Muriel Spark: Doctors of Philosophy
52 Guitars: Week 31

"Flossie hates peace"

Someone posted on Facebook a link to this imaginary dialogue between John Lennon and Yoko Ono, "John Lennon Writes Imagine". It's funny, but even funnier was this comment, from someone who signed herself "FlOssieraptor":

I've hated that song since I was a kid. When I was at school we had a music teacher who wore crumpled linen suits and had affairs with the sixth formers and Imagine was his favourite ever song. If we'd behaved ourselves and not set off the example tune on the keyboards he would let us sing it. The first time he did this, he said we were going to be using the 'brotherhood AND SISTERHOOD of man' version (because he was teaching in a girls school and wanted to be right on). Without thinking I said 'oh come ON,' and he turned these sad, pitying eyes to me, and then said to the rest of the class 'well I guess Flossie hates peace.'

And so do I, apparently, as I try not to miss an opportunity to say how much I dislike the lyrics of "Imagine."

Equally apropos, though unamusing, was the comment from "emdash":

I nearly dissolved into a sea of rage when I watched "The Killing Fields" and saw they used "Imagine" over the closing credits. HEY YOU KNOW WHO WAS TRYING TO "IMAGINE NO POSSESSIONS?" POL FRICKING POT. 


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I have a terrible visceral reaction when anyone I know posts that song on Facebook. I feel sorry for a couple of people who have done that because I set off a veritable fire storm with my comment.


I wouldn't mind reading some of those.

My reaction is more just an exasperated sigh and eye-roll.

It's too bad about "Imagine" because the tune is actually quite nice (maybe I'm wrong -- that's a non Beatles fan saying that). If those vapid lyrics had been wed to a less memorable melody the song probably would never have gotten the legs that it did.

Very true. It's a very pretty tune. Whenever I criticize it I try to remember to say it's the *lyrics* I'm objecting to. Musically--is it the best thing Lennon wrote post-Beatles? I can't really say because I didn't hear a lot of it. I bought his first solo album and was not keen on it and never bought another.

I wouldn't say anything to most people, but only from people who should know better--like people who comment here. None of y'all have ever done it, though. One was a middle-aged priest who has been a friend since he was a 19 year old college student and the other was a daughter who should know better. ;-)


"Flossie hates peace."

I'm very much in favor of reintroducing the minor logic in our classrooms.

It would probably be painful, as much to some of of the teachers as to the students.

I read the "Flossie" stuff to my wife and she suggested that the teacher should have followed that with "And we hate Flossie, don't we?"

I think people like the ones you mention, Janet, are, to what would be their chagrin if anyone pointed this out to them, a lot like the Christian admirers of Ayn Rand: they hear the parts that appeal to them, and the stuff that contradicts their other beliefs just somehow doesn't register.

Well, I think this is why I have the visceral reaction. It's not just the song, but the fact that someone that I know knows better has somehow been sucked in--maybe by the music.


Today is International Beer Day. Wouldn't want y'all to miss it.


Thank you. Sorry it's a Friday. Maybe it's a moveable feast.

Oh dear. Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned it. But then again, it might make your day more penitential, so I guess it's good.


When the 1st Forbes 400 list was published in 1982, it was remarked by one wag (Michael Kinsley, I believe) that one of the three billionaires on the list was Yoko Ono Lennon, "widow of John 'Imagine no Possessions' Lennon".

"When I was at school we had a music teacher who wore crumpled linen suits and had affairs with the sixth formers and Imagine was his favourite ever song."

There were two Beatlemaniacs teaching music in my elementary school. One of them, now about 68 years of age, is employed as a 'management consultant' and living in Los Angeles; supposedly he had been CIO at the local phone company prior to that. I suppose that's all to the good; he was wretched as a teacher, even in a subject as unserious as elementary school music. (It would never have occured to me he'd have any worthwhile occupation; looking him up was an education).

The other was a contemporary of the first and continued teaching. He was less hippie and more fruit-loop (appearing for work in leotards). Yes, he was banging other teachers at the school. He was on marriage #4 the last I heard (and that was a while ago).

Perfect. There was something on that page I linked to, I think in one of the comments, about Yoko making Julian Lennon pay for mementos of his father.

It's ok, Janet, I've given myself a rain check.

My comment was in reply to your first one, Art. Re your second, the guy who became a CIO: I have a lot of similar stories about where one-time hippies ended up (not that you said he was a hippie, but it sort of fits--Beatlemaniac, now 68 years old).

My comment was in reply to your first one, Art. Re your second, the guy who became a CIO:

This is what's strange about the story. Over the years I've had in my circle of friends or one step removed about five men who went and got business degrees in their early 30s. They then discovered that they were meat as far as corporate recruiters were concerned. One eventually got a job working for HUD, another I think went back to work for the police department (his LinkedIn is unclear) and the business job he's had in the intervening decades was in some odd management consultancy. I think the others were working wage jobs for years with all their debt and I never heard what happened 'ere I lost contact with them.

This man was still working as a music teacher at age 32 (private lessons, mostly). He'd failed as a classroom teacher because of personality defects and general unseriousness. It boggles my mind that not only was he hired in the sleepy labor market where he was living then but managed a number of promotions and had a mess of people working under him. I should mention that one of the failed aspirant executives I knew had had some IT training at Chevron when he worked there conjointly with the police department and IIRC had specialized in IT applications in business school.

I've no reason to believe he ever lived on a commune. It was his general disposition and grooming (long hair, beard, &c), at a time when most elementary school teachers were rather prim and well into middle age or younger women derived from and at home in a suburban milieu (class of '69, married a Jaycee who sells real estate).

You just cain't never tell. I know a guy who's a businessman and elective county office-holder, and a regular attendee at the local Catholic parish, though he used to run the craziest hippie bar in a college town during the craziest hippie days. I wish I had a photo matching my memory of him at some kind of protest, wearing a football helmet and carrying a baseball bat as he waited for an anticipated attack by the police (which fortunately didn't come).

I just signed onto my much-neglected blog for the first time this week and found that the post that got the most hits this week was one titled Imagine which if you have read it you will know has nothing to do with John Lennon's version. ;-)

Still, I thought it was an interesting coincidence.


I guess my post set the whole internet to searching for more info on the song.

I'm sure that's what it was.


Earlier today I read an article in the Guardian (or possibly a post in a Guardian Blog) which included the astonishing phrase "sex should be about empowerment". It was a text that cited this book, which seemed relevant to a post I thought I remembered here (and not so long ago, either) about the sexual revolution of the 1960s, but cannot now find.

The book looks interesting, and was (I think) why an acquaintance on Facebook had linked to the article in the first place. The journalist's phrase seems about as logical as "sex should be about enrichment" or "sex should be about nutrition". It makes me wonder by what endarkenment of intellect people can come to write such things.

As to Imagine, I've never understood the attraction: it's musically cheesy and lyrically idiotic. But I'm curious what remark of Janet's could set off a fire storm.

If I could remember I would tell you. It was probably something very innocuous. I suspect I was asking if they had read the lyrics, or something like that.


That book actually looks interesting, though it's not something I'd want to invest precious reading time in. I've always been quite sure (well, at least since I was older than 21 or so) that the pre-sexual-revolution world was not the grim pleasure-less wasteland that the revolutionaries made it out to be.

"about empowerment"?!? I'm willing to bet that was written by a woman. Some of these feminist-y women writing about sex say the strangest things about it--strange from the male point of view, at least. It's like a weird caricature of the old dichotomy where men just want to do it and women want it to have all this significance.

By the way, Paul, I meant to reply to your comments about Walker Percy in another thread: I actually agree that Percy's treatment of sex is off-putting, though maybe not in exactly the same way that you do. In particular, his novels after Love in the Ruins often have crude sexual stuff here and there which strike me as very inappropriate (using that word in its natural sense). It's not that they're excessively graphic, or pornographic, but they just seem out of place. And in general I'm inclined to think that you just can't write very explicitly about sex in a way that's aesthetically effective. At any rate I can't recall ever seeing it done.

"And so do I, apparently, as I try not to miss an opportunity to say how much I dislike the lyrics of "Imagine.""

Me too!

And it *always* takes me about 4 bars to realise that I'm listening to a song I hate, because, as you say, it's lovely music. I think I even hum the melody of the introduction.

"Imagine" is perhaps the best example in music of Satan being able to appear as an angel of light.

I like Flossie!

"When the 1st Forbes 400 list was published in 1982, it was remarked by one wag (Michael Kinsley, I believe) that one of the three billionaires on the list was Yoko Ono Lennon, "widow of John 'Imagine no Possessions' Lennon"."


One of the downsides of complaining about it for me is that I end up with it stuck in my head. "...perhaps the best example..." Yeah, I guess you're right.

I remember a parody song I heard once that started off "Imagine there's no Lennon."

Re: Percy, I wonder if his sexual crudities were an O'Connor-like attempt to "shout to the hard of hearing." But as you say, it doesn't seem to work very well aesthetically compared to violence and the basic grotesquery of the so-called Gothic.

"sex should be about nutrition"

There is that old joke about a man turning into a pizza afterwards. :)

I think, Louise, that I'm just going to casually toss that line into conversation occasionally.


I don't want "no Lennon," but "Imagine no totalitarian materialists" doesn't fit the tune very well.

Percy did have a lot to say about the role of sex in human fallen-ness, so that was part of it. But the specific way he went about saying it at some points in the novels didn't work, imo. Lost in the Cosmos, especially the last section, is more effective.

turning into a pizza?!?

Then there's the story about Lennon doing his accounts and moaning about his expenses - his accountant commented, "imagine there's no money, John!" His response: "It's only a bl***y song."

(Hearing which actually made me think better of the man: anyone who declines to take Imagine even remotely seriously is OK in my book, even if they committed the crime of writing it in the first place.)

heh. Good for both of them in that exchange.

I think something that's often missed about the various musicians who have been taken as gurus or prophets over the past 40-50 years is that before everything else they were fundamentally performers trying to make it big.

Point. It's generally only the performers and those driven to make it big who actually got far enough to be taken as gurus. Although that's changing now - it's increasingly possible to go viral and become an internet celebrity without being a top-level performer, just a normal human being. (Constant exposure to the internet may disqualify you from being a "normal human being" by the standards of any society other than our own but that's another matter.)

If I ever find time and a work ethic, and get tired of having friends and being acceptable in polite society, I'm going to write a comic about a society which takes "Imagine" as its blueprint; mostly because I loathe the song but also because I want an excuse to use the term "lennonite re√ęducation camp".

By all means, do it.

It occurs to me that the entertainer/artist-as-guru phenomenon has died out somewhat. Or else I'm just out of touch. U2 sorta tries it but they provoke a lot of eye-rolling.

Ssomeone has written one line from Imagine every 1/2 kim on a prominent way marker for the last 10 km into Santiago

They dont give you that plenal indulgence for nothing

Ha. It's a bit ironic, it's it?



"U2 sorta tries it but they provoke a lot of eye-rolling."

I heard a story where once in a concert between songs Bono let things get quiet, then started clapping in a slow rhythm, about once a second. After a dozen or so claps he said "Every time I clap, somewhere in the world another child dies."

From the audience someone shouted, "Then stop bloody clapping!"


"They dont give you that plenal indulgence for nothing"


Bono totally deserved that.

There's something about Bono that kind of makes you want to make fun of him.

Bono and I are approx. the same age, and I first got turned on to U2 when I was in college. Back at that time, those sorts of gestures were age-appropriate and endearing, seemingly arising from a true sincerity. But now he's in his early 50's, and it all just seems sort of lame. The heart-on-sleeve schtick just doesn't work as well in middle age.

I think he's still sincere, but I also think he has a tendency to pomposity. Preaching by a rich show-biz star just isn't all that well-received, generally. I remember a reviewer of one of their relatively early albums--I think it was that live album from the late '80s or so--making fun of some of Bono's pronouncements, and remarking "Face it, guys: you're a successful arena-rock band, not Vatican II."

Oh yeah, the sincerity's still there, and I don't doubt it's real, but you are right: what looks naive and even a little attractive in a 21 year-old kid looks pompous and somewhat ridiculous in a middle aged man.

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