The letter Bob Dylan sent in defence of John Lennon and Yoko Ono https://flip.it/FUX3Rl
The George Harrison songs rejected by The Beatles https://flip.it/JFbibA
Getting to know George Harrison through his own words https://flip.it/aRQOz5
The reason why John Lennon was obsessed with the number nine https://flip.it/eG0i8E
Available On: “The Luck of the Irish” and “John Sinclair” were anthologized twice, first on The John Lennon Anthology, CD 1’Ascot’ (1998); and later on John Lennon: Acoustic (2004).
The concert film, Ten For Two: The John Sinclair Benefit, may never see official commercial release. Previous attempts have met with opposition from Yoko Ono’s attorney. At times it has been free to view on YouTube, though one never knows when it might be yanked again.
Clips from Ten for Two opened the 2006 documentary, The U.S. vs. John Lennon, which chronicled the Nixon Administration’s campaign of harassment against the Lennons.
Everything changed with this performance. The show John and Yoko had done several months before with Frank Zappa had been pure spontaneity from inception to stage. The rally in support of activist John Sinclair was provocative to the powers that be, and the powers shoved back. This show put John Lennon firmly on Richard Nixon’s radar and incepted the four-year immigration battle to eject John forcibly from U.S. shores. Consequently it could be said to be the first stone pitched that inevitably led to his hiatus from music and an end to activism on both their parts.
Only four months had passed between the John Sinclair Freedom Rally and the Concert for Bangladesh initiated and hosted by fellow Beatle George Harrison. There was a world of difference between these two events. The Bangladesh shows were a warm and welcoming charitable event that set the standard for all rock benefits to come. The Freedom Rally was a political, even radical reaction against injustice.
Given that, it was still one of those events where music could still make a difference, could literally open doors to freedom, before the music industry eviscerated itself in our times.
Likewise, some Presidents improve with time, the more you read about them; sometimes their achievements overshadow the man’s myriad personal flaws and sins. Richard Nixon, to be sure, is not one of those men.
Beginning in 1968, poet and activist John Sinclair from Flint, Michigan pulled together a rumply band of associates to form the White Panther Party, cofounded with Pun Plamondon and his wife Leni Sinclair. The Party’s basic ideology was anti-racist, anti-capitalist as well as “fighting for a clean planet and the freedom of political prisoners”.
Among his associates were a group of young musicians, soon to be known as the MC5. (They released one album under his management, the classic live disc Kick Out the Jams in 1969, before Sinclair had his own problems to deal with). In 1969 Sinclair was arrested after offering two joints to an undercover narc and sentenced to ten years in prison. The severity of the sentence led to many counterculture protests, leading to this rally, which drew 15,000 people to Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The rally featured as many speeches as it had musical performances, from firebrands such as Black Panther Bobby Searle, Alan Ginsberg, Jerry Rubin, Rennie Davis and others. Among the many performers featured in the film Ten for Two were Ann Arbor’s own locals The Up, Bob Segar doing a raw, classic rendition of “Oh Carol” as well as jazz saxophonist Archie Shepp with trombonist Roswell Rudd (Nov. 17, 1935-Dec. 21, 2017).
Phil Ochs (who committed suicide five years later) offered an eerily prescient monologue before performing “Here’s To the State of Richard Nixon”, a song about Nixon’s future that could be held up as a mirror facing the Trump era. The most worrisome aspect of the anti-Nixon feeling at this concert was that Tricky Dick got re-elected by a landslide a year later, despite people knowing what the man was like and the terrible things he’d done In Cambodia and Vietnam.
A phone call from Sinclair in prison was intercut in the Ten For Two film with shots of the prison yard and the prison interior. Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen stepped up next to perform “Hot Rod Lincoln”. Then Sinclair’s wife Leni took the stage, bringing on the big guns: Sinclair’s mother, Elsie. “I can tell you young people, you can teach more to your parents than your parents can teach you.”
