An Album for the Weekend: Walls and Bridges, John Lennon (1974)

If angst is the fuel of true creativity, then John Lennon had plenty of firewood for Walls and Bridges. The legend is that Lennon, separated from his wife Yoko Ono at her insistence, took off for Los Angeles with the couple’s personal assistant. Lennon had an affair with her and dove into some pretty hard living, so much so that ever after, he referred to the year-and-a-half period as his “Lost Weekend.”

WallsBridgesBut as a true artist, Lennon was above monochromatic moods. This is not a dozen songs of dark longing and loneliness. Sure, there are earthy Lennon introspections, such as “Scared” and “Steel and Glass.” But listen also to the hoppy ecstasy of the most famous track, “Whatever Gets You Through the Night” (that’s Elton John on piano and backing vocals on both the album and the link to an Elton show at Madison Square Garden). And I’m convinced that the Saturday Night Live late-night stage band sound owes a lot to the saxophone step-out by Bobby Keys on that song.

You’ll be hitting the replay button again and again to squeeze every last endorphin out of the otherworldly “#9 Dream” (“Revolution No. 9,” this ain’t.) And enjoy that musical gem of yesteryear that’s been completely abandoned on most modern rock albums: the instrumental, in this case the meaty-funky “Beef Jerky.”

Some say this was Lennon at the very peak of his powers. I long ago gave up on such analysis of this particular musician. Sure, some Lennon albums are better than others. But in some ways, everything John did seemed like some kind of summit. He simply got up there and never came down. Rest in peace; we’ll give it every chance we can.♦

© 2013 Adam Barr except album art and linked music

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