Friday, May 20, 2011
6 Songs with Alan White #3, "Imagine" 1971
"Imagine" has long been considered the greatest peace anthem in rock history, but how many fans realize John Lennon is "imagining" a utopia full of atheists and anarchists? Lennon has called "Imagine" "Working Class Hero" with sugar on it for conservatives. Future Yes drummer Alan White, now a dedicated member of the Plastic Ono Band, can be seen in the above clip hearing Lennon play "Imagine" for the first time. He tells 1001Songs the story behind Imagine
Actually John just sat down and played it on the piano and sang it for everybody. And everybody was just, you know, amazed. Just such a fantastic song with so much meaning--words that still mean so much today.
"Imagine" has one of the simplest kinds of drum rhythms and it's a very simple song but I learned a kind of lesson from that.
It's not really what you play but how you play it and the feeling behind it. Sometimes that makes it what it is and that's what "Imagine" was all about because we only did three takes and then we did backing tracks. And after the third take we all looked at each other and said I guess that was it. everybody in the room knew that was the take for the song.
1001Songs: What was the feeling in the room?
Oh it was one of quietness and looking around and John said "Wonderful."
Alan played drums on six of the Imagine album tracks, among them "Oh Yoko" and "How do You Sleep?", a scathing reply to Paul's "Too Many People" and other perceived sleights, featuring George Harrison on slide guitar.
John gave us all a sheet with the words to "Imagine" and all the songs to the album Imagine and he said "If there's any song you don't feel like you want to play on because of what it's saying, let me know and they were all fantastic so I just played on a bunch of stuff on the album and loved every moment of it.
I didn't realize at the time that I was kind of a part of history. I was just in the studio making another album kind of thing.
This would be Alan's last session with Lennon but he recalls all his Plastic Ono Band recordings with fondness.
Whenever I started doing anything with the band, he used to say "Whatever you're doing, keep doing it!"
He was just really nice to me, always like a person who took me under his wing and he'd say "This is my little drummer."
Tomorrow: George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord"