|Song by John Lennon|
|from the album Double Fantasy|
|Released||17 November 1980|
|Recorded||13 August; 5, 17 September 1980|
|Producer(s)||John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Jack Douglas|
|Double Fantasy track listing|
Lyrics and music
Like some other songs on Double Fantasy, including the hit single "(Just Like) Starting Over," one of the themes of "Cleanup Time" is rebirth, and another theme, as with "Watching the Wheels" is Lennon "coming to terms with his quiet years." Lennon wrote the song in Bermuda in June 1980. It was inspired by a phone discussion Lennon had with Jack Douglas, who would become the producer of Double Fantasy, while Lennon was staying in Bermuda. The two discussed the 1970s and how people were cleaning up their alcohol and drug habits, and the conversation ended with Douglas stating that "Well, it's cleanup time, right" and Lennon responding "It sure is." Lennon was then inspired to start playing a boogie on the piano, and wrote "Cleanup Time" in the process. Lennon has described the song as "a piano lick, with the words added." After developing the piano lick and having the title, Lennon wrote the words around a conception of the Lennon's home, The Dakota, being metaphorically their Palace of Versailles.
Although Lennon claimed that the lyrics apply to people in general, and not specifically to the Lennons, the song does reflect the reality of the Lennons cleaning up their diets and their finances, as well as their drug habits, and reports on what the previous five years away from recording meant to the Lennons. The song, like Lennon's Beatles' song "Cry Baby Cry," incorporates elements of the nursery rhyme "Sing a Song of Sixpence." In the case of "Cleanup Time," the references to the king being in the kitchen and the queen counting the money may be autobiographical references. Lennon had become a househusband while Ono was taking care of the couple's finances. The song explicitly references that the king is baking bread, and Lennon was particularly proud of baking bread himself. The lyrics also reflect Lennon's happiness being at home and being free of many obligations, such as recording contracts.
According to author Andrew Jackson, "Cleanup Time" and "Woman" represent "the happy ending fade out of a bohemian It's a Wonderful Life," as the troubled young Lennon had found peace as a father and husband. Tim Riley remarks that the song works on two levels: "a playfully gentle gibe at household chores" and as "an adult song about addiction."
"Cleanup Time" began recording at the Hit Factory in New York City on 13 August 1980. Horn overdubs were added on 5 September and Lennon's vocal was recorded on 17 September. Mixing was completed by Yoko Ono on 18 October. It was the last song from Double Fantasy to be completed.
Pop historian Robert Rodriguez considers "Cleanup Time" one of the weakest songs on Double Fantasy, claiming that it sounds like Lennon is "trying too damn hard to sell us something." Authors Ken Bielen and Ben Urish claim it has a sound reminiscent of the soul music issued by Stax Records and Atlantic Records during the mid-60s, particularly noting the horn parts.
The musicians who performed on the original recording were as follows:
- John Lennon – vocals, rhythm guitar
- Earl Slick, Hugh McCracken – lead guitar
- Tony Levin – bass
- George Small – keyboards
- Howard Johnson, Grant Hunderford, J.D Parran, Seldon Powell, George 'Young' Opalisky, Roger Rosenberg, David Tofani, Ronald Tooley – horns
- Andy Newmark – drums
- Arthur Jenkins – percussion
- Blaney, J. (2007). Lennon and McCartney: together alone : a critical discography of their solo work. Jawbone Press. pp. 143, 144, 199. ISBN 978-1-906002-02-2.
- Harrison, E. (20 December 1980). "Last LP Shows New Insights". Billboard Magazine. p. 28. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
- Erlewine, S.T. "Double Fantasy". Allmusic. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
- Jackson, A.G. (2012). Still the Greatest: The Essential Solo Beatles Songs. Scarecrow Press. pp. 185–187. ISBN 978-0-8108-8222-5.
- du Noyer, P. (1999). John Lennon: Whatever Gets You Through the Night. Thunder's Mouth Press. pp. 103–104. ISBN 1-56025-210-3.
- Rogan, J. (1997). The Complete Guide to the Music of John Lennon. Omnius Press. pp. 114–115. ISBN 0-7119-5599-9.
- Sheff, D. (2000). All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Macmillan. pp. 222–223. ISBN 978-0-312-25464-3.
- Madinger, C.; Easter, M. (2000). Eight Arms to Hold You. 44.1 Productions. p. 121. ISBN 0-615-11724-4.
- Urish, B. & Bielen, K. (2007). The Words and Music of John Lennon. Praeger. p. 76. ISBN 978-0-275-99180-7.
- Riley, T. (2009). Tell Me Why: The Beatles: Album by Album, Song by Song, the Sixties and After. Da Capo Press. p. 384. ISBN 978-0-7867-3090-2.
- Rosen, R. (2002). Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon. Quick American Archives. p. 157. ISBN 978-0-932551-51-1.
- Rodriguez, R. (2010). Fab Four FAQ 2.0: The Beatles' Solo Years 1970–1980. Hal Leonard. p. 192. ISBN 978-0-87930-968-8.