Home / “Imagine” the Dumbest Protest Song Ever

“Imagine” the Dumbest Protest Song Ever

Please Share...Print this pageTweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook0Share on Google+0Pin on Pinterest0Share on Tumblr0Share on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

I once described “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye as the dumbest protest song ever. But perhaps I spoke too soon, for there’s certainly a lot of competition for such a title.

Perhaps “Imagine” by John Lennon should get that title. He sure impacted a lot of nonsense into just a few lines of song. Ol’ Victor Lana brought this into focus for me with this sincere but wrongheaded defense of the song:

He was saying, “This is what the world could be like if you would all get yourselves together.”

What’s so annoying about the song for you? A man calling for world peace? Man, especially in these times, I think we need more of that.

Religion? Possessions? War? Which of these haven’t gotten us into trouble over the centuries?

Look, it’s a damned pop song with pretensions to spiritual profundity. Basically, it’s a Hallmark card for damned dirty hippies. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that those words are any deeper intellectually or emotionally than a greeting card, cause they’re not. “Imagine there’s no countries.” Yeah, well imagine if fishes had wishes. Wouldn’t that be great?

Now, probably Lennon himself didn’t think that much about it when he was writing it. He had a hook and a catch phrase, and developed a strong tune for it- though it is stiff, white English church music that sounds like you should be wearing a jacket and tie and sitting on a hard wooden bench while you listen. Still, it is admittedly a well crafted, pretty song.

But “Imagine” is a stupid, cheap lyrical sentiment. Elvis Costello famously cracked “Was it a millionare who said ‘imagine no possessions.’?” Just imagine world peace and a commie utopia and you’re halfway there.

Not that John Lennon really believed in any of that nonsense- even when he was running around in military fatigues and spouting stupid faux-revolutionary rhetoric. But it sounded good in a song lyric.

Pop songs appeal primarily to emotions, not reason or logic. The fact that a sentiment sounds good coming out of a singer’s mouth, with swelling strings and a Phil Spector production doesn’t mean that it has any validity whatsoever.

No, we do NOT need more of this kind of sentiment. It actively works against the difficult and often unpleasant but utterly necessary task of sorting reality from fantasy.

NO, the world could NEVER be like this stupid song. In fact we could not live without possessions. We are material beings, no discorporate spirits. Communism has been tried, and resulted in much of the worst unnecessary suffering in the history of mankind.

This cheap sticky cotton candy excuse for philosophy would be deleterious to the public good if we took it at all seriously. In the real world, this dumb hippy crap will do you no good in dealing with, say, Osama Bin Laden.

Fortunately, most folk have enough sense to discount the silly philosophies of pop singers. I love John Lennon songs as much as the next guy, but you’d have to be pretty dumb to take his publicity stunts as serious politics. That bed-in foolishness was about John and Yoko, not the outside world.

On the other hand, maybe we should just give peace a chance. If we just go to Kim Jong Il, lighting candles and singing this song, then maybe one day he’ll join us, and the world will be as one.

In the meantime, I’d suggest not disbanding our army just yet.


Powered by

About Gadfly

  • do you ever step outside of your own echo chamber?


    elvis costello.







  • Well no Mark, I’m not saying much if you just pluck out a half dozen random words one at a time. However, I presented them as actual thoughts in complete sentences. What am I saying that you specifically disagree with?

  • kiddicus

    your boring and trite commentary on this subject was directed to my attention via a website with some class. Your apparent lack of intelligence in this post more than proves that this particular song was written for people with open minds, open hearts, open ears and open eyes. You probably have none of the above, as you resort to name-calling and other third grade antics to convey your message. There should be some kind of blog police to keep garbage like this off the net.

  • J. P. Spencer

    Is “Imagine” even a protest song?

    I think of “Imagine” as more of an expression of sentiment than a dyed-in-the-wool protest anthem. “Give Peace A Chance” is probably a better example of a protest song.

    For my money, “Eve Of Destruction” is the worst protest song ever. Written by P. F. Sloan for nothing more than commercial, Tin Pan Alley profit, it stands as one of the most unimportant expressions of mock rage ever played to death to a wide audience. Most of the performer profits of this song went to Barry Maguire’s drug habit before he converted to born-again Christianity. Is “Imagine” really worse than this?

  • kiddicus

    JP- point. While I’m not a big fan of John Lennon or the Beatles, Imagine is not a the worst song in any category, unless you place it in the category of songs named Imagine. Even then I’m sure there is some other stinkfest of a song that trumps Lennon’s.

    “eve of destruction” would get my vote for worst protest song, simply because i can’t think of a better (worse?) example of one at the time. i had completely blocked that horsepoo from my memory until you brought it up.

  • JP, you’ve got a point. Like I said at the start of the column, there’s a lot of competition for such a title.

    “Imagine” is obviously a much bigger, more prominent song to win such a title- “Eve of Destruction” ain’t real philosophy either.

  • How often do you deal with Osama Bin Laden?

  • You covered this same false “outrage,” supposed counter- ground and attack of “Imagine” in a post a long time ago. Oh wait … yesterday.

    Poor diddums didn’t get enough attention for your tantrum then?

  • For the record Temple, I’m not “outraged” by this silly song. Where did you get that from what I actually wrote? Rolling my eyes and turning the radio dial when the song comes up does not constitute being outraged.

    Then again, there’s no sense in you missing out on an opportunity to be spiteful.

    Still, that does not constitute even a bad effort at answering my point about the song.

  • Richard

    Interesting. I was searching for a music blog, just for the heck of it and came across this site. Before bookmarking it I wanted to read some to see if it was worth the effort. This was the first post that I read and I was completely surprised.

    I thouroughly enjoyed this article and was surprised by the common-sense logic and simple, yet astute analysis of the topic.

    It’s also interesting to read the comments. The only valid point made, in my opinion, was by JP. I’m not insulting anyone else, it’s just that no one else presents any specific arguments against the opinions presented in the post.

  • common-sense logic?

    since when has that phrase been coopted to mean “stuff i agree with”?

