John Lennon ImagineMention John Lennon’s classic 1971 album, Imagine, and what invariably springs to mind is the Utopian ideals espoused in the title track. Burrow deeper and you find love letters to Yoko Ono (“Oh My Love,” “Jealous Guy”) and a childish, indulgent attack on Paul McCartney (“How Do You Sleep?”). But the disc’s hardest hitting song—a blast of pure, unadulterated Lennon—comes in the form of “Gimme Some Truth.”

I’m sick and tired of hearing things
From uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocritics
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth

Unlike the rest of Imagine, those opening lines are delivered with the same harrowing ferocity that drove the “primal scream” vocals Lennon had employed on his solo debut. And with good reason. As Yoko Ono has pointed out, what appears on the surface to be a straightforward political diatribe is, in part, a dredging up of childhood wounds.

Yoko Ono and John Lennon“It chokes me up when I think about it,” Ono told Rolling Stone, in 2000. “That song is truly coming from his anger about what he experienced in his childhood. His mother was away. His father was away. His aunties were protecting him, but he didn’t know what was going on. It was that feeling of, ‘What is happening?’”

Lennon’s genius, of course, was to transfer that rage toward issues of a broader scale. Even pre-Watergate, in a view shared by many, Lennon sensed rampant deceit and manipulation in the Nixon administration. Rolling out the word play he had used in his books and on previous songs such as “I Am the Walrus,” the former Beatle stacked his invective with jabs of poetry.

No short-haired, yellow-bellied son of Tricky Dicky
Is gonna mother hubbard soft soap me
With just a pocketful of hope
Money for dope
Money for rope

Helping Lennon bring “Gimme Some Truth” to life were a couple of old friends. Specifically, the dense, wall-of-sound production came courtesy of Phil Spector, who also (in accordance with Lennon’s wishes) gave the entire album a “Beatles-like” shimmer. More importantly, midway through the song, out of nowhere, comes a beautiful blast of slide guitar from George Harrison, who had recently perfected his slide skills on his solo opus, All Things Must Pass.

Still, what’s most striking about “Gimme Some Truth” is its ongoing relevance. One can only speculate as to how Lennon would have reacted to issues such as the Patriot Act, the war in Iraq, and the alleged torture of political prisoners—but there’s no doubt he would still be clamoring for “truth.” In Yoko’s words, the sentiments expressed in “Gimme Some Truth” were “the crux and the essence of John Lennon.”