Imagine (John Lennon album)

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Studio album by
Released9 September 1971
Recorded11–12 February, 24 May – 5 July 1971
StudioAscot Sound, Berkshire;
Record Plant, New York City;
Abbey Road, London
John Lennon chronology
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
Some Time in New York City
Singles from Imagine
  1. "Imagine / It's So Hard"
    Released: 11 October 1971

Imagine is the second solo studio album by English musician John Lennon, released on 9 September 1971 by Apple Records. Co-produced by Lennon, his wife Yoko Ono and Phil Spector, the album's lush sound contrasts the basic, small-group arrangements of his first album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (1970),[1] while the opening title track is widely considered to be his signature song.

Lennon recorded the album from early to mid-1971 at Ascot Sound Studios, Abbey Road Studios and the Record Plant in New York City, with supporting musicians that included his ex-Beatles bandmate George Harrison, keyboardist Nicky Hopkins, bassist Klaus Voormann and drummers Alan White and Jim Keltner. Its lyrics reflect peace, love, politics, Lennon's experience with primal scream therapy, and, following a period of high personal tensions, an attack on his former writing partner Paul McCartney in "How Do You Sleep?". Extensive footage from the sessions was recorded for a scrapped documentary; parts were released on the documentary film Imagine: John Lennon (1988).

Imagine was a critical and commercial success, peaking at number one on both the UK Albums Chart and US Billboard 200. Along with John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, it is considered one of Lennon's finest solo albums. In 2012, the album was voted 80th on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[2] The album has been reissued multiple times, including in 2018 as The Ultimate Collection, a six-disc box set containing previously unreleased demos, rare studio outtakes, "evolution documentaries" for each track, and isolated track elements along with a 5.1 surround mix and the original 4-channel Quadrosonic mix.


While in New York, former Beatles John Lennon and George Harrison had a short jam session,[3] during which Lennon asked Harrison to perform on Lennon's next album. Recording was scheduled to begin in a week's time at Lennon's Ascot Sound Studios, at his Tittenhurst Park residence.[3] Harrison agreed, and invited his friend, bassist Klaus Voormann.[3]

Recording and structure[edit]

Recording for the album started on 24 May at Ascot Sound Studios.[4] The first songs recorded were "It's So Hard" and "I Don't Want to Be a Soldier" in February 1971 at Ascot Sound Studios, during sessions for Lennon's single "Power to the People".[5][6] A cover of the Olympics' 1958 song "Well (Baby Please Don't Go)", later released on John Lennon Anthology, was recorded on 16 February.[4] Lennon chose to remake "I Don't Want to Be a Soldier" on 24 May 1971,[4] the opening day of the main album sessions.

Lennon enlisted help from Nicky Hopkins, members of the Apple band Badfinger, Alan White and Jim Keltner. Harrison contributed lead guitar parts on various songs.[7] Lennon showed the musicians a song that he had recently written, "Imagine".[3] Also recorded was a demo of the future Lennon track "Aisumasen (I'm Sorry)", the unreleased song "San Francisco Bay Blues", and a demo of "I'm the Greatest".[3]

Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono flew to New York on 3 July to continue sessions for the album the next day, at Record Plant.[3] There, many instrumental parts were rerecorded, and strings and saxophone by King Curtis were also added.[3] The tracks that were finished at Record Plant are "It's So Hard", "I Don't Want to Be a Soldier" and "How Do You Sleep?"[3] As on his last album, Phil Spector joined Lennon and Yoko Ono as co-producer, on Imagine. Extensive footage of the sessions, showing the evolution of some of the songs, was originally filmed and titled Working Class Hero before being shelved.[3] Footage of "Gimme Some Truth" aired as part of the BBC TV show The Old Grey Whistle Test on 12 December 1972.[3] Parts were released as part of the documentary film Imagine: John Lennon.[3]

Music and lyrics[edit]

1971 Billboard ad for the album.

Imagine was written and recorded during a period of particularly bad feeling between Lennon and former bandmate Paul McCartney,[8] following the Beatles' break-up the year before and McCartney winning his case in the High Court to have their legal partnership dissolved.[3] Harrison guested on half of Imagine's ten tracks, including "How Do You Sleep?" – a song written in retaliation against McCartney's alleged personal attacks on Lennon and Ono, on his recent Ram album.[9][10] Lennon said in 1980: "I used my resentment against Paul ... to create a song ... not a terrible vicious horrible vendetta ... I used my resentment and withdrawing from Paul and The Beatles, and the relationship with Paul, to write 'How Do You Sleep?'. I don't really go 'round with those thoughts in my head all the time ..."[11]