21-year-old Stevie Wonder took center stage to sing “For Once in My Life”. Now it’s scenes such as this that make these films like a time machine. it is so strange to see Stevie Wonder so young, so trim again. “This song goes out to any of the undercover agents who might be out in the audience,” he said by way of introducing the next number, “Somebody’s Watching You”. In closing he sang “Heaven Help Us All.”
David Peel and the Lower East Side came on with a satirical number, “The Ballad of Bob Dylan”, followed by John Lennon and Yoko Ono at 3 am in the morning. Peel and band stayed on as John’s backing group. This was John and Yoko truly unplugged, all acoustic. None of the songs they would perform that night had been committed to vinyl; all of them were new to the John Sinclair rallygoers. All four would appear six months later on Sometime in New York City, by which time certain songs would no longer be applicable.
Both John and Yoko wore black leather jackets and red undershirts, and they began with “Attica State”. “It was conceived on my birthday,” John said. “We adlibbed it, then we finished it off.”
The genesis of “Attica State” could be laid at John’s 31st Birthday party on October 9th, only two months prior to this event. After the opening of Yoko’s art exhibition This Is Not Here at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York, a party was held at a nearby hotel. Composition of the song began before the party. All the guests joined in for a drunken all-star singalong captured on tape, like most of John and Yoko’s activities. Ringo Starr was a much better singer than anyone else at the party, his voice carrying much clearer–and less drunk, perhaps.
“Attica State” wasn’t much on the bootlegged tape, mostly the ‘Attica State’ tagline repeated over and over, like he was pulling the song out of thin air. There at Ann Arbor, John and Yoko harmonized while John was on acoustic guitar and Yoko accompanied him on a bongo drum tucked under her arm. They went right into “The Luck of the Irish”, which was as good or better than the studio version yet to come.
Yoko took over for “Sisters O Sisters”. “I wrote this song day before yesterday for (our) sisters in Ann Arbor, Michigan,” as Yoko put it. For the first time in a live performance we could hear what a gorgeous voice Yoko has–when she’s not shrieking. After that number, John commented, “We came here not only to help John and to spotlight what’s going on, but also to show and to say to all of you, that uh, apathy isn’t it, and that we can do something. OK, so flower power didn’t work, so what? We start again.”
John went electric for a bluesy slide guitar performance of “John Sinclair”, a lesser anthem in the vein of “Power to the People” that closed the show. This time, the gloves were off. He got the judge’s name wrong, but it’s all in the lyrics. Line by line it was a crucifixion; each line was an accusation. The strings twanged as he laid bare the sins of the State crushing down on one man for a minor infraction, and the crowd ate it up. That night John and Yoko left the stage on top and on message.
Ironically the song became irrelevant before it was officially recorded. Three days after the rally John Sinclair was released from prison, after the Michigan Supreme Court ruled the state’s marijuana statutes were unconstitutional.
His case against the government for illegal wiretapping led to a monumental Supreme Court ruling, United States vs U.S. District Court (1972), which prohibited the U.S. government’s use of domestic wiretaps without a warrant.
Eventually Sinclair left the U.S. and moved to Amsterdam, where he continues to record and write. Since 2005 he’s hosted The John Sinclair Radio Show and other programming on his own radio station, Radio Free Amsterdam. For John Lennon, his troubles were only beginning…
–The MC5 and John Sinclair: The Rock & Roll Revolution Began in Detroit at PleaseKillMe.com:
–Why ‘Ten for Two’ is the John Lennon-Yoko Ono MusicDoc You Haven’t Seen at Lifersthemovie.com:
–John Sinclair-the Beatles Bible:
–Imdb entry for Ten For Two: the John Sinclair Freedom Rally:
–The Ann Arbor Chronocle: The Day a Beatle Came to Twon, from 2009:
Available On: Side 2 of the Live Jam disc included with Sometime in New York City, released in the U.S. on June 12, 1972. This performance was subsequently issued, with an alternate mix, on disc one, “A Typical Day On the Road, Part 1”, of Frank Zappa’s 2-CD live set, Playground Psychotics, originally released in 1992 on Zappa’s Barking Pumpkin label; it was re-released on Ryodisc in 1995.