  • uao

    I’m still receiving hate-postings for picking “Imagine” as most overrated song on Robert Burke’s list 5 months ago (which was meant as a compliment to Lennon, who has many songs –even on the same album– that are much better.) So you might be in for some fun, Al.

    And I agree with the person who pointed out it isn’t a protest song. And it isn’t even a bad song, although I still think it isn’t one of his better ones.

    Assuming it were a protest song, it still wouldn’t be worstby a million miles.

    “Imagine” is what it is; a joyless piano dirge with lyrics that share some key ideas with the communist manifesto.

    But it does express its point of view articulately, dull melody and borrowed theme or not.

    What about “The War Song” (The one that goes “War, war is stupid; And people are stupid”) That’s a dumb ‘protest’ song. I always found “One Tin Soldier” pretty shrill. “Unknown Soldier” gets kind of confused.

    This isn’t one of your best shake-’em-up picks this time

  • look, anybody is more than welcome to dislike any song they want.

    wan i don’t like about this post is the intentional timing to the anniversar talk of death of John Lennon. and not that it doesn’t show respect for Lennon but that it was flung out there just to piss people off. and, as temple alluded to, to get attention.

    no, wait…CHEAP attention.

  • Temple Stark

    why should I engage when you’re just trying to get attention? Same subject, twice in two days just to say you hate a song. You love to be hated, but there’s no reason to indulge that

    “Dumbest protest song ever” – that’s outrage to me.

    The rest is just using strong words to piss people off; not because you care either way.

  • heck yes!

  • Howdy Richard, welcome to Blogcritics. Glad you stopped by. I’m glad you noticed that there’s been precious little said about my actual point. One of the top signs that I’ve made a point well is when they are reduced to attacking me.

    UAO, the Culture Club song is not a particularly sophisticated lyrical sentiment, but I don’t see how it’s any dumber than “Imagine.” Personally, I’d much rather hear the Culture Club song at this point, just on musical grounds. It’s got a beat, at least, and it’s just as catchy as the Lennon song.

    Subjectively, I’d consider “The War Song” a far less egregious offense against geometry and theology than “Imagine.” Basically, it’s much more humbly presented. No one would take it as representing Deep Philosophy. You don’t see people lighting candles for big earnest Boy George singalongs.

  • al, the only point you’ve ‘made well’ is that you like to spout off about any and all sorts of left-wing sentiments found in songs.

    But “Imagine” is a stupid, cheap lyrical sentiment

    there’s no point there at all, just pure opinion.

    you make the statement like it’s factual. it’s not.

    and i’m not attacking you at all, just this type of mudslinging.

  • Temple, I can take some criticism. You can’t expect to go around slaughtering sacred cows without some of their worshippers getting pissy with you. That’s fine.

    But do you have anything to say other than that I’m a jerk? Do you wish to rebut my point, perhaps make an argument for why you think this song really represents Truth?

    Yes Mark, I’m happy if an article I write gets attention, and yes this is coming out at a moment when interest in Lennon is at a peak. But why would you decide to assume that I don’t really believe what I’m saying, or don’t care?

    You’re just being hateful with me here, which isn’t like you.

  • Celeste O.

    If only ‘Imagine’ had been covered by Prince or Jack White, Al would be giving Lennon a surplus of ass smooches instead. Too bad.

    The Prince Version: “Imagine, U Sexy MF!”
    The Jack White Version: “The Hardest Image to Imagine”

  • Richard


    First, I don’t agree with everything he said.

    Second, in your last response you said “there’s no point there at all, just pure opinion.”

    If you’ll notice at the top of the page right above the title of the article is the work “Opinion” in big red letters.

  • Dawn

    Why “Imagine” is such an important song:

    Sometimes I have the urge to kill people who say and write the dumbest things I have ever read, but then I stop, listen to the words of John Lennon’s “Imagine” and I realize that while certain elements of society are clearly misguided, socially inept and lack a clear understanding of the constructs of basic humanity, I am not one of those elements and I am thankful for the brilliance of Lennon.

  • You make a good point Dawn. Anyone who would not think this song a high-brow Hallmark card a deep philosophical treatise must “lack a clear understanding of the constructs of basic humanity.” Obviously.

  • Dawn

    The point John Lennon was trying to make is that you should ask “why”. Why not try to imagine a different world, a world where we all live as one? It’s hardly a guideline to world leaders, and probably not feasible given the nature of man, but hey, why not ask why, and why not imagine.

    Heck, when I read this post I asked myself “why”. So see, there you go Al, even you can have a John Lennon moment.

  • Read the title of the article on a RSS feed and I knew immediatly it was writen by Al. It reeked of juvenile soapboxism.

  • Wow, thanks Jeliel. I’m well pleased that you could pick up my authorial voice just from the title.

    I like the phrase “juvenile soapboxism.” Very nice- though it seems odd that those words would be used to describe the critic rather than the song itself.

  • Temple Stark

    “One of the top signs that I’ve made a point well is when they are reduced to attacking me.”

    That’s just empty-headed sadness there and you know it. Anyone who believes that is either very self-deluded or always right.

    OK, question: Why two posts in two days that you hate Imagine?

    My answer, based on experience: Because your so called “sacred cow” rupturing is just a plea for sensationalist attention. One post on the subject would suffice, wouldn’t it? Except the first title wasn’t controversial enough; though you tried to make like you were Huck Finn in church.

    Really you’re selling sensationalism. That doesn’t make you any fucking genius; it makes you subserviant to the lowest common denominator.

    Really I seem to remember somebody spouting off at Brian Flemming yesterday – ooh, you knew him was pretty much the second half of the post – telling him he could shut up and not talk about God if he is an atheist; that he didn’t have to make such a big deal about it.

    You could have done the same here in this second post in two days about you hating the song Imagine. But no. You needed two posts on the subject, the second more desperate than the last.

    This is the complete and sole point of your post, so I’m addressing it.

    I don’t like listen to the song any more either – unless Lennon’s singing it; people trying to capture something they don’t believe. But there is no fucking way it’s “dumb.” Mr. Mensa (right?) it’s a song about ideals. You’re a Libertarian, you know all about speaking toward and advocating ideals that are never going to happen.


