John Lennon ‘Imagine’ – Film, Audio and DVD/BluRay On The Way?

Speculation and rumours that there would be a number of additional elements accompanying the forthcoming Imagine John Yoko book (due on October 9) has had an on again/off again nature over the last few days.

The story so far…..

Officially, all we know is that the book is happening, as is a cinema release of the John Lennon and Yoko Ono film Imagine, announced this week: This is the 1972 film with each of the songs from Imagine portrayed (plus four songs from the Ono LP Fly, recorded at the same time) in between glimpses into the lives of John and Yoko, plus some fun sequences featuring the pair and a host of celebrity mates. It looks like it’s the original 70 minute cut of the film, plus an additional 15 minutes or so of bonus material.

If you’d like to go along and see the movie on the big screen there’s a special site set up find out where it is on near you and you can book tickets. Screenings start from September 17.

We also now know that there will be definitely be a DVD and Blu-ray release of the 1972 Imagine film, coupled on the one disc with Gimme Some Truth – The Making of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ Album which dates from 2000 and is directed by Andrew Solt:Gimme Some Truth is a surprisingly good examination of the recording process, a fly-on-the-wall window on Lennon in the studio creating the Imagine album that stands the test of time. The DVD and Blu-ray will be available from October 5, and Amazon is taking pre-orders now. There will be bonus material included, but it has not yet been revealed just what this will be. These two films will be great to have in remixed sound, 5.1 mixes (if that is your thing), and fully restored visual content.

And that leads us to what hasn’t been announced yet regarding the last piece in the puzzle: the audio from the Imagine sessions.

There’s been lots of talk about a super deluxe box set; a single CD; a double CD; and a double LP (with a limited edition in clear vinyl for collectors too). Depending on who you believe this is about to be officially announced (like in the next few days with an October 9 release date), or this part of the Imagine re-issue project has been delayed and we won’t see it until at least February, 2019. (This courtesy of Lennon producer, Jack Douglas, who apparently stated at the Chicago Fest for Beatles last weekend that the project had been shelved to February next year).

Until something official comes out it all remains speculation, but the big box set (which will be audio only) will likely contain four CDs, plus two Blu-rays of material. On these will be some 140 tracks – which is HUGE!

In the box we’ll get the remixed stereo Imagine album, plus singles and extras; outtakes from the album, singles and extras; the Quadraphonic album remastered; raw studio mixes; plus a host of other audio content. For example, someone well-connected to the project has posted this as the content on CD2:

CD 2 – ELEMENTS & OUTTAKES
Elements Mixes and Album & Single Outtakes
ELEMENTS MIXES
Imagine (Strings only) 
Jealous Guy (Piano, bass & drums)
Oh My Love (Vocals only) 
How? (Strings only) 
ALBUM OUTTAKES
Imagine (Original demo recorded at Ascot) 
Imagine (Take 1) 
Crippled Inside (Take 3) 
Crippled Inside (Take 6 alternate guitar solo)
Jealous Guy (Take 9) 
It’s So Hard (Take 6) 
I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier (Take 25) 
Gimme Some Truth (Take 4)
Oh My Love (Take 6) 
How Do You Sleep? (Takes 1 & 2) 
How? (Take 31)

That’s just for one CD. Those two Blu-rays alone will contain a massive amount of additional audio and this release (if it comes about) will set a precedent for the Apple/Universal box set re-issue approach so far. There will be raw studio mixes; “elements” mixes with instruments and voices separated out; documentary content about the evolution of the songs; plus interview material from the time of Imagine with John and Yoko included. To date the breadth of material planned for release is unprecedented.

The promotional music site Ultimate Classic Rock jumped the gun today and published an article called “John Lennon’s Imagine Album Explored in a Six-Disc Box Set“. As you can see if you click through, they’ve subsequently taken that story down….

We reckon this big release program WILL happen. It’s just a matter of when.

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Lennon ‘Imagine’ Re-Issue Rumours Abound

With a press release and first photos issued earlier this week giving details of a new book about the making of John Lennon’s 1971 LP Imagine – plus a social media marketing blitz for the book getting under way yesterday (coordinated Tweets from @yokoono@johnlennon; and the publishers @thamesandhudson and @GrandCentralPub, not to mention Facebook) – the rumour mill is ripe with talk that the book will also be accompanied by a significant re-issue of the recording.

