years by that point, and we as music lovers had all just started to finally get over the loss. To hear this new song was a revelation. It seemed almost completely finished. But for us to have experienced listening to this song, Yoko had to go through all the art she and her husband had been creating together before it happened. Now without the man she loved around to share in the experience of creating music together, as they had always done together, she had to finish incomplete work without one of the artists present. Bittersweet doesn’t cover the emotions experienced when listening to this song, I’m assuming from either perspective, wife or fan.
I loved John Lennon because I loved his music, as so many of us did. But I always always thought Ono was cool. She just WAS.
Anyway, back in 1983, Yoko had to go through this stuff that she had worked on with her husband, just before, you know, and then put it out on the market after the fact, knowing the scrutiny it would receive. And she wanted it to be as good as it could be so John would have approved or concurred with all the decisions she was now required to make, a solo signature, her husband gone. That woman has tenacity. And guts. And taste.
And it was and is a good song, Nobody Told Me (There’d Be Days Like These.) Was it a great song? I personally think it was, or would have been, had John Lennon been around to put finishing touches on it, as he surely would have. But this song was finished enough that it wasn’t skeletal in its arrangement or anything. I just wonder if horns or strings or reeds or maybe one more hook might have been added to it to provide a shmidgeon more counterpoint. Since John wasn’t around, Yoko had to work with what was there, and not embellish too much, given that her music style and aesthetic was and is so different from Lennon’s. I’m sure she wanted it to sound like a Lennon work.
I bought the song when Milk And Honey was released on cassette. It had a tiny pullout booklet that was squished between the cardboard sleeve and the plastic of the cassette itself. Music labels were trying to reconcile the newly reduced real estate with the new format, yet trying to give value to the purchase, and they weren’t quite ready to give up album credits quite yet. (Then came the fold-out cassette package sleeves. They were fun to try to re-fold and scrape into the plastic teeth of those teensy tiny plastic cassette covers. Uh huh.)
Anyway, the rest of the album of John songs seem somewhat unfinished (as someone who studies music, I don’t see this as a bad thing, given the circumstances), and a few demos were included to round out the curation. I believe Ono exercised restraint and care in the execution of her songs as well as John’s. Just a gut feeling. She would want to put out the best work she could. Total conjecture on my part.
A big reason why I was taken by the song Nobody Told Me was because of the great vintage John and Yoko footage that was montaged into the video, most of which I had never seen before. But I also liked the joie de vivre Lennon brings to his performance, and a casually tossed off vocal that was still better than more vocals ANYONE could ever do in rock and roll. Was it a guide vocal? Who knows. Any artist wishes for the range John Lennon was able to cover in his lifetime. And one can only imagine just how many more places he would have gone as an artist, had he lived. And how blessed we have all been to experience his magic our whole lives, even after he left us.
I don’t know how I arrived at playing this song with the showtune-y arrangement I perform here. I only know I’ve been playing this song this way for over a decade, and it’s too ingrained into the grooves of my head to play it any other way. I only wish I could retain lyrics. I better NOT have been dropped on my head as a baby! Mom! Dad! (They keep saying they were kidding about dropping me… but I wonder…) ;-P
I’m grateful Yoko gave us this song at all. It was a generous act, given what she’s been through. And I’ve always loved the song. It’s bouncey. 😉