Saturday, 27 March 2021

THE STORY BEHIND THE SONG: JOHN LENNON´S "WATCHING THE WHEELS"

The sentiment behind one of Lennon’s most memorable songs, ‘Watching the Wheels’ remained fairly much the same, even though the song underwent many changes, especially its title. 
 

 


Lennon decided to retreat from his vigorous music routine in 1975. ‘Watching The Wheels’ was a letter to the world about how Lennon was ok just simply existing.  “I hadn’t stopped from ’62 till ’73 – on demand, on schedule, continuously. And walking away was hard. What it seemed like to me was, This must be what guys go through at sixty-five when suddenly they’re not supposed to exist any more and they are sent out of the office. I thought, Well, oughtn’t I? Shouldn’t I? Shouldn’t I be, like, going to the office or something?”  

Lennon was seriously grappling with having been at the centre of attention for so long. He added: “because I don’t exist if my name isn’t in the papers or if I don’t have a record out or in the charts, or whatever – if I’m not seen at the right clubs. It must be like the guys at sixty-five when somebody comes up and goes, ‘Your life is over. Time for golf.’”


Lennon started writing the song in 1977; at its core, the song was his reply to the media’s pernicious remarks. ‘Watching the Wheels’ would develop multiple layers of meaning. On the surface, it was a literal ode to watching the wheels of automobiles turn around and around, as he watched from his apartment window in the famous Dakota building but scratch beneath the surface, and it poured fuel on to the fire of Lennon’s relentless life. 
 
Its original working title was ‘Emotional Wreck’. By 1978, he changed it to ‘People’. Through all of these iterations and versions of the song as it began to develop more as its title changed, the subject of the song revealed its many colours to Lennon. Another part of it was the singer coming to terms with growing old and having to accept his life as it is. Prior to 1980 when the song became what it is today, by 1979, it was named ‘I’m Crazy’. By this point, he had the basic motif of the song; he had the chord structure and thus recorded a demo of it on the piano.

In his own words, Lennon described the song as such: “watching the wheels? The whole universe is a wheel, right? Wheels go round and round. They’re my own wheels, mainly. But, you know, watching meself is like watching everybody else. And I watch meself through my child, too.”

By August 1980, Lennon went into the Hit Factory Studio in New York City to track the song and by September he did the vocals for it. Tragically, the song would be released posthumously in 1981 as the third and final single for his Double Fantasy album.

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