Walls and Bridges (1974)
Artist John Lennon
Produced by John Lennon
Recorded during the time Lennon was separated from Ono, this is one of the most personal themed albums I have ever heard. The lyrics reflect Lennon’s state of mind. The album reached number 1 on the billboard 200 and number 6 on the UK album charts (Wikipedia, 2019b). It also contained Lennon’s only number 1 song as a solo artist in his lifetime “Whatever gets you through the night”, a song that features Elton John on vocals and piano. Elton believed this song would be a number 1 song, Lennon not believing it would, told Elton that if the song reached number 1 he would appear on stage with him, the promise was fulfilled on Thanksgiving Day 1975 on Madison Square Garden, the lucky crowd got to see Lennon on what would sadly be his last live performance.
The album for me it the second-best album in Lennon’s catalog. The songs are strong lyrically and musically. And offers an insight into the man and shows honesty in music that I had not heard before or since. The album begins with “Going down on love”, the melody is catchy but we get the sense in the lyrics that Lennon misses Ono, as he says in the lyrics how everything went wrong and love has gone, and for the second time in a song Lennon sings “somebody please, please help me”. The second song is the great song “Whatever gets you through the night” that clearly expresses that he was doing whatever he could to get by. The song has great lyrics and a fun melody and Elton gives the song an extra touch. The third song is “Old dirt road”, a song that he wrote the lyrics with Harry Nilsson. The piano solo played by Nicky Hopkins is beautiful. “What you got” is the weakest song on the album in my opinion, because of the style it was recorded, it was kind of a disco song, but if you listen to the demo in the Anthology box set, it could have ended a great song in another style. And the first side ends with “Scared”, a song where we really see Lennon really sincere, he was facing deportation, he was being watched by the FBI on Nixon’s order, he was scared for his life as he revealed in interviews. If you want to know more of this see the documentary “The US vs John Lennon, it shows evidence of how the CIA responded to Lennon’s political activism (Wikipedia, 2019). It has some great lyrics where Lennon simply says no one worries they just dance to his songs and that is all. “Hatred and jealousy will be the death of me” he ends singing these lyrics in a voice that really showed vulnerably and honesty. The second side opens with the beautiful love song “#9 dream” a song reached number 9 on the singles charts in the US (Wikipedia, 2019b). Followed by “Surprise, Surprise (The bird of paradox), another song that features Elton John on harmony vocals. The next track is “Steel and Glass” a song Lennon has said that is referring to himself and not an attack on anyone else. The lyrics are really open in the part of Lennon as I believe he was referring to himself, lyrics like “your mother left you when you were small” is clearly a reference to an event that really marked his life, he was left to be raised by an Aunt, later finding out that his mother lived nearby him, and she got killed by a drunk off duty police officer when he was establishing a relationship with her, something that sadly happened to Julian with his father. “Beef Jerky” the next song in the album is an instrumental track that features a guitar riff similar to McCartney’s “Let me roll it”, by this time their relationship was on good terms again, this was a way for Lennon to honor his friend. The net track is for me the highlight of the album. “Nobody loves you (When you’re down and out) is a song where Lennon tells the world that he felt like an old rock star forgotten and with nothing left. I love how Lennon opens up and tells us “I’ve shown you everything, I got nothing to hide”. On the book that came with the John Lennon Anthology box set, Anthony DeCurtis wrote of the song and I agree, that song is delivered from the point of view of a broken down hack entertainer at the very bottom of his game and it’s a chilling performance by Lennon (DeCurtis, 1998). The album ends with a playful version of a song called “Ya-Ya” where his son Julian played drums.
Overall this is a fine album by Lennon. People give so much credit to McCartney and tend to overlook Lennon’s solo years. Paul went the Beatle commercial route, John decided to use his music to communicate, not just write songs for chart topping singles. For that reason, I prefer Lennon’s work over McCartney’s, both of them were great in no way I am putting Paul down.
DeCurtis, A. (1998). John Lennon: All in All.
Wikipedia. (2019a). The US vs John Lennon. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_U.S._vs._John_Lennon
Wikipedia. (2019b). Walls and bridges. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walls_and_Bridges#Charts