I think I begged my first grade school teacher to take me to the record store to get this single. Funnily enough I was unaware at the time that John had shaved his head. At the beginning of that year he and Yoko was vacationing in Aalborg, Denmark to be with Yoko’s daughter Kyoko, which was where the young girl was living with Yoko’s second husband Tony Cox and his new wife Melinde.
For reasons unknown, possibly to keep up the profile with their peace campaign, John and Yoko cropped their hair the shortest it’d ever be in John’s adult life. On February 4th, 1970, they swapped their shorn locks for a pair of Muhammed Ali’s boxing shorts, which they said they intended to auction off to raise money for peace. That’s the crew cut you’ll see in their Top of the Pops gig.
John was mostly quiescent as far as live appearances go in 1970. That’s okay, he’d make up for it in 1971. He was continuing the peace campaign he and Yoko had begun at the Amsterdam bed-in the year before. He was also undergoing primal scream therapy with Dr. Janovich. This would inevitably led to the quality and intensity of his masterpiece John Lennon Plastic Ono Band.
“Instant Karma” was recorded in a single night, January 27, 1970, in a single nine-hour session. The producer was Phil Spector, and this led to a long-standing working relationship between him and John and George as well. This would also lead to Spector invitation to remix the Let It Be album.
“It was great, ’cause I wrote it in the morning on the piano, like I said many times, and I went to the office and I sang it. I thought, ‘Hell, let’s do it,’ and we booked the studio. And Phil came in, he said, ‘How do you want it?’ I said, ‘You know, 1950 but now.’ And he said ‘Right,’ and boom, I did it in just about three goes. He played it back, and there it was. I said, ‘A bit more bass,’ that’s all. And off we went. See, Phil doesn’t fuss about with fuckin’ stereo or all the bullshit. Just ‘Did it sound alright? Let’s have it.’ It doesn’t matter whether something’s prominent or not prominent. If it sounds good to you as a layman or as a human, take it. Don’t bother whether this is like that or the quality of this. That suits me fine.”
-from Lennon Remembers, Jann S. Wenner
John recruited George Harrison on lead guitar, Billy Preston on electric piano, Alan White driving the thundering drums & Klaus Voorman as bass man. John provided acoustic guitar on the single. The mass chorale and handclaps closing the single was provided by Yoko and the patrons from Hatchetts, a local London nightclub.
On Feb. 11 1970, the Plastic Ono Band taped two versions of “Instant Karma” for an appearance on the BBC program Top of the Pops, for later broadcast on Feb. 12 and 19th, respectively. Technically , this was not a live performance apart from the actual appearance of the band. Actually it wasn’t even the same band.
John sang a new vocal on top of a single-track vocal and instrumentation from the January 27th EMI recording session. The prime difference between the two versions being that in one Yoko would be seen knitting, while in the second she was holding cue cards. John sat in and sang behind piano while Yoko did her things, blindfolded with a sanitary towel, beside it. Neither George nor Preston were present. BBC DJ BP Fallon mimicked sitting in on bass, Mal Evans in a business suit was on tambourine, along with actual bass player Klaus Voorman. The first version with Yoko knitting was broadcast Feb. 11 while the second was transmitted on Feb. 19th, the following week.
For the cue card performance John bangs on the piano in a denim jacket with a “People For Peace” band wrapped on arm while go-go dancers frolic in the background. (By the way, the cards say ‘smile’, ‘peace’, ‘love’ ‘hope’ and ‘breathe’. With reverb over the microphone he delivers a very intense vocal, gritting his teeth for the final verses while Klaus and BP mime on bass.
Available on: It’s hard NOT to find this on home video. The ‘cue card’ version appeared on The John Lennon Video Collection VHS from October 1992. The ‘knitting’ performance shows up most on DVD, first on Lennon Legend: The Very Best of John Lennon, a 2003 set accompanying the CD of the same name. Apparently for this collection, they changed the original audio track, replacing the live vocal with the clean studio track. This version was also released on Power to the People: the Hits, the CD/DVD Experience Edition from 2010.
