Number 9 Dream (as made famous by John Lennon)

“#9 Dream” is a song written by John Lennon and first issued on his 1974 album Walls and Bridges. It was released as the second single from that album months later, on Apple Records catalogue Apple 1878 in the United States and Apple R6003 in the United Kingdom. Fittingly, it peaked at number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100, and it hit number 23 on the British singles chart. A video for the song was made in 2003.[1]

“#9 Dream” came to Lennon in a dream. Lennon has said that the song was just “churned out” with “no inspiration.”[2]

That’s what I call craftsmanship writing, meaning, you know, I just churned that out. I’m not putting it down, it’s just what it is, but I just sat down and wrote it, you know, with no real inspiration, based on a dream I’d had.

— John Lennon, 1980, BBC[2]
According to May Pang’s website, two working titles for the song were “So Long Ago” and “Walls & Bridges”. Pang also states that the phrase repeated in the chorus, “Ah! böwakawa poussé, poussé”, came to Lennon in a dream and has no specific meaning.[3] Pang added that Al Coury of Capitol Records initially protested against the use of the word “pussy” in the chorus, but after Lori Burton, the wife of studio engineer Roy Cicala, suggested that it should be sung as “poussé,” as if in a foreign language, the lyrics were kept.[2]

The song was notable as a favourite of Lennon’s, despite his later claim that the song was a “throwaway.”[2] Pang said on the matter, “This was one of John’s favorite songs, because it literally came to him in a dream. He woke up and wrote down those words along with the melody. He had no idea what it meant, but he thought it sounded beautiful.”[2]

Lennon liked the string arrangement he wrote for Harry Nilsson’s rendition of “Many Rivers to Cross,” originally by Jimmy Cliff, from the album Pussy Cats so much that he decided to incorporate it into the song.[2]

The backing vocal is provided by May Pang, Lennon’s partner at the time. Lennon wrote and arranged the song around his dream, hence the title and atmospheric, dreamlike feel, including the use of cellos in the chorus. The song is also much more heavily produced than most songs that Lennon produced.[2]

The song was tracked at the Record Plant in New York City on 23 July 1974, under the working title “Walls And Bridges”. Pang added her dreamy “John” overdub on 26 August 1974.[4]

It peaked, coincidentally, at number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100, also peaking at number 10 on the Cashbox Top 100 in the US.[5] It also charted at number 23 on the UK Singles Chart and number 35 in Canada.

John Lennon – vocals, acoustic guitar
The 44th Street Fairies: Lennon, May Pang, Lori Burton, Joey Dambra – backing vocals
Ken Ascher – clavinet
Jesse Ed Davis – guitar
Nicky Hopkins – electric piano
Arthur Jenkins – percussion
Jim Keltner – drums
Bobby Keys – saxophone
Eddie Mottau – acoustic guitar
Klaus Voormann – bass guitar