So long ago…
Was it in a dream?
Was it just a dream?
I know, yes, I know
Seemed so very real
It seemed so real to me.
Took a walk down the street
Through the heat whispered trees
I thought I could hear
Hear, hear, hear…
Somebody call out my name (John)
As it started to rain (John)
Two spirits dancing so strange…
Ah, bowakawa pousse, pousse [3x]
Dream, dream away,
Magic in the air
Was magic in the air?
I believe, yes, I believe,
More I cannot say.
What more can I say?
On a river of sound
Through the mirror go 'round, 'round
I thought I could feel
Feel, feel, feel…
Music touching my soul (Nhoj)
Something warm, sudden cold (Nhoj)
The spirit dance was unfolding…
Ah, bowakawa pousse, pousse [3x]
Ah, bowakawa pousse, pousse [10x and fade]
The album Walls and Bridges was recorded and issued during John Lennon’s separation from Yoko Ono. It captures Lennon in the midst of his infamous "lost weekend", a period that lasted eighteen months, alternating between songs of freedom and songs of longing. In general, the album was given the best reviews Lennon had enjoyed since Imagine (September 1971). Walls and Bridges reached the top of the U.S. charts and was aided in its sales by the inclusion of the only number one single John Lennon achieved as a solo artist in his lifetime: Whatever Gets You through the Night. Elton John, at the height of his popularity, performed with Lennon on that single, and when it became such a big hit, they performed the song together at Madison Square Gardens in Lennon's last public performance. That evening was the occasion of his reunion with Yoko Ono.
#9 Dream was the second single released from Walls and Bridges and it did fairly well, breaking into the Top 10 in the U.S. During the time of its recording, John Lennon was living with May Pang, who assisted him on the song, providing a backing vocal, along with a loose group called the 44th Street Fairies. According to Pang’s website, the phrase repeated in the chorus, Ah, bowakawa pousse, pousse, came to Lennon in a dream and has no specific meaning. (Lennon had no aversion to nonsense words; witness I Am the Walrus and Across the Universe. However, according to Pang, the original pronunciation of pousse was changed a bit so it wouldn’t sound so much like “pussy” on the radio.) Perhaps it is only a coincidence that the chorus contains nine syllables, as John had a fascination with the number nine (which is referenced at least a couple of times on the Beatles’ White Album). The subject of dreams liberated Lennon to use psychedelic effects. On #9 Dream, Pang whispers “John” in the first B section, and the recording of her voice is run backwards in the second B section.
Lennon liked the string arrangement he had created for Harry Nilsson's rendition of Jimmy Cliff’s Many Rivers to Cross so much that he decided to incorporate it into #9 Dream. He enlisted Ken Ascher to conduct string and brass musicians of the Philharmonic Orchestrange in order to provide a surrealistic atmosphere. Jimmy Iovine did overdubs. Walls and Bridges seems to have been a breakthrough for Iovine's career, which has continued to prosper into the present decade. Iovine has stated that in #9 Dream John Lennon used an old microphone that had been sitting in a bass drum for ages. “There’s a lot of very interesting things done to that vocal sound to make it sound like that," Iovine is quoted as saying in the Beatles Bible. “There was so much echo in his voice in the mix, and doubling and tape delay.” According to May Pang, #9 Dream received the most careful attention of all the tracks on Walls and Bridges, and was the last song to be completed on the album.