Part III of the Great John Lennon Mourning Period. A single from his brand new record kicks the re-released classic from top spot, only the second time an artist had replaced themselves at #1 (Lennon was also quite heavily involved when ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ replaced ‘She Loves You’ seventeen years earlier).
Woman, by John Lennon (his 3rd and final #1)
2 weeks, 1st – 15th February 1981
Just like ‘Starting Over’ – see what I did there –this is another love-letter to Yoko. He starts off by whispering The other half of the sky… (reminding me of the whispered ‘Happy Christmases’ on ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’) and then launches into a detailed explanation of why this woman is so special: Woman, I will try to express, My inner feelings, And thankfulness…
It is a bit soppy. And a bit simplistic. Like ‘Imagine’, the message is sincere but basic. And Lennon’s voice is as close to simpering as I’ve ever heard it, especially on the Hold me close to your heart… line. While the chorus is all ooh-ooh-oohs and do-do-do-dodos. ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ it is not. Nor is it the equal of much of Lennon’s earlier solo stuff: ‘Mind Games’, ‘Whatever Gets You Thru the Night’, ‘#9 Dream’ and the like…
That’s not to say it’s a bad song. It’s fine. It’s still a song written by John Lennon, and the quality is there. But like ‘Starting Over’, this wouldn’t have been coming anywhere close to #1 had the tragic not occurred. And I’ve always thought that calling the song ‘Woman’ was a little insulting. He could just as easily have called it ‘Yoko’ and it would still have scanned (though perhaps wouldn’t have sold quite as well…) Still, as Lennon himself said, it is a tribute to all women: Yoko, and you’d imagine his late mother, the aunt that raised him, his first wife Cynthia… That makes it a little more sincere to my ears.
I’ve never fully listened to ‘Double Fantasy’, the album from which this and ‘(Just Like) Starting Over’ came, released three weeks before Lennon’s murder. Going by the song titles there was a bit of a theme going on: ‘Dear Yoko’ and ‘Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)’ from John, and ‘Beautiful Boys’ and ‘Every Man Has a Woman Who Loves Him’ from Yoko. It’s a celebration of love and family, against which the image of Lennon being gunned down in the doorway of his home, his wife watching on, becomes even more horrific.
But from what I have heard from the album, I’m not sure it would be so well-regarded if it hadn’t been for his soon-to-follow death. Lennon himself won’t be back on top of the charts – the 3rd single, ‘Watching the Wheels’, only made #30, which is a shame because it’s better than either of the #1s – but there is one more tribute to come before the Great Mourning Period wraps up. It must have been a sad time, and people must have been looking for some light relief. For what else would explain our next #1 single…? Gulp!