Beatles Bible Instant Karma link:
“We got this phone call on a Friday night that there was a rock ‘n’ roll revival show in Toronto with a 100,000 audience, or whatever it was, and that Chuck was going to be there and Jerry Lee and all the great rockers that were still living, and Bo Diddly, and supposedly the Doors were top of the bill. They were inviting us as king and queen to preside over it, not play–but I didn’t hear that bit. I said, “Just give me time to get a band together,” and we went the next morning.”
–John Lennon, 1969
Well, almost. Toronto promoter John Brower was the man who made this historic phone call. But while everyone else had convened at Leeds Airport the following morning, John and Yoko were still in bed, and guitarist Eric Clapton apparently was unaware of the plan. He soon received a call from Brower: “Eric, you may not remember me, but I’m the promoter who lost $20,000 on your Blind Faith show last month. Please call John Lennon, and tell him he must do this or I will get on a plane, come to his house, and live with him, because I will be ruined.”
For this show John had collared a handful of people he knew. Eric Clapton had played the classic guitar line on George Harrison’s song “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” on The White Album the year before, as well as providing lead guitar for John’s performance nine months earlier at the Rolling Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus. Klaus Voormann he’d known since the Beatles’ days rocking Hamburg at the Kaiserkeller club, as well as designing the album cover for Revolver, for which he won a Grammy Award for Best Album Cover, Graphic Arts. Klaus became an accomplished cover artist and from 1966 to 1969 was bassist for Manfred Mann.
At seventeen years age, Alan White chose music over technical school and toured with Billy Fury’s Gamblers and Griffin, the band where John Lennon saw him in a club. At first White disbelieved the call he got from John, thinking he was a prankster, but luckily chose to accept the invitation to play. In 1972 he joined Yes as their permanent drummer.
(Clapton, Lennon & Voorman on the plane to Toronto, 1969)
John reluctantly crawled out of bed. Long story short, they arrived backstage around 10 p.m. and waited in their dressing room before they were announced by guest emcee Kim Foley at midnight. I can’t imagine the kick this concert must’ve been for John, and nerve wracking, since he’d be following on from the idols who’d inspired him to play rock and roll. Actually, I can imagine, since John said as much to Jann Wenner in his historic Rolling Stone interview in 1970:
“I just threw up for hours until I went on. I nearly threw up in ‘Cold Turkey’–I had a review in Rolling Stone about the film of it–which I haven’t seen yet, and they’re saying, ‘I was this and that’. And I was throwing up nearly in the number. I could hardly sing any of them, I was full of shit.”
The Doors headlined the one-day event at the Varsity Stadium of Toronto University. The Toronto Rock and Roll Festival included an all-star lineup featuring legends Bo Diddly, Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, plus Jr. Walker and the All-Stars. Among the up-and-comers were relative unknowns like Alice Cooper and Chicago Transit Authority, as well as lesser known acts such as Cat Mothers and the All Night Newsboys, Doug Kershaw, Screaming Lord Sutch, Nucleus, Milkwood, Tony Joe White and Whiskey Howl.
It’s not often noted but the other performers were also having a good time. At this point only fifteen years had passed since the birth of rock and roll, and a lot of these guys were relatively young. While this may sound strange to the young people of today, by the standards of the 1960’s rock crowd, they were ancient. The oldest artist was Bo Diddly at age 41, followed by Little Richard at 37; both Gene Vincent and Jerry Lee Lewis clocked in at a youthful 34. Chuck Berry was 43 but he could still play and duckwalk. Yeah, at my age I say people that age are still in diapers. What would that say about John Lennon, who was less than one month away from his 29th birthday?
John stepped in front of a live audience for the first time in three years and said, “We’re just going to do some numbers we know, you know, because we’ve never played together before.” And thar’s how the Plastic Ono Band was born.
While he might have pulled this band out of his ass, and the total rehearsal time encompassed their flight from London to Toronto, they put on a decent performance. They started off with the classics–“Blue Suede Shoes”, “Money” and ‘Dizzy Miss Lizzy”. This would be the second and last time John would perform “Yer Blues” live, again with Clapton as lead guitar, and boy does he love that fuzz guitar.
Then John cut in and said, “This is a song about pain”, before launching into the live debut of “Cold Turkey”. John had not officially recorded the song yet; that would come eight nights later on September 25 at EMI Studios. And thus began a pattern of performing a song live before he’d committed it to vinyl, as he would with his later song “John Sinclair”. It’s not all that unusual; Pink Floyd auditioned future songs from Dark Side of the Moon for months before sitting down to record that classic album. The band managed to hash their way through, though the moaning and shrieking at the end of the upcoming single would be remarkably abbreviated tonight.
