Elton John & John Lennon live: Yeah, but what about the show?

So many blogs have been written about the last legendary concert appearance by John Lennon, alongside Elton John in Madison Square Garden on Thanksgiving Day, November 28, 1974. Clearly you’d think there was nothing new to say. The problem with all these pieces is that they all say THE SAME DAMN THINGS–it’s John Lennon’s last live show, he and Yoko got back together after the show, he’d done it after a bet over his hit single “Whatever Gets You Through the Night”, yada yada. No one ever talks about the actual performance.

Ya know what? I’m not going over all that crap again. We know it. I’m going to leave some links at the end of this blog, if that’s the kind of background you want. This is my blog, my observations. The rest you can easily find elsewhere.

Among the frequent hand-me-downs from my brother Kenny was an Elton John Band single from 1975, “Philadelphia Freedom” (MCA-40364), a damn good song in its own right. The B-side, ‘Recorded Live’ the year before, was “I Saw Her Standing There”. Beneath the song title in small letters it read ‘Featuring John Lennon’.

the-elton-john-band-philadelphia-freedom-1975-24

I didn’t know he’d done a live show with Elton John, beyond that one song. I wasn’t reading a lot of the nascent rock music press; I was barely aware there WAS one. Oh I knew about Rolling Stone, peripherally. My thing was comic books, Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 and the CBS Radio Mystery Theatre. Those were my ways of distracting myself from my dad’s marriages and divorces, our frequent moving back in forth between two towns. From the time my mom and dad split up to the beginning of high school, I’d attended three elementary schools and bounced three times between two junior highs. I was also learning how to impale myself with insulin shots, after five years of having them inflicted on me.

JOHN_LENNON_LIVE!+28TH+NOVEMBER+1974+++OBI-497115  1974-11-28-Madison_Square_Garden_1974-digipack

-two examples of the inevitable bootlegs-

Putting the foregoing aside, I think I was very lucky, certainly better off because of my parents and siblings. Back to cases, that single was the only official release of that singular performance, outside of the inevitable bootlegs. Elton’s live LP Here and Now (1976) was a contract-fulfillment item. While good, it was a truncated single-LP collection culled from two performances done a year apart. Side One was taken from a London performance for invalid children at the Royal Festival Hall in May1974; Side Two from the aforementioned Madison Square Garden show.

In the 1970s an Elton John concert was a thing not to be missed. And because I was underage, I always did; I didn’t turn 16 years old until May of 1980. In 1995 Gus Dudgeon compiled a 2-CD album of both concerts in their entirety. CD-2 features that long-lost three-song set featuring John and Elton: “Whatever Gets You Through the Night”, “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” and “I Saw Her Standing There”. I’ve just finished listening to those CDs today in my car. I’m here to rate that performance while it’s still strong in my head.

Just to start with right after Elton’s introduction, while John is tuning his guitar I heard a few bars of “I Feel Fine”. I’d listened to this deluxe CD before and I’d never noticed that before. Both Johns give an energetic performance of “Whatever gets You Through the Night”, and I’ll bet John Lennon was having more fun doing this than he’s had in years. No politics, no preaching, just two guys duetting beautifully together, jamming on pure rock ‘n’ roll.

whatever gets you throu night

John is less prominent on “Lucy In The Sky”, but it IS Elton’s cover. He’s there for backing vocals and reggae rhythm guitar; you can hear his guitar in the right channel on your stereo. What’s never mentioned is the fact that this is the ONLY time John Lennon performed “Lucy” live in any capacity. The Muscle Shoals Horns blowing in the chorus add an extra zest to the live version.

madison-square-garden-1974-john-lennon-and-elton-john

Back-In-Time-Elton-John-and-John-Lennon-performing-I-Saw-He-Standing-There

Finally John announces “a number from an old estranged fiancée of mine called Paul”, the first and only time he sang “I Saw Her Standing There”, as it was always Paul’s vocal. With Elton’s band behind him, John gives a roaring performance, vastly superior to the pussified version that Tiffany foisted on us in 1988. Really, how DARE she emasculate a Beatles classic that way? There were tears all around, and Elton allowed the pandemonium to go on and on, even though he still had 40 minutes left to go in his concert.

That was John’s last glory moment on a live stage, almost the last anyone would hear of him for five years. The times we would have with him during his brief comeback season in 1980 would be too tragically short.

 

Available on: “I Saw Her Standing There”, released as the B-side to Elton John’s single “Philadelphia Freedom”, MCA 40364, released February 24, 1975.

