While The Beatles provided a young John Lennon with all the creative freedom he needed, he was also very much the gang leader. That meant that he usually provided the wit or rock and roll swagger for the band and left the real raw emotions by the side of the road. But, by the time he began venturing out on to his own and had released his sophomore solo album Imagine, Lennon’s style had drastically changed.
He was now not only willing to share his very soul with the world, but he created exhibitions of his volatile life for all to see. ‘Jealous Guy’ is the very inner workings of John Lennon, it is the iconic man putting himself on the canvas, warts and all, and unflinching dissecting everything good and bad about him. Mostly the bad. A great way to review this track is by isolating Lennon’s vocals and hearing the light and dark of his very existence through his performance.
The song was always destined to be a reflective piece. The track showed every single member of Lennon’s audience that he was far from irreproachable and was just like everybody else — fallible, attainable and dealing with trouble and strife like the rest of us.
Inspired by his time with the Maharishi, the song has since become a vision of Lennon’s life at the time and a candid moment of vulnerability. Speaking with David Sheff in 1980, he revealed: “The lyrics explain themselves clearly: I was a very jealous, possessive guy. Toward everything. A very insecure male. A guy who wants to put his woman in a little box, lock her up, and just bring her out when he feels like playing with her. She’s not allowed to communicate with the outside world – outside of me – because it makes me feel insecure.”
Speaking with the BBC, Lennon revealed further, “When you actually are in love with somebody you tend to be jealous, and want to own them and possess them one hundred per cent, which I do… I love Yoko, I want to possess her completely. I don’t want to stifle her, you know? That’s the danger, that you want to possess them to death.”
It’s not a unique feeling, it’s one that many of us have experienced, but far, far fewer have ever expressed in such an honest and unabashed way. ‘Jealous Guy’ shows that John Lennon committed himself completely to his art, and there’s no better reflection of that than his isolated vocals. Not only do they provide an insight into Lennon’s creative process, but they share a simple and pure message.
Lennon was certainly no angel. The singer was famed for his abusive turn of phrase as well as his physically violent demeanour. But where the singer does differ is his refusal to pack away those feelings and ideas and represent himself as a purer than pure rock star. Lennon was always willing to show himself warts and all, and on ‘Jealous Guy’, he certainly provides a clear image of the man behind those famous spectacles. The isolated vocal goes one step further.
Listen to the remarkable isolated vocals of John Lennon on his classic song ‘Jealous Guy’ below.