"Real Love" (original guitar version): During the Beatles Anthology, McCartney, Harrison, Ringo Starr, and producer Jeff Lynne elaborated on Lennon's rough demos of "Real Love" to create the virtual Beatles reunion single in 1996. But the song first emerged in 1988, when the sixth take was included on the Imagine documentary soundtrack. I love the song's simplicity, as Lennon recorded it only as a home demo. He sings in a gentle manner, utilizing his voice's higher ranges. Featuring slightly different lyrics than the 1996 version, "Real Love" benefits from the lack of production (unlike the overproduced Anthology track) and allows him to display his gift for writing elegant, romantic songs.
"I'm Losing You" (Cheap Trick version): While the official Double Fantasy track "I'm Losing You" is likable, this rendition, included in the John Lennon Anthology box set, simply blows the album version away. During the Double Fantasy sessions, producer Jack Douglas suggested bringing in members of Cheap Trick to play on some of the tracks. Minus lead singer Robin Zander, the group recorded a blistering version of "I'm Losing You," amping up the rock guitar. The cutting guitar riffs enhance Lennon's obvious frustration in lyrics such as "So what the hell am I supposed to do?/Just put a band aid on it?" The softer version on Double Fantasy sounds apologetic; the Cheap Trick rendition adds bite and anger to the song, thus enhancing the lyrics. Why this version did not make the final cut is a total mystery.
"Dear Yoko" (acoustic version): Lennon played rhythm guitar with the Beatles, but this home demo of the Double Fantasy track "Dear Yoko" features his considerable lead guitar skills. Like "Real Love," this version (available on John Lennon Acoustic) lacks any production; it simply presents Lennon singing and playing to himself, fine-tuning the track. He strikes up a strong rhythm that closely resembles the final version, but his enthusiastic vocals demonstrate the affection he had for the song. When he sings "I'm never, ever, ever, ever, ever gonna let you go," listeners can hear his conviction and love for his wife. For the deft guitar work alone, the acoustic version of "Dear Yoko" is well worth finding.
"Borrowed Time": Released posthumously on the collection Milk and Honey, "Borrowed Time" makes for a bittersweet listening experience. His new-found contentment shines through lyrics such as "Good to be older/Would not exchange a single day or a year" and "The future is brighter and now is the hour." He looks back on his youth, admitting he was "living illusion of freedom and power" and "living confusion and deep despair." While he felt uncomfortable not knowing the answers as a teenager, now he knows that "The more that I see the less that I know for sure." However, he has clearly grown accustomed to this uncertainty, that he understands he is "Living on borrowed time/Without a thought for tomorrow." Every time I hear this song, it brings a smile to my face; his voice exudes happiness and new-found joy, and he embraces the future. Of course, these lyrics also inspire sadness, as Lennon never got to experience the middle age years and revel in his contentment. Still, the reggae-infused song shows Lennon at his happiest, and hints at how he would have experimented with his sound by incorporating other genres.