With John Lennon gone, a reunion album isn't really a reunion

By Robert Seidenberg
Updated April 22, 1994 at 04:00 AM EDT

The much-touted ”virtual” reunion of the Fab Four last month produced one completed song, some incidental music for a TV documentary-and a wave of unease at the notion that John Lennon is dead and gone and recording in England. Of course, Beatlemaniacs are thrilled to hear that the Lennon- McCartney collaboration ”Free as a Bird” will be included on the soundtrack for The Beatles Anthology, a 10-part BBC documentary set to premiere in Britain later this year. But even fans and musicians who cherish the Beatles are wondering out loud if all you need is love, Paul, George, Ringo, and a 17- year-old audiotape of John provided by Yoko Ono.

According to Charles Rosenay, publisher of the New Haven, Conn.- based Beatles fanzine Good Day Sunshine, ”Free as a Bird,” a ballad celebrating the joys of home life, ”sounds very Beatles-esque.” Rosenay says the finished song has Lennon, Harrison, and McCartney alternating vocals as well as filling in harmonies and instrumental parts and includes ”a backwards vocal bit from John” and a verse McCartney added to the lyrics Lennon wrote in 1977—three years before his death.

”It’s wonderful that this is happening, as long as this doesn’t come out as a Beatles song,” says Rosenay. ”Because to us, without John Lennon, it’s not the Beatles.”

Others are even blunter. ”It’s just another example of old geezers clogging up the rock & roll system,” says Jim Ellison of the Beatles-influenced band Material Issue. Adds Jeff McDonald of the punk-pop band Redd Kross, ”To me, the Beatles are the only group with a perfect track record. To muddle this up with new recordings would be a crime, not unlike gluing arms to the Venus de Milo.”