December 15, 1969 Peace for Christmas at the Lyceum Ballroom, London

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.

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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.

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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:

Plastic Ono Band live at Lyceum Ballroom, London

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Available on: Side One of the Live Jam LP included with Some Time in New York City

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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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‘Give Peace A Chance’, 50 years young this year

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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.

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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.

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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)

Links: 

http://www.edmontonjournal.com/Kerwood+took+this+1969+photo+John+Lennon+Yoko+record+Give+Peace+Chance+their+famous+Peace+Queen+Elizabeth+Hotel+Montreal+Timothy+Leary+bottom+photo+Tommy+Smothers+playing+guitar+with+Lennon+Teenage+photographer+Kerwood+event+Montreal+radio/9521595/story.html

The Beatles Bible:

Give Peace A Chance

 

December 11, 1968 The Dirty Mac at the Rock and Roll Circus

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.

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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.

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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.

The Dirty Mac circus

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.

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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.

 

Mikes’ latest book, FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS, is available at amazon.com.

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March 2, 1969 Lady Mitchell Hall, Cambridge University UK–“Cambridge 1969”

For a man who became understandably reluctant to perform as a Beatle, John Lennon managed to put in plenty of time as a solo performer. Even more astounding is how much live material was actually available in his own lifetime. And to show how much time I have to muck around I propose to review said performances. I will not be including John’s all-star 31st birthday party, as while he played a range of songs, this was done for the entertainment of friends and well-wishers, besides not qualifying as a public concert.

Now I might have said that John clocked in an amazing amount of time as a solo performer. I never said a lot of it was listenable. We can attribute that in part to the avante garde leanings of Yoko Ono. While such screeching might appeal to an undisciplined art student, it is certainly less tolerable to the average listener. I’m not trying to slander Yoko; when she wants to, her singing voice can be gorgeous. “Who Has Seen the Wind” is hauntingly beautiful. Say what you will about the Some Time in New York City LP, the most enjoyable cuts were often those by Yoko–‘Angela” or ‘Sisters, O Sisters” for example. “Cambridge 1969” is not in the same category.

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“Cambridge 1969” isn’t technically a John song at all; it was Yoko who was invited to perform at Lady Mitchell Hall, Cambridge early in 1969, for an audience of 500. But John sat in on the set, in the shadows in the back. I hope Yoko had plenty of water around ’cause she put her throat through a wringer with this piece. This ‘song’ was seemingly designed to torture small dog’s ears. Yoko opens with a short, almost shy introduction–then wails like a banshee for the next 57 seconds, pausing for breath before continuing on. John was there basically to provide guitar feedback, which had none of the resonance he gave to the opening of “I Feel Fine”.

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We’re about nine minutes in before the feedback gets interesting, rising in pitch till at 9:50 it’s like a fire alarm going off. Only towards the end were they joined by a saxophonist and percussionist. This goes on for the entire first side of the Life With the Lions LP. God help the poor bastards–I mean, the student audience who sat in to endure 26 & ½ minutes of Yoko shrieking like a yowling cat.

 

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Available on: Unfinished Music #2: Life With the Lions

Release date: May 9, 1969 (UK)

The Beatles’ Bible entry:

John Lennon and Yoko Ono perform in Cambridge

 

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Mikes’ latest book, FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS, is available at amazon.com.

Mike’s Amazon page:

https://www.amazon.com/Mr.-Michael-Robbins/e/B00CMHSMYA