Double Fantasy

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Double Fantasy
Studio album by
Released17 November 1980
Recorded7 August – 19 October 1980
StudioThe Hit Factory, New York
ProducerJohn Lennon, Yoko Ono, Jack Douglas
John Lennon chronology
Shaved Fish
Double Fantasy
The John Lennon Collection
Yoko Ono chronology
Feeling the Space
Double Fantasy
Season of Glass
Singles from Double Fantasy
  1. "(Just Like) Starting Over"
    Released: 20 October 1980
  2. "Woman"
    Released: 12 January 1981
  3. "Watching the Wheels"
    Released: 13 March 1981
  4. "Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)"
    Released: 11 April 1981
Double Fantasy Stripped Down
Cover of the 2010 remix with stripped down production.
Cover of the 2010 remix with stripped down production.

Double Fantasy is the fifth album by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, released in 1980. It is also the seventh and final studio album released by Lennon during his lifetime. The album was initially poorly received.[1][2] However, following Lennon's murder three weeks after its release, it became a worldwide commercial success and went on to win the 1981 Album of the Year award at the 24th Annual Grammy Awards.


Following the birth of his son Sean in 1975, Lennon had put his career on hold to help raise him.[3] After five years of little musical activity aside from recording the occasional demo in his apartment in New York, Lennon felt ready to resume work.

In the middle of 1980, Lennon made a sailing trip through treacherous waters from Newport, Rhode Island, to Bermuda. During the journey, his yacht encountered a prolonged severe storm, and most of the crew succumbed to profound fatigue and seasickness. Lennon, free of seasickness, was eventually forced to take the yacht's wheel alone for many hours. He found this terrifying but invigorating. It had the effect of both renewing his confidence and making him contemplate the fragility of life. As a result, he began to write new songs and reworked earlier demos. He commented later, 'I was so centered after the experience at sea that I was tuned in to the cosmos – and all these songs came!'[4] Ono also wrote many songs, inspired with new confidence after Lennon had stated that he believed that contemporary popular music such as the B-52's "Rock Lobster" bore similarities to Ono's earlier work.[5]

The couple decided to release their work on the same album, the first time they had done so since 1972's politically charged Some Time in New York City. In stark contrast to that album, Double Fantasy (subtitled A Heart Play) was a collection of songs wherein husband and wife would conduct a musical dialogue. The album took its title from a species of freesia, seen in the Bermuda Botanical Gardens, whose name Lennon regarded as a perfect description of his marriage to Ono.[6]


Ono approached producer Jack Douglas, with whom the couple had previously worked, and gave him Lennon's demos to listen to. "My immediate impressions were that I was going to have a hard time making it better than the demos because there was such intimacy in the demos," Douglas told Uncut's Chris Hunt in 2005.[4]

Sessions for the album began at The Hit Factory in New York City on 7 August 1980 and continued through 19 October 1980.[7] They produced dozens of songs, enough to fill Double Fantasy and a large part of a projected second album, Milk and Honey.

Lennon wanted to work with different musicians than he had previously, and had Douglas assemble and rehearse the band without telling them who they would be recording with.[8] While the sessions were underway, Douglas brought Rick Nielsen and Bun E. Carlos of the band Cheap Trick (whom he was also producing)[9] to play on Lennon's "I'm Losing You" and Ono's "I'm Moving On", but these were eventually re-recorded with the studio musicians. (The Cheap Trick version of "I'm Losing You" was included on the John Lennon Anthology collection released in 1998.)[10]

The sessions remained top secret. Lennon and Ono still were not signed to a record label and paid for the initial sessions themselves.[8] After they were satisfied that the album was strong, their publicist Bruce Replogle leaked the news that the couple were back in the studio again.

Immediately, Lennon was inundated with offers from all the major labels. The recording industry was shocked when the couple signed with the newly formed Geffen Records on 22 September 1980[11] because David Geffen shrewdly insisted on speaking with Ono first, and regarded her contributions as equal to Lennon's. He signed them before hearing any of the tracks.[12]

Release, reception and aftermath[edit]

The album was preceded by the single "(Just Like) Starting Over", which was backed with Ono's "Kiss Kiss Kiss".[11] It was released on 20 October 1980 in the United States, and four days later in the United Kingdom.[11] Originally peaking at number 8 in the UK chart, after Lennon's death the single reached number one. In the US, the single was inching upward in the top 10 before reaching number one following Lennon's death.[11]

The album was released on 17 November 1980 in both the UK and US.[13] Geffen had planned an elaborate cover for Lennon's comeback, but Ono could not decide on a photo.[14] Not wanting to miss the Christmas release deadline, Geffen used the single sleeve as the front cover, while choosing an outtake from the same photo session for the back. The tracks were sequenced as a dialogue between Lennon and Ono; one of his songs followed by one of hers.[15] On the initial pressings, the track listing was out of sequence on the album cover.[16] Initial sales were sluggish. In the UK album charts, it had peaked at number 14 then slipped to number 46,[17] while in the US, it had risen to number 11. Upon Lennon's murder, the album jumped to number 1 in the US Billboard chart, where it stayed for eight weeks,[18] and in the UK, it jumped to number 2, where it remained for seven weeks before finally spending two weeks at number 1.[17]

"Woman", chosen by Lennon, was released as a posthumous single, backed with Ono's "Beautiful Boys".[19] It was released on 12 January 1981 in the US and 16 January in the UK, reaching number 1 in the UK and in the US on the Cash Box singles chart,[19] while peaking at number 2 for three weeks on the Billboard Hot 100.[20] Released as the final single from the album, "Watching the Wheels", backed with Ono's "Yes, I'm Your Angel", peaked at number 10 and 30 in the US and UK charts respectively.[21] The single was released in the US on 13 March 1981, and on 27 March 1981 in the UK.[21]

