John Lennon's song "Imagine" will forever be etched into the consciousness of listeners as the melodic mantra of late-'60s, early-'70s idealism. It also serves as the wistful epitaph of a complex, challenging artist whose life was tragically taken by a deranged fan. The album of the same name was recorded in May 1971, when Lennon was 30, a year and a half after the acrimonious breakup of rock's most acclaimed band, which he co-founded, the Beatles. Gimme Some Truth: The Making of John Lennon's 'Imagine' Album is a fascinatingly intimate, inside look -- warts and all -- at the creative process at work on a record that regularly ranks among the Top 50 rock albums ever made in polls of fans and music reviewers. The ambiance of the sessions, which took place in the home studio at John and Yoko's estate near London, is as pervasive as the resonance from one of Lennon's power chords. The musicians, who include George Harrison, Klaus Voormann, Alan White, Nicky Hopkins, and King Curtis, as well as legendary mad genius co-producer Phil Spector, share breakfast as well as ideas and riffs. From loose jams to John teaching his bandmates his new tunes -- "That's the one I like best," he remarks after playing "Imagine" to them for the first time -- you see the camaraderie and teamwork germinate the seeds into Lennon classics such as "Jealous Guy," "Crippled Inside," "How Do You Sleep?," and "Gimme Some Truth," in addition to the album's title track. You're privy to John's renowned sense of humor and playfulness, as well as glimpses of the legendary Lennon temper as he spits profanity-laced epithets when frustrated by equipment glitches or perceived mistakes by technicians. Among the most intriguing moments in the movie are a couple of interactions between Lennon and Harrison that reveal that the emotional wounds from the Beatles' breakup -- and their animosity towards Paul McCartney -- have yet to heal. The film's most moving segment occurs when gardeners find a disheveled, clearly emotionally disturbed young man sleeping in the estate's shrubbery, and John agrees to meet him. When the young man insists that the lyrics of Beatles and Lennon songs were written as messages directed to him, Lennon calmly and patiently tries to reason with him, to little avail. Yet, John's empathetic side shines through as he invites the hungry stranger into his home for a bite to eat, at he very same table where the assembled musicians enjoyed their pre-session meals. Nine and a half years later, Lennon signed an autograph for another deranged fan at the entrance of his residence in New York City. Later that evening, the deranged fan returned and fired five bullets into his hero.
Because the movie, which clocks in at 63 minutes, was shot on 16 mm film, it's grainier and lacks some of the visual crispness DVD viewers may be accustomed to from 35 mm transfers.
The music, on the other hand -- which is accessible in either Dolby Stereo or rafter-shaking Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround -- has never sounded better and is fully chaptered for each recording. (The soundtrack was remixed and remastered at Abbey Road Studios, utilizing the original master tapes.) Extra features include a 37-minute interview with John and Yoko, mostly on the topic of their relationship, which is typically unguarded and often hilarious. Also included is a discography of Lennon's work, complete with album cover artwork and an audio sample from each record. An eight-page booklet inside the case contains rare photographs and serves as a brief introduction to the film.