John Lennon – Watching The Wheels

My favorite song off of John and Yoko’s album Double Fantasy released in 1980. Three singles off of the album made it to the top ten. (Just Like) Starting Over, Woman, and Watching The Wheels which peaked at #10 on the Billboard 100.

This song was John describing his absence from the music scene since 1975. As always he was straightforward and honest. People could not believe he gave up a career to stay at home with his family. Nowadays no one would blink an eye with waiting 5 years for an album. His last album Rock ‘n’ Roll (old rock and roll covers) was released in 1975.

I found this on The Beatles Bible…Engineer Tony Davilio… “Jack” is Jack Douglas the producer

Jack heard this guy named Matthew Cunningham playing dulcimer on the street and he was good. This guy was a real hippie with stringy long hair. He was a typical street musician. They brought him in to play dulcimer on Watching The Wheels. He came in looking pretty spaced out. When you play the dulcimer you sit in that Indian position on the floor. Jack told me, ‘Tony, go out there and make sure he’s in tune.’ So I went over to the piano and plucked out some notes and he kept shaking his head and said, ‘That sounds sour, that’s not in tune,’ but it was. So he’s sitting there playing along with the track and the tape stops. John was standing up in the control room and said something to him over the talkback. Matt squinted his eyes, looking at him, and said, ‘What’s your name?’ And John gets back on the talkback and says ‘My name’s John.’ This guy’s just staring at him and goes, ‘Hi, John.’ And then John says, ‘Hi, Matt’ and then I see them all laughing in there because this guy didn’t know who he was. Apparently, he was the only person in the country who wouldn’t know John Lennon.

From Songfacts

John Lennon wrote this ode to inactivity to explain what he had been up to in the last six years. Until Double Fantasy, his last album was Walls And Bridges, which was released in 1974. He was no longer interested in fame, and dedicated himself to family: his wife Yoko and young son Sean (John became the world’s most famous househusband, baking bread and feeding Sean).

The song makes a statement that taking it easy and spending time with loved ones is anything but crazy. Working way too hard in an attempt to be a productive as possible, on the other hand, can be quite unfulfilling in the end.

The mindset Lennon describes in this song is a stark contrast to his 1973-’74 self, when he embarked on his “lost weekend,” leaving Yoko and engaging in self-destructive behavior. He returned to Yoko in 1975, sinking into domestic life.

Explaining the message of this song after Lennon’s death, Yoko said: “Let’s have that inner space to dream, the dream power.”

Watching The Wheels

People say I’m crazy
Doing what I’m doing
Well, they give me all kinds of warnings
To save me from ruin
When I say that I’m okay, well they look at me kinda strange
“Surely, you’re not happy now, you no longer play the game”

People say I’m lazy
Dreaming my life away
Well they give me all kinds of advice
Designed to enlighten me
When I tell them that I’m doing fine watching shadows on the wall
“Don’t you miss the big time boy, you’re no longer on the ball?”

I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round
I really love to watch them roll
No longer riding on the merry-go-round
I just had to let it go

Ah, people ask me questions
Lost in confusion
Well, I tell them there’s no problem
Only solutions
Well, they shake their heads and they look at me, as if I’ve lost my mind
I tell them there’s no hurry, I’m just sitting here doing time

I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round
I really love to watch them roll
No longer riding on the merry-go-round

I just had to let it go
I just had to let it go
I just had to let it go

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

24 thoughts on “John Lennon – Watching The Wheels”

  1. Excellent song… I don’t know if I like it or “Starting Over” better, both are A1. Funny, I got the gist of the meaning – putting priorities straight in life, taking time to stop and smell the roses, etc – but didn’t really connect that with his being away from music for the previous 5 years. Makes sense now, though

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The working title was Crazy I believe…This album is bittersweet to me…I like the songs on the album but I bought it when I was 13 right after Lennon was shot and it takes me back to that month.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I really love this album. It’s brilliant. I even like some of the Yoko stuff . Finding that out was quite a shock to me. For the longest time–I had the album, mind you–I didn’t listen to her stuff. I refused. Then I took a 1,400 mile trip by myself and I listened to the whole album many times during that trip. I became very partial to it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I remember one called Kiss Kiss Kiss that I will admit…it stuck in my head. John compared her stuff to the B52’s…I can see that in some ways.

      I think when some people remember her it’s when she would be in a black bag on stage with John…not singing but just being loud. Her music on that album was real…I will say that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m no Yoko fan. She is probably a great artist, I don’t know, I’m not familiar with her work, but she is not a great musical artist, in my opinion. That’s why I was surprised I liked SOME of her stuff on Double Fantasy.
        I remember hearing about how she and John Lennon met, the whole thing about her art exhibit; he had to climb a ladder and at the top of it was a little box and when he opened it there was the tiny piece of paper and the paper had to go under the microscope and when Lennon did that it read: YES
        …Something like that. Anyway, that pretty genius–to me.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh I’m not either believe me…Up to that point this album was her most commercial stuff… Lennon said if the message would have been “No” or something not positive he wouldn’t have been interested. I agree with you…it was a pretty clever exhibit.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Good post with good information. Even one song of The Beatles would have been enough to brighten the world. He and the rest of the guys gave the world so much. He certainly had fulfilled his “obligation” and had a right to devote the rest of his life to his loved ones. It makes me so sad and angry to think one nutjob was able to take him away from the world. This song is profound in its message.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Unfortunately this album takes me back to that month when it happened. I still enjoy it but I’m 13 again and totally confused and angry when I hear it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I talked to my dad over the phone when it happened…I told him I was angry… and he said…son are you angry because he was a Beatle or that someone lost a husband and dad? There was wisdom in that…that made me think.


  4. p.s. When people go off the grid, like the dulcimer player, they really have no interest in worldly things like who are the celebrities in a society. I find it serendipitous that such a person was pulled in to play on the song. That man could have been an angel in disguise.

    Liked by 1 person

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