The John Lennon song that took over 100 takes to get right

John Lennon

“Perfectionist” isn’t usually the first adjective that people think of when describing John Lennon’s period with The Beatles. When Lennon first joined the Fab Four, his eagerness to compose songs was always matched by his desire to try new things. As a result, he produced recordings that were driven by art and gained from sounding as raw as possible in certain situations. But Lennon made it a point to ensure that one song was precisely how he wanted it to be. This was especially important when it came time to pursue his solo career.

However, it’s not as though Lennon wasn’t willing to offer the right response when the opportunity emerged. When reliving songs like “Strawberry Fields Forever,” John Lennon made sure that every detail of the song matched what he heard in his head. This even meant combining disparate takes of the song in different keys.

The need for Paul McCartney to get everything perfect on the final tape, however, didn’t align with Lennon’s way of thinking. During the latter part of The Beatles’ career, McCartney would frequently have an idea for a song. He would spend most of his time playing it through several times in the studio until he got the perfect take. This pushed John Lennon insane on songs like “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.”

But Lennon wasn’t quite ready to launch a solo career after the band broke up. Primal scream therapy was Lennon’s way of working through a lot of emotion. It followed an emotionally devastating breakup with his bandmates. Deconstructing his emotional problems, he wrote a large portion of his solo debut, Plastic Ono Band, about them. He reconciled his feelings of abandonment by his mother and his former band on “God.”

In “Working Class Hero,” Lennon tackled the essential problems facing the working class today while discussing the status of the world. The song, which only has Lennon on guitar and vocals, is among the spookiest in his solo discography. It speaks ominously about the problems faced by the average person. It contains one of the few instances in which Lennon has used profanity in lyrics.

While the song would conjure up when a song wasn’t coming together, Lennon was known to get upset and yell. If the mix in his headphones wasn’t exactly what he wanted, he would take them off and slam them into the wall, according to tape operator Andy Stephens. Achieving the ominous mood Lennon was going for, getting there wouldn’t be simple. He never asked to borrow a little more guitar. He would genuinely tear the cans off his head, slam them against the wall, and then leave the studio. [We] took countless attempts—well over 100—possibly 120 or 130.”

Even with the laborious recording sessions, “Working Class Hero” came to represent an accurate picture of Lennon’s life. It offered a glimpse into his experiences outside of therapy. It sounded like a man returning to Earth and realizing all the issues he still faced as a regular person. Even though Lennon was never able to shake off his Beatle image, “Working Class Hero” was a way for him to show his listeners. Behind those wire-rimmed glasses, he was still a real person.















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