Yoko…ah Yoko does her usual performance art wailing. “This is what we really came here for,” John said as he led the audience through a loose rendition of “Give Peace a Chance.”
Then it was Yoko’s turn. For the first two tunes she’d laid on stage in a white bag. Well, now the cat was out of the bag. “Don’t Worry Kyoko” was mercifully short at 4:18 minutes, though it might have felt longer. For her second number, “John, John (Let’s Hope for Peace)”, Clapton grooved on a single riff while Yoko inflicted new dimensions of pain for 12:39 minutes. To be fair the keening was at least tolerable while supported by John’s guitar feedback.
“At the end of “John, John”, all the boys placed their guitars against the speakers of their amps and walked to the back of the stage. Because they had already started the feedback process, the sound continued while John, Klaus, Alan and Eric grouped together and lit ciggies. Then I went on and led them off-stage. Finally I walked on again and switched off their amps one by one.”-
(Group photo of the Plastic Ono Band, 1969)
Toronto was a turning point for John. It gave him the confidence to step beyond the outsized shadow of the Beatles. On the plane ride over he’d already confided to Allen Klein that he was leaving the group. A week after the festival, John told the group, “I want a divorce.”
the Toronto Dreams Project Historical Ephemera blog:
Beatles Bible entry on the Toronto Festival:
Available on: On September 25, on the eve of the release of Abbey Road, the actual final album by the Beatles, John mixed the tapes of the Toronto concert into stereo at EMI Studios. These were taken to Apple by Geoff Emerick. The album cover was gorgeous in its simplicity, a single puffy cloud on a sky-blue backdrop. Live Peace in Toronto 1969, the first record by the Plastic Ono Band, was released on December 12, 1969.
An early version of “John, John” could be heard at the beginning of “Amsterdam”, which is a collage of musical interludes and dialogue taken from their first bed-in earlier in 1969. That track takes up the entire second side of John & Yoko’s Wedding Album, released October 20, 1969.
Famed filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker was on hand to record most of the concert, released in 1971 as Sweet Toronto. Then at one early screening Janis Joplin called out during a song by Chuck Berry, “Keep On Rockin’!”, which became the title of the 1973 version without the John & Yoko sequences. The full film would not be seen again until its re-release in 1988 for television and home video as John Lennon & the Plastic Ono Band Live in Toronto ’69 by Shout Factory.
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This is one of those things you stumble onto in researching another topic. To wit, I was looking for stuff on John & Yoko’s collaborations in the 1970’s, before the legendary Lost Weekemd; I don’t recall exactly what I was looking for, but in my searches came across this reference. Yoko Ono was invited to speak at the First International Feminist Conference at Harvard University in Cambridge Massachusetts on June 3, 1973. She spoke of how her role in society as a woman, as a person in general was reductive because she was seen only in her role as John Lennon’s spouse.
