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John Lennon at 70? We can only imagine….

For fans of the ex-Beatle, there are myriad events coming to mark that significant birthdate Oct. 9 as well as the 30th anniversary of his death on Dec. 8.

October 03, 2010|By Randy Lewis, Los Angeles Times

"Double Fantasy — Stripped Down" is a remixed version of the album, removing the bells-and-whistles production touches that he, Ono and album producer Jack Douglas used 30 years ago, especially the effects used to alter the quality of his naked voice.

"I think that's really the best part, in a way," Ono, 77, said during a stop in Beverly Hills recently. "When you hear it, it's totally different in the sense that John's voice is really so up [front in the sound mix]…. You're going to really hear him for the first time, in a way."

Raw emotion characterized "John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band," the first album he released after the 1970 breakup of the Beatles. But from "Imagine" in 1971 through "Double Fantasy," he often double-tracked his vocals, adding echo and reverb or other aural processing. Were he still alive, this might be the one project he'd have trouble supporting.

"He was never satisfied with his voice," Ono said. "But he was satisfied with what we were doing [on 'Double Fantasy'] in the sense of the songs."

Ono said she's listened to those songs only sporadically over the years and that her response to hearing the album in its entirety during the remixing process recently took her by surprise.

"For business reasons I have to listen to certain things sometimes," she said, "maybe one song, you know, if they want to use it for an advertisement, but not the whole thing. I thought, 'I can take care of it as business, objectively,' which I have been doing for 30 years. But to listen to 'Double Fantasy,' ohhh," she said with a heavy sigh. "I was crying, actually."

Asked whether "Double Fantasy — Stripped Down" also means her own voice will be cast in a new light, Ono nearly blushed. "Yes, that's true," she said with a jittery laugh. "I get a bit nervous talking about that. Most people in those days really hated the fact that I was there. But yes, you hear me too."

Sean lent a hand to the remixed "Double Fantasy" project: That's his sketch on the cover, a reproduction of the original album's photo of his father and mother kissing.

Thirty years after that photo was taken, how might Lennon view the seismic changes that have transpired since he sang to his generation about a "Revolution"?

"In the days when John was young, there were few people who played guitar," Ono said. "Now, is there a kid in the class who doesn't know how to play the guitar? It's very different now."

Ono believes Lennon would be gratified by many of those differences.

"Just like people in old days: The white guys had to marry white women, that kind of thing," Ono said. "In music too, in the old days, rock was rock, jazz was jazz, avant garde was avant garde, classical was classical. Now everybody uses everything, and they don't mind it…. It's all mixed now. It's beautiful."

The musical polyglot is something she finds in sync with their longstanding efforts to promote world peace.

"To keep this planet as a beautiful planet, music is it," Ono said. "Music is a healing power, and all musicians who are trying their best, they are all doing it, by their vibrations. Isn't that great? Even if you make the music in your own garage and wouldn't ever put it out, that vibration is healing the world.

"John categorically approved all musicians," she said. "As long as it's music, he feels good about it."

randy.lewis@latimes.com

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