The track "Imagine" became Lennon's signature song and was written as a plea for world peace. Years later he acknowledged Ono's role in the song's creation and stated his regret that he had not credited her as a co-writer. "Jealous Guy" has also had enduring popularity; it was originally composed as "Child of Nature" during the songwriting sessions in India in 1968 that led to The Beatles' double album The Beatles.[12] "Oh My Love" and the song "How?" were influenced by his experience with primal therapy.[13]

Lennon also indulged his love of rock and roll with "Crippled Inside" and "It's So Hard". "Gimme Some Truth", originally heard during the Let It Be sessions in early 1969, appears on the album with a new bridge. The politically themed "I Don't Want to Be a Soldier" closes the first half of Imagine in a cacophonous manner. The last song on the album was "Oh Yoko!"; EMI pushed for this track to be the single, but Lennon thought it was too "pop".[14]


The photographs on the front and back covers were taken by Ono, using a Polaroid camera.[15] It was previously believed that the front cover photo was taken by Andy Warhol.[16] The back cover includes a quote ("Imagine the clouds dripping. Dig a hole in your garden to put them in.") from Ono's book Grapefruit, whose UK re-release the Lennons were promoting at the time.[17]


Apple Records issued Imagine on 9 September 1971 in the United States and a month later, on 8 October, in the UK. Early editions of the LP included a postcard featuring a photo of Lennon holding a pig, in mockery of McCartney's similar pose with a sheep on the cover of Ram.[18][19] Even though John along with producer Phil Spector championed "Back To Mono" the album was released in the new 4-channel quadraphonic format.[20] In the US, this 4-channel mix was only available on a Quad 8-track tape with some versions using the phrase Quadrasonic. In the UK and Australia the Quad mix was issued on vinyl using Sony's SQ matrix system along with an Q8-track version in the UK. In Japan the Quad mix was also issued on vinyl but using Sansui's QS matrix system also known as RM (regular matrix) plus they released a discrete 4-channel reel to reel tape of the album. "Imagine", backed with "It's So Hard", was released as a single, in the US on 11 October 1971.[3] The album went to number 1 worldwide and became an enduring seller, with the title track reaching number 3 in the United States. "Imagine" was not issued as a single in Britain until four years later, to coincide with the release of Lennon's Shaved Fish singles collection.[21]


Retrospective professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic5/5 stars[22]
Christgau's Record GuideA[23]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music4/5 stars[24]
The Great Rock Discography9/10[24]
Mojo4/5 stars[25]
MusicHound Rock4/5[26]
Paste5/5 stars[27]
Q4/5 stars[28]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide4/5 stars[29]
Uncut4/5 stars[30]

Reviewing the album in 1971, Rolling Stone magazine's Ben Gerson said it "contains a substantial portion of good music" but considered Lennon's previous album to be superior. He also warned of the possibility that Lennon's "posturings will soon seem not merely dull but irrelevant".[31]

Imagine was voted the fifth best record of the year in The Village Voice's Pazz & Jop, an annual poll of American critics nationwide.[32] Robert Christgau, the poll's supervisor, also ranked it fifth on his year-end list,[33] and later appraised it as "primal goes pop—personal and useful", in Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981).[23] In 2012, Imagine was voted 80th on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[2]

Promotional film[edit]

In 1972, Lennon and Ono released an 70-minute film to accompany the Imagine album which featured footage of them at their Berkshire property at Tittenhurst Park and in New York City. It included many of the tracks from the album and some additional material from Ono's 1971 album Fly.[3] Several celebrities appeared in the film, including Andy Warhol, Fred Astaire, Jack Palance, Dick Cavett and George Harrison. Derided by critics as "the most expensive home movie of all time", it premiered to an American audience,[34] on TV on 23 December 1972.[3]


Lennon later expressed his displeasure with the more commercial sound of the album, saying that the title track was "an anti-religious, anti-nationalistic, anti-conventional, anti-capitalistic song, but because it's sugar-coated, it's accepted".[35] In a November 1971 interview for Melody Maker, McCartney spoke positively of Imagine, considering it to be less political than Lennon's previous solo albums. In a subsequent edition of the same publication, Lennon rebuked his former bandmate, saying, "So you think 'Imagine' ain't political? It's 'Working Class Hero' with sugar on it for conservatives like yourself!!" and likened McCartney's politics to those of the staunchly traditional Mary Whitehouse.[36] Imagine was voted as Radio Luxembourg's "Album of the Year" on 24 December 1971.[3]

