Here in the bay area, on 98.5, there’s a DJ by the name of Greg Kihn, who can be alternately annoying and informative. He’s a musician himself, and likes to pepper his broadcast with name-dropping. He will also occasionally play rare bits and pieces he has collected, as well as live recordings he has made himself.
This morning, without explaining where he got it, he played a demo tape made in November of 1966, of John Lennon singing in his living room and accompanying himself on an acoustic guitar. The song was a new one he had just composed - Strawberry Fields. This was the tape he apparently played to Paul McCartney to get started on fleshing the song out.
I can’t describe how jaw-droppingly perfect this humble little recording was. It was virtually in the same form as was eventually produced for the public, only much simpler and spare. Sometimes it takes stripping a classic song down to its basic form to re-appreciate its genius. The ability to write a hauntingly beautiful melody seems to me to be the most mysterious art in the world - I can’t understand how someone can do it, the way I can basically understand how a painting is done or a book is written. And John Lennon had this art in spades, not that it’s news to anyone.