I found this a fascinating book. It is an interesting layout. Ken Sharp never gives opinion or commentary but merely allows the major players in the historical piece. You therefore get the stories and quotes from all the session players, producer and engineers and anyone else professionally involved in the making of and publicising of the record. The downside of this is that sometimes we get the same information from a range of players but over all if you are thinking that there could not be enough for a book out of one record then you will be proven wrong. I found myself caught into it; maybe not gripping but intriguing.
The mood of the sessions really comes through. The players, all major session men of the time, are all like kids in a sweetie shop when they find out that they are playing with a Beatle; the Beatle who had been in hiding! They are all fans. They are all a little in awe. They all find lennon in great mood and friendly form. He seems to want to be one of the lads, excited to be back in the studio and keen to enjoy every minute.
Double Fantasy, the record in the works and therefore under scrutiny was of course supposed to be a conversation between lovers, John and Yoko’s songs turn about in the track listings. For those of us who have followed Lennon’s career and read the other biographies, particularly the sensationalist critiques like Albert Goldman, there is an interesting take on the state of the Lennon’s marriage and nothing but love, love, love comes through here. Interviewers who spent as much as three week with them did not believe they could be bluffing them; these were two forty-somethings very much in love.
There are a few things that I learned too. Now being a hammer dulcimer fan through the work of Rich Mullins and more recently Eric Angus Whyte I was fascinated to learn that there was one on Watching The Wheels. Even more fascinating is that the hammer dulcimer player, Matthew Cunningham was a street musician as they couldn’t find a session player in all of New York. That Cunningham didn’t seem to know Lennon and only picked up who he’d played for a while later is even more interesting. The Cheap Trick saga is also a drama worth having teased out. What they would have brought to the whole record is worth some trajectory but why there version of I’m Losing You wasn’t used is also dramatic intrigue. Rick Nielsen sending Lennon a guitar as a gift is also a lovely little crum!
In the main I found myself reaching for the album again and again, listening for the little bits of instrumental or vocal or lyric info. It allows you to reach into the minutiae and there are lovely things to find. This and the Stripped Naked edition of the record have certainly placed this higher in my favourite Lennon albums.
For fans, a very worthwhile read.
Double Fantasy Stripped reviewed
Sometime In New York City