The performance was captured on 16 mm film and insofar as I know, has not been officially released on video.
It comes out that people like me have to save themselves, because we get fucking kicked! Nobody says it! Zappa’s there screaming, “Look at me, I’m a genius, for fuck’s sake, what do I have to do to prove to you son-of-a-bitches what I can do and who I am and don’t dare fuckin’ criticize my work like that! You who don’t know anything about it!” Fucking bullshit! I know what Zappa’s going through! And a half! I’m just coming out of it now, just fuckin’ hell, I’ve been in school again, I’ve had teachers ticking me off and marking my work! Fuck you all! If nobody can recognize what I am, fuck ’em!
-John on recognizing himself as a genius at age 9, Lennon Remembers, New Edition, Jann S. Wenner, @ 2000 Verso/Rolling Stone Press, originally published in 1971
The Mothers of Invention were much like John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band, in that their membership fluctuated, and in fact they had disbanded in 1969. The Mothers had only recently reunited in 1971, not long before the John and Yoko set. Both bands were also led by men with distinctive absurd artistic tendencies.
This session had its genesis in an interview with the Lennons by Village Voice writer Howard Smith on his WPLJ-FM show. Smith was off to interview Frank Zappa (Dec. 21, 1940–Dec. 4, 1993) next and asked if John would like to come along, and naturally he said yes.
Zappa recalled, “A journalist in New York City woke me up–knocked on the door and is standing there with a tape recorder and goes, ‘Frank, I’d like to introduce you to John Lennon’, you know, waiting for me to gasp and fall on the floor. And I said, ‘Well, okay. Come on in.’
“And we sat around and talked, and I think the first thing he said to me was, ‘You’re not as ugly as I thought you would be,’ So anyway, I thought he had a pretty good sense of humor so I invited him to come down and jam with us at the Fillmore East. We had already booked in a recording truck because we were making the Live at the Fillmore album at the time.”
The track listing may be confusing, so I’ll lay them both out to be sorted. On John’s Live Jam disc, included with his 1972 LP Sometime in New York City, it goes “Well (Baby Please Don’t Go)”, “Jamrag”, Scumbag” and ‘Au”. The alternate mix on Zappa’s Playground Psychotics (1994) lists them as “Well”; “Say Please” & “Aaawk”, a double renaming of “Jamrag”, which was a cover of Zappa’s tune “King Kong”; “Scumbag” and “A Small Eternity with Yoko Ono”.
This was one of the last concerts to be held at the Fillmore East. After only three years of groundbreaking concerts, the venue closed on June 27, 1971. Fillmore East–June 1971 was released Aug. 1971, two months after John’s encore appearance; yet the encore wasn’t included on this album; instead it would be saved for Playground Psychotics.
The audience must have been surprised when John and Yoko stepped out for the encore, John in an off-white suit and black guitar. “This is a song I used to sing when I was at the Cavern in Liverpool. I haven’t done it since,” John said by way of introductions.
The only tune that kept true to the performance in either mix was “Well (Baby Please Don’t Go)”, a 1958 hit by the Olympics. Well, at least it proved that John could carry a blues song. The only detraction was Yoko’s wailing after every line of every verse. She seemed to be on a one-track mind that night; all she managed to offer was the same wail.
(Ironically the live cover of ‘Well (Baby Please Don’t Go)” was released decades before the studio version saw daylight on the John Lennon Anthology and the smaller compilation Wonsaponatime in 1998.)
“Jamrag” was where they were sued by Zappa because they stole the melody to his song “King Kong”. That song was composed in 1967. Zappa and the Mothers had been performing it in concert throughout 1968, where it quickly became a concert favorite. It was finally committed to vinyl on 1969’s Uncle Meat as an 18 minute-plus track. I gotta credit the Mothers for stamina in keeping up the rhythm for 18 minutes.