I say this is interesting because I had to piece what little I’ve shared together from bits and crumbs. If you want to find out about the First International Feminist Conference at Harvard in June 1973, well, good luck. There is practically NO information. It’s as though the Phyllis Schlaflys of the world collaborated to erase all traces of that gathering. Luckily we have at least part of her speech preserved as bonus tracks on the reissue of Yoko’s 1973 album Feeling the Space. After her speech she sang “Coffin Car” with John as backing musician, and well, let’s let Yoko herself explain:
This disc has all the songs from Feeling The Space and songs which were dropped from it to make it into a single album. In June of ’73, I was invited by the National Organization of Women to their International Women’s Conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I was asked to give a concert there for the Sisters. John and I took this very seriously. I made a booklet of my songs and statements specially for the occasion and carried copies of them with me. John carried his guitar. He was to be my band. The conference was incredibly memorable for both of us. I never will forget how all the women at the concert suddenly stood up and joined me in singing the chorus of WOMAN POWER. Their power at that moment was so strong that it stopped the video camera from running! Our photographer did not know why his flashbulb suddenly did not work. Things like that happened a few times in my life. This was one of them. During the conference, when some sisters gathered to have coffee, I met a woman who had come from Middle America. She said she had left her husband and her children and was not intending to go back to them. She was a sweet girl with large frightened eyes. Those eyes have seen stuff our mothers never taught us to be part of the deal in life, I thought. I asked her how she felt. She said she missed her children, and sometimes she heard them crying in her dreams, but she felt okay because she knew her husband was not bad to her kids. She also said she was having a hard time finding a job because she had no skills. A classic case. That was how ANGRY YOUNG WOMAN came to me. John and I visited Salem, Massachusetts. on our way home from the conference. We went to a house where a witch was believed to have lived. It turned out she had not been a witch but a doctor (of course!) and her beautiful, clean but rather austere house seemed appropriate to have once encased an astute and intellectual mind. We went up the hill where she, supposedly, had been burnt on a cross. The grass on the hill seemed dry and flattened out by kids playing baseball. We walked through the main streets of the town. It was a summer evening, the high ceilinged shops, probably built in the 30’s, were closed, and the shadows of street lamps were long on the dusty pavement, with not many people around. John and I felt as though we were walking in the town of The Visit, an old Ingrid Bergman film, where all the factories were closed because of the anger of one woman who had sought justice. We walked for a while and then went back to our car where our driver, Peter, was waiting. I was very touched by our visit and wrote the song WOMAN OF SALEM. When I started to sing the song in the studio, a musician pointed out that in my lyrics I had referred to the time as being 1692 and that I should probably change the date since Salem would not have existed then. He must be right, I thought.
But I decided not to touch the lyrics because the song had come to me
like an automatic writing. “The song could be about Salem in England-if
there was such a place,” I said to the musician. My first vision of the
song was quite vivid. A woman sat in a darkish room, at a table under a
window from which the morning light was coming through and you could
hear the birds chirping amongst the summer green. Then I was the woman
quietly closing her diary. Anyway, it was a symbolic song. If the time
was a bit off – even a century or so – it didn’t really matter. I was
going to push it through with that and I did. I don’t know why I didn’t
think of checking the year, which would have been an easy thing to do.
Had I simply been stubborn for being told of my possible mistake? An unsettling feeling had lingered at the time and then it was forgotten.
It was only last year, ’91, I found out that in the year 1992, Salem
would be observing the 300th anniversary of it’s 1692 trials! With ANGRY
YOUNG WOMAN in my pocket and the other songs I took to the International
Women’s Conference, I felt it was time for me to go into the studio
again. I felt I had to get a new set of musicians for the kind of sound
I had in mind. So I hired session guys with jazz backgrounds. The first
day I walked into the studio, I noticed there was some nervous tension.
To break the ice, I suggested we do a jam to get to know each other.
That’s how IT’S BEEN VERY HARD was made. It was the first take of the
first day. They didn’t know me from Adam. I think the song shows how
brilliant these musicians were. From then on we were like a family. That
summer, John and I moved to the Dakota. Some of the Sisters from the
Conference visited us in our new apartment. A woman representative from
Norway taught John how to type. So John said he would be playing with
his newfound toy, the typewriter, while I made the album- and he did (it
was the beginning of Skywriting By Word Of Mouth). Every day John waited
for me to bring back a rough remix of what I had done that day. He
started to say he wanted to play on a couple of my songs. “You should
call me in when you’re ready, just like you would call in a session
guitarist and I’ll come and play.” I knew I could not get a better
guitarist than John for WOMAN POWER. So I called him in for that-like he
said. He did an overdub guitar on WOMAN POWER and SHE HITS BACK that
afternoon. Sean’s friends, who heard WOMAN POWER for the first time in
the 90s, say this track sounds contemporary. John would have been
pleased to hear that. One day I came home and heard John playing a
beautiful song which was later to become STEEL AND GLASS. “It’s great
that you’re doing this (recording) because now I feel like I want to go
in and make mine,” he said. After Feeling The Space was done, John went
into the studio and made Mind Games with the same musicians.