    That’s ….. what ….. Mr. Lennon ….. is ….. doing.

    If musicians only wrote about what they actually experienced or already did – there would be a lot less music. Fucking Styx. Do you think they ever wrote a song about what they’d LIKE to happen; how they’d like the world to be different.

    Are you done playing the victim? They’re attacking me.” Weep.

  • gonzo marx

    oh my stars and garters…big Al!

    tsk tsk

    after reading yer Post…twice..i can only come to the conclusion that you remain challenged when it comes to conceptual comprehension in the Realm of Art

    does Lennon , in the song, ever state “do this”…or “this is better”…or “i protest this..”

    nope..he does say “Imagine”

    all the song is trying to communicate is that you should imagine, even if for only a Moment…what he is attempting to communicate

    most of it revolves around imagining the removal of many of the causes for War or deadly force conflict of any kind…violence against people, if you will

    that’s it….just Imagine it

    there IS the implied suggestion that by making some of these things LESS important, to Individuals as well as Society and Mankind as a whole…then the world might be a bit better

    no different than the message of Ghandi or Jesus or Buddha, conceptually…each spoke against violence and the things that cause them

    big Al sez…
    *Basically, it’s a Hallmark card for damned dirty hippies.*

    and there you reveal your innate prejudice and demonstrate your inability to be an Objective Critic

    so much for Rand, eh?

    big Al sez…
    *Now, probably Lennon himself didn’t think that much about it when he was writing it.*

    wow..now you can read dead peoples minds too!!!

    i AM impressed…ok, don’t get any of that sarcasm on ya, fellah

    again, big Al sez…
    *Now, probably Lennon himself didn’t think that much about it when he was writing it.*

    MORE mind reading!?!?!?!?

    on and on

    ya know, ya can just say ya didn’t like it…because semantically, that’s about the only true statement in there…the rest is conjecture and opinion

    which is fine, i guess…but i had hoped for more

    worse yet…you take the 25th Anniversary of his murder to spew this tripe?

    and here i had thought John B was the only google bomber

    cheap and unworthy of you, big Al…


  • Well Al I’ve read your post and fail to see where you have made any gain of your myopic opinion after two inept attempts.

    Try “give peace a chance” I’m sure you can reference Hallmark again or spew endlessly about the Hygenic traits of all Hippies.

    One thing for sure is more people will have heard of you and remember you fondly than the few who remember John Lennon.

  • Your comments about “Imagine” make less sense than “Revolution #9”. And that speaks volumes.

  • Baronius

    Al, I’ll do my part to make sure this article is remembered longer than Imagine. A Hallmark card for damned dirty hippies. Heh. That’s a better line than anything in Imagine.

    But is it really the worst? It’s as boring as anything, sure, but for pomposity it’s hard to top “One Tin Soldier”. And “War (What Is It Good For)” is almost a self-parody. I can’t hear it without thinking of all the things war has been good for. Even Dylan and CSN(Y), who I usually enjoy, can get pretty embarrassing when they preach.

  • Thank you for your kind words, Baronious.

    I’ll give the Edwin Starr “War” song pretty good credit as music. I obviously would have some reservations about the lyrical sentiment, but at that it doesn’t have the saccharine pomposity of “Imagine.” Plus, it’s got a beat.

    I will also confess to liking “One Tin Soldier.” Obviously it is screamingly pretentious, but it’s pretty well done. I guess it’s kind of a camp thing, particularly in the context of being associated with the Billy Jack movie. I’ve got a groovy King of the Hill album somewhere with Luanne singing the song.

  • GoHah

    but Al, what do you really think?

  • Al. I can’t agree with your post, of course, but you have the right to your dislike of a song. Still, when did the clichés of “dirty commie hippies” come back in vogue? The hippies disappeared and turned into yuppies; their children yuppie puppies and then generation x’ers.
    The commies, of course, blew it and failed miserably.

    And those of us who just are what we are.

    Dislike the song and leave out the silly and dated name calling. Next you’ll threaten to send us all to the UnAmerican House Committee for Joe McCarthy to check our CD collections for subversive songs. (He, too, is dead.)

    At least “One Tin Soldier” got your blood moving. Don’t forget it is a very old song and also was sung by sweet voiced hippy types, Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell, whoever this Billy Jack and his movie might be.

    Therefore, when it comes your post and the vitriolic discussion; we can only say: “Al, just imagine giving peace a chance”. You might, after all, like some of us ex-hippie types. Peace.

  • Aw Alpha, it’s alright. I’ll come out and play with you. Just don’t be starting any damned drum circles or nothing.

    Actually, I do fine with hippies.

  • Bennett

    Al – I’m with the folks that think your posting two articles about how much you dislike this song, to coincide with the anniversary of Lennon’s death, is cheap and basically anti-social.

    Wanting to cause anger and hurt in the world is not an admirable quality, and it’s not clever.

    It’s just sad.

  • Dear Bennett: Does it make you sad? Well boo-frickin-hoo. This is just the kind of cheesy passive-aggressive faux-Freudian fake moralistic nonsense to drain me of all my natural empathy juices, as I squirt a big load of them in sympathy for your sadness.

    Ol’ Al is just a big old meanie!

  • Bennett

    LOL! No no no, it doesn’t make ME sad, it makes you LOOK sad. As in pathetic.

    This here’s a nice song with nice pollyannish lyrics set to easy to digest music. It’s of sentimental value to a hugh group of folks that you seem to have some hostility for.

    I believe that only some poor frustrated reject would receive gratification in trying to bring it down a notch.

    Is it really worth you talent as a writer to look for attention by attacking it under the pitiful excuse of asserting that it’s a “protest song”?


    You soil yourself with this one, AL.

  • Bennett

    And you know Al, that I don’t have a personal grudge against you. I’ve commented favorably on some of your nonpolitical posts, and have maintained a reasonable respect for your writing. But I wonder…

    In an earlier comment, you link to a website that appears to be from a failed (presumably) campaign for State Senator where, supposedly, you would be representing the interests of a diverse group of constituents.

    Do you think it’s possible, just by a little, that the voters caught wind of the level of compassion, fairness, kindness, and a “touch for the common man” that you exhibit in this post?

    Seriously, do you think it had any impact on the vote? Because I have news for you – if you enjoy expressing disdain for beloved public icons, and if writing frivolous and unnecessary attack pieces makes you feel good, then being a front man for political office might not be quite right for you.

    Really Al, give peace a chance. It’ll be good for your soul.

  • Bennett, here’s where I disagree with you: “frivolous and unnecessary attack pieces.” It is my contention that the criticism in significant and of some public import. It is not good for people to be setting their politics on sappy pop songs.

    In the pantheon of rock saints, I invoke the support of St Zappa in this criticism. He’d be on my side.

    I’m just saying that you damned dirty hippies are SO frickin’ sensitive. You can’t get teased the least bit over a 30 year old pop song without declaring it a (sad, pathetic) hate crime.

  • Temple Stark

    I responded to the post and now I’m being ignored. Funny how that happens. Seems you like to respond to perceived attacks only:

    Come and see the violence inherent in the system. Help! Help! I’m being repressed!

    The “but its couched in a thinly veiled personal attack” victim tactic won’t fly because it’s not that and two, that’s what your original post was and you expected an on-point response.

    You wouldn’t be facing your animas now? And finding the id overriding the ego? Are your neuropsychoses fired up?

    When danger reared its ugly head, he bravely turned his tail and fled. Yes, brave Sir Barger turned about, and valiantly, he chickened out. Bravely taking to his feet, he beat a very brave retreat.

  • Temple, other than that you’re being hateful and malicious for no discernible reason, do you have some other point to which you need a response?

  • Bennett

    Actually, I missed the hippy era by about seven years (HS grad ’76). If you had posted this piece out of the blue, at any other time of year, I would probably have let it pass.

    It’s your timing, Al.

  • Bennett

    Al – “other than that you’re being hateful and malicious for no discernible reason”


    And the BS about “It is not good for people to be setting their politics on sappy pop songs.”

    as a reason for this post and the timing of this post?

    Well, that dog won’t hunt.

  • OK Bennett, so I f’d up by composing this during an official critical blackout period? What exactly is the rule there, so I’ll know when to do it again? Is it illegitimate to criticize Lennon within a certain number of days of the anniversary of his death? How many? If I wait a week, would it be ok to criticize Lennon again?

    When did we vote on all this?

  • Comment 43 Bennett, are you arguing that I am being hateful and malicious on the basis that I referred to “Imagine” as a “sappy pop song”?

    Are you out yo MIND?

  • Bennett

    I’d say give it eighteen months or so.

  • Bennett

    Comment #45

    No I don’t think so.

    It’s just amazes me that you would choose to warp this song around your right wing testosterone laced “hoo-rah” politics while repeatedly calling the song “stupid”.

    I find that, well, low class.

  • uao

    I really ought to stay out of this, but I think this discussion raises some interesting issues:

    Al knew when he posted it what day it was. And I didn’t know about his post on Dec. 8th. On that issue, I’ll say Al was guilty of poor taste; once would’ve been more street credible.

    So I lean toward Temple and Bennett on that one.

    However, Al’s point about “is there a criticism blackout period?” is a valid one. I’ve gotta say that it is within his right to be negative about a sacred cow on a high holy day. So I lean towards Al on that one.

    But if one is to desecrate an idol on a high hold day, one had better come prepared bearing heavy ammunition; the death of Lennon is a newsworthy event, and like all news, one can take a pro ar anti spin.

    That means having a solid thesis behind the blasphemy; so that there is force of conviction behind the words, and compelling argument within them.

    Otherwise, it’s tossing a turd in the punchbowl for the sake of it, which depletes credibility for when you really do need to make a stand on something.

    It would’ve helped Al’s cause if he hadn’t framed “Imagine” within the context of a protest song, because it clearly isn’t one. He could’ve done the same skewering (and convinced more readers, perhaps) had he framed it as something it is; like a piano ballad, or solo Beatle tune, or pop song, or #1 record, or “Songs with Verbs for Titles” or something like that.

    I forget what the next rock deaths on the calendar are, I really have to start checking those myself for articles. Eddie Cochrane ought to be soon. I’m thinking: Summertime Blues: The Worst Blues Ever

    Al can do it if he wants; criticism knows no blackout day.

    OK, I’ll butt out again.

  • Nowhere do I make that point, uao. I don’t happen to care what day he posted it/them. Just the why and the WTF.

    My points go unanswered, so I must be right. (That’s how it works, too right?)

  • Bennett

    uao – masterful, as always.

  • Bennett

    Temple – masterful, as always.

  • uao

    I didn’t mean you guys implied it; Al brought it up. Sorry if it looked like I thought you were endorsing critical blackouts; it’s an abstract, ridiculous term.

    But it was also an interesting issue because I had to think about it myself. Should a critic not say things on certain days? There’s compelling reasons why they oughtn’t…

    So I was just playing with the issue.

    I certainly think you’re entitled to any questions you pose for Al, since Al posted something like this, twice, while people were mourning and remembering, and obviously was anticipating discussion.

  • Evan

    “Elvis Costello famously cracked “Was it a millionare who said ‘imagine no possessions.’?”
    Point taken, even though Costello made your argument for you (“didn’t think that much about it when he was writing it.” referring to you, this time)

    “NO, the world could NEVER be like this stupid song. In fact we could not live without possessions.”
    That’s why the song’s called “Imagine”. Some people just don’t get it.

    “Pop songs appeal primarily to emotions, not reason or logic.”
    Exactly, glad you admit it, but then…. why do you expect the song to aid in the capture of Bin Laden? That’s rather circular logic.

    “In the real world, this dumb hippy crap will do you no good in dealing with, say, Osama Bin Laden.”
    Wow, the song is bad because it can’t capture Bin Laden? Talk about ridiculously high standards. Every protest song must suck according to you. In fact, most actual protests must suck according to you.

    “I love John Lennon songs as much as the next guy, but you’d have to be pretty dumb to take his publicity stunts as serious politics. That bed-in foolishness was about John and Yoko, not the outside world.”
    See, this is why your interesting (to put it politely) style of arguing fails. It’s very clear that your problem isn’t with Imagine, but with John Lennon. It tends to undermine “your points” (credit really should go to Costello). If you have a problem with John Lennon, that’s fine and doesn’t mean you’re a meanie, (the U.S. government had problems with him too, after all, and they were all wonderful people) but don’t hide it under the guise of “saving the world from pop rubbish”.

    Hopefully, by next December 8th you’ll have some real criticism that you at least try to present as your own.

    *don’t attack the sarcasm, that gets old fast, attack the points*

  • Dave Nalle

    Give Al a break. It really is a damned stupid and truly irritatingly superficial song.


  • uao

    It’s okay to say that now; blackout’s over! 😉

  • dagnee

    you have to admit…its better than country and western lyrics that spout…you say jesus forgives you and i should too….jesus loves you and i dont….or….she put the bottle to her head and pulled the trigger…why dont you address this crap too?

  • Evan [comment 53], you argue that I did little more than reiterate Elvis Costello, which is not a very reasonable judgment as I started with Elvis and went from there. In fact, Elvis is a good peace puke, so I doubt highly that he would even agree with my principle conclusions about the song.

  • GoHah

    —“Elvis is a good peace puke”

    what’s so funny about peace puke and undertanding?
    Al, if you ever decide to weigh in with the most monotonous protest song–maybe about this time next year–you might want to consider “Give Peace a Chance.”

  • Hi AL: Got to agree with you on “Imagine”, I’ve never really liked it. I think you were a bit harsh on Lennon though and dragging “Give Peace A Chance” was a bit mean…

  • Good lord. The commenters on the post are actually more sanctimonious than the song, if that’s possible.

    Of course it’s a terrible song! Like “Give Peace a Chance,” it’s born of a situation in which Lennon could basically take a crap on his piano and people would call him a genius.

    Even if you don’t agree with Al, you act like Jesus wrote this song. Get over yourselves. John Lennon was a filthy rich, wife-beating asshole with a high-school education and a few ideas clanging around his head. He ain’t god. Hugely talented, but not God and not, as “Imagine” proves, perfect.

  • Wow. Pete–interesting how you include filthy rich, wife beating asshole and a high school education as ways to rip someone down. Nice to see you hgave respect for folks who never got to college.

    Al–It’s really hard taking anything you say seriously about music considering you think that Sinead O’Connor and Prince are responsible for almost ever great album of the last 25 years. Oh yeah, and The White Stripes are the greatest rock band alive. Yawn.

  • Eric Olsen

    Shock! Al seeks to agitate the masses by rereprodding sacred cow at a time and place most guaranteed to elicit reponse!

    Shock! The masses respond with Pavlovian reliability!

    As to the actual subject at hand: the words to “Imagine” are that of a wispy reverie, they have little or bearing on the real world and only fools would interpret them that way.

    What no one has mentioned, directly anyway, is that the deepest value of the song is in the performance, which is one of the greatest singers of the 20th century at his most inclusive, centered and reverential. He could be singing “hmm hmm hmm” and it would still be powerful and enduring.

  • Al, I ‘m withyou on this. I have always thought this song sucks, adn I like John Lennon’s music

  • uao

    I’d like to know on what grounds Pete Blackwell has to regard Lennon as a wife-beater.

    Who did he beat? Yoko? Yoko would’ve thrashed him if he tried. Cynthia? She’s never claimed such, and she’s spoken very nicely about him in many, many intervies, and she visits Beatlefest and things.

  • Dear Leader makes a good point that Lennon’s vocal performance on “Imagine” is a big selling point. If you don’t think too much about the particular meanings of the words, his vocal presence is very commanding.

    I’d say, however, that he gets about 100X more traction with better songs and more grounded lyrics. “Jealous Guy” leaps to mind as a broadly similar Lennon ballad that works a lot better.

    Matt, small correction: you say that I “think that Sinead O’Connor and Prince are responsible for almost ever great album of the last 25 years” I loves me some Sinead, but she’s not the very top dog. Note the weak review I gave her current album. Make that Elvis Costello and Prince- and throw in Paul Simon and the White Stripes. A couple more albums as good as her last, and I’ll be sticking Macy Gray in there, too.

  • Temple Stark

    #62 – missng the point.

  • But … but .. John Lennon died!

    (Runs away)

  • Come back and fight, you coward!

  • I left a comment here previously and now it is gone. Hmmm.

    So I’ll say it again, “Al, you don’t get what John was trying to say. He was speaking for us. He was conveying the wisdom of peace over war. He was saying that religion and possessions are problems only because people are willing to kill for them. He said ‘imagine’ there was ‘nothing to kill or die for.'”

    Yes, that may be a dream world, but he’s not the only one to aspire to such things.

  • Well, I enjoyed this post. To me, it read as a cheeky challenge: hey, how about we imagine that people stop burying their heads in the sand for one minute and wish for things that could really make a difference in this shitty, cruel world of ours? Oh? You’d prefer to cash in on the sentimental aspect instead? Figures.

    The thing that bothers me though, is that you chose to throw the gauntlet down at this time. It almost alludes that those who would suggest you’re just out to cash in on the sensationalism (making you a Lennon-alike; just on a different arena).

    Did you post this at the time of all the Lennon reminiscing because you felt it would be a time when people naturally relive those days and as such, are more likely to be able to offer you intelligent debate?

    Or did you post this right now because you wanted to catch all the Lennon fans’ attention just for attention’s sake?

    Well, dumb question. I will never know the answer. Consider it an attempt on my part to analyse why the comments have turned against you so much, rather than into discussion and counterpoints.

  • Baronius

    Imagine is a sacred cow? More like a sick cow. Although GoHah is right about Give Peace a Chance being low-grade too. But at least “GPaC” makes no claim to being good music.