(P.S.–‘jamrag’ was British slang for a sanitary napkin. Sorry, TMFI)
Basically, in this venue, it was John and Yoko screaming back and forth, with Zappa jerking his middle finger up, eliciting even more shrieks. It actually had to get a minute and a half into it before it approaches anything constituting a melody. Don Preston gives a prominent keyboard solo, but Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan’s vocals had been turned down on the Live Jam mix…as well as Yoko’s cat-killer wailing, ironically.
On Playground Psychotics, “Jamrag” gets split up into “Say Please” and “Aaawk”, still with no mention of “King Kong”, though Zappa had every opportunity to do so on his own CD. Perhaps he was hoping to avoid any more lawsuits, or he had no interest in stirring up any more hornet’s nests. Who knows? The “Aaawk” section brings forward the guitars. Zappa probably renamed that part ’cause that’s what Yoko’s screeching sounds like halfway through the song.
“Scumbag” was a long jam consisting of John calling out two words over and over–with less Yoko. Literally, as partway in someone rushes onstage to drape Yoko in a bag, from which she wails on unimpeded.
Halfway through, Zappa breaks the Fourth Wall, calling to the audience, “Hey listen! I don’t know if you can tell what the words are to this song but there’s only two words and I’d like you to sing along ’cause it’s real easy, anyone who comes to the Fillmore East can sing this song. The name of the song is “Scum Bag”, OK, and all you gotta sing is ‘Scum Bag!” All right brothers and sisters, let’s hear it for the Scum Bag!”
That bleeds over into the last number, “Au”. On Playground Psychotics, the last number in John’s show was retitled, appropriately enough, “A Small Eternity with Yoko Ono”. Zappa and the Mothers exited the stage while John bent over the loudspeakers and left his guitar spewing feedback over the crowd, whose cheers had been scrubbed from the Live Jam. Yoko’s siren wouldn’t come in until two minutes in, and thankfully the feedback almost–but not quite–drowns her out.
Finally, when the noise is over, everyone comes back onstage to say goodnight. “I’d like to thank Frank for having us on,” John says. “Yeah, he’s the greatest,” Yoko adds.
“After they had sat in with us, an arrangement was made that we would both have access to the tapes…He wanted to release it with his mix, and I had the right to release it with my mix–so that’s how that one section came about. The bad part is, there’s a song that I wrote called ‘King Kong’ which we played that night, and I don’t know whether it was Yoko’s idea or John’s idea, but they changed the name of the song to ‘Jamrag’, gave themselves writing and publishing credit on it, stuck it on an album and never paid me. It was obviously not a jam session–it’s got a melody, it’s got a bass line, it’s obviously an organized song. Little bit disappointing. I’ve never released my version of the mixes of that night.”
Do you ever intend to?
“One day yeah–but it would be drastically different because there were things that were edited out of their version and certain words that were being sung that were removed because of the editorial slant that they wanted to apply to the material and I have a slightly different viewpoint on it.
–Zappa recalls on The Frank Zappa Interview Picture Disc, Baktabak CD CBAK 4012/ UK 1985, interviewer unknown, transcribed by Robert Moore; interview conducted c. 1984
This was probably the second-fastest turnaround between the performance of a live show and its release since Live Peace in Toronto, barely a year after the session. The show was fine, of course; what went into the mix on the Live Jam LP wasn’t the Lennons’ finest moment. Technically it was supposed to be a ‘free’ bonus disc, except that it was given a separate catalogue number which pushed up the price of the total album package. As Zappa said, he got the raw end of the deal.
When it comes to mixes, I have to give this one to Zappa. Well, the audience was brought forward significantly. Zappa’s vocals and Jim Pons’ bass are more audible I believe on Zappa’s mix than on the Live Jam. At times it seems Zappa and the Mothers had been erased altogether from the Live Jam version.
Interestingly, Sometime in New York City was the last LP to carry the Plastic Ono Band name, as the Nixon Administration had already taken up its campaign of government harassment against the Lennons.