taken from http://imaginepeace.com/archives/6364
notes from Yoko Ono’s Onobox, 1992 6-disc collection from Rykodisc
More Yoko at Genius lyrics:
While john is setting up the amp…
What happened to me was that I was living as an artist and, who had relative freedom as a woman and was considered the bitch in the society. Since I met John, I was upgraded into a witch and I was…and I think that that’s very flattering Anyway, what I learned from being with john is that the society solely treated me as a woman, as a woman who belonged to a man who is one of the most powerful people in our generation, and some of his closest friends told me that probably I should stay in the background, I should shut up, I should give up my work and that way I’ll be happy
And I got those advises, I was luck, I was over thirty and it was too late for me to change
But still, still, this is one thing I want to say, sisters, because, with the wish that you know
You’re not alone, i…because the whole society started to attack me and the whole society wished me dead, I started accumulating a tremendous amount of guilt complex and in result of that I started to stutter. and I consider myself a very eloquent woman and also an attractive woman all my life and suddenly, because I was associated to john, that was considered an ugly woman, ugly jap, who took your monument or something away from you
And that’s when I realised how hard it is for woman, if I can start to stutter, being a strong woman and having lived thirty years by then, learn to stutter in three years of being treated as such, it is a very hard road. Now the next song is called coffin car and this is a song that I observed in myself and also in many sisters who are riding on coffin cars…
I appreciate Yoko’s comments and may we all take them to heart.
Available on: The studio track “Coffin Car” first appeared on Yoko’s N1973 album Feeling the Space with the Plastic Ono Band, Apple SW-3412. John Lennon is billed as ‘John O’ Cean’ in the credits. He provides guitar on “Woman Power” & “She Hits Back”, as well as backing vocals on “Men, Men, Men”. Oddly enough, coming as it did on the verge of the Lost Weekend, this was released around the same time as John’s Mind Games.
It was twice reissued, first on Rykodisc in the UK and Japan; two of the bonus tracks were taken from her appearance at the First Feminist Conference in 1973, “I Learned to Stutter” & “Coffin Car”. For the 2017 reissue in the U.S. & Europe it appeared on the Secretly Canadian & Chimera label.
“Rocket Man ” was the first Elton John song that I fell in love with. It wasn’t even mine, my brother Kenny bought it, god rest his soul. The first single I bought on my own was “Daniel”, which I traded away. I guess I was disappointed at the time because it wasn’t a rocket like lot of his stuff was. Today I can say, “you IDIOT, why would you give that record away? It was a great song!” Maybe I share Elton’s lack of judgement; in his recent book Me, he admits that he thought “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me ” was a terrible song: funny how things will look so different in retrospect.
He was fortunate to have ‘come out ‘ in 1967, the very year that the UK struck down its law making homosexuality illegal. Or we should say he was Found out by his boss Long John Baldry: “Oh come on, don’t you know you’re gay?”(or words to that effect).
It never bothered me that Elton was bi or gay or whatever. I just loved the music, his preferences were his own business. Gay wasn’t a thing people talked about when I was growing up, at least not around me, so I didn’t have a chance to be indoctrinated by anybody’s paranoid ravings. It’s just funny now. For instance I always liked Queen from the beginning and I never got the gay reference in their very name. Didn’t know, didn’t care. Those fellas could still rock.
Elton’s early records came out on the Uni label, a division of MCA Records, which is how his early singles like “Rocket Man ” looked like that in America but by the time “Daniel ” came along everything was on that black MCA label.
Oddly enough the songs I listened to first weren’t actually sung by Elton. “Lady Samantha” was a song I loved and picked up on my dad’s Three Dog Night record from 1969, ‘Suitable For Framing “. I remember we were at his cabin in Lake Land Village, a development over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge near Allyn, Washington. Three Dog Night was also the first band I heard doing “Your Song ” on an album I got for Christmas of 1971, “Golden Biscuits “. Elton’s version was already a year old by then.
Of course he was also notable for announcing that he was retiring, and then coming right out of retirement a few months later. For some reason retirement just didn’t seem to take with Elton. The first time he said that was 1976 or ’77: didn’t last long. He’d be in a slump for a while but that was okay: he’d give himself a jumpstart like his live Melbourne shows in ’86 or ‘The Lion King ‘ soundtrack.
Maybe I also liked Elton because he wore glasses. So did John Denver but see the thing was, in the 1970s glasses were not sexy. I always wore glasses and I was never good at sports at any level of schooling. If you wore glasses, you were a four eyes: if you couldn’t play ball, you were a faggot–sorry, their words.
