Friday, October 29, 2010

John Lennon - Shaved Fish


This is kind of the quintessential solo Lennon album.  However much Double Fantasy and Rock'n'Roll reverberated through my life (neither of which I own), it's these songs that mean so much to me.

I guess people of our generation always remember where we were when we heard about it.  Because it was early December and summer, I was with a couple of friends at a local swimming spot in Canberra, where I grew up.  My friend Karen and I had taken an air mattress out on the lake and were splashing about happily while our friend David went back to the car to turn up the music.  I'll never forget how he called us in to shore - we thought he might have hurt himself or something.  But as we came closer he shouted out "John Lennon's been shot!" and so we just packed up everything and went home, to mourn.
Much more than Elvis a few years earlier, this was the death that pierced my musical heart.  At that stage I was firmly a Lennon Beatles fan, budding anarchist that I was, well before my shift to gentle George.  These days I'm bound to acknowledge his many flaws.  Massive talent so often breeds massive ego.

There's so much on Shaved Fish to love.  But thirty years after his death, and thirty-five since this was released, I'm desperately sad to realise none of the things he Imagined have come true.  In many ways, this is a world the worse for wear, not the better for progress.



For a long time, it was said there are two types of music lovers in the world: Beatles fans or Stones fans.  While it is perfectly acceptable to like both bands, it is also nearly impossible to like them equally.  Me, I'm a Beatles fan, of this I have no doubt.

Of course, the divisions don't stop at being a Beatles fan.  Oh no, that would be way too easy.  There are subsets within this set: Lennon fans, McCartney fans or Harrison fans.  I can't imagine anyone who calls themselves a Beatles fan wanting to identify themselves in the Starr subset but who knows, they might be out there. (Mine says: oh yes, I knew one once - very weird guy)

If push comes to shove, I consider myself a McCartney fan.  I love his voice and his songs.  I love his personality and his musical abilities.  I love that he wrote my favourite Bond theme, Live And Let Die, and that had the balls to do the dreadful Mull Of Kintyre.  My favourite Beatles songs are mostly ones he wrote and sang (Yesterday, Michelle, Lady Madonna).  But as I've said previously in this blog, I have a hard time with being pigeon-holed.  I guess this is basically because I'm a loner and I'm non-competitive.  (Mine says: unless he's racing someone for a parking spot, folks!)

But having said all this, in my usual long-winded way, Lennon's songs are as important to me, although in much different ways, as McCartney.  Lennon had a way of being able to condense complex ideas into such poignant, powerful lyrics, much more so than McCartney has ever been able to do.  His deft turns of phrase and projection was able to tap in to the collective mindset of a generation

So, now we come to Shaved Fish.  Finally.  This is pretty much a compilation of singles released by John Lennon from the late 60s to the mid-70s.  It is an absolutely superb example of Lennon's songwriting, which, unlike typical McCartney tracks, are more socio-political and include many lyrical references to his personal philosophies (Imagine, Give Peace A Chance, Instant Karma, Power To The People).  It also details his battle with drugs (Cold Turkey), his search for higher states (Mindgames) and his ability to write beautiful pop (#9 Dream)

No, I don't really care for being pigeon-holed.  Just like I don't care for the idea of borders.  As the great man says:

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one


For more information go to (one of the many sites available)


  1. "Imagine no possessions...." while I'm sitting at my Steinway in my English country mansion.

    "In many ways, this is a world the worse for wear, not the better for progress." I heard this morning that you can now Twitter from the top of Mt Everest. As a race, is that the peak of our ambition?

  2. You have a point, Cape... um, Mr D'Avenger? Yes, the need to instantly communicate the slightest piece of drivel has kinda brought us to a new low.

    But I think you can still Imagine while sitting in the lap of luxury. He Imagined himself from a working-class Liverpool suburb to being one of the most famous people in the world, at a time when it looked like the world was only getting bigger, stronger, and to some people, better. It's not that big a stretch, then, to Imagine a complete revolution.

    Granted, I tend to think he was also an egotistical wanker. But even wankers can have great ideas, and those who live the most selfless lives can also be boring jerks. Shades of grey, my friend, not black and white.