When John Lennon went into the Hit Factory in New York to record what became the first single from his and Yoko Ono’s return to public life, the Double Fantasy album, the rock’n’roll flavor of the track was so strong that he himself referred to it as the “Elvis Orbison” song. Its upbeat, optimistic spirit was in cruel contrast to what we all know happened just after its release. On the chart of December 20, 1980, “(Just Like) Starting Over” became a posthumous UK No.1.
At the time of John’s brutal and shocking murder on December 8, the single was on its way down the UK charts. It had entered at No.30 in November, his first appearance on the bestsellers in his home country since the reissue of “Imagine” in 1975. “Starting Over” climbed to No.20, then No.13, then No.8, its apparent peak, falling to No.10 and No.21 just before those fateful events near the Dakota Building where John and Yoko lived in New York.
As is so often the case when such a huge figure in music leaves us, the commercial and cultural impact of John’s passing was dramatic. The song raced straight to No.1 the following week, and then earlier in 1981, “Imagine” itself reemerged for a four-week run at the top.
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“(Just Like) Starting Over” then became the last US No.1 single of 1980 and Lennon’s second solo chart-topper there, after 1974’s “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night.” It stayed at the summit throughout January, in a five-week run that was almost like a vigil for the irreplaceable talent the world had lost. For millions of people, the contrast between John’s death and the infectious optimism of the comeback single he left behind was hard to bear.