The book, which looks to be an impressive 320 page hardback, is due in store on October 9th:From the press release: “Imagine tells the story of John & Yoko’s life, work and relationship during this intensely creative period. It transports readers to home and working environments through artfully compiled narrative film stills, Yoko’s closely guarded archive photos and artefacts, and stitched-together panoramas taken from outtake film footage that recreate the interiors in evocative detail. Each chapter and song is introduced with text by John & Yoko compiled from published and unpublished sources and complemented by comments from Yoko today. Fresh insights are provided by musicians, engineers and staff who took part, many of whom feature on the inner sleeve’s enigmatic picture wheel, in which the identities are finally revealed. All the minutiae is examined: the locations, the key players, the music and lyrics, the production techniques and the artworks – including the creative process behind the double exposure Polaroids used on the album cover.”

Even the page edges have been given a special cloud treatment:

Imagine will be published in the USA by Grand Central Publishing, and the UK by Thames and Hudson.

Have to say – the book looks impressive and will no doubt conatin some real treasures, both in information and photographs….

So, what about a re-mixed Imagine CD, vinyl, or deluxe box set to accompany it?

Some weeks back The Beatles Daily blog had this, quoting former Beatle aide and insider Tony Bramwell that a “song and dance” version of the album was in the works, while on the popular Steve Hoffman Music Forums they are talking about a new remix, possible DVD and Blu-Ray, and maybe a box set to be bundled with the book…..

So far it is all speculation. If there’s something in the works expect an offical announcement soon I guess.

One thing is certain: Yoko Ono will be credited for the first time officially as co-writer of the song ‘Imagine’. This is because when “Imagine” received the National Music Publishers Association’s inaugural Centennial Song Award last year, the organisation took on board John Lennon’s statement from 1980 that it really was a co-write – and bestowed the honour upon her at the ceremony. Yoko (and son Sean) were at the awards to receive it and you can watch what happened here:

Interesting, isn’t it.

Again, from the official press release about the forthcoming book: “In 1971, John Lennon and Yoko Ono conceived and recorded the critically acclaimed album Imagine at their Georgian country home, Tittenhurst Park, in Berkshire, England, and in the state-of-the-art studio they built in the grounds and at the Record Plant in New York. The lyrics of its title track were inspired by Yoko Ono’s ‘event scores’ in her 1964 book Grapefruit, and she was officially co-credited as writer in June 2017.

If there is to be a major re-issue later this year (and it’s looking very likely that there will), it’ll become the very first release to carry that new co-writer song credit for the song ‘Imagine”.

John Lennon – 2018 US Postal Service Stamp Update

The US Postal Service recently issued a little bit more information on the John Lennon Forever stamp, part of its Music Icons commemorative series.

The stamp will be issued on September 7 in New York City, and with more details of the design being made public there’s been a bit of a surprise twist: there will be not one, but four different stamps in this issue.

As you can see above, because the stamp will be issued in a pane of 16 (with the stamp pane made to look like the sleeve of a 7″ record – which is kind of cool), the stamps in each row are to be treated in different gradient colors, creating four different varieties.

The colors on the stamps in the first row change from light orange to red; the second row changes from red to light purple; the third row is light purple to dark purple; and the fourth is dark purple to blue.

The image on the reverse of the pane is the black-and-white photograph taken by Peter Fordham at about the time of the Imagine album release in 1971. It is of Lennon at his white piano. His signature is in white above, and there’s a Music Icons logo bottom left.

The John Lennon stamp was designed by Neal Ashby and Antonio Alcala was the art director.The US Postal Service press release is here.

The Beatles in India

Something of a Beatles and India theme has emerged in 2018, with this year marking the 50th anniversary of the time the band spent six weeks in an ashram in Rishikesh learning about Transcendental Meditation (TM), and along the way writing a prolific amount of fabulous songs.

Last week the George Harrison estate announced the creation of a new record label to mine the rich Harrison archives and re-issue many of George’s musical projects with Indian artists. His visits to that country changed his life and his art forever.

Prior to that announcement there was the release in February of a beautiful book (in three different editions) called The Beatles in India

These books are to be followed up with a documentary film bearing the same name later this year.

