Certain Songs #808: John Lennon – “Jealous Guy”

Album: Imagine
Year: 1971

Please don’t judge me harshly — I mean even more so than you already have dozens of times before — but I’ve never been a huge fan of “Imagine,” the song, the icon, the object of worship.

I mean, don’t get me wrong: it’s a perfectly lovely song with a perfectly lovely sentiment, but it got played to death in the wake of his death. And to be honest, I prefer my John Lennon less as an utopian dreamer and more as fucked-up dude coming clean about his fucked-up-ness.

Thus, “Jealous Guy.”

I was dreaming of the past
And my heart was beating fast
I began to lose control
I began to lose control

With ubiquitous pianist genius Nicky Hopkins playing all around Lennon’s melody and Klaus Voormann doing a McCartneyesque hook on bass, Lennon glides into what might be the most melodic chorus he ever wrote:

I didn’t mean to hurt you
I’m sorry that I made you cry
Oh my I didn’t want to hurt you
I’m just a jealous guy

And if you don’t think that Lennon didn’t know exactly how gorgeous “Jealous Guy” was, instead of some kind of solo after the second chorus, he just whistles the melody for awhile, confident that’s really all he needs to do.

In fact, that’s kind of the message of the entire Imagine album: I’ve got my confidence back, y’all. And so while it’s all slicker and more tarted up than it should be, the whole record is John Lennon at the absolute top of his game for what might have been the last time, and as such, I’ll forgive the unneeded strings and and enjoy the “watch out” and “look out, baby” he playfully interjects near the end.

And while “Jealous Guy” is clearly an apology to Yoko Ono — probably for a specific incident — it could also be seen as an apology to his fan base for all of the harsh shit he had said during the Plastic Ono Band era. (Which, of course, was just the previous year.)

“Jealous Guy”

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