Half of what I say is meaningless...
Although he commences "Julia" with a very honest acknowledgment of his tendency to lie, exaggerate or simply waffle, there is absolutely no doubting John Lennon's sincerity in the remainder of this song.
The other half (at least) of his utterances were always filled with an intuitive perceptiveness, a richness of imagery and an often brutal honesty which few other poets have ever achieved — even Gibran, who he'd lifted the opening lines from.When I cannot sing my heart,
I can only speak my mind...
It's entirely appropriate that the fragile beauty of his intricate pen-picture here is so emotionally charged. Notwithstanding the fact that this was a hymn to the mother who had had him, but who he'd never had — and after whom his son had been named — "Julia" remains a truly wonderful and heartfelt "song of love". Accompanied only by his elaborate acoustic guitar melody, there's a genuinely goose-bumping ethereality to John's shimmering, glimmering, double-tracked vocal here.
Julia Lennon, née Stanley, had left John in the care of her big sister Mary — better known as Mimi — following her abandonment by his father Freddie and subsequent relationship with another man. She nevertheless maintained contact with her son, and was fundamental in encouraging his passion for music; buying him his first guitar, and later becoming an enthusiastic member of The Quarry Men's audiences. In 1958 — just as they seemed to be really re-establishing their bond — Julia was wiped out by a car, driven by an off-duty (and possibly drunk) policeman. Lennon was seventeen.
Ten years later, having controlled his self-confessed rage sufficiently to sing for her, John had found a new maternal figure to centre his life on. Bringing together past, present and future — much as Paul's preceding "I Will"
does — she drifts into the song like a silent cloud: the name Yoko — 洋子 — translates from the Japanese as "ocean child".
Although "Julia" closed The White Album
's second side, it was the final composition to be recorded for it. Paul was still around for the first run-throughs, as evidenced on Anthology 3
, but it does seem that John was basically waiting for (almost) everyone else to clear off and leave him to it, 'just to reach her'. It was the only solo performance he produced as a Beatle.
Many more years later, Sean Ono Lennon played the song with a dedication to his
mother:Call me, touch me:
So I sing a song of love...