ALBUM (1980)

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 June, 2011, 12:00am


Double Fantasy
John Lennon and Yoko Ono

John Lennon became a father in April 1963, when Julian Lennon was born, shortly after the release of The Beatles' first album, and when Lennon (the second-oldest Beatle) was only 23.

With Beatlemania raging and the world falling at his feet, Lennon found fatherhood baffling and hard to deal with, largely because he lacked a role model. His own father, the feckless seaman and petty crook Alfie Lennon, had had almost nothing to do with his son's upbringing in Liverpool.

And, by his own admission, John Lennon was somewhat neglectful of his first son.

Julian did have an influence on the Sgt. Pepper track Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, which was allegedly based on a picture the youngster brought home from school. But aside from this, Lennon strictly compartmentalised being a world-famous musician and being a father in Weybridge, England. Generally, the former got priority.

It was only in the late 1970s, and in New York, that Lennon became properly domesticated. And this happened with wife No2, Yoko Ono, and their son, Sean, who was born in 1975.

The second half of the 70s was when Lennon finally allowed himself to take a break and feel at ease with the lofty expectations of the generation he had led with iconoclastic verve and brilliant songwriting. Lennon simply wanted to be himself, take care of Sean, enjoy married life with Ono (his infamous two-year 'lost weekend' of infidelity now behind him), and indulge in simple homely pleasures like baking bread and walking in Central Park with his family. Above all, he wanted to love and be loved in a small private family unit - for the first time in his life.

Towards the end of the decade he decided to return to the studio and put this picture of domestic bliss into the vinyl grooves of a new album. It was titled Double Fantasy and credited to both Lennon and Ono, because she wrote half the tracks.

The critics didn't much care for the apparently unadventurous Double Fantasy when it first came out in late 1980, but there was a lot on it for fans to like, notably at least half a dozen excellent tracks and captivatingly lush production. In the years since, this elegant recording has aged well.

The most obvious ode to fatherhood here is Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy). It's unusually sappy for Lennon, but still has a certain charm and undeniable musicality. Similarly, (Just Like) Starting Over was surprisingly sunny and carefree for Lennon, and another fatherhood number, as well as a love song for Yoko. Recalling the music of Roy Orbison, this retro-flavoured cut became a No1 hit on both sides of the Atlantic. The contemplative Watching the Wheels is Lennon singing eloquently about his house-husband years, and Woman is simply one of the most gorgeous love songs ever. Its B-side was the Ono-penned Beautiful Boys, written for her husband and the four-year-old Sean.

That Lennon was murdered just as he'd mastered what he'd found hardest in life - being a responsible and loving father - was one of the many cruel ironies of that horrible December's day when Mark Chapman headed for Manhattan's Dakota Building with a gun in his pocket and evil in his confused head.