A box of cornflakes, an old poster for a circus, transcendental meditation and a child’s drawing are all things that have inspired John Lennon to write songs. During his time with The Beatles, he routinely relied on the physical world around him as well as the emotional one inside him for the plethora of classic pop songwriting he provided.
It can be no surprise then that, following his departure from the group and the disbandment of the Fab Four, he continued to see the inspiration for songs in the world around him, including, it would seem, a horror film.
John Lennon’s heart-wrenching track ‘Mother’ is one of the most moving creations that the late musician ever concocted. The former Beatle lays himself emotionally bare and finally deals with the abandonment issues that scarred him from childhood. It sees him address the departure of his father, the death of his mother and the love of his Aunt Mimi all within one song, which Lou Reed described as one of the best written. While the inspiration for the song can be most easily attributed to his actual mother, Lennon has also suggested a less emotional original for the track.
The track served as the lead single for his 8John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band* record and has since become an intriguing part of the singer’s post-Beatles discography. The track is a raw and emotional piece, a visceral reminder of Lennon’s desire to be vulnerable with his art and, therefore, his audience.
There is no more unambiguous indication of Lennon’s devotion to his audience than with this song. One of his most emotional pieces, the track looks directly at what Lennon most likely considered the most painful experience of his life — losing his mother. It is all distilled into a straightforward section of the number, the moment Lennon begins to wail outwardly.
Despite the adjacency to the horror genre, it was not the wail that was inspired by a gruesome film. Instead, according to Lennon, it was the song’s iconic intro. “I was watching TV as usual, in California,” said the Beatle, “and there was this old horror movie on, and the bells sounded like that to me. It was probably different because those were actually bells slowed down that they used on the album. They just sounded like that, and I thought, oh, that’s how to start ‘Mother.'”
Sadly, Lennon never names the horror film in question. But the scary undertones of the single could be why it didn’t reach the heights Lennon had expected for the track: “I keep thinking ‘Mother‘ is a commercial record,” John explained, “because all the time I was writing it, it was the one [song on the LP] I was singing the most and the one that seemed to catch on in my head.”
It’s not the only dalliance with the horror genre that Lennon can be attributed to. His song ‘Shine On’ is also said to have directly inspired a Stephen King masterpiece. However, for now, try to pick out the terrifying into of ‘Mother’ below and see which film you think it may be related to.