John Lennon did got fine recordings done. Take Walls and Bridges (1974) for example.
Though John considered the album a downer, mood-wise, the self-produced LP stands as a great piece of work. If you wade through the darkness of “Scared” and (to a lesser extent) “Going Down on Love,” you even encounter some indisputably beautiful songs. “#9 Dream” counts among them.
While composing that track, John looked back to producing work he did on Pussy Cats, the ’74 release by his “Lost Weekend” drinking buddy Harry Nilsson. During those sessions, John came up with a strong arrangement for Nilsson’s cover of Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers to Cross.” John built on that for his second Walls and Bridges single.
John didn’t always speak of “#9 Dream” in the most flattering way, but he did rate the arrangement he’d done for Nilsson’s highly. “I wrote [“#9 Dream”] around the string arrangement I’d written for ‘Many Rivers To Cross,’” John said in an interview. “And it was such a nice melody on the strings, I just wrote words to the string arrangement; a psychedelic, dreamy kind of thing.”
As for those words, along with some poetic phrases (“Through the heat whispered trees”), John used a repeated nonsensical phrase for the chorus. “Ah! böwakawa poussé poussé,” he sings. John said that part of the lyrics came to him in a dream.
May Pang, Lennon’s girlfriend during the time, recalled him writing down the strange sounds/words after waking up from a dream.
“He had no idea what it meant, but he thought it sounded beautiful,” Pang wrote on her website MayPang.com. “John arranged the strings in such a way that the song really does sound like a dream.”
Though John later dismissed “#9 Dream” as the work of a craftsman, Pang has attested to his love of the song. And, after all, John chose it as the next single from Walls and Bridges following the success of “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night” (featuring Elton John).
“#9 Dream” didn’t hit No. 1 like the lead Walls and Bridges single, but it still made a strong showing. In February ’75, it reached its peak, at No. 9 on the Billboard pop charts.
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