  • Uao,

    Cynthia did in fact claim physical abuse.
    In a book
    that came out a few months ago:

    Exhibit 2:
    “You better run for your life if you can little girl/Hide your head in the sand little girl/If I catch you with another man it’s the end, little girl.”

    Positively charming.

    And Matt, every point I brought up is relevant. Being an asshole is considered to be a negative trait. Being filthy rich and under-educated is a problem when so many people, including a bunch of commenters on this thread, think he’s a working class hero (!!) and the most brilliant person who ever walked the face of the earth.

    He’s a great songwriter (usually) and a flawed human being, like everybody else. He’s not a god and he shouldn’t be treated like it just because he wrote a few nice songs and then had the great misfortune of being shot by a lunatic.

    Have some perspective, is all. It’s ok for Al to dislike JL. Take a deep breath.

  • Xai

    Lennon was awsome. His message was simple, Imagine completed it.
    All we need is peace, and we can do it. But even putting it in a form as simple as his song “Give Peace a Chance”, you losers don’t get it.

  • Baronius

    Xai, I agree that his message was simple. That’s the problem. All he was saying was “give peace a chance” which isn’t awfully profound. There is the peace of the grave, the peace of an oppressive state, the peace of having nothing to kill or die or live for. True peace is more than the absence of war; sometimes true peace can only be achieved through war. Most of us move past the sloganeering upon reaching adulthood. Lennon did not. The fact that he preached his naivete with a self-congratulatory air makes him particularly irritating to some of us. I can assure you, the problem isn’t that his message was too subtle for us to pick up.

  • nugget


    God bless you. I’ve thought (for a very long time) that this song was the most retarded song I ever heard. John Lennon was so full of shit. He was a violent person in his private life. I’ll never listen to anyone who can’t back up what they PREACH.

  • nugget

    baronius: I couldn’t agree more.

  • GoHah

    Well said, Baronius. Oh, and Xai? All I am saying is gimme a break/ All I am saying is gimme a break/ All I am saying is gimme a break/ All I am saying is gimme a break/ All I am saying is gimme a break/ad nauseum, et al, etc. etc. blah blah blah, ob-la-di-ob-la-da ……….

  • I can’t say I really hate the song or think it’s the worst anything, but the sentiment behind it is naive. When he says imagine a world with no possessions or no religion, I always think of Dachau, Belsen, huge piles of corpses burning, the stink of human flesh. No need to imagine these things. We already have all the bloody evidence we need of what happens when people find the godhood within themselves.

  • First of all, Baronius, #74, said “sometimes true peace can only be achieved through war.” Bombing for peace is like fucking for virginity. That simple protest slogan makes your skin crawl, doesn’t it? Peace is simple. Maybe John Lennon didn’t live up to his message of peace (as nugget #75 suggests… we all have skeletons in our closets anyway and there is nothing wrong with accepting our imperfections… we shouldn’t expect Lennon or any musician or celebrity to be perfect, and I hardly think that Lennon is some kind of monster), but that doesn’t mean that the idealism of “Imagine” (which is certainly not a protest song, as has already been established) doesn’t possess some value. It isn’t a song that is meant to change the world or provide logical solutions to all of our problems. It is sentimental, but that’s okay. It’s reassuring for those of us who pray for peace. I concede that musically, “Imagine” isn’t extraordinary, but in my opinion that doesn’t equate to being a bad song. It’s a simple, sentimental tune for us sensitive “hippie” (though not really, I detest being called a hippie, but Al seems to favor the term for those of a more liberal, pro-peace persausion) folk to listen to when aggressors like Al attack us with charges of being communists and not being able to deal with Osama bin Laden through our music (really, what song would help capture any terrorist… I mean, is that really what music is for… I must be out of the loop, because I didn’t know that the United States was currently utilizing music in the War on Terror). And finally, Al, I ask that you concede the inappropriate timing of your posts. One might have been alright, but two is a bit overboard, and does hint at a craving for attention, whether it be negative or positive. Two at this significant time would have been alright, however, if you had been a bit more logical in your argument (resorting to accusations of communism and hippie-ness isn’t convincing). Also, concede that “Imagine” is no protest song and therefore the very premise of your argument is flawed. You know and I know that “Imagine” is a sentimental song written primarily for preaching to the choir, which is perfectly acceptable, and in that sense the song is mediocre at the very worst. And Al, I’ve only reiterated arguments already made that you have already responded to, so it is unnecessary to attack me (which many of your responses have come down to). If you wish to concede the points I’ve asked you to concede, however, I’d like to hear what you have to say. Thanks, and good luck next time.

  • One more thing- it seems to me that Al has a grudge against the entire genre of protest songs. He admits to enjoying the music of a few, but has an aversion toward the essential messages of protest songs. Is someone with this prejudice qualified to judge the dumbest protest song ever? I think not. An individual who digs protest songs, however, might be able to tell those of us with less experience in the genre what the dumbest and best protest songs are. Better yet, an individual possessing no prejudices at all toward protest music would remain objective enough to make an accurate judgement on the matter, but unfortunately those people do not exist. Lets all agree to disagree on this one, because no one is qualified to judge music with such touchy subjects… or lets at least all try to be a bit more civil and open-minded (both sides of the aisle). I’ll admit that in my last comment, I didn’t live up to what I’ve just called for, but I’ll try harder.

  • Re #72 – I was reminded by this that I actually like Lennon MORE when he was angry than in his nice hippie peacenik phase – but I never felt good about the hippie movement generally. Or flares.

  • Vern Halen

    If an obscure songwriter had written this, would anyone be arguing over it?? The song is tied up too tightly with the persona of Lennon for any discussion of the song’s merits to make any sense. Trying to overlook the large presence of Lennon and just at the song itself, I’ll go with Mr. Barger on this one.

  • Jackson, for starters I don’t see “protest songs” as a musical genre. That could include anything from Merle Haggard singing “The Fightin’ Side of Me” to Nina Simone writing “Missisippi Goddam.” Both of those are great songs, by the way.

    “Imagine” is a so-so song with no swing to it at all, burdened under pretentious and preposterous lyrics. It’s a marginal record puffed up as if it were a Deep Philosophical Statement. It’s not.

