Various - John Lennon's Jukebox
It’s a novel idea for a compilation, in a section of the music market that has long reaped financial reward despite forever churning out the same rehash after rehash of a winning formula. John Lennon’s Jukebox is quite simply a compilation based around the Beatles man’s jukebox, and contains forty songs that were found to be contained in a sixties’ jukebox owned by Lennon and decorated with his own handwriting.
It’s a collection of songs that expertly manages to tick off all of the factors that make a good compilation. Firstly, it’s a strong list of forty-one songs seemingly unconnected, with only a loose thread binding them together. Secondly, it provides insight into the author’s musical state and taste, and what more fascinating insight can one ask for than the ability to peer into the musical mind of a quarter of the greatest band of the twentieth century? Thirdly, it contains a consistently high output in terms of quality. As a list of songs, you’d want to own John Lennon’s Jukebox even if it was a random cut-and-paste selection from one label’s roster designed to make another quick buck.
Based on the tracks on offer, it is clear that Lennon’s taste was firmly rooted to black rhythm and blues, and the early foundations of rock and roll established by Buddy Holly and Little Richard. Hardly any of The Beatles’ contemporaries are featured in Lennon’s jukebox. Whereas McCartney had open leanings towards bands such as The Byrds and The Beach Boys, Lennon was more partial towards emulating his musical forefathers. Little Richard’s Long Tall Sally, The Isley Brothers’ Twist And Shout and Barrett Strong’s Money (That’s What I Want) are included amongst his favourites, unsurprising considering The Beatles recorded versions of both. Even Bobby Parker’s Watch Your Step is featured, which The Beatles openly borrowed the opening riff to start I Feel Fine with.
Some of the mid-sixties folk scene swept into Lennon’s taste-buds, with Dylan, Donovan and The Lovin’ Spoonful sprinkled around the soul and rhythm and blues featured on the compilation. These songs act as a nice counter-weight to the brilliant cuts from Smokey Robinson And The Miracles and Otis Redding, and suggest that even Lennon couldn’t help to be caught up in the ensuing hippie frenzy that was sociably arresting the late-sixties. It was clear his music had one foot in the past and one clearly in the future. John Lennon’s Jukebox is a must for any Beatles fan, as it offers a compelling portal into the gateways of the man’s song-writing mind, and can offer fragmentary clues into how a true musical genius is created.