There’s also another book called Across the Universe: The Beatles in India by Ajoy Bose:

And a further book, Maharishi and Me – Seeking Enlightenment with The Beatles’ Guru, by Susan Shumsky:Let’s look at each of these releases in some more detail.

The Beatles in India. The books. These are a photographic record of the time a 23 year-old Canadian, Paul Saltzman, traveled to India in search of himself. To his great surprise he discovered that The Beatles were also in India, studying at the same ashram in Rishikesh. Saltzman spent a magical week with them, learning meditation and hanging out with John, Paul, George and Ringo. Fifty years later, the photos he took at the time are being published once again* in a book called The Beatles in India. It is available in three versions: as a standard hardback (see cover image above); as a special limited edition (signed and numbered and only 1968 copies produced): 

And in a larger format super deluxe edition (signed and numbered and only 350 copies produced):

* It should be noted that is is not the first time that Saltzman has published these photographs. He first released them along with his memories in a book called The Beatles in Rishikesh, published by Viking Studio in 2000. So, what you get here isn’t totally new information.

The Beatles in India. The film. This is a documentary also being made by Paul Saltzman, who is now an Emmy Award-winning Toronto-based director-producer of over 300 film and television productions. As we already know from his books, in 1968 he learned meditation at the Maharishi’s ashram in India, an experience that changed his life. There, he photographed The Beatles, Jane Asher, Cynthia Lennon, Pattie Boyd Harrison, Maureen Starkey, Mia Farrow, Donovan, Mal Evans and Mike Love. The film will detail “….Saltzman’s return journey to India, The Beatles stay and the songs they composed at the ashram, as well as meditation as it applies to creativity, the divine inner journey and the healing power of love and music.” No release date has yet been announced. You can read the press release for this one here.

Across the Universe: The Beatles in India. “What we do know is that their stay in Rishikesh resulted in an astonishing creative burst of song-writing – the most prolific in their entire career.”

Ajoy Bose was a teenage fan when The Beatles visited India. His book is an in-depth celebration of what it meant, especially the creative impact their stay had on the band: “I believe that the real reason why they managed to write so many songs in India was because it was the first time since they became the Beatles they were allowed to be individuals and not just a band that needed to perform or record in the studios.”

“So a sabbatical did change the Beatles, at least temporarily, and particularly the songs they wrote in the ashram, because these were all individual pieces and were not created with an album in mind. That is why the ‘White Album’, which contains most of these songs, is considered so unique in the Beatles discography,” says Bose.

Amazon has a ‘Look Inside‘ link for more, and you can read a lovely review of the book here.

Maharishi and Me – Seeking Enlightenment with The Beatles’ Guru. Author Susan Shumsky lived and studied in the Maharishi’s ashrams for 22 years, and she served on his personal staff for seven of those years. Many books have been written about the guru, and (as we’ve seen above) about the time The Beatles travelled to India, but this is the only one to offer an insider’s view of what it was really like to live in Rishikesh. Yes, it includes chapters about the time that John, Paul, George and Ringo came to learn at the feet of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. But this book is about much more than that.

Shumsky says that it’s “….a way of sharing a few glimpses into my spiritual journey, and hopefully will help you make your own spiritual connection.” There’s a lot more information here about TM, what it actually is, and it’s impact not only on The Beatles but on people seeking spiritual enlightenment across the west.

Shumsky has some very good detail about how The Beatles found out about the Maharishi, how they first got into TM in London and Wales, and how as a result of a Beatle connection the rest of the world found out about TM too. She also writes in detail, across a number of chapters, about the India visit in early 1968. Here we discover what the day-to-day life and activities for the band would have been like.

On the way to the ashram, George Harrison told a reporter, “A lot of people think we’ve gone of our heads. Well, they can think that—or anything they like. We’ve discovered a new way of living.” But, as we know, it all ended badly, with The Beatles leaving the ashram disillusioned – especially with the Maharishi. Shumsky has a theory as to why this occurred, and devotes a chapter to the falling out. It makes for interesting reading.

If you’d like to get a taste of Susan’s story there’s also a ‘Look Inside‘ link on the Amazon site. Marharishi and Me is published by Skyhorse Publishing.

