The Worst Song of All Time: 'Imagine'

In a world of Starland Vocal Bands, Lady GaGas, Bon Jovis, Snoop Doggs and 1910 Fruitgum Companies, it takes real talent to write a song so unbelievably horrible that it transcends mere awfulness and crosses the frontier into a whole new realm of sheer crappiness. An artistic, musical and philosophical failure of staggering proportions, John Lennon’s “Imagine” is the worst song of all time.

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Many feel this ballad is a touching hymn that gives voice to man’s yearning for a better world. They are wrong. “Imagine” is a cloying, boggy, sonic swamp of numb-skulled sentiments that sound like they were recycled from a bong-fueled, 2 a.m. bull session between a couple of pampered, credulous UC Berkeley lit majors. It’s the national anthem of the hopey/changey crowd — all at once pretentious, smug, tiresome and intellectually bankrupt.

“Imagine” should – no, must – be banned and all remaining copies of it destroyed. Its continued existence makes mankind a stupider, more boring race.

Some shortsighted people might consider this assessment a bit harsh. They are wrong. Sure, it was a hit in 1971 and still today Imagine remains a radio staple. It has sold millions of copies and inspired a legion of cover versions. Rolling Stone even ranked it third on its roster of the Greatest Songs of All Time.

But these are not testimony to the song’s transcendent quality. They are signs of the apocalypse.

The song begins with a dull piano chord progression that telegraphs to the listener that Something Waaay Profound is in-bound. Then Lennon’s atonal voice pipes up. Let’s leave aside the lyrics for a second – he sounds awful, like some over-earnest troubadour trying too hard to impress the four friends he guilted into coming out on a Wednesday to see him play his new tune over at the Common Grounds coffee house’s weekly open mike.

It’s so ponderous and booorrrinng, seeming to go on forever. It’s the musical equivalent of passing a kidney stone, only not as much fun.

What was Phil Spector, who produced this mess, thinking? Right now, he ought to be thinking that “Imagine” was the second biggest mistake of his life.

And the lyrics – give me a break. Never have so many fawned so shamelessly over such utter nonsense.

The first lines are: “Imagine there’s no heaven/it’s easy if you try.” No, it isn’t, because if there’s no heaven then there’s no hell, and we know that there’s a hell because when this song is playing we’re in it.

And how about “Imagine all the people/Living for today?” Yeah, he’s put his finger on our problem – too many people planning ahead and preparing for the future. This is the kind of powerful, incisive reasoning that led a guy who could take his pick of pretty much any woman in the world to shack up with Yoko Ono. Let me put it another way for emphasis – this guy chose to see Yoko Ono naked. Many times. The only response to someone with that kind of judgment is to listen carefully to what he says and then do the exact opposite.

There’s also the gratuitous commie babbling: “Imagine no possessions/I wonder if you can/No need for greed or hunger/A brotherhood of man/Imagine all the people/Sharing all the world.” To quote a better song by the infinitely more talented Frank Zappa, a man with an admirable lack of patience for such treacle, gag me with a spoon.

I’m not sure of the Lennon timeline, but didn’t he write this nonsense about the same time he ditched England because of the tax bite he was taking to help pay for its socialist welfare state? Sure, depriving a rapacious lefty government of revenue by moving to someplace with a more sensible tax rate is clearly the morally correct thing to do, but isn’t the transparent hypocrisy of this poser a bit much to stomach?

And if all that’s not insipid enough, we also get: “You may say that I’m a dreamer/But I’m not the only one.” Oh, please.

The most galling thing about “Imagine” is how it urges the listener to assume the mantle of that “dreamer,” thereby joining the ranks of the free spirits, bohemians and other assorted loafers, chislers and social parasites who are only too happy to belly up to the table that is our society but who are nowhere to be found when the check arrives:

“Sorry, I can’t be bothered to work to build something or to fight to defend anything – you see, I’m a dreamer, so you just let me know when you’ve gotten everything ready for me to enjoy. Until then, I’ll be here relaxing on my parents’ sofa, pretending to read Gravity’s Rainbow. “

The only bright spot is that so few folks actually seem to pay attention to its inane lyrics. How else could one explain American Idol’s David Archuleta, the all-American Mormon kid, covering an ode to atheism that even Lennon conceded was pretty close to being the Communist Manifesto set to music? Simon Cowell should have slapped him. Several times.

Fortunately, there’s plenty of music out there that rejects this kind of hippie crap. Sadly, for every one kid whose mind is opened by, say, The Clash or Husker Du, dozens more will sit slack-jawed and nodding vacantly at the moron-bait songs like “Imagine” dangle in front of them.

For me, I smile when I imagine a world without “Imagine.” I guess that would make me a dreamer, except I have a job.

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