Ginger Baker looks back on his musical career with Cream and Blind Faith; his introduction to Fela Kuti; his self-destructive patterns and losses of fortune; and his current life inside a fortified South African compound.
Cards on the table, Lennon is my number 1 musical hero and "Imagine", the album only has The Beatles "Revolver" as competition in my favourite albums short-list. As we approach the 70th anniversary of his birth in October (and of course 30th anniversary of his murder in December), this fly-on-the wall documentary offers a fascinating and wonderful insight into his life and artistic processes just when he was at the top of his game or a "life in the day of John Lennon" as George Harrison pithily puts it at one point.
Johnny boy was no saint however as he'd be the first to admit and so we get to see his different temperaments at different times from tetchiness at technical recording glitches to perhaps slightly overplayed devotion to Yoko and in the justifiably most famous scene, his down-to-earth humanity as he engages with a dishevelled fan on his grounds. I can't imagine a McCartney, Dylan or Jagger debunking his own mythology so humanely let alone inviting the poor guy into his home for breakfast.
The music is marvellous, no filler as they say - I didn't appreciate it was George who played the beautifully sensitive guitar on the ethereal "Oh My Love" so I learned something too. His comment on the McCartney-attacking "How Do You Sleep" that "this is the nasty one" and an improvised chorus "How do you sleep ya c##t!" shows up the dynamic contrast with the more pastoral songs elsewhere.
Biggest thrill for me the Beatlemaniac was his interplay with George Harrison and a reclusive, almost silent Phil Spector, probably the only two people here, outside of Yoko, who he treats as artistic equals. I did smile at non-musician Yoko giving Lennon (who was right on top of his music throughout on this album) some musical advice - but I also winced as he immediately passes it on unreservedly to his crack band of musicians.
Anyway, it's very rare I believe to get the chance to witness a musical genius from that era up close and personal at work on his most enduring work and I was confirmed in my wish that JL is still the one person in history I would have liked to meet. And of course it's even more tragic to think that his accessibility to his fans (also demonstrated here by his attending a book launch on the high street for Yoko's "Graperuit" book) ultimately proved fatal to him less than a decade later.
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