An I’m-being-naughty smile comes over John Lennon’s face as he hammers away at the piano and sings his anti-Paul McCartney diatribe, “Crippled Inside,” with his Beatle pal George Harrison watching, a sign that he still enjoyed being the mischievous one during the “Imagine” sessions in 1971. Lennon is at his most fascinating in one-on-one situations in this docu, a packaging of “Making of ‘Imagine’” with some additional footage to turn it into an hourlong show and homevideo.
The release on TV and in stores is tied to the re-release of Lennon’s landmark solo disc, “Imagine,” for which he laid down basic tracks in a mansion in the English countryside. Joined by producer Phil Spector, bassist Klaus Voorman, pianist Nicky Hopkins, Harrison and handful of hangers-on, the pic is an interesting travelogue through the making of one of rock’s flawed masterpieces.
For better or worse, first half of the pic shows Ono exerting uncommon influence over the direction of the songs. Sound, especially when it is Ono talking, is often muddy and indecipherable yet it’s clear she’s the one telling Spector and husband Lennon how to proceed. While they seem to acquiesce to what she’s saying, it’s not clear that her input makes it onto vinyl.
Performing the songs in their raw form, it’s interesting for fans of the album to hear the directions that weren’t taken, from the drumming on the title track to the reggae groove in “I Don’t Wanna Be a Soldier Mama.” On the other hand, it’s interesting how fully formed “Gimme Some Truth” was when it was only on paper.
Pic is a glorified home movie and does not exceed that quality. But shots of Lennon playing basketball with Miles Davis are priceless, no matter what the format.