After Lennon's death, Imagine, along with seven other Lennon albums, was reissued by EMI as part of a box set, which was released in the UK on 15 June 1981.[nb 1][37] Like its title track, Lennon's Imagine became a posthumous hit worldwide after his death in December 1980. The album re-entered the charts during 1981, peaking at number 3 in Norway,[38] 5 in the United Kingdom,[39] 34 in Sweden,[40] and 63 in the United States.[41] In 2000, Yoko Ono supervised the remixing of Imagine for its remastered reissue. In February 2000, the remastered and remixed edition reached number 11 on the Japanese chart.[42] It was reissued in 2003 by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab on gold CD and on 180 gram half-speed mastered vinyl. The Record Plant piano on which Lennon re-recorded some of the album's keyboard parts was sold at auction in 2007.[43]

In October 2010, another remastered version of the album was released, and the album re-entered the Billboard 200 at number 88. On 23 November 2010, Imagine became available on the Rock Band 3 video game, exploiting the music game's use of a keyboard. On Record Store Day 2011, in honour of the album's 40th anniversary, it was re-released on 180-gram vinyl with an additional 12" white vinyl record entitled Imagine Sessions, featuring tracks taken from the John Lennon Anthology. In January 2014, the album was released by Universal Music on the High Fidelity Pure Audio Blu-ray format, featuring PCM, DTS HD and Dolby Tru HD audio tracks, based on the 2010 remaster.[nb 2] In 2018, the album was remixed yet again and titled Imagine: The Ultimate Collection.[44] A six-disc box set, spread over four CDs and two Blu-ray discs, features previously unheard demos, rare studio outtakes, and isolated track elements along with a 5.1 surround mix and the original 4-channel Quadrosonic mix.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by John Lennon; "Imagine" and "Oh My Love" co-written with Yoko Ono.

Side one

  1. "Imagine" – 3:01
  2. "Crippled Inside" – 3:47
  3. "Jealous Guy" – 4:14
  4. "It's So Hard" – 2:25
  5. "I Don't Want to Be a Soldier, Mama, I Don’t Wanna Die" – 6:05[nb 3]

Side two

  1. "Gimme Some Truth" – 3:16
  2. "Oh My Love" – 2:50
  3. "How Do You Sleep?" – 5:36
  4. "How?" – 3:43
  5. "Oh Yoko!" – 4:20

Bonus EP on the 40th Anniversary LP edition[edit]

All songs credited to John Lennon; "Oh My Love" co-written by Yoko Ono; "Baby Please Don't Go" written by Walter Ward.

Side 1
1."Baby Please Don't Go"4:03
3."How Do You Sleep"5:23
Side 2
4."Jealous Guy"4:12
5."Oh My Love"2:56
6."I Don't Want to Be a Soldier"5:23

The Ultimate Collection (2018)[edit]

