John Lennon – Double Fantasy (Stripped Down)

At long last my copy of the John Lennon and Yoko Ono “Double Fantasy – Stripped Down” two CD set has arrived.

I know, it was released way back in October as part of the Lennon 70th birth-date celebrations, along with the big LennonSignature” box set, the “Gimme Some Truth” 4 CD box set, and the two versions of the “best of” John Lennon compilations called “Power to the People – The Hits”.

The lengthy delay for me in getting “Double Fantasy – Stripped Down” was caused by a bad Ebayer who disappeared off the face of the earth after taking my (and many other peoples) money. After waiting weeks the item just didn’t turn up, and he didn’t reply to emails. Fortunately I’d paid  using PayPal and after lodging a refund claim with them I got my money back. I must say here that it was all very efficiently done by PayPal – so I’d recommend using them as a way to pay for anything you order on Ebay as it comes with this sort of buyer protection.

After quite a few weeks that dispute was solved and I placed another Ebay order – this time with a store in the US. I particularly wanted a US copy of “Stripped Down” to go with all the US versions of Lennon’s other titles contained in the “Signature” box set. They sent it surface mail or something and it also took a while to get here – but this time at least it has finally arrived.

You’ve probably gathered by now that I’m quite interested in the packaging, small print text, and the images used for the covers of LPs and CDs. (If you are too, you might like a page called “Sleevage” that specialises in album music, art and design of all types).

Clearly, this late in the day, this CD cover isn’t new to you. Its been out since October and everyone has come to terms with the fact that both the front and rear covers are cleverly based on sketches of the original LP’s black-and-white shots of John and Yoko taken back in 1980. I think its a nice touch that they asked Sean Lennon to do this. Yoko says in the booklet liner notes (quote):

“And thank you Sean, after many days of hesitation, you finally did the drawings for the front and back covers…for your dad and your mom. All sorts of memory of that time came back to you, you said.. I know how hard it must have been. This is a thank you from me and your dad.”

One other piece of information that caught my attention reading the small print in the cover notes was that two of the photographs used on the inside panels of the cover are actually significant. This shot of John and Yoko leaving the Dakota building was taken on their  way to the Hit Factory studios in New York on August 4, 1980, for the first day of recording for what would become the “Double Fantasy” album:

From inside the gatefold cover: John and Yoko leave the Dakota for the studio and the very first day of recording "Double Fantasy" - August 4, 1980

And this photo on another panel of the gatefold for “Stripped Down” was taken on 44th Street, New York on December 6, 1980 – the last day of recording:

Another image from the packaging: John and Yoko on 44th Street on the very last day of recording "Double Fantasy"

Its not the first time that photo of the pair leaving the Dakota Building has been used. It appeared as the picture sleeve for the US release of one of the three singles taken from the original “Double Fantasy” LP – the song called “Watching the Wheels”:

The same Dakota photograph was used for the vinyl single "Watching the Wheels", released on 27 March, 1981

Interestingly, when you purchase the LennonSignature Box“, which reissues all his original solo albums, you get “Double Fantasy” remastered in its original form – a single disc with the 1980 cover art and without the “Stripped Down”  version as an additional CD:

In the booklet for this edition of “Double Fantasy” you get a different short essay by Paul Du Noyer, but it has all the same photographs as those used in the booklet for the “Stripped Down” booklet.

Also, I’m not sure that you can purchase this single disc 2010 remastered version of “Double Fantasy” as a stand-alone item. I had a quick look around on the web and couldn’t find it for sale anywhere and so I think it may only be available by getting the “Signature” box. If anyone has any info on that one please let us know.


“Stripped Down” – First Photos

Maybe the very first images of the full packaging for “Double Fantasy – Stripped Down” have been posted on the web.

Apparently the full range of the “Gimme Some Truth” releases (including the 11 CD box set) are already available for sale in a CD shop in Brussells:

The site these come from is in French and Google Translate says something like this:

“No need to wait for the official release date (October 4th), all the new Lennon are already (and apparently have been for 1 or 2 days) at a record store in Brussels in the “old quarter”…The big box (at 145 € euros), the single CDs, compilations…and “Stripped Down” (at 19 € euros). The packaging is like those for the CD stereo Beatles remasters: soft cardboard (which shows fingerprints and the ink of which will undoubtedly be transferred onto neighboring CDs in a rack – just like the Beatles ones). The CD slid out without any protective inner sleeve.”