The entire set with both Johns appeared on the complete 2-CD reissue of Elton’s 1976 live album, Here and There (1996 Rocket)

Links:

John Lennon joins Elton John onstage at Madison Square Garden, New York

https://ultimateclassicrock.com/john-lennon-last-concert/

Rubber Soul as it should be

Rubber_Soul

I’ve just realized why Rubber Soul was never one of my favorite Beatles albums growing up. I had no way of knowing better of course; did any of us know in the fall of 1965? You see the problem was, we were getting the Americanized version.

A sign of a great work of art is its openness to more than one interpretation. In his blog Psychobabble, Mike Segretto gave the impression  that certain alterations were an improvement on the original British LP; that these substitutions were more in line with the folk-rock stylings of the majority of the set. On that count, I respectfully disagree. The rock numbers [“Drive My Car” & “Nowhere Man”] I feel balanced out the introspection of “Norwegian Wood” & “In My Life”. There is very little question that the British album was the better of the two versions.

Granted the classics were all in their proper places—“Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)”, “Michelle”, “In My Life”, even “The Word”. The point is, I grew up listening to what was provided by Capitol Records. Capitol was the American distributor for EMI-Parlophone Records in the U.S. And they butchered Rubber Soul.

rubber soul UK back

The back cover of the UK release, at least the remastered CD from 2009 

rubber soul US Capitol back

Running order of the Capitol Records release

The first sin they committed was to strip four songs from the original LP, ie “Drive My Car”, “Nowhere Man”, “What Goes On” & “If I Needed Someone”. This was standard practice for Capitol: take a few songs off one Beatles album and collect as many as possible into a ‘new’ album. Something New [July 1964] may be the most egregious example of such mash-ups, and I’m saying this as someone who does in fact prefer some of the American LPs over their British counterparts.

Here’s what rubs me; two of those songs were among the strongest tracks the Fabs had done in this period; and they substituted two of the weaker tracks from the British Help! LP. If I may digress, Capitol got s lot of mileage out of that record. Over the following two  years they managed to spread those six Side-2 songs over three different albums. Most of us who grew up in the ‘60’s didn’t realize how badly we’d been gipped until the official British albums saw their first CD release in 1987. That was the year we in America finally received Rubber Soul in its full glory, as God [or the Fab Four anyway] intended.

The UK version opened with a strong lead-in, ‘Drive My Car”; the Capitol album had the temerity to replace that with the significantly weaker number, “I’ve Just Seen a Face”. Worst of all, “Nowhere Man” was also taken off the Capitol release. I never knew it was supposed to be on Rubber Soul until I listened to that damn CD for the first time. George Harrison had originally been allotted two numbers, “Think For Yourself” & “If I Needed Someone”. I don’t know why I’m so taken with the latter number; that riff just seemed to hook me. It’s mostly the guitar. These are both decent songs, but at a time when George was just beginning to flex his songwriting muscles, Capitol cut his contributions by half.

Adding insult to injury, the one song allotted to Ringo Starr, ‘What Goes On”, the first instance in which he actually received any songwriting credit, was swapped with “It’s Only Love’, a song even John Lennon said was abysmal. Which meant Ringo got NO vocal numbers at all on our side of the Atlantic. In fact, in 1965 Ringo would appear on two, count ‘em, two tracks for U.S. release. One was “Act Naturally”, the B-side of the “Yesterday” single. “Boys” [from The Early Beatles, March ‘65] was part & parcel of the re-re-release of the Beatles’ first Parlophone album Please Please Me–from 1963.

That leaves fully half of the album dominated by Lennon compositions—on either side of the Atlantic—“Norwegian Wood”, “Nowhere Man”, “The Word”, “What Goes On”, “Girl”, “In My Life” & “Run For Your Life”. John Lennon songs tended to dominate Beatles albums up to this point. Rubber Soul would actually be the last time this was the case until the White Album sessions three years later—honestly, mostly on account of John’s growing, admitted laziness.

The four tracks that were stripped from the Capitol album would eventually conglomerate in July 1966 on the Yesterday and Today set, along with the final two orphans from Help!, Side 2, plus three more recent cuts stolen from the upcoming Revolver. And that would be the last time such butchery would be committed against a Beatles long-play.

–“It’s Only Love” was mine. I always thought it was a lousy song. The lyrics were abysmal. I always hated that song.

-John Lennon to David Sheff, The Playboy Interviews with John Lennon & Yoko Ono, @ 1981 Playboy Press

https://psychobabble200.blogspot.com/2014/08/turn-left-at-greenland-part-8-rubber.html