by Madeline Bocaro
© Madeline Bocaro, 2022. No part of this site may be reproduced or re-blogged in whole or in part, in any manner without permission of the copyright owner.
So long ago
Was it in a dream?
Was it just a dream?
John Lennon recorded some demos in summer 1974. One of them was at first titled ‘So Long Ago’ and later, ‘Walls and Bridges’ (which became the name of his album from which the single emerged). This song evolved into ‘#9 Dream.’ John based the dreamy arrangement on an orchestration for strings that he had done for Harry Nilsson’s cover of the Jimmy Cliff song ‘Many Rivers to Cross’ on Nilsson’s album Pussycats.
John did not speak much about the song and at first referred to it as a “throwaway.” Despite this, John selected it as the next single from his self-produced album Walls and Bridges (recorded in summer 1974 and released in September) after his No. 1 hit ‘Whatever Gets You Through the Night’ with Elton John.
‘#9 Dream’ was released on December 16, 1974 in America where it hit No. 9 on the charts! It was released on January 31, 1975 in the UK, where it spent 8 weeks in the charts, and peaked at No. 23). The b-side was ‘What You Got.’
May Pang has said that ‘#9 Dream’ became one of John’s favorite songs, without knowing himself what it meant. The gibberish meaningless 9-syllable phrase “Ah! Bowakawa pousse pousse” came to John in a dream. There is an extreme amount of echo and effects on John’s voice, with strings and backing vocals which he loved. He felt that all these things made the song sound more ethereal and dreamlike.
We can hear May Pang whispering John’s name forwards and backwards (in the second verse).
‘#9 Dream’ did not make it to No. 1. However, in February 1975 it peaked at No. 9 on Billboard’s Pop chart.
SEAN ONO LENNON Re: #9 DREAM
“From my perspective there were 2 peaks in John Lennon’s great solo work. ‘Mind Games’ and ‘#9 Dream’ would be probably the highest mountains to climb.
There’s something about the musicality of ‘#9 Dream’ and ‘Mind Games’. Famously my dad did the arrangements for ‘#9 Dream’… What’s interesting is that he said he didn’t like ‘#9 Dream’. I don’t know what to believe anymore… Gimme some truth man…! It’s unique in structure. It’s always been one of my favorite songs. It’s very dreamy. I guess it’s probably the most psychedelic song that he did as a solo artist. My favorite work of my dad’s is probably Revolver and Sgt. Pepper but part of me likes Let it Be and Abbey Road more, but It definitely harkens back to a more produced period of his work. I like that about it. It’s polished. – the opposite of John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band which I love for its simplicity and rawness. But ‘#9 Dream’ is a very produced fantasy land of beauty and surrealism and beauty. It’s very successful in that regard. It’s a kind of songwriting he had abandoned for a while, and I missed I guess, as a fan. It was nice to see him return to a lyric that’s surrealistic and strings that are more produced. A great piece of work.”
– Sean Lennon to Strombo, October 2020
Sean also spoke about John’s artwork on the cover of Walls and Bridges…
“Dad drew a sketch of himself seated alongside a mysterious woman with black hair on the back of a horse. Could these casual artistic coincidences actually have been psychic spells summoning each other?
– Sean Ono Lennon, 2011 A.D.
WATCH & LISTEN to the 2020 #9 Dream Ultimate Mix:
I’ve been across to the other side
I’ve shown you everything, and I got nothing to hide…
John Lennon, “Nobody Loves You When You’re Down and Out”
from the album Walls and Bridges
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In Your Mind – The Infinite Universe of Yoko Ono
by Madeline Bocaro
A complete look at Yoko Ono’s life, art, films and music in astounding detail.
Includes the love story of John and Yoko, and all the work they did together.
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