    By way of an anti-war song, I’d recommend instead Sananda aka Terence Trent D’Arby, and his 2003 song “Daddy, Can I Have a War?” MUCH better music with your anti-war message there. Disagree with him on the war, but he wrote a helluva song.

  • uao

    re #72 Pete Blackwell:

    Here’s what the link you provided says:

    “But I would not put up with physical abuse,” she said, a reference to the new book’s description — absent from her 1978 book, “A Twist of Lennon” — of John striking her in a fit of jealousy after he saw Cynthia and Sutcliffe dancing.

    The differences between Cynthia Lennon’s two books is the first one said nothing of this, the second refers to a single incident that happened once when Lennon was 21. While it is uncool to hit your wife under any circumstance, one strike at the start of a 6 year marriage doesn’t quite constitute the label of “wife beater”.

    As for the song quote from “Run For Your Life”, it’s a song lyric. “Hey Joe” is about a guy who kills his wife, but nobody calls Jimi Hendrix or the Byrds “killers”.

    If that’s the best evidence you could turn up, it’d be better to go with “dirty hippie scum”.

  • Baronius

    Al is qualified to judge protest songs for the same reason that canaries are qualified to judge gas leaks. 🙂

  • Evan

    Al, comment 83:
    “”Imagine” is a so-so song with no swing to it at all, burdened under pretentious and preposterous lyrics. It’s a marginal record puffed up as if it were a Deep Philosophical Statement. It’s not.”

    Since when do ballads “swing”? To criticize it for lack of swing is like criticizing contemporary country music for not having “soul”. The only people that puff it up are people like you who take it for more than what it actually is. I mean, we’ve already established it’s not a protest song, right?

  • Evan, first off I DO criticize modern country music for not having soul. I generally won’t listen to the crap. Why would ANYONE who actually likes MUSIC be listening to Faith Hill or Garth Frickin’ Brooks?

    Lots of ballads swing nicely. Plus, I’ll use the word swing pretty broadly. It doesn’t have to be P-Funk, it just needs to have some minimal rhythmic impetus. By this figuring, even “Across the Universe” or “Something” have at least a modest pulse carrying them.

    “Imagine” by contrast sounds kinda stiff and arthritic, like he’d been sitting on hard wooden church benches for too long.

    You can argue as to whether it is a “protest” song exactly. It’s a protest song if “Blowin’ in the Wind” is one. Either way, it’s clearly presented as if it’s supposed to be a Deep Social Statement. And as to who’s puffing it up, it definitely ain’t ol’ Al standing around with candles in the darkness singing this stupid frickin song.

  • Evan

    Didn’t Bob himself say he didn’t write protest songs? They were just sort of adopted as that by the general public.

  • I think one should consider the purpose of a protest song just as the context of the bed-in. A protest song needs to be simple so that many people can sing it. The bed-in was very much a part of Yoko Ono and performance art.

    I think some good things came from the hippies who explored non-traditional religions and beliefs such as Buddhism, Tao and Hinduism. That made it easier for ethnic minorities who were traditionally of those religious/cultural practices.

    I don’t agree with John Lennon. I cannot imagine a world without religion, however, I do believe it is possible to find world peace. We saw during World War II that in small pockets of humanity whole villages in France and even one small country (Denmark)–as well as in courageous individuals–that people could cross over barriers of religion and culture and see the oneness of humanity. The same thing happened much later in the US when non-black Americans joined blacks in the Civil Rights Movement. In many of these instances religious faith played an important role.

    There were too major non-violent movements that proved very successful. The first one in Asia (India) and the other one in America under Martin Luther King Jr.

    We live in a world that celebrates violence and studies wars instead of studying peace. Peace isn’t easy, but I and many others believe it is possible.

  • Shocking as it may seem, I sort of agree with the Senator (minus the predictably tired rant on Commies and hippies and army by a backwoods closet hippie). I think Elvis Costello’s take on it was much funnier and smarter, though.

    It IS largely a hippie pop song and I too snicker when Joan Baez sings it in her comical falsetto at protest after protest. It’s also a beautiful piece of music (HARDLY a “joyless piano dirge”), one of my favorite things Lennon ever wrote. But Lennon was never really much for political insight in his lyrics — I have some of the same issues with “Revolution.” “Give Peace a Chance” was a stupider and more cynical pop song written during the Yoko days when John lost some perspective and got carried away with himself.

    I do find it kind of odd that it’s become part of the musical canon as a requiem to be performed by some idiot celebrity like Madonna (although Neil Young did a decent job) whenever there’s a tragedy at some benefit concert.

    The lyrics are dumb and idealistic, but they’re memorable nonetheless and it’s a great melody.

    That’s the thing with John: he was never a great philosopher or political thinker and his lyric-writing was generally mediocre hippie poetry after the Beatles stopped doing Little Richard pop, especially later in his career. But he was also an unquestionable musical genius who actually believed a lot of those ideals he sang about in admittedly vague and simplistic terms.

    Dylan, on the other hand, was never a well-meaning hippie naif but a calculating, cynical, self-promoting chameolon, an opportunist who dealt in the language and imagery of idealism without having any genuine personal or political commitment beyond marketing idealism to a buying audience. Dylan, all things being equal, was probably smarter intellectually for most of his career and better at managing his image with an uncanny self-awareness of who he was and needed to be.

    And war and materialism do indeed suck, especially when they’re being championed by people who can neither fight nor possess wealth, something I’ll never understand. Lennon may have been a wealthy man singing about peace in the abstract, but the problem today is the lack of wealthy (or poor) people who are troubled by the real consequences of war, not just in Iraq, but in places we know or care little about because they don’t make money for us, like in Sudan.

    And as long as we’re all being Buddhist philosophers, hippies and wannabe-hawks alike, the absence of war is insufficient for peace but peace CANNOT be achieved through war. In fact, it’s people who think the latter that make us think that a world without armed conflict between great powers is just and harmonious.

    Evan: you’re a smart, funny cat. You should write more often.

