behind the music: jealous guy
John’s handwritten lyrics to ‘Jealous Guy’
From the book Imagine John Yoko
Yoko: ‘Jealous Guy’ was a totally different song with the lyrics ‘on the road to Marrakesh’ and I said to John, ‘that’s a beautiful melody, but you have to think about something more sensitive. It’s in you.’ So whenever I hear ‘Jealous Guy’ I think ‘Oh my god!’ because he really did that.
Klaus Voormann (bass): When we were rehearsing, John would play the song on guitar or piano, and then we would start contributing what we thought was right. He was singing all the time. It was a great help and really made those songs work. If you pick the right people who can really play, they find their own way through. There’s not that much said or manipulated. It’s instinctive. Everyone is clever in his own way. You listen to everybody. You listen to the whole thing. And for me in particular, I always listened to the song and
Nicky Hopkins (piano): John is very definite about what he wants and there is no uncertainty working with him. He doesn’t want to spend much time recording. I played electric piano on [an out-take of] the ‘Imagine’ track and the main piano track on ‘Jealous Guy’ is me too. I was on ‘Crippled Inside,’ ‘Oh Yoko!’ and ‘Soldier’ too.
Yoko: Nicky Hopkins’ playing on ‘Jealous Guy’ is so melodic and beautiful that it still makes everyone cry, even now.
Alan White (good vibes): When we did ‘Jealous Guy’, Jim Keltner played the drums and I ended up playing vibraphone in the toilet in the corner of the studio. It had a little door, with a four or five inch crack, and I could see everybody through there. It was, “One, two, three, four…” and then we were playing. John gave me a great credit on the album. On the sleeve notes inside the record, he wrote, “Alan White: Good Vibes” which meant a lot to me. It was all good vibes when we were making Imagine. Everybody was really happy. And when everybody is happy in a studio, the happiness comes through the music – and there is a lot of great music on that album.
Joey Molland (acoustic guitar): John came into the studio and played us ‘Jealous Guy’. We had brought our acoustics; mine a Gibson J50 and Tommy Evans’ a Martin D41. We ran through the song once or twice, all very simple and natural. Tommy suggested a significant chord – a minor 9th or 6th. Yoko suggested it needed an intro, which Nicky played so beautifully.
Diana Robertson (secretary): While the Imagine sessions were going on, I remember everyone working very hard, staying up all up all night, making food – we were all so busy. I remember being called into the studio at about five in the morning to listen to ‘Jealous Guy’ when it had just been completed, which was quite incredible. It just sounded so amazing, you know, the first time we’d all heard it, really beautiful. Everybody suddenly stopped and they said, ‘Listen to this’ and we were all completely silent and just listened to it. People were practically in tears, it was just so lovely, so pure. I feel very privileged to have been there on that day.
It’s after the beginning, when it cools down a bit, then you can allow each other to breathe. At first you tend to strangle each other a bit, because you have so little as a child, I think. Once you find it, you want to hang on to it. You grab it so much, you tend to kill it.
Everybody’s continually searching for love and it manifests itself in many different ways, that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing. Basically because I want love from all those people, that’s just the way it goes. I think it’s a lot healthier than it was and I hope it just goes on getting more and more healthy.
I think, ‘Get away from this romantic knight on horse back galloping in.’ I think that accounts for a lot of the disillusionment of the middle-aged people or the parents. They were fed this guff about the knight in shining armour and what happened was they got Sid and a pair of braces and it wasn’t the same. He didn’t get Veronica Lake, he got Maggie and her hair curlers. That’s just as beautiful to me, that is love, too.
Yoko: And if you see Veronica Lake in the morning she probably looks like Maggie! The point is to believe in that celluloid world so much that you think that that world is real and your world is shitty. Whatever you’re doing is miserable. But you have to start thinking that actually, you’re important.
Another thing is that love is relaxation, it’s all a sort-of mixed up idea that intense love is, you know, ‘that bit’. So that the partners always try to make each other worried, always to keep them on their toes, that kind of trick. Which isn’t true because when you’re on your toes, you’re not really loving that person, you’re just grabbing them. If you can only try to relax each other, that’s where the true love comes in. You’re relaxed and you can enjoy each other, you can understand each other. So I think the understanding of love in this society is so important, the right understanding. Then things will be better.
John with his toy panda during a break in filming Imagine at Tittenhurst, 21 July 1971.
From the book Imagine John Yoko
Yoko: I touched on the subject in my song ‘Revelations’ – ‘Bless you for your jealousy, for it is a sign of empathy. Direct not to your family, direct not to your friends. Transform the energy to admiration and what you admire will become part of your life.’
John: All that ‘I used to be cruel to my woman, I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved’ was me. I used to be cruel to my woman, and physically. Any woman. I was a hitter. I couldn’t express myself and I hit. I fought men and I hit women. That is why I am always on about peace, you see. It is the most violent people who go for love and peace. Everything’s the opposite. But I sincerely believe in love and peace. I am a violent man who has learned not to be violent and regrets his violence. I will have to be a lot older before I can face in public how I treated women as a youngster.
Yoko: We would argue, of course. We were two very temperamental, very emotional, people. Friends and lovers, musicians and artists, man and woman, husband and wife. That was part of our communication. We were both shy, we didn’t go out often, certainly not to parties or anything like that. So we were literally together for fourteen years with very few breaks. John and I stood for peace and love but standing for peace doesn’t make either of us holier than thou. John and I together were human beings, and by no means were both of us totally peaceful. Anger, hurt, vulnerability, were all a part of John. When we met we were like two driven people and it was like a fantastic meeting of two crazy souls.
John: It’s a kind of jealousy. People can’t stand people being in love. It’s your self-absorption with each other; it’s your contentment with each other that people can’t stand.
Yoko: We’re so ashamed of being jealous; so ashamed of being possessive. We’re so afraid of having hate and all that. We shouldn’t. It’s all just different forms of energy.
John: Nicky Hopkins’ piano is beautifully busked as is the bass and drums et al. Result – ‘Jealous Guy’! (Nicky’s name was somehow missed off the credits on the L.P. Sorry Mr and Mrs Nicky!)
Music from Imagine The Ultimate Collection
Video and video stills from Imagine/Gimme Some Truth BluRay/DVD