I have been using the occasion of the much-awaited re-release of the Beatles catalog to not only re-acquaint myself with their music, which I have long neglected, but also to acquaint myself with more of the music they all made after the Beatles. I have never been a huge fan of the Beatles' various solo outings. The first record I ever bought was Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and despite having been fairly obsessed with their music in the mid-80's and theirs being the first complete discography I purchased on CD, I have never owned more than a handful of their solo records. Back when I was buying most of my vinyl at secondhand shops, I picked up a smattering including Ringo, Ram and several mid-70s Wings albums. At some point, I got rid of the R albums and added Band on the Run and a couple greatest hits collections (McCartney and Lennon) but never went further until two years ago when I picked up McCartney's Memory Almost Full.

So, this year I have started to explore these records. My first purchase was George Harrison's 3-LP All Things Must Pass. A bit later I replaced that old LP of Ringo. Several weeks ago, I scored a copy of John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. I'd never heard the record before outside of "God." And is it ever a painful listen. Never one to shy away from autobiographical lyrics, Lennon pulls no punches here. These songs are written and sung by a man with some serious problems. What I know of the remainder of his solo albums often follows the themes on this record.

This weekend on my latest record buying outing, I picked up two more: McCartney and John and Yoko's Double Fantasy. I've always liked the four singles from this record, but had never heard any of the rest of it. I listened to it this weekend while building shelves for the bedroom closet and was astounded by it. The album takes the form of a dialog between the two, with Lennon mostly talking about how he walked away from fame to be with his family and couldn't be happier and Ono mostly talking about what a pain in the ass he has been, but that's all past. It's beautiful, touching and tragic given what happened shortly after the album's release.

As tough a listen as John Lennon/Plastic Ono band is at times, it's not nearly as heartbreaking as listening to Double Fantasy knowing what comes next. Here was someone who spent a long time with some ugly demons and had finally seemed to have worked through them and was then cruelly taken from his family. And though the album may always live in the shadow of John Lennon's shortly following its release, it's a moving piece of work and deserves a listen.

I bought the record on Friday, listened to it on Saturday and decided I should write about it sometime on Sunday. I didn't realize that the anniversary of his death was coming up today. I didn't make the connection at all. I randomly mentioned my thoughts on the album to Liz, who was not home when I listened to it, today and she mentioned that today was the anniversary. Strangely enough, I've passed up two copies this year and decided Friday it was time to grab one. Life's just funny that way sometimes.