Pete's Blog

Imagine

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I went to Seabold Second Saturday tonight - one of my favorite open-mikes, although they don't use mikes because the hall sounds so good you don't need them. The result is a rare intimacy between audience and musicians, and often some very good music. It was a good night, for the most part. There was a young girl there (I can't remember her name) whose loose, improvised-sounding songs had real craft hidden underneath. It's a neat trick. I was impressed and told her so but I think she thought I was just flirting. Old guys can be such pests. Matt Price was there and played well. I did a waltz set: "The Heart Beats in Waltztime" and "Casanova's Waltz," neither of which disgraced themselves. Several different women sang unaccompanied, an interesting coincidence. One woman about my age sang John Lennon's "Imagine" and even if her tempo had not gotten progressively slower, her face set in a rictus of self-righteousness, hands clasped over her breast as she wrung the last drop of didacticity from the lyrics I would have disliked it, because I just dislike the song. It's not just that it's a sappy lyric set to a dull, monotonous tune. There is something profoundly dishonest about "Imagine." To begin with, there's the basic hypocrisy of it. Lennon sneers "Imagine no possessions/I wonder if you can" at the same time he owns an English manor home, a Long Island manor home, an apartment in the Dakota, and who knows what all else; and you know what he'd have done if we arrived at his door asking him to give them to us. He'd have called the cops. It's more than just hypocrisy, though. Lennon is positing an egalitarian paradise with "all the people sharing all the world" when he knows that the only way this can be brought about is through a huge and intrusive government oligarchy, which makes it possible not for everybody to have everything but for everybody to have only the bare minimum to survive. How does Lennon know this? Because they tried it in England when he was growing up. It didn't work, because it never does. But Lennon was willing to pander to his audience's desire for some gauzy, undefinable peace on Earth, just so he could make even more pots of money than he had already, despite the fact that the system that gave him those pots of money did so the way it always does, as the reward of his talent, a reward he would never have gotten in the sclerotic society he wants us to "Imagine," because that society might very well have lined the Beatles up against a wall and shot them. Capitalist society, for all its many faults, at least rewards the innovative, the unconventional, and Lennon thus was able to reward himself with a binge of luxury drug-taking that left him an addled shadow of his former self, capable of writing dreck like "Imagine" and believing it so sincerely as he sang it that later on the suckers lined up ten-deep outside the Dakota to sing it after he died, never guessing that when he sang it he must have known it was bullshit. Now that's genius.

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