Following the birth of his son Sean in 1975, John Lennon decided to put his music career on ice for a few years so he could focus on raising his child with his wife, Yoko Ono. Over the next five years, Lennon became a stranger to recording studios and only recorded a handful of demos from his apartment in New York City.
In the summer of 1980, Lennon had embarked on a sailing trip from Newport, Rhode Island, to Bermuda. While out at sea, the yacht met a fierce storm, and the crew succumbed to fatigue and seasickness. Lennon was forced to take the helm alone for several hours as he steered the group back to safety. This experience made him rediscover a lost self-confidence and reminded him of the fragility of life.
In response, Lennon returned to his craft and wrote several new songs while developing some older demos. Reflecting later in life, Lennon described the period: “I was so centred after the experience at sea that I was tuned in to the cosmos – and all these songs came,” he said. While in Bermuda, Lennon began working on the music that would later be released on Double Fantasy. During his time in Bermuda, the former Beatle had also heard the up and coming new-wave group, The B-52’s, for the first time. “I was at a dance club one night in Bermuda,” Lennon said in an interview recorded three days before his death.
“Upstairs, they were playing disco, and downstairs I suddenly heard ‘Rock Lobster’ by the B-52s for the first time. Do you know it? It sounds just like Yoko’s music.” Lennon continued, citing ‘Rock Lobster’ as one of the main inspirations behind his return to the world of recorded music and a big influence on Double Fantasy. “I said to myself, ‘It’s time to get out the old axe and wake the wife up,” Lennon concluded.
After a near-death experience and hearing The B-52’s, Lennon seemed to have his creative mojo back. Double Fantasy was released on October 19th, 1980, just three weeks before his death after being shot by Mark Chapman in New York.
In a 2020 interview with Rolling Stone, Sean Ono Lennon explained that he had been present in the studio while his father was recording material for Double Fantasy. As a result, it became more than just music to him, and he played it on repeat in the months following his father’s untimely death. “Double Fantasy is a very loaded record for me because my earliest memories are hanging around the Hit Factory as a kid when they [John and Yoko Ono] were making it,” he said. “I have so many personal memories revolving around that record. After my dad died, one of the ways in which I mourned or processed his death was just listening to that record over and over again.”
Sean continued, explaining how the record transcends mere music for him. “I don’t even have any objective relationship to that music, for the most part, because it’s not even music,” he explained. “It’s this fundamental part of my childhood.”
“A lot of people don’t remember when they were five,” Sean mused. “I’ve never asked a psychologist, but I’ve assumed that because my dad dying was so traumatic for me that a lot of those early memories just stayed. I have more memories of being five and four than I do being 16.”
Listen to John Lennon’s song ‘Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)’ from Double Fantasy below. Lennon wrote the song as an ode to his beloved son, Sean. The song brings a shiver to the spine as Lennon fantasises about the future and seeing his son grow up.