CD 1 – Imagine The Ultimate Mixes Disc 1
1."Imagine" (Ultimate Mix)3:06
2."Crippled Inside" (Ultimate Mix)3:51
3."Jealous Guy" (Ultimate Mix)4:14
4."It's So Hard" (Ultimate Mix)2:29
5."I Don't Want to Be a Soldier" (Ultimate Mix)6:08
6."Give Me Some Truth" (Ultimate Mix)3:18
7."Oh My Love" (Ultimate Mix)2:47
8."How Do You Sleep" (Ultimate Mix)5:39
9."How?" (Ultimate Mix)3:46
10."Oh Yoko!" (Ultimate Mix)4:21
11."Power to the People" (Ultimate Mix)3:26
12."Well... (Baby Please Don't Go)" (Ultimate Mix)4:08
13."God Save Us (featuring Bill Elliott)" (Ultimate Mix)3:15
14."Do the Oz" (Ultimate Mix)3:12
15."God Save Oz" (Ultimate Mix)3:31
16."Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" (Ultimate Mix)3:36
CD 2 – Imagine The Ultimate Mixes Disc 2
1."Imagine (Strings Only)" (Elements Mix)2:15
2."Jealous Guy (Piano, Bass & Drums)" (Elements Mix)4:15
3."Oh My Love (Vocals Only)" (Elements Mix)1:58
4."How? (Strings Only)" (Elements Mix)3:38
5."Imagine (Demo)"3:19
6."Imagine (Take 1)"3:06
7."Crippled Inside (Take 3)"3:52
8."Crippled Inside (Take 6 Alt Guitar Solo)"3:49
9."Jealous Guy (Take 9)"2:18
10."It's So Hard (Take 6)"2:33
11."I Don't Wanna Be a Soldier Mama I Don't Wanna Die (Take 11)"4:36
12."Gimme Some Truth (Take 4)"3:38
13."Oh My Love (Take 6)"2:50
14."How Do You Sleep? (Takes 1 & 2)"5:59
15."How? (Take 31)"3:47
16."Oh Yoko! (Bahamas 1969)"5:02
17."Power To The People (Take 7)"3:28
18."God Save Us (Demo)"2:58
19."Do the Oz (Take 3)"6:51
20."Happy Xmas (War Is Over) (Alt Mix)"3:23
CD 3 – Imagine Raw Studio Mixes
1."Imagine (Take 10)" (Raw Studio Mix) 
2."Crippled Inside (Take 6)" (Raw Studio Mix) 
3."Jealous Guy (Take 29)" (Raw Studio Mix) 
4."It's So Hard (Take 11)" (Raw Studio Mix) 
5."I Don't Wanna Be A Soldier Mama I Don't Wanna Die (Take 4 – Extended)" (Raw Studio Mix) 
6."Gimme Some Truth (Take 4 – Extended)" (Raw Studio Mix) 
7."Oh My Love (Take 20)" (Raw Studio Mix) 
8."How Do You Sleep? (Take 11 – Extended)" (Raw Studio Mix) 
9."How? (Take 40)" (Raw Studio Mix) 
10."Oh Yoko! (Take 1 – Extended)" (Raw Studio Mix) 
11."Imagine (Take 1)" (Raw Studio Mix) 
12."Jealous Guy (Take 11)" (Raw Studio Mix) 
13."I Don't Wanna Be a Soldier Mama I Don't Wanna Die (Take 21)" (Raw Studio Mix) 
14."How Do You Sleep? (Take 1)" (Raw Studio Mix) 
15."How Do You Sleep? (Takes 5 & 6)" (Raw Studio Mix) 
CD 4 – Imagine: The Evolution Documentary
1."Imagine" (Evolution Documentary) 
2."Crippled Inside" (Evolution Documentary) 
3."Jealous Guy" (Evolution Documentary) 
4."It's So Hard" (Evolution Documentary) 
5."I Don't Wanna Be a Soldier Mama I Don't Wanna Die" (Evolution Documentary) 
6."Gimme Some Truth" (Evolution Documentary) 
7."Oh My Love" (Evolution Documentary) 
8."How Do You Sleep?" (Evolution Documentary) 
9."How?" (Evolution Documentary) 
10."Oh Yoko!" (Evolution Documentary) 

Imagine – Raw Studio Mixes[edit]

Vinyl album issued for 2019's Record Store Day containing early mixes of the tracks, without reverb or effects, placed in the same running order of the original album.[45]

Side 1
1."Imagine" (Take 10)3:06
2."Crippled Inside" (Take 6)3:51
3."Jealous Guy" (Take 29)4:14
4."It's So Hard" (Take 11)2:29
5."I Don't Want to Be a Soldier" (Take 4, extended)6:08
Side 2
6."Give Me Some Truth" (Take 4, extended)3:18
7."Oh My Love" (Take 20)2:47
8."How Do You Sleep?" (Take 11, extended)5:39
9."How?" (Take 40)3:46
10."Oh Yoko!" (Take 1, extended)4:21


Personnel per John Blaney.[46] Track numbering refers to CD and digital releases of the album.



Region Certification
United Kingdom (BPI)[61] Gold
United States (RIAA)[62] 2× Platinum



  1. ^ UK EMI JLB8[37]
  2. ^ Side one: "Baby Please Don't Go" (Walter Ward), "Imagine", "How Do You Sleep?" Side two: "Jealous Guy", "Oh My Love" (Lennon–Ono), "I Don't Wanna Be a Soldier".
  3. ^ The title also appears variously as "I Don't Wanna Be a Soldier Mama I Don't Wanna Die" or "I Don't Wanna Be a Soldier Mama."


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