Strange/Unusual Finds of the Month – Nowhere Man and Double Fantasy

Every couple of months the Lifeline organisation (which offers a free phone crisis and suicide prevention counselling service in Australia) holds a huge fundraising book fair. They always have, as a side note, lots of second-hand CDs, and usually a few records too. These are usually placed in one corner and any Beatle titles would be scattered in amongst hundreds of other artists.

However, the Lifeline book fair last month had its very own Beatles section!

Obviously someone had donated a large collection and the volunteers had hived off a dedicated section of the tables just for Beatle stuff. There were books, a small selection of LPs and CDs, plus a very large stack of 45 singles. By the time we got through the door though another collector was well into sifting through the 45’s and so we had to wait patiently by for him to finish. Sadly (for us) he took just about all of them, and we were left to pick over the remains.

Much to our delight though we discovered a very clean copy of a Beatle EP that had been missing from the collection – one that is now considered rare and fetches hefty prices on eBay. It’s the Australian pressing of the band’s Nowhere Man EP, released on November 3, 1966:This one has the flipback tabs on the rear cover, and the early black and yellow Parlophone label with the Northern Songs royalty stamps included:We’d been looking for a copy of this EP for ages, so to find a copy in good condition was a real bonus. It completes a full set of all the Beatles’ Australian EP releases.

While biding time waiting for the other collector to sift through the stack of 45’s we checked out the books and the small number of Beatle albums on offer. Amongst these was this LP: This is the rarer Half-Speed mastered pressing of the John Lennon/Yoko Ono disc Double Fantasy. It is on the Geffen/Nautilus Superdisc label and dates from 1982. This limited edition release should come with a poster and a lyric sheet insert. Both these are missing, but it does have the original Nautilus ‘blue disc’ poly inner “Super Sleeve”:So, another strange/unusual find on what turned out to be a pretty good day.

Label Variations Part Eleven – Happy Xmas (War is Over)

A Christmas theme for the next installment in our occasional Label Variations segment.

This time it’s John Lennon, Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Band, with the Harlem Community Choir  and the 1971/1972 song ‘Happy Xmas (War is Over)’. Early versions (and some re-issues) were on green vinyl to suit the season.

The US Bell Sound test pressing:

Other US variations:

Some of the UK releases:

And Australia/New Zealand:

Here are some European releases. First Spain ‘Feliz Navidad’:

The Netherlands:

Italy:

France:

Greece:

Sweden:

An EU-made CD single from 2003:

Back to vinyl, this one is from Yugoslavia:

And a couple of South American countries, including Venuzuela ‘Felices Pascuas (Se Acabo La Guerra)’:

Brazil:

Mexico ‘Feliz Navidad (La guerra termino)’:

Here’s one from Japan ‘ハッピークリスマス戦争は終わった’:

Later on, when John Lennon was signed briefly to Geffen Records, that label released ‘Happy Xmas (War is Over)’ too:

(As usual, click on most images to see larger versions)

Please note that not all these are from our collection! Check out this link to a ‘Happy Xmas (War is Over)’ 40th Anniversary page. Catch some others in the Label Variations series here. And visit the Imagine Peace (War is Over!) site.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our readers.

Some Sgt. Pepper’s Holiday Listening

With the holidays upon us, and to celebrate the release of the 2017 remix of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (on 180 gram vinyl) in single LP form – plus the Sgt. Pepper vinyl picture disc, here are a couple of Pepper-related items for your listening pleasure.

They all come from the Australian Radio National program, The Music Show – hosted by Andrew Ford.

For the 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper earlier this year The Music Show spoke to singer Barb Junger (whom you’ll hear has a record of Beatle covers out) and writer Joyce Morgan about their memories of first hearing the album back when it was first released in the Summer of Love:

The Music Show also spoke to Beatle biographer extraordinaire, Mark Lewisohn:

The program’s final Pepper installment came from Joanne Petersen, Brian Epstein’s personal assistant. Petersen, who now lives in Australia, recalls the time she heard a test pressing of Sgt. Pepper’s; details some of the launch activities (including John Lennon’s psychedelic Rolls Royce); and George Harrison refusing to cuddle British DJ Kenny Everett:

Their Pepper special also came with a special bonus. It’s a link to a fantastic mini documentary on the background to the people (and horses!) mentioned in the poster John Lennon used to inspire his song, ‘Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite’. And, believe it or not, there’s another Australian connection:

All audio is ex ABC Radio National. Visit The Music Show website for more of their great programs.