Starting Over: The Making of
John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Double Fantasy by
Ken Sharp (VH1/Gallery
few people have had their lives completely scrutinized as much as John Lennon
did in the less than two decades of his stardom. Films, books, television
shows, songs, documentaries, blogs and much more have looked back at the
would think that it would be hard to find a new angle to approach his story,
but Starting Over:The Making of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Double Fantasy
has done just that.
book, written and edited by pop musician, music journalist (and frequent
PopEntertainment contributor) Ken Sharp is stunning in its simplicity. It
is an oral history of the last year of Lennon’s life, in which he gives up
his self-imposed retirement to record what would turn out to be his final
album, Double Fantasy.
gives you a fly on the wall immediacy because the story was told by the
people who lived it, including Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono and the musicians who
worked on the album.
is a touching portrait of a once-tortured artist as a newly serene man – in
a window of time which would tragically end up being way too short.
As I stated earlier, Lennon was under a spotlight during most of
his adult life, however his final "house-husband" years were always a bit of
a mystery. Starting Over shows this musical genius finally emerging
from his own exile and rediscovering the joy of pure artistic creation.
"Starting Over" gives us an in-depth look at his final days as a
musician, in which a deeply troubled and complicated man finally had found
peace as a family man. Through a series of talking heads with just about
everyone who experienced his last recording sessions, Sharp is able to paint
a portrait of the making of a classic album.
Sadly, but obviously, no history of Lennon’s work on the album will
ever be completely definitive just because the man himself did not survive
to give us all the insight. However, Sharp does the best he can by mixing
quotes from some of Lennon’s final interviews with extensive and well
researched interviews with just about everyone else who was there.
Much of this story is well known, but we get intimate details from
Ono, producer Jack Douglas, the band members (Hugh McCracken, Earl Slick,
George Small, Andy Newmark and Tony Levin) as well as others who were
intimately or tangentially involved. Some of those people include label
head David Geffen, photographer Annie Liebovitz, publicist Bob Merlis,
photographer Bob Gruen and radio interviewer Andy Peebles, who ended up
doing Lennon’s final interview.
Also, little known and forgotten chapters of the recording – for
example speaking extensively with two members of the then red-hot rock band
Cheap Trick who had recorded two songs with Lennon that ended up not being
used, though one of the recordings eventually ended up on a Lennon box set.
As is inevitable to happen with a group of people thirty years on
some of the descriptions slightly contradict other people’s memories, but
this just makes the puzzle pieces of history more interesting to try to fit
However, more importantly it just allows us unprecedented access to
the final days of one of the past century’s musical geniuses. The slight
Rashomon effect of having many different people describe the action from
different perspectives makes these final days come back to life.
The fact that Lennon had finally achieved the satisfaction which
had alluded him for years before his own tragic ending makes it even more
We'll never know all the music which Lennon may have gone on to
make had a mad man not ambushed him on the New York streets one 1980 day,
but at least with Starting Over we can at least find comfort in the
fact that the man had reached serenity in his life.
Jay S. Jacobs
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All rights reserved.
Posted: October 31, 2010.