Sometime in New York City

Sometime In New York City
John & Yoko / Plastic Ono Band / Elephant’s Memory and Invisible Strings
Produced by John & Yoko and Phil Spector
Arrangements: John & Yoko
String Orchestration: Ron Frangipane

Released 12 June 1972 in the USA
Released 15 September 1972 in the UK

front sleeve
rear sleeve
gatefold inner left
gatefold inner right

TRACKS: MAIN ALBUM

side oneside two
Woman Is The Nigger of The World
(Lennon / Ono)
Sunday Bloody Sunday
(Lennon / Ono)
Sisters, O Sisters
(Ono)
The Luck Of The Irish
(Lennon / Ono)
Attica State
(Lennon / Ono)
John Sinclair
(Lennon)
Born In A Prison
(Ono)
Angela
(Lennon / Ono)
New York City
(Lennon)
We’re All Water
(Ono)
Sometime in New York City
disc one, inner sleeve front

PERFORMERS (as on sleeve)
John – vocal, guitar and national
Yoko – vocal, drums
Jim Keltner- drums and percussion

ELEPHANT’S MEMORY:
Stan Bronstein – sax, flute
Richard Frank Jnr- drums, percussion
Gary Van Scycoc – bass
Adam Ippolito- piano, organ
Wayne “Tex” Gabriel – guitar
John La Bosca – piano (Born In A Prison)

TRACKS: LIVE JAM

Live Jam, disc two. Inner sleeve front

“John & Yoko / Plastic Ono Band with The Mothers of Invention and A Cast of