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- Posted on Oct 7th 2010 10:30AM by Steve Baltin
Chris Walter, WireImage
From 1970's 'John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band'
Back in the days before social networking, blogging and Twitter, bands had to find other ways to deliver their message. So if you're John Lennon, the Beatles have just ended and you're looking for a place to make a definitive statement on your past and present, where do you turn? Song, of course.
That song was the powerful 'God,' off the legendary 'Plastic Ono Band.' Against a simple melodic backdrop, Lennon starts off by grabbing the listeners by the lapels and getting right in their faces as he sings, "God is a concept by which we measure our pain." Then to reiterate his point, in case anybody who wanted to only see the cute moptop Lennon of the 'I Want To Hold Your Hand' early Beatles days wasn't listening, Lennon sings, "I'll say it again," then repeats his thesis statement.
Despite its opening, though, 'God' isn't a religious treaty; it's a musical bonfire burning the past. As the music swells, Lennon sings "I don't believe in magic," starting a laundry list of things of he disavows, from Jesus and Buddah to Elvis. In the song, he distances himself from the previous decade and moves into the future by including Kennedy and mantra.
But if there's any doubt what the song is ultimately saying, it's brutally and swiftly erased as he sings "I don't believe in Zimmerman" (Bob Dylan's real last name) and then with a snarl eradicates the past by singing, "I don't believe in Beatles" as the music reaches its crescendo and then goes silent for a second.
For Lennon, 'God' was as much about moving forward, though, and imploring his fans to let go, as the music again returns to the more genteel, loving nature of the opening verse while he says, "I was the Walrus, but now I am John/And so dear friends, you'll just have to carry on."
The message ends with Lennon stating, "The dream is over." At Lennon's best, his lyrics were always intensely personal and direct, from 'In My Life' to 'Imagine' to 'Watching the Wheels.' So as shocking as it was at the time, 'God' was just Lennon doing what he did arguably better than anybody -- tell the truth.