    I admit it. I’m an Al Barger fan. Why, you say? It’s true that he has no perspective on the truth, but he doesn’t care about that. And it’s also true that I dislike a lot of the more backwards things he says when he race-baits or writes about politics. He’s an absolute pill when he tries to be a “serious” adult, something he’s clearly awful at. But the reason Al’s occasionally entertaining is that he’s such an open book. EVERYTHING he writes is not about the topic itself, but actually about Al Barger HIMself. You learn so much reading between the lines in an Al Barger post. Here’s a perfect example explaining WHY Al writes and shares his “juvenile soapboxism” with us:

    “drain me of all my natural empathy juices, as I squirt a big load of them in sympathy for your sadness.”

    That’s Al Barger’s mission statement in life. That should be on the front page of his blog.

    That is all.

  • uao

    A great melody? Ever try humming it in the shower?

    Missed ya, Booey.

  • Thanks, UAO.

    I just got out of the shower and hummed it, actually. Well, OK, I’m not showering until Tuesday as a matter of principle. But if I were, I’d miss you in my shower too, you sexy bitch 🙂

    That is all.

  • l larry

    i think that Sky Pilot was the best best protest song! it was wa recorded by eric burden and the the animals.it was very very moving! for you peopl young people, a sky pilot pilot is a chaplain, not a flyer flyer larry

  • uao

    That’s an interesting infobyte, larry. I never knew “Sky Pilot” meant a chaplain. Well, now I’m gonna have to re-listen to the song…

  • gonzo marx

    Booey, ya olde son of a sarcastic MENSA clone…

    good to *see* you

    as for big Al, i did attempt to turn him on the Rage Against the Machine as an example of thoughtful political commentary…i probably chose the worng song to send, knowing his tin ear and all…perhaps Township Rebellion woudl have been better

    but i digress…


  • Gonzo, I’m a sucker for a good song. Get me something with a hot tune, and I’ll give a sympathetic listen even to the Marxist nonsense.

  • gonzo marx

    the first Rage album…song “Township Rebellion”..it’s about freedom, not marxism..and possibly the most palatable for your ear

    you could start with some easy stuff, Living Color’s Vivid album perhaps…with Middle Man, Glamour Boy, and This Building being decent examples

    but when it comes to our musical tastes all i can do is cite “Miracle Man” fro my position in attempting to open your ears to different things

    which is fine, in the realm of Opinions, all are entitled to what works for them

    i still think the timing of this Post was in a bit of poor taste, but we all know you just like to be controversial at times

    try the 2 Audioslave CD’s (especially the first one) and you will hear the band from Rage and the singer from Soundgarden(possibly one of the best pure male voices in rock today…right up there with Maynard from Tool/Perfect Circle)

    just a Thought


  • Scott Butki

    Oh, Al, Al, Al

    I was just reading yesterday a piece in.. I think it was in Newsweek looking back on the anniversary of the killing of Lennon and in it they were quoting musicians as saying if they could write just one song like Imagine they can die happy.

    But I see that they must all be wrong and you right that this song sucks.

    And no, it’s not a protest song – it’s a song asking people to consider a life outside the box, something Lennon definitely did.

    I’m bugged less by you harping on the same topic twice in two days as you doing right around the time of the anniversary of his slaying.

    I guess I should wait for the anniversary of the assassination attempt on Reagan to write about how much he sucked as a president?

  • Scott, I could never aspire to your exquisite sensitivity in not writing something critical of a pop singer on the anniversary of his death. I wouldn’t have written this in December of 1980, but after a frickin’ quarter of a century, it’s about time to get over your mourning.

    I note the talking points for the Al Hatas seem to feature this two stories in two days meme. I wrote a couple of sentences about the song in the midst of another point, and then realized I had a whole different article to go with it.

    Is there someplace I can go to see the rules on how much, how often, and exactly when it is appropriate to criticize a pop song?

  • The Senator loves to dance on the graves of the dead.

    On another note, I find it endlessly annoying that people over-use “meme” to try and sound smart when it’s completely unnecessary to the context, people who have never read Dawkins.

    That is all.

  • Bliffle

    I’m sorry, I just find it difficult to countenance the idea of a ‘protest song’. Songs are meant to be about love, and that is why 90% of songs ARE about love. Most Protest Songs I’ve ever chanced to listen to sound like a lame combination of bad poetry and bad melody: as if two bads make a good.

    Protest (and I’m thinking here of War Protest) is best expressed in poem, spoken or written (cf. Wilfred Owen), or in film (cf. Lewis Milestones final fadeout of Lew Ayres in “All Quiet On The Western Front”). Can anyone seriously maintain that an egregious melody attached tenuously to “Dulce et Decorum est” would improve it?

    Best to confine song to that which it expresses best: love and it’s sad consequence. A proper combination of verbal expression and loves keening lyric. And it’s best if sung in Italian, the supreme language of love and music.

    I suppose if I had to recommend a Protest Song it would be Josh Whites “Uncle Sam Says”, written at a time when it was dangerous to protest. By a black man when it was dangerous to be a Black Man. A witty sexy black man. Uncle Sam doesn’t want you to shoot That Big Gun.

  • I see no need to confine oneself to writing songs about love- though it’s always a good topic. Or, as per Paul Simon, you can always write a “Song About the Moon.”

    The thing is that the further you stray away into politics and such, the more likely you are to get into abstracted nonsense without much emotional reality to it.

    On the other hand, you certainly CAN write a real song with social protest behind it. My personal fave is the Nina Simone uber-classic “Missisippi Goddam.”

  • Bliffle

    I like Nina Simone, but “Mississippi Goddam” is superfluous and unnecessary.

  • Oh Bliffle, you’re missing the boat. Particularly in the range of “protest songs,” Nina damning Missisippi is right at the very tippy, top of the list.

  • Bliffle

    OK OK if I can find my Nina Simone CDs I’ll give it another listen.

  • Bliffle, if the Nina doesn’t pop right out, jump on over to my MoreThings domain and drop me an email.

  • haha

    Haha you think your so smart. With you gay bullshit about the song. ITS A SONG!! [Personal attack deleted by Comments Editor]