Featured on John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band – The Ultimate Collection, the new video is released in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Lennon’s first solo work
Because of the fundamental existential queries Lennon poses in the gentle “Look At Me,” it was assumed that it was triggered by Dr. Janov and his Primal Scream therapy. It’s an easy mistake to make, as it embodies that raw yearning at the heart of this album which was mostly Janov-inspired. Yet it preceded Primal Scream and the other songs.
“A couple of tracks, ” Lennon said, “which one would suppose were written under therapy, like ‘Look At Me’, were written pre-Janov, about a year before therapy. But the theme was the same: ‘Look at me’, ‘Who am I?’, all that jazz. So that’s why I stuck it on that album. But actually it had come from beforehand.”
“All that jazz.” After the dream was over, as Lennon declared when his band broke-up, he began to delve into the truth of his own identity. Going non-stop for a decade in the “greatest show on earth,” as he wrote in “I’m The Greatest,” he wanted to know what it was worth. Who was John Lennon without the other Fab Three?
Gently rendered with one voice against the acoustic guitar finger-picking style he learned from Donovan in India (which he used first on “Julia” and “Dear Prudence”), the song shines light into the uncertain truth in his soul. This same songwriter–one of the greatest, most important and beloved artists of our time–wrote songs like “Help” and “I’m A Loser” which revealed the real John.
As he said, since he was a kid he always felt he was a genius or he was mad. Even after the phenomenonal success and cultural impact of The Beatles, he still felt unsure. He knew The Beatles had reached the mythic Toppermost of global success towards which they always aimed, but could he do that alone?
As he sings in this song, “Look at me/Who am I supposed to be?/Look at me/What am I supposed to do?”
Now looking back five decades since its emergence, and knowing it was pre-Janov, it’s poignant to realize he already knew the answer. Delicately woven into the lyric is his new truth, which is that he’s not alone. Suddenly his love is there:
“Who am I? Nobody else can see/ Just you and me/Who are we?
Oh my love….”
There’s that truth. Which even Lennon couldn’t entirely fathom. Asking who he is and knowing nobody else can see the real him, what started as one is now two: “Nobody else can see/Just you and me.”
Though he says this is the same old jazz – all questioning his personal truth – it isn’t same, old or jazz really. It’s the answer. The same one in so many of his songs. That love is all you need. And his love was real love. It is a song of questioning, but the answer is already there. And her name is Yoko.
Knowing the answer was found not in the self alone, but in loving another and being loved, was not an easy declaration to make. It took courage, as Yoko understood, for John to show the world he needed the answer he had delivered years earlier in many songs. As when he sang, “Have you heard the word is love?”
“With the Plastic Ono Band albums,” Yoko said, “John and I liked the idea of this really raw, basic, truthful reality that we were going to be giving to the world. We were influencing other artists, giving them courage, giving dignity to a certain style of vulnerability and strength that was not accepted in society at the time. It was a revolution for a Beatle to say, ‘Listen: I’m human, I’m real.’ It took a lot of courage for him to do it.”
Now, some 50 years later, comes this video as raw, real and romantic as the song.
Intimate, never-before-seen 8mm film footage of John and Yoko captured at home in 1968 has been paired together with the brand-new Ultimate Mix of “Look At Me.” Filmed by William Wareing and his crew, the video features black & white and color footage on “home movie” Standard 8 film, filmed between takes of John and Yoko’s films: “Film No. 5” (also known as “Smile”), conceived by Yoko; and “Two Virgins,” conceived by John and Yoko.
The unearthed film reels from the Lennon archives are presented here for the first time, with the black & white and color footage side-by-side, accompanied by the stunning new mix of “Look At Me,” which is also available to stream.
In the video, released in 4K via the John Lennon Estate, we get a glimpse into the life of John and Yoko and behind-the-scenes of their film making. We see John playing acoustic guitar in between takes, his drum skin from the Sgt. Pepper’s album cover (designed by Joe Ephgrave) and his psychedelic upright piano (painted by Marijke Koger and Simon Posthuma from Dutch design collective The Fool), the film crew setting up shots, Yoko dancing around the swimming pool while John plays his steel string and a peek into their domestic life and the love that bound them together.
“Look At Me” is the second track to be released from John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band-The Ultimate Collection, to celebrate 50 years of John’s transformational and influential masterpiece. The eight-disc super deluxe box set is an immersive, deep listening experience and an in-depth exploration of what John described as “the best thing I’ve ever done.”
Fully authorized by Yoko, who oversaw the production and creative direction—and from the same audio team that worked on 2018’s critically acclaimed Imagine – The Ultimate Collection, including triple Grammy Award winning engineer Paul Hicks and mixers/engineers Rob Stevens and Sam Gannon—The Ultimate Collection puts listeners in the center of the studio and explores the album’s 1970 recording sessions at EMI Studios 2 & 3, Abbey Road, along with John’s post-Beatles singles: “Give Peace A Chance,” “Cold Turkey,” and “Instant Karma! (We All Shine On).”
From inception to the final master, the sessions are explored through scores of unreleased and rare demos, rehearsals, outtakes, jams, and studio conversations, revealing how these beloved songs came to be. Everything in this expansive box set has been newly mixed from scratch from brand new 192kHz/24bit hi-res transfers. In addition to the various new mixes, the set boasts 87 never-before-heard recordings.
This historical, remixed and remastered collection features 159 tracks across six CDs and two Blu-ray audio discs for more than 11 engrossing hours of music and includes two postcards (“Who Are The Plastic Ono Band?” and “You Are The Plastic Ono Band”), a “War Is Over!” poster, and a comprehensive 132-page hardback book with lyrics, rare photos, tape box images, memorabilia and extensive notes. Designed and edited by Simon Hilton, the compilation producer and production manager of The Ultimate Collection series, the book tells the story behind each of the songs and the making of the album in John & Yoko’s words and the words of those who worked alongside them, through archival and brand new interviews.
This truly unique expanded edition includes the lively improvised jams John and the band would play between takes, belying the intense subject matter of the album, and the full live recording session of Yoko’s companion LP, Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band, which for the first time presents the songs in their full, unedited lengths and speed, and includes three unreleased improvisations.
Similar to the previous Ultimate Collection, the set offers a variety of new listening experiences that are at once immersive and intimate, ranging from the brand new Ultimate Mixes of the timeless album—which put John’s vocals front and center and sonically upgrade the sound—to the Elements Mixes—which isolate and bring forth certain elements from the multitrack recordings to reveal even deeper levels of detail and clarity—and the Raw Studio Mixes—which allow listeners to experience the moment John and the Plastic Ono Band recorded each song—mixed raw and live without effects, tape delays or reverbs. The Evolutionary Documentary is a unique track-by-track audio montage that details the evolution of each song from demo to master recording via instructions, rehearsals, recordings, multitrack exploration and studio chatter. The Blu-rays present an array of listening options including high-definition, studio quality 192kHz/24bit audio in stereo and enveloping 5.1 Surround and Dolby Atmos mixes.
Plastic Ono Band will also be released in concurrent multiple physical and digital configurations, including as a 1CD that includes the Ultimate Mixes of the original album and the three non-album singles and as an expanded 2CD or 2LP version that adds a disc of outtakes of each song.
Pre-order and stream “Look At Me” here.