Elton wore ’em, so did John Lennon. Not only that but Elton made them a fashion statement. He had a gift for flamboyance unmatched in the rock world, which is saying something considering it was par for the course with acts like David Bowie and KISS on the loose. I always appreciated Elton’s music and his example, and I thought I’d say so now.
The foregoing was inspired by Elton John ‘s 2019 biography Me, published by Henry Holt and Company.
From December 2 to the 12th, George Harrison made his first stage appearance outside the confines of the Beatles when he sat in as an anonymous member of Delaney & Bonnie’s tour, alongside Eric Clapton who’d persuaded George to join in on what would be a enjoyable and fulfilling concert experience.
Is it a coincidence that every time John Lennon performed “Cold Turkey” live, in 1969 anyway, Eric Clapton was on hand to reprise his epic guitar riff? Organized to benefit UNICEF, John pulled together a larger Plastic Ono Band in just under 48 hours. The other acts performing included the Hot Chocolate Band, the Pioneers, the Rascals, Jimmy Cliff and Black Velvet.
George was also present, the first time that two Beatles had appeared on a stage together since 1966. And if George had wanted to fade into the background, he succeeded as his guitar was barely perceptible amongst all the other gathered artists that day who included John, Yoko, George, Eric, Klaus Voormann, the incomparable Bobby Keys, Billy Preston, Keith Moon, Alan White, Jim Gordon and Delaney & Bonnie. John would later to refer to this gathering as the Plastic Ono Supergroup. “Cold Turkey” had already become a concert favorite for John, this being the second time he’d performed it live. It’s a respectable reproduction of his terrifying single, though the screams don’t reach the same drug-fever pitch until the six-minute mark.
Next up is Yoko with “Don’t Worry Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking For Her Hand in the Snow”. This is an exercise in dissonance. If I were a child and my mother sang this to me, I would be very frightened. Before the song begins she’s crying “John! I love you! Britain! You killed Hanratty, you murderer!” (James Hanratty (4 October 1936 – 4 April 1962), also known as the A6 Murderer, was a British criminal who was one of the final eight people in the UK to be executed before capital punishment was effectively abolished. c/o Wikipedia)
One harsh riff settles into a groove over the usual screaming, interspersed with Yoko wailing “Kyoko! Don’t Cry!”, with too few horns to accentuate her cat-like shrieking. Fifteen minutes they had to endure which only ended because the drummers sped up in a desperate attempt to end the song. Unfortunately the band raced along to keep up as well, so it still dragged on until John wound it up with his guitar blaring feedback from a speaker.
Beatles Bible: Plastic Ono Band Live at Lyceum 1969:
Available on: Side One of the Live Jam LP included with Some Time in New York City
Release date: June 1972
Remixed with Overdub in New York, 1971 by Geoff Emerick, with Nicky Hopkins on electric piano, replacing the original organ track. (P.S. the original performance of “Don’t Worry Kyoko ran for 40 minutes but it was trimmed down to 15 minutes for the album release. Emerick was forced to change reels during the song, and there are three edits evident in the Live Jam version. )
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(photo by Roy Kerwood, May 1969)
I may be cheating, ’cause technically this isn’t a live number at all. It wasn’t even recorded at the same bed-in. The first bed-in, immortalized in the soon-to-be borning single “The Ballad of John and Yoko”, began March 25 to 31st in Room 902 at the Amsterdam Hilton, the Netherlands, five days after their wedding in Gibraltar. Media saturation was the key, bringing in TV and film interviewers, or anyone with a camera or tape recorder to hear their message of peace. Of course it was all recorded and released as film and audio.
For the second bed-in they settled into Room 1742, Hotel Reine-Elizabeth in Montreal, Quebec. From May 26 to June 2nd, they again hosted radio and TV broadcasters, journalists and other visitors, and on the second-to-last day recorded one of the most enduring peace anthems of our generation in five minutes flat. It was taped on borrowed equipment with John on acoustic guitar and a host of friends chanting along to the chorus. A simple song with a powerful and irresistible message. Soon it would be established as part of John’s concert entourage, in one form or another.