Lennon's Bermuda trip and Double Fantasy inspired the 2013 tribute CD and book Lennon Bermuda.[22][23]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Retrospective reviews
Review scores
AllMusic4/5 stars[24]
Christgau's Record GuideA[25]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music3/5 stars[26]
Mojo3/5 stars[27]
Paste3/5 stars[29]
Q3/5 stars[30]
Rolling Stone (2010)5/5 stars[31]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide4/5 stars[32]
Slant Magazine3.5/5 stars[33]

Initial critical reaction to the album was largely negative.[34] However, three weeks after the album's release, Lennon was murdered and several negative reviews by prominent critics were withheld from publication,[35] including those by Stephen Holden of The New York Times, Tom Carson of Rolling Stone, and Geoffrey Stokes of The Village Voice.[36] The negative reviews focused on the album's idealisation of Lennon and Ono's marriage. Stokes found the concept and theme to be "basically misogynist", and Kit Rachlis of the Boston Phoenix admitted to being "annoyed" by Lennon and Ono's assumption "that lots of people care deeply" about them.[36] Charles Shaar Murray, of New Musical Express, wrote that the couple's domestic bliss "sounds like a great life, but unfortunately it makes a lousy record," adding that he wished Lennon had "kept his big happy trap shut until he has something to say that was even vaguely relevant to those of us not married to Yoko Ono."[37]

Double Fantasy finished 37th in The Village Voice's 1980 Pazz & Jop, an annual poll of prominent music critics.[38] Robert Christgau, the poll's creator, ranked it 7th on his own list of the year's best albums.[39] Although he was put off by its simplistic lyrics and music upon first listen, Christgau said that the music works a "minor miracle" with "rich, precise" song form and a "command of readymades" to put "the anonymous usages of studio rock to striking artistic purpose." He felt that the use of alternating Ono's improved vocals with Lennon's "makes the union come alive" better than his outspoken, straightforward lyrics, and concluded that the album is not great, but "memorable and gratifying" as rare, "connubial rock and roll".[36] A retrospective review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine of concluded that "these are really nice tunes, and what's special about them is their niceness — it's a sweet acceptance of middle age, which, of course, makes [Lennon's] assassination all the sadder."[24]

In 1982, Douglas, Lennon and Ono won the 1981 Album of the Year for Double Fantasy at the 24th Annual Grammy Awards. In 1989 the album was ranked number 29 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 greatest albums of the 1980s.[40]


"Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)" was re-released as the B-side to a reissue of "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" to promote The John Lennon Collection in November 1982.[41] It was first released on CD on 13 October 1986 in the UK, and a nearly a year later on 15 September 1987 in the US.[42] The album was re-released on cassette, CD and vinyl in 1989, after EMI had obtained the rights to the album.[42] On 9 October 2000, EMI/Capitol released a remastered version of the album, containing three bonus tracks.[nb 1][42] In 2010, a two-CD set called Double Fantasy Stripped Down was released. It included a newly remastered copy of the original album along with an alternative version of the album featuring simpler arrangements, with cover artwork by Sean Lennon.[citation needed]

Track listing[edit]

Side one
1."(Just Like) Starting Over"John Lennon3:56
2."Kiss Kiss Kiss"Yoko Ono2:42
3."Cleanup Time"Lennon2:58
4."Give Me Something"Ono1:35
5."I'm Losing You"Lennon3:57
6."I'm Moving On"Ono2:20
7."Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)"Lennon4:02
Side two
1."Watching the Wheels"Lennon4:00
2."Yes, I'm Your Angel"Ono3:08
4."Beautiful Boys"Ono2:55
5."Dear Yoko"Lennon2:34
6."Every Man Has a Woman Who Loves Him"Ono4:02
7."Hard Times Are Over"Ono3:20
Bonus tracks

2010 mixes[edit]


Grammy Awards[edit]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1982 Double Fantasy Album of the Year[43] Won
Best Pop Vocal Performance - Male[44] Nominated
"(Just Like) Starting Over" Record of the Year[44] Nominated


Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Australia 285,000[64]
France (SNEP)[66] Platinum 533,900[65]
Germany (BVMI)[67] Gold 250,000^
Japan (Oricon Charts) 306,470[68]
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[69] Gold 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[70] Platinum 300,000^
United States (RIAA)[71] 3× Platinum 3,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone


  • Toshihiro Hamaya – production assistant
  • Frederic Seaman – production assistant
  • Julie Last – assistant engineer
  • George Marino – original mastering and remastering
  • Lee DeCarlo – engineer
  • Jon Smith – assistant engineer
  • Anthony Davilio – musical associate
  • James A. Ball – assistant engineer
  • Kishin Shinoyama – cover photo and photography
  • Bruce Replogle – publicist
  • Christopher Whorf - Artwork


  1. ^ The bonus tracks are: "Help Me to Help Myself", "Walking on Thin Ice" and "Central Park Stroll".[42]
  1. ^ Seaman, Last Days of John Lennon, Birch Lane ISBN 1-55972-084-0
  2. ^ Coleman, John Ono Lennon, Sidgwick & Jackson ISBN 0-283-99082-1
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  • Blaney, John (2005). John Lennon: Listen to This Book (illustrated ed.). [S.l.]: Paper Jukebox. ISBN 978-0-9544528-1-0.

External links[edit]