The perfect ‘pop’ song that I can’t take anymore

I’m watching something that was on BBC Four the other day – something about the perfect pop song. Fascinating, possibly even useful programme. There’s a producer guy being interviewed who I’ve actually met briefly through work – I think he’s on the board or something. Actually, I think I’ve been in a taxi with him. There’s also another guy who was at our annual roadshow/conference thing, who wrote Can’t Get You Out Of My Head by Kylie.

Anyway, fascinating programme, but there’s one thing:

Guy Chambers was just talking about Imagine. You know, that little song by that chap from Liverpool. Wonder whatever happened to him…

I don’t really listen to Imagine anymore. Once upon a time, I made a mix-tape that actually had it three times – that’s one song three times in 90 minutes. I can summon up the entire song in my head, and I mean every little detail – I can hear it as clearly as if it were playing.

I don’t summon it up, and I don’t listen to it much anymore. At some point, it seems to have become too hard to listen to. It happened more generally with Johnny Leper – for a while the terrible pain associated with his butchering got in the way of listening to him at all. I listen to him now, though not like I used to.

Thing is, I don’t listen to Imagine. I still think it’s one of the best songs he ever wrote. I still think he did better and I still think he was pandering to the record-buyers more than a lot of people seem to acknowledge

I couldn’t tell you at what point I stopped with Imagine and I suppose it happened quite gradually. I can’t tell you why

Tangent: Fuck, Robbie’s a talentless arsehole, isn’t he?

Tangent Two: They’re talking about performers who actually don’t sing well but have charisma or whatever to pull it off. Given that this is about songs, why has Dylan Of Woodstock not been mentioned yet – are his clips too expensive?


I can’t tell you why I stopped listening to Imagine. I remember becoming enraged at hearing covers of it – it should be, in my opinion, against the fucking law of humanity to cover it. There aren’t many songs that should be left well alone but Imagine is the greatest of these. That and the Boys Are Back In Town. Probably Bohemian Rhapsody.

I remember once seeing the video very late one night on Vh1 Classic. There was John, my hero, walking through Tittenhurst Park. “Imagine no possessions” while he’s traipsing through his great estate. Then there he is with that white piano in that white room with the wife.

This particular time, I got off the sofa and sat on the floor, nearer the screen. I sat there listening, hearing that bloody voice swim through my head. That voice, which couldn’t be anyone else (except maybe Neil Innes as Ron Nasty). That voice I have loved so much over the course of my life… there are better voices, there are even occasionally more honest voices, but there are few I love more.

Tangent Three: This show has been on for fucking ages now, and they’re only now mentioning the Beatles. Did they have some rule about leaving them out? No Beatle clips – also too expensive I take it?


So, I was sat on the floor, it was very late in the night or knowing me early in the morning. I suppose it felt like I was the only person in the world.

It felt, I think now, like I was the only person in the world. I was the only person to hear this song, that John and I were all there was in the universe for those few minutes. Then I looked up at the screen, and all there was to see was his face, that newly short-hair, the yellow tinted glasses. He looked right at the camera, and in that moment it did feel like he was reaching right into my head.

He wasn’t reaching into my head. The video was probably thirty years old by this point, the man himself twenty years dead. I’ll never look into his real eyes in reality, and perhaps that’s why I don’t listen to the bloody thing anymore: it’s the ultimate proof that the man is gone, left me singing his song.

The world made it his anthem, his signature song, and so that’s it. I can’t just listen to it for the sake of the song, because I hear the song and I’m there on the corner of West 72nd Street watching a nasty fat man approach my hero. I am eternally, forever unable to change what happens next, and so Imagine can never be anything but three minutes of absolute heartbreak.

That’s probably why I don’t listen to it anymore. It was designed to evoke emotion, but I don’t think he intended me to be this fucking sad every time I hear it.

Still, better that than Yesterday.

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