FLASHBACK: John Lennon Ends Retirement And Releases '(Just Like) Starting Over'
It was 32 years ago Sunday (October 23rd) that John Lennon's "comeback" single "(Just Like) Starting Over" was released, breaking Lennon's then-five year hiatus from recording. Lennon had devoted himself to becoming a self proclaimed "house husband" following the birth of his and Yoko Ono's son Sean in 1975. "(Just Like) Starting Over" was a teaser for the forthcoming joint album between him and Yoko called Double Fantasy, which was released on November 17th. It was the last song completed for the album, using portions of Lennon's unfinished songs "My Life" and "The Worst Is Over."
At the time of the song's release, Lennon recalled how he immediately knew that the song had commercial potential: "It was obvious because it was the one where the musicians got very loose. Because it was so simple rock n' roll, there was no prob -- y'know, they really relaxed and they'd all be like that after it. Even though I don't think it's the strongest track, perhaps, but 'Starting Over' was the best way to start over. And to me, it was like going back to 15 and singing ala (Elvis) Presley (sings, imitating Elvis), like that. And it's a kind of parody, but not really a parody."
Lennon's assistant Fred Seaman says that Lennon never considered "(Just Like) Starting Over" as being among his most inspired creations: "'Starting Over' was what John would call a 'formula song.' It was kind of a pastiche -- a little bit of Elvis (Presley), a little bit of Roy Orbison, a little bit of other rockers that influenced John. And the lyrics are cliched, and it's a song that John didn't particularly enjoy writing or recording, but he felt he had to because the marketplace expected it."
Seaman says that in 1980, Double Fantasy producer Jack Douglas played an integral role in getting Lennon up to speed with modern recording techniques: "He hadn't been in the studio for a long time. He was behind in the technology, and his way of coping with it was, he just wanted more and more tracks. He wanted to multi-layer his voice -- y'know, two, three, (laughs) ten times. He didn't like the sound of his raw voice and Jack accommodated him, and in the end, they got a great sounding record out of it."
"(Just Like) Starting Over" debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 on November 9th, 1980 -- the 14th anniversary of John and Yoko's first meeting -- and eventually hit Number One on December 27th. "(Just Like) Starting Over" held the top spot for a total of five weeks and stayed in the Hot 100 for 22 weeks.