Walls and Bridges
First Appeared in The Music Box, April 2011, Volume 18, #4
Written by John Metzger
Thu April 14, 2011, 06:30 AM CDT
In the period that separated the recording of Mind Games from the release of Walls and Bridges, John Lennon went to war with himself. Long known as his lost weekend, the era is marked by his drunken cavorting in Los Angeles with fellow songwriter Harry Nilsson, his messy recording sessions with troubled producer Phil Spector, and a Yoko Ono-sanctioned ó but nonetheless flagrant ó affair with his personal secretary May Pang. For certain, this was not Lennonís finest hour, at least when it is viewed from the perspective of his public persona.
Yet, amidst all of the chaos that surrounded him, Lennon was searching for ways to put his life back on track. He reestablished a connection with his son Julian, and he began to examine the reasons for the collapse of his relationship with Yoko Ono. He also reopened the lines of communication with his pals in The Beatles. Once Spector disappeared with the master tapes that eventually became Rock ínĎ Roll, Lennon returned to New York City and poured his heart and soul into the recording sessions for Walls and Bridges. The outing paved the way for his reunion with Ono. In fact, following the birth of their son Sean in October 1975, Lennon left the industry to became a devoted parent and husband.
In hindsight, Walls and Bridges fits rather neatly into Lennonís canon, serving as a perfect prelude to his 1980 comeback effort Double Fantasy. After all, where the latter set traced the actual rediscovery and renewal of his love for Ono, Walls and Bridges painted a portrait of his tormented, troubled soul and his desire to discover the things that were important to him. Much as its title suggests, it examines the walls that can divide two people as well as the bridges that can reconnect them.
Within the music on Walls and Bridges, Lennon makes numerous overtures to his former band mates. At times, the guitar tones used on the effort seem to emulate George Harrisonís style, while the horn-splattered arrangements draw upon those that Harrison and Spector had concocted for All Things Must Pass. Elsewhere, Lennon pays homage to Paul McCartney by incorporating recognizable portions of Drive My Car and Let Me Roll It into Surprise, Surprise (Sweet Bird of Paradise) and Beef Jerky, respectively.
The bulk of Walls and Bridges, however, is devoted to addressing the loneliness that Lennon felt during his separation from Ono. Right out of the gate, on the opening track Going Down on Love, he makes a plea for help as he begins to realize what he has lost. With Elton Johnís assistance, he tries to push aside the emptiness via Whatever Gets You through the Night, but ultimately, Lennon is left to wander in solitude down the dusty paths of Old Dirt Road, wishing for a second chance. He subsequently pledges his love and outlines his regrets on Bless You, shows his vulnerability by acknowledging his jealous heart on Scared, and is haunted by Ono and Pang during #9 Dream.
Although it wasnít a perfect album, Walls and Bridges was, in many ways, a return to form for Lennon. He had set aside his political viewpoints in order to script a song cycle that was deeply personal. For the most part, it didnít musically capture the same level of intimacy as Plastic Ono Band had, which explains why it so often is overlooked within his canon. Nevertheless, Walls and Bridges remains an important endeavor; when combined with Plastic Ono Band and Double Fantasy, it provides insight into Lennonís state of mind as well as the messiness of human existence.
Of Further Interest...
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
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