“Watching the Wheels” by John Lennon
(Words/Music: John Lennon, Album: Double Fantasy, Geffen 1981)
As odd as it may sound, this was really my introduction to John Lennon. I was about 10 years old and just discovering music. Naturally, I listened to the radio every chance I got. And what I heard at that time was a heavy dose of John Lennon and Paul McCartney solo work. I thought they sounded pretty good compared to the rest of what was on the radio and apparently they were a big deal because the DJ’s always seemed excited when they had a new song or album by them. At that point, I hadn’t connected either of them to The Beatles, but even if I had, I had no idea why that might be special. See, since my mother controlled the family stereo, the house was a Beach Boys house. She thought The Beatles were “weird.” I didn’t really get a “weird” vibe from McCartney, but there was something about Lennon songs like “Nobody Told Me” and “Watching the Wheels” that seemed to prove my mother right. It was also the reason that I felt a greater affinity to John than to any of the other Beatles.
“Watching the Wheels” is John Lennon’s response to the people who criticized him for leaving The Beatles and leading a more private life. People had expected him to maintain the level of stardom he had achieved while with The Beatles, but he opted for spending time with his wife and family instead. Seriously, which of us would have chosen differently?
And as I write this blog, I am reminded that one of the reasons I started doing it was to explore how I became who I am today and why I have the musical tastes I have. The introspective lyrics in this song are typical of John Lennon and that I was initially drawn to them as opposed to the more mundane and insipid lyrics of other pop songs is an early indication of the media/entertainment and career decisions I would make in my life. Unfortunately, just as I was discovering John Lennon and forming my tastes, he was taken from us and it would be years until I really discovered The Beatles. For me, for most of the 80s, John Lennon would just be one of the guys who was in some old rock band. But whenever I heard this song, I would always feel a pull to find out more.
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