Isolation (John Lennon song)

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"Isolation"
John Lennon Isolation sleeve.jpg
"Isolation" was issued as the b-side to "Mother" in the Philippines
Song by John Lennon
from the album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
Released1970
Recorded26 September – 9 October 1970 at EMI Studios, London
Length2:51
LabelApple/EMI
Songwriter(s)John Lennon
Producer(s)John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Phil Spector
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band track listing

"Isolation" is a 1970 song appearing on John Lennon's first official solo album release, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. It ends side one of the album, and is the fifth track. In the Philippines Apple Records released "Isolation" as the b-side to "Mother", the single off John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, in contrast to most countries where the b-side was Yoko Ono's "Why." It was also released on an EP in Mexico along with "Mother," "Look at Me" and "My Mummy's Dead."

Lyrics and music[edit]

At the time, Lennon began to feel disillusioned with fame and where his life was heading, with the break-up of the Beatles, the attacks he and Yoko Ono were facing at the time, as well as acute insecurity and self-doubt brought on through his extensive drug use."[1] "Isolation" reveals Lennon's feelings of vulnerability, despite his fame and fortune.[2][3] Beatles biographer John Blaney sees this as continuing the theme of the album, as Lennon strips away another layer of myth that hides the true reality.[3] Blaney sees this revelation as being particularly painful for Lennon, for whom belonging and acceptance was very important.[3]

The lyrics begin by stating that even though he and Ono seem to have everything, they are still as lonely and isolated as everyone else.[4] The second verse focuses on the couple's political activism, which many oppose generating even further isolation.[4] The third verse generalizes the situation further. Lennon acknowledges that the people who have caused his pain can't be blamed, since we are all part of the same irrational world, and thus we are all victims of the world's insanity.[3][4] This verse borrows from an older song, Barrett Strong's "Oh I Apologize," the b-side to his 1959 single "Money (That's What I Want)."[4] In "Oh I Apologize" Strong sang "I don't expect you to take me back/after I've caused you so much pain."[4] The third verse of "Isolation" begins "I don't expect you to understand/After you caused so much pain" before noting that the listener is not to blame.[4] The fourth and final verse puts people's fears of each other and even of the sun into the context of a universe in which the sun is permanent but our world may not be.[5]

Musicologist Wilfrid Mellers describes "Isolation" as an "Anglicized version of Negro piano blues."[5] The instrumentation begins with just drums and piano backing Lennon's vocals.[4] When Lennon's vocals become more emotional, an organ is added to the instrumentation.[4] The instrumentation also includes bass, played by Klaus Voorman.[3] Mellers points out that the song's mood of isolation is intensified by the "bare, open fifths" played by the piano and by the silences incorporated into the sad melody.[5] He also notes that the pain communicated by the song is enhanced by the dissonances in the music, particularly the use of semitone intervals.[5] According to Mellers, the portion of the third verse in which Lennon sings that "You're just a human/a victim of the insane" is effectively intensified by the contrasting semitones of F♯ against F and by harmonizing F with a dominant seventh chord on C instead of with a D major chord.[5]

Recording[edit]

Recorded at EMI Studios on 6 October 1970,[6] Lennon double-tracked his vocals for the middle section, which were panned to each side in stereo. The song's organ part is heard most clearly immediately prior to the final verses.[1]

An outtake of "Isolation", including a broken-down attempt, can be heard on the John Lennon Anthology box set.[1]

Reception[edit]

Mellers regards Lennon's achievement in creating a Negro blues as an Englishman as being equivalent to that of Bob Dylan's creating such blues songs as a white American.[5] Ben Urish and Ken Bielen describe "Isolation" as "direct and moving" and praise Lennon's vocal as being both "animated and nuanced."[4] Beatle biographers Chip Madinger and Mark Easter regard the song as a "fabulous side one closer," lamenting that it cannot perform this function on the CD release of John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band.[7] Music journalist Paul Du Noyer does not rank "Isolation" among Lennon's best songs but feels that it "transcends the well-worn 'lonely at the top' trap" by generalizing the emotions to those that many people feel at times.[2]

Personnel[edit]

The musicians who performed on the original recording were as follows:[8]

Cover versions[edit]

The song was covered by Snow Patrol in 2005, for Make Some Noise, Amnesty International, which was later released on the 2007 benefit album Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur.

Marianne Faithfull covered the song on A Perfect Stranger The Island Anthology.

Harry Nilsson, a close friend of Lennon, also recorded this song. His version is available on the 2008 reissue of Aerial Pandemonium Ballet.[9]

Joe Cocker included his cover version in 1987 album Unchain my Heart.[10]

Matthew Sweet released an acoustic version on his 1992 promotional-only CD Goodfriend—Another Take on "Girlfriend". That disc was subsequently included in the 2006 "Legacy Edition" of his 1991 album Girlfriend.

Sponge did a cover version in 1995 for the tribute album Working Class Hero: A Tribute to John Lennon.[11]

Maxïmo Park did a 90-second cover version as a B-side, which was also released on the 2006 compilation album Missing Songs.[12]

Ann Wilson, lead singer of Heart, recorded a cover version of this song for her 2007 solo release Hope & Glory.[13] A live version of "Isolation" performed by Heart was released as a UK only bonus track on the Dreamboat Annie Live album.

Britt Daniel from Spoon has also performed the song live when playing solo.

Pedro Aznar an Argentina bassist, who also played on Pat Metheny Group, covered this song on an album called David y Goliath in 1995.

Kevin Hewick often includes "Isolation" in the cover version section of his longer live sets.

Roger Waters, former bassist and singer of Pink Floyd, cites "Isolation" as one of his favourite songs of all time.[14]

Ian Hunter from Mott The Hoople covers this song regularly during his live shows.

Mercury Rev covered the song on Instant Karma - A Tribute to John Lennon (2002).[15]

Ty Segall covered the song on his 2018 cover album, Fudge Sandwich.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Isolation". The Beatles Bible. 2 August 2010. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  2. ^ a b Du Noyer, Paul (1999). John Lennon: Whatever Gets You Through the Night. Thunder's Mouth Press. p. 30. ISBN 1560252103.
  3. ^ a b c d e Blaney, J. (2007). Lennon and McCartney: together alone: a critical discography of their solo work. Jawbone Press. p. 37. ISBN 978-1-906002-02-2.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Urish, Ben & Bielen, Ken (2007). The Words and Music of John Lennon. Praeger. pp. 21, 116. ISBN 9780275991807.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Mellers, Wilfrid (1973). Twilight of the Gods:The Music of the Beatles. Schirmer Books. pp. 162–163.
  6. ^ Madinger, Chip; Raile, Scott (2015). LENNONOLOGY Strange Days Indeed - A Scrapbook Of Madness. Chesterfield, MO: Open Your Books, LLC. p. 211. ISBN 978-1-63110-175-5.
  7. ^ Madinger, C. & Easter, M. (2000). Eight Arms to Hold You. 44.1 Productions. p. 38. ISBN 0-615-11724-4.
  8. ^ Blaney, John (2005). John Lennon: Listen To This Book. Guildford, Great Britain: Biddles Ltd. p. 59. ISBN 0-9544528-1-X.
  9. ^ Thomas, Stephen. "Aerial Pandemonium Ballet - Harry Nilsson : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 December 2012.
  10. ^ Chrispell, James. "Unchain My Heart - Joe Cocker : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 December 2012.
  11. ^ Thomas, Stephen. "Working Class Hero: A Tribute to John Lennon - Various Artists : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 December 2012.
  12. ^ Phares, Heather. "Missing Songs - Maxïmo Park : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 December 2012.
  13. ^ Tamarkin, Jeff. "Hope & Glory - Ann Wilson : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 December 2012.
  14. ^ "Roger Waters likes "Isolation"". IMDb.com. Retrieved 10 May 2014.
  15. ^ "Uncut Presents: Instant Karma 2002; a Tribute to John Lennon: Various Artists: Amazon.com: Music". Amazon.com. 1 January 2002. Retrieved 10 May 2014.

External links[edit]