"Imagine" is a song that we all know, and has permeated our consciousness for a variety of reasons ever since it was released in the fall of 1971. From the album of the same title, produced by the famous "wall of sound" producer Phil Spector, "Imagine" was a remarkably influential hit for John Lennon - one of his first hits in the post-Beatles era.
The song, with its relatively simple piano and lyrics that evoke a wild array of emotions, remains an almost ethereal plea for possibility and hope amidst spiritual connections seeking something larger. Lennon took some grief and dealt with accusations of hypocrisy for his lyrics; it's hard, after all, to hear a millionaire with multiple homes singing "imagine no possessions" - but the message behind the lyrics always hinted at something bigger, which few doubted Lennon truly hoped for.
Shortly before his untimely death in 1980, Lennon described the inspiration for the song in an interview with Playboy magazine's David Sheff. He noted comedian Dick Gregory had given him a Christian prayer book and he noted the concept of positive prayer: "If you can imagine a world at peace, with no denominations of religion – not without religion but without this my God-is-bigger-than-your-God thing – then it can be true.”
The recording itself was featured in a six-disc set honoring the Imagine album, one of around 140 tracks. The tape on which it was found initially seemed inconsequential; it was a one-inch 8-track tape with the recording studio's label along with the names of Lennon, the engineer (Phil McDonald) the date, and the word "DEMO" on it. One transfer from analog to digital, and it was revealed this tape was the original demo for the song "Imagine," which received some additional engineering and was preserved again - but also shared with the world.
The song remains powerful to this day (the video from Gal Gidot & Co. notwithstanding) and the lyrics, written by Lennon and Yoko Ono - who was given a co-writing credit in 2017 - are repeated on everything from t-shirts and bumper stickers to political campaigns and regular conversation. In this demo, Lennon's early delivery of the lyrics takes on an even more ethereal and almost surreal quality. Check it out here, or below!
Photo credit: Getty images