Between Janov's primal scream therapy and his assassin's bullet a decade later, John Lennon fought demons....

BETWEEN JANOV’S PRIMAL SCREAM therapy and his assassin’s bullet a decade later, John Lennon fought demons. He excoriated himself and his peers, determined to punch his way out of whatever corner he found himself boxed into.

He was rock’s restless quixotic changeling – loving father and husband, millionaire recluse and party animal, a US exile with a firmly entrenched streak of Liverpudlian anger. Even as he sang of Utopian ideals he was an unreconstituted egotist, the biggest and baddest rock monster of his generation, whose greatest artistic talent was to frame the world in his savage wounded gaze.

This 100-track, four-hour, four-CD compilation of alternate takes, unreleased songs, ‘revealing’ studio asides with Phil Spector (“I’m going to be a 90-year-old guru, Phil”) and home recordings with baby Sean is most definitely for Lennon aficionados. Basically: those who overlook the slack areas of his solo work, because they are committed to the idea of the man as striving to reconcile warring opposites on a ceaseless truth-seeking quest.

This is an image that hungers for the raw untempered mettle of Lennon’s art, before studio considerations and commercial blandishments came to bear. As skin-flaying rock autobiography goes ‘Plastic Ono Band’ has few equals and so the fully-formed demos on CD1 – ‘Ascot’ – don’t disappoint. The ’60s dream is on the mortuary slab, searing through psychological abandonment, an especially twisted and sneering Macca-slaying ‘How Do You Sleep?’ and a lacerating arsenic and-irony-laced version of ‘Working Class Hero’ our man gets down to the very kernel of his being.

Elsewhere, lets face it, there’s much we’d rather forget. His flailing political rent-a-cause period with the hopelessly condescending ‘The Luck Of The Irish’, the ‘Mind Games’ demos and the second-rate takes of songs that ended up on the ‘Rock’n’Roll’ covers album. But ‘Anthology’ is about little insights, Yoko’s guide through hubby’s scrapbooks. In an amusing original of the song written for a Ringo Starr – ‘I Am The Greatest’ – you can hear the monster reclaim his kingdom beneath the lyric’s gentle satire. And there’s a swipe at his old partner – [I]”Suddenly I’m not half the man I used to be/Because now I’m an amputee”[/I] – to the tune of ‘Yesterday’.

On ‘Dakota’, CD4, amidst the domestic homilies and bluesy meditations that fed into the underrated ‘Double Fantasy’ he takes umbrage at Dylan’s Bible-bashing ‘You Gotta Serve Somebody’ with ‘Serve Yourself’ – a heavily Liverpudlian-accented punk thrash that sees the return of the psychically unbalanced, musically raging, soul-baring Lennon of ‘Ascot’.

Though not the only unreleased track worth hearing on ‘Anthology’ it quite rightly closes the single album ‘Wonsupontime’ – a forthcoming edited version of the box set. Anyone with even a passing interest in the man has to hear it – if only to discover that far from being a washed-up hippy at the time of his passing he was still as rude, scathing and unforgiving as ever.