This was posted on September 30th. Thanks to the French Beatles forum for these images.

Also, as to the sound of “Stripped Down” there’s a nice side-by-side comparison been posted by Willard on the Never Get Out of the Boat blogsite.

New Lennon Film + Behind the Scenes Podcast Series

As part of an ever-growing number of events, books and CD re-issues to mark what would have been John Lennon’s 70th birthday, comes a new documentary film. In a couple of days (on September 25th) “LennoNYC” will make it’s premiere as part of the New York Film Festival. It will also be broadcast on PBS TV in the United States (on November 22nd), and released commercially as a DVD (on November 23).

The film, which looks to be well-researched and gets access to a number of the main players in John Lennon’s life, traces his love affair with the city of New York and how, with the city’s help, he was able to reinvent himself both artistically and in his private life. It also delves into how he worked as a composer and recording artist.

In the lead up to the television premiere the makers of the film – Susan Lacy, Series Creator and Executive Producer of the American Masters series and a producer of “LennoNYC”, and Director/Writer Michael Epstein – are making ten, hour-long, exclusive podcasts freely available. These all contain extended and largely uncut versions of the interviews that were recorded for the film with those who knew and worked with Lennon intimately during his time living in the city.

The first is with Jack Douglas, co-producer (with Lennon and Yoko Ono) of the “Double Fantasy” LP, released just prior to Lennon’s death in 1980. Its timely because he’s just been involved in preparing the special “stripped down” edition of the album which will be released the week after next.

Here is Jack Douglas from the PBS podcast talking about his work on the new stripped down version:

In the hour-long podcast interview Douglas also reveals how “Double Fantasy” was made in top secret – and surprisingly – much of it in John Lennon’s bed:

There are many other great insights and stories from Douglas. He’s particularly poignant about John’s death and its impact on him and others who knew him closely. You can download the full podcasts here, or go to the iTunes store and subscribe there. New episodes will be posted weekly every Thursday until the Thursday after the TV broadcast on November 22.  The final podcast will be a question and answer session using the best questions submitted by users via email.

The “Imagine Peace” website has extensive coverage, information and articles about the film “LennoNYC” (scroll down the page), and there’s also been a trailer for the documentary uploaded to YouTube:

“Starting Over” – New Lennon Book Coming

Its the season for new biographical books. There’s a new Paul McCartney biog just released.

And now comes news of a new book associated with the massive John Lennon CD reissue release program that’s planned for October. The book is about the making of the “Double Fantasy” album which when reissued next month will contain the original recording remastered, plus a new “stripped down” version as well.

“Starting Over – The Making of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Double Fantasy” will be published by Simon & Schuster on October 19:

Starting Over - front cover

The book is written by author, musician and columnist Ken Sharp who’s previous works include whats regarded as the definitive biography of Kiss.

To quote from the PR blurb:  “Starting Over is an oral history of the making of Double Fantasy and the definitive account of John Lennon’s last days. From early demos to sessions at New York City’s The Hit Factory, from the electrifying chemistry of the studio band to keeping the project under wraps to the album’s release and critical reception, here is fascinating, insightful commentary from all of the key players involved in its extraordinary creation: Yoko Ono, David Geffen, producer Jack Douglas, engineers, arrangers, session musicians, music journalists, and even Lennon himself via archival interviews.”

The book will feature never-before-seen photos of John and Yoko in the studio, by David M. Spindel and Roger Farrington.

Thanks to Scott Segelbaum of the “Beatle Briefs” podcast for the info on this one.

Speaking of the forthcoming reissue of  “Double Fantasy – Stripped Down”, the new cover art was revealed a couple of weeks ago:

Clearly its a pencil drawing (signed Sean Ono Lennon, 2010) based on the famous photograph used on the original LP and CD covers. It also appeared in a more closely cropped version on the 45 rpm vinyl single “(Just Like) Starting Over”: