John Lennon's Sometime in New York City may be the most critically panned album ever released by a solo Beatle. According to the Rough Guide to the Beatles, STiNYC is "among the lowest artistic points of any Beatle.” Every review I've ever read is pretty much the same. Not only is it critically slammed, STiNYC is practically out of print. The only record store where I have ever seen a copy of this album on CD is my local Tower records, which had one copy (which I bought). My copy is in an old-fashioned double jewel box. The mastering is terrible. The sound is dull and muffled and reminiscent of the mastering on the original CD issue of All Things Must Pass. Not only is the album practically out of print, it’s been written out of John’s history. The ongoing remastering campaign of John’s solo CDs jumped from Imagine to Mind Games without including STiNYC. Although the 1975 singles compilation Shaved Fish included "Woman Is the ****** of the World," the current Lennon Legend CD and DVD pretend like STiNYC never happened, again skipping straight from Imagine to Mind Games. How bad is this album? Does it have any redeeming merit? The most obvious change is from Imagine is that vague admonitions such as “Imagine there’s no heaven / it’s easy if you try” have been replaced by lyrics such as “Why the hell are the English there anyway? / As they kill with God on their side! / Blame it all on the kids and the IRA! / As the bastards commit genocide!” In a contemporary interview with the NME, John attempted to justify the political content of STiNYC: “Life’s too short … and suddenly you’re 30, and there’s all these things going on in the world, and there’s so much to do that you never got around to doing because you were doing whatever it was people expected of you.” “The point now, is that I want to say whatever it is I’ve got to say, as simple as the music I like. And that’s rock ‘n’ roll - and to match the lyrics to the music. So now it’s ‘A-WOP-BOP-A-LOO-BOP, Get outta Ireland’ … I suppose it looks more preachy than it really is … most other people express themselves by shouting or playng football in the weekend. But me, here I am in New York and I hear about the 13 people shot dead in Ireland, and I react immediately. And being what I am, I react in a four-to-the-bar with a guitar break in the middle … I don’t say ‘My God, what’s happening … we should do something.’ I go: ‘It was Sunday Bloody Sunday and they shot the people down.’ It’s not like the Bible. It’s all over now. It’s gone. It’s finished. There is no more … If the people on the street think about it, that’s all there is to it really - except to say to those people who might be thinking along the same lines as me and Yoko, you’re not alone. That’s like what I was trying to say in ‘Imagine.’” “When we made [STiNYC] we weren’t setting out to make the Brandenburg Concerto or the masterpiece everyone always tries to write, paint, draw, or film. It was just a question of getting it done, putting it out, and the next one’s coming up soon. We needn’t have done it. We could have sat on ‘Imagine’ for a year and a half. But the things on ‘New York City’ were coming outta our minds and we just wanted to share our thoughts with anybody who wanted to listen.” I tend to agree with John. Even though some of the lyrics on STiNYC are heavy-handed, he was on the right side of the issues of the day. If you can judge a man by his enemies, it’s telling that the Nixon administration devoted so much time and energy to its attempt to deport John and deny him a green card. They obviously feared outspoken critics like Lennon saying to those who might be thinking along the same lines as him and Yoko, “you’re not alone.” It’s interesting, too, that other artists who have written political songs on the exact same subjects that Lennon tackled on STiNYC have come in for nowhere near the same amount of criticism that Lennon did - I’m thinking of “Sweet Black Angel” by the Rolling Stones, “Sunday Bloody Sunday” by U2, and even “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” by Paul McCartney. Dylan’s “Masters of War” is a pretty heavy-handed protest song, but doesn’t receive the same criticism from left-wing rock critics that STiNYC does. I tend to agree with John’s assessment that “Imagine” was a political statement with sugar on top for those who couldn’t handle a more direct song. And from the "bigger than Jesus" flap on, I think a lot of people never forgave their once-beloved moptop for expressing any idea more controversial than "I want to hold your hand." Probably the single biggest factor behind STiNYC’s invisiblity today is the use of the word “******” in the title of “Woman Is the ****** of the World.” This must have been awkward in 1972, but in 2005, people would rather just sweep this song under the carpet than deal with the point John was trying to make in this song. This was a case of John going too far in trying to appropriate a racial slur in order to force listeners to confront sexual prejudice. Leaving the lyrics behind and focussing on the music, the most obvious change for the worse from Imagine is the substitution of New York hacks Elephant’s Memory for sidemen such as George Harrison, Nicky Hopkins, Klaus Voorman, and Alan White. Had John had the same top-quality backing musicians that he had on Imagine, “Woman Is the ****** of the World” could have been a musical statement as powerful as “How Do You Sleep?”. Again, a proper remastering of this album would probably help matters considerably. I’d love to hear a mint vinyl pressing to compare to the wretched CD. But there is still some powerful music on STiNYC. I find the trilogy of “Luck of the Irish,” “John Sinclair,” and “Angela” on Side Two to be the most musically effective stretch of the album. “Luck of the Irish” is a great, catchy acoustic ballad - until Yoko opens her mounth. I presume that it’s John playing the wicked resonator/slide guitar part on “John Sinclair” - easily the strongest tune on the album. “John Sinclair” also features flashes of the trademark Lennon wit: “It ain’t fair / John Sinclair / in the stir for breathing air.” The chorus of “Angela” - the “they gave you cofee / they gave you tea” section, is also strong. Anyone else secretly enjoy STiNYC?