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. )

f & d cover

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

 

f & d cover

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

Mike’s Amazon page:

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