Single release date: July 4, 1969 (UK)
Available on: Apple single 1809, anthologized on Shaved Fish (1975), The John Lennon Collection (1982 Geffen), Lennon Legend (1997), Working Class Hero: the Definitive Lennon (2003), Power to the People-The Hits (2010). A rehearsal recording was released on John Lennon Anthology, CD-1 Ascot (1998).
Selected audio highlights from the first bed-in from Amsterdam comprised Side Two of their last experimental LP, The Wedding Album, released November 7, 1969.
Filmed highlights: Honeymoon (1969, 60 minutes), Imagine: John Lennon (1988), John and Yoko: the Bed-In (1990 home video), Bed Peace (2011)
The Beatles Bible:
In what might be the last act of the Beatles-vs-Stones rivalry, following a year after Magical Mystery Tour bombed, the Rolling Stones unleashed a literal circus of their own. A better production was presented to all, though it wouldn’t see the light of day till 1996. The Rock and Roll Circus incorporated actual elements from Sir Robert Fossett’s Circus, including acrobats, a fire-eater and a trained tiger, for starters, along with Jethro Tull, coming off their first album, Taj Mahal, The Who and Marianne Faithful. Also debuting for the first and only time was the Dirty Mac, a super group headlined by Beatle John Lennon.
Directing chores fell to Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who’d already helmed many of the Beatles’ promotional films (“Rain”, “Paperback Writer”, “Hey Jude” and “Revolution”), and was doomed to direct the Get Back/ Let It Be film. The irony is not lost here as this special was filmed partly as a promotional tool for the Stones’ just-released record Begger’s Banquet. When his turn came, John and Mick Jagger sat through an awkward introductory segment wherein Mick almost completely loses his accent. Then John joins his mates live before an invited studio audience.
For this two-song set John assembled a stellar backing combo: Eric Clapton on lead guitar, Mitch Mitchell from the Jimi Hendrix Experience on drums, with Keith Richards from the Stones on bass and John on rhythm guitar. And what’s that black bag moving on the floor?…Oh right, that’s Yoko.
First up is a thumping rendition of “Yer Blues”, fresh from The White Album which had only just arrived in record stores three weeks before. This was a rockin’ cover considering that, for the most part it’s clearly not the same players. First John takes the solo, then Clapton steps in, and never was a sideman more apropos to a blues rendition.
Now joined by ‘perpetual violinist’ Ivry Gitlis, Yoko Ono emerges from her bag after this first song for what starts out as a pleasant little jam. Yoko’s screams don’t even start until they’re a minute and a half in. Luckily they only had to jam for four and a half minutes. Provisionally titled “Her Blues” by John, it wound up on the eventual album release as “Whole Lotta Yoko”.
By the time the Stones took the stage it was 2 am and most of the studio audience had left. Even so, John introduced them with a sly “And now…”, at which point they jump right into “Jumping Jack Flash”. And if some of the audience had left, a lot of those who were left, in their fancy dress and red or yellow blankets were on their feet dancing. Now all that was left was to prepare for broadcast.
This gathering of the stars would not see the light for another couple of decades, however. One story says the Stones felt upstaged by the Who’s performance of “A Quick One While He’s Away”. Another is that they were disappointed in their own performance. That’s a hard one to swallow since, despite the fact that the Stones were exhausted and quite honestly on drugs, they put on a pretty damn good show. One possible reason that rises above the others might be that this was the last public appearance of Brian Jones with the group. The less said the better, for though he was present, well…apart from his slide guitar on “No Expectations”, most of his contributions were inaudible. In an odd turn of events, neither Brian nor John would be around to see this special released to the public.
Available on: The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, released on VHS, laser disc and CD, October 1996, following two days of screenings at the Walter Reade Theater during the New York Film Festival. The DVD followed in October 2004. This was reissued as The Rock and Roll Circus Expanded Edition 2-CD set & The Deluxe CD-DVD-Blue-Ray Edition in April 2019.
Note: the reissue includes unreleased tracks such as “Revolution Rehearsal”, a disjointed uptempo version of “Revolution 1” from The White Album, which slaps the ‘all right’ refrain on top instead of the bottom of the song; a “Warmup Jam” and an unused second take of “Yer Blues” where Clapton lays down an even bluesier twang.
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