Hear John Lennon reveal the evolution of 'Imagine': "That song was actually written by John and Yoko"

7 October 2021, 12:45 | Updated: 15 January 2024, 11:17

John Lennon and Yoko Ono
John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Picture: John Lennon and Yoko Ono

By Mayer Nissim

The stunning 'Evolution Documentary' from the Imagine box set reveals all.

John Lennon's 'Imagine' was recently voted the second greatest song of all time by Gold listeners (just behind Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody') and it remains Lennon's best-known song, maybe even including all his work with The Beatles.

The song was the lead single, opener and title track from his second solo studio album and featured John himself on vocals and piano, with former Beatles associate Klaus Voorman on bass, soon-to-be Yes man Alan White on drums and The Flux Fiddlers on strings.

In 2018, a special deluxe edition of the Imagine album was released, which as well as demos, outtakes and live versions also included incredible "Evolution Documentaries" for each song.

Imagine (Evolution Documentary)

Gold's Hall of Fame: John Lennon

Each documentary melded interview recordings, studio outtakes and the finished songs to reveal how the song came together, and maybe the most illuminating was for 'Imagine' itself.

"'Imagine' was inspired by Yoko's Grapefruit," John reveals at the start of the fascinating track, talking up the influence of Ono's 1964 conceptual art book.

"There's a lot of pieces in it saying 'Imagine this' or 'Imagine that'. If you get a copy of Grapefruit you can see where I was influenced by her."

John Lennon - Imagine (original demo)

Read more: Listen to John Lennon’s beautiful and fragile original demo of ‘Imagine’

He continued: "I know that she helped on a lot of the lyrics, but I wasn't man enough to let her have credit for it. So that song was actually written by John and Yoko.

"But I was still selfish enough and unaware enough to take her contribution without acknowledging her.

"I was still full of wanting my own space after being in the room with four guys and always having to share everything."

IMAGINE. (Ultimate Mix, 2020) - John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band (with the Flux Fiddlers) HD

QUIZ: How well do you know John Lennon's lyrics?

The documentary then goes on to John humming through the song, before we hear John teaching the song to his bandmates.

Also on the track are discussions about Lennon choosing to play the iconic white Steinway grand piano you can see in the Imagine film and music video, which John had given to Yoko Ono on her birthday earlier that year.

The documentary then moves through the recording of the demo of the track, eventually reaching the song we all know.