Starting Over – Making of Double Fantasy (book review)

Starting Over – The Making of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Double Fantasy – Ken Sharp (Gallery Books) Book review

Imagine taking five years off from your job.  Then, imagine having to return to work and pick up where you left off – it wouldn’t be easy, right?  Now imagine the whole world watching you.  Those were the circumstances surrounding John Lennon’s return to the studio in the summer of 1980, after spending the last half of the 1970’s raising his young son.

In Starting Over – The Making of Double Fantasy, Ken Sharp profiles the sessions that would lead to Lennon’s final studio album released during his lifetime.  He manages to track down just about everyone who was involved in the project: from Lennon’s partner Yoko Ono, to producer Jack Douglas, and every member of the studio band, to engineers, and label personnel, Sharp attempts to paint a complete picture of what it was like in the studio.

While we consider Lennon one of the greatest musicians of all-time, several of the interviews reveal just how little confidence the singer had in his own abilities, especially early on.   Every person in the studio was told to keep quiet about the sessions and was sworn to secrecy.  Another highlight of the book is the story behind the sessions which involved the members of Cheap Trick.  The two songs laid down were ultimately deemed too abrasive and were replaced by more slick renditions by the in-house band.

In a unique approach, the author does very little editorializing; instead letting the people involved with the album speak for themselves.  As you might expect with three decades removed from the project, each and every person has nothing but fond memories of the time in the studio with Lennon.  In fact, that may be the one flaw in the book; there’s really nothing bad said about anyone, including the usually polarizing Ono, which I find a little hard to believe.

Nevertheless, what is revealed was how focused the singer was – especially once he began to see positive results and regained his confidence.  Curiously, the book reveals that the sessions were well documented on video, yet the tapes have now gone missing.  Also, Douglas had a hidden tape machine rolling at all times; capturing the between song banter  – yet, nothing of this sort has surfaced either.  While Double Fantasy was not Lennon’s finest work, it would be his last, and this book offers excellent insight into it’s creation.  –Tony Peters