John Lennon – God (1970)
from the album “Plastic Ono Band”.
“God is a Concept by which we measure our pain
I’ll say it again
God is a Concept by which we measure our pain”
Jeez. You know he’s coming on strong already by the first two lines, and that it’s just going to get worse. I mean, better.
This is one of the most brutally honest and straight-forward songs ever recorded in the history of rock and roll, and it was Lennon’s forte, above all; being honest, direct and admitting his weaknesses.
He follows this hard-hitting point of view with rambling up all the things he today doesn’t believe in, which is, incidentally, all things he may or may not have believed in the past. You know this are getting real when he’s counting down to;
“I don’t believe in Kings
I don’t believe in Elvis
I don’t believe in Zimmerman…”
Elvis and Zimmerman (Bob Dylan), being two of his big heroes and inspirations in life, and the background of The Beatles coming to life, and now, they mean nothing to him? What happened? What made him change? What made the world change? What made him lose faith?
With hardly disguised contempt, he finishes this mantra of all the things he now pushes aside with;
“I don’t believe in Beatles”
Oh, hold on, hold on. Yeah. Losing faith in Elvis I can understand. Even Dylan, because he was starting to lose relevance by this time I guess, but losing faith in The Beatles? The golden myth of rock and roll history? His own band, his own creation and his own destiny?
I just finished reading “John Lennon – The Life” by Philip Norman, a 900 pages long biography on the singer and his life, and having just read this, you can safetly say Lennon had a lot of things, feelings, traumas, happenings, and a ten year period of a life nobody could even dream of just behind him. He had, by no means, found himself – he wouldn’t find peace until the very last years of his life, and his road to inner peace and freedom was rocky to say in the least.
His first solo album, Plastic Ono Band, was his “therapy” album – his way of letting all this pent up aggression all out, his way of showing the world his “true” self, because, honestly, a lot of the things he did with The Beatles was still just that, The Beatles, and not “Lennon” per se. He didn’t learn the art of “personal” song writing until this very period of time, and a lot of that came from his primal therapy – the theory that while regressing back into painful childhood memories, you’re able to free yourself of them the instance you learn to wail as a baby – in that way repeating the feelings you once had and buried deep inside of you, and the ones you didn’t understand back then, and thus being able to form a full circle in your life and move on.
And, needless to say, Lennon had a lot of things on his mind.
One thing I learnt about this very complex man while reading Norman’s excellent biography, was that he was constantly searching.
He was searching for something to believe in, something to rest his creative laurel on, someone to rely on, someone to replace his feelings of abandonment (finally finding it in his soulmate Yoko Ono) and searching for something to soothe his nerves and his ever so fiery temperament (finally finding it in the role of a house husband and father to Sean Lennon in his late 30s – for it is a well-known fact, that if you in your childhood feel robbed or bereaved of being a child, the only way to redeem it is not to be taken care of by others but rather to learn how to take care of someone else) – and he often enough found himself disappointed.
I can relate to this – and his feelings of abandonment, and I think the two are closely linked together. With feelings of abandonment, you often enough lack self-confidence and trust in yourself, so you search for it in other people – hence Lennon’s admiration for people like Elvis and Zimmerman.
In this lies a feeling of repeating the childhood pattern, of being let down once again, and in a way of avoiding the traumatic feelings once experienced, it’s easier to be disappointed yourself and be the first to leave. Lennon did that. I did that as well. We both chose therapy, let it all out, and moved on.
This song, to me, is Lennon’s way of letting go of it all, and choosing a new life for himself.
“The dream is over
What can I say?
The dream is over
I was the dreamweaver
But now I’m reborn
I was the walrus
But now I’m John
And so, dear friends,
You’ll just have to carry on”
It’s also his way of comforting a world that grew up with The Beatles, to reassuring them that the end of The Beatles didn’t mean the end of the world, of the end of him. That The Beatles wasn’t him, it was just a mere part of him, and a moment of his life. Just like all phases in life, it had a beginning, and it inevitably had an end. And so, you just have to carry on.
The video is an amazing collage of the feelings stirred up after Lennon’s death. Gets me every time. Is it possible to miss someone you never knew, who died before you even born? I think so, but yeah.. you just have to carry on.