Remember (John Lennon song)
|Song by John Lennon|
|from the album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band|
|Recorded||9 October 1970 at EMI Studios, London|
|Producer(s)||John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Phil Spector|
|John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band track listing|
Writing and recording
The song was influenced by Lennon's primal therapy sessions with Dr Arthur Janov, and the lyrics reflect things typically remembered in therapy. The memories described are unpleasant ones, of conflict with family, authority and peers. Lennon employs his wit, mentioning how "the hero was never hung, always got away", and parents "wishin' for movie stardom, always playin' a part," instead of being honest and open.
At the end of the song, Lennon sings an excerpt from the poem Remember, Remember, The Fifth of November, then an explosion is heard. This is a reference to Guy Fawkes Night, a holiday in Britain celebrated with fireworks. In an interview with Jann Wenner, Lennon said this was part of a lengthy ad-lib and that he later decided this line ought to be the culmination of the song. This ad-lib may refer to the nursery rhyme "Remember Remember", also linked to Guy Fawkes Night:
The fifth of November,
The gunpowder, treason and plot;
I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!
At one point in the song the beat slows down and Lennon sings to himself that when things get crazy in the future, he should try to remember his current moment of respite. Rogan thinks that the moment of respite Lennon wants to remind himself to remember in crazy times is in his childhood, rather than the present day. Mellers explains that the song's construction creates for the listener by using a vocal melody that has no line but is rather made up of pentatonic fragments, and by using odd tonality which moves between unrelated chords.
Lennon plays the piano in staccato fashion. Pop historian Robert Rodriguez notes that early in the song, when Lennon begins to sing, drummer Ringo Starr has to "compensate for John's erratic sense of rhythm," an example of the benefit to Lennon of working with a musician familiar with his quirks.
One line from the song "If you ever change your mind about leaving it all behind" was borrowed from the opening line of Sam Cooke's "Bring It on Home to Me," which Lennon later covered on Rock 'n' Roll. However, Lennon works the line into a different context. Whereas Cooke was inviting a lover to come home to him, Lennon uses the line to suggest that "leaving it all behind" is impossible, and one should always be aware of one's past. Lennon goes on to sing that one shouldn't feel sorry about or worry about the past.
The original version of "Remember" was over eight minutes long. This version contained an organ overdub, more double-tracked vocals, and a Jew's harp. Lennon cut the recording down and added an explosion, in reference to Guy Fawkes Night.
The song was recorded on 9 October 1970, Lennon's 30th birthday. This is evident in that in an outtake of the song, Lennon sings "Happy Birthday... to me..." as Starr and Voormann played the backing track.
"Remember" is one of several songs on John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band that regards "a litany of letdowns." Music critic Wilfrid Mellers regards the theme of "Remember" to be the debunking of parents' dreams for their children as being as phony as television or movie scripts. Music critic Johnny Rogan raises similar issues, stating that the song addresses childhood years when morality is black and white and heroes and villains fit into their predefined roles with inevitable results. According to Mellers, the song "literally" blows up the past with the Guy Fawkes Day explosion. Rogan believes that the quicker tempo and more prominent piano and drum playing leading up to the conclusion increase the drama and humour of the Guy Fawkes explosion. Rogan's interprets the explosion as being Lennon dramatizing an alternate history in which the radical Fawkes succeeds. Authors Ken Bielen and Ben Urish consider the explosion "a stark ending to a surprisingly poignant song,. the rupture of childhood trauma echoing in the adult in the form of half-recalled nursery rhymes."
The musicians who performed on the original recording were as follows:
- "Remember". The Beatles Bible. 2 August 2010. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
- John Lennon: The Rolling Stone Interview : Rolling Stone
- Jackson, A.G. (2012). Still the Greatest: The Essential Solo Beatles Songs. Scarecrow Press. pp. 68–69. ISBN 9780810882225.
- English Folk Verse (c.1870): The Fifth of November, Poem of the Week, PotW.org
- Rogan, J. (1997). The Complete Guide to the Music of John Lennon. Omnius Press. p. 42. ISBN 0711955999.
- Mellers, W. (1973). The Music of the Beatles. Schirmer Books. p. 163. ISBN 0-670-73598-1.
- Rodriguez, R. (2010). Fab Four FAQ 2.0: The Beatles' Solo Years 1970–1980. Hal Leonard. pp. 28, 150, 351. ISBN 978-0-87930-968-8.
- Urish, B. & Bielen, K. (2007). The Words and Music of John Lennon. Praeger. pp. 21–22. ISBN 978-0-275-99180-7.
- Blaney, John (2005). John Lennon: Listen To This Book. Guildford, Great Britain: Biddles Ltd. p. 60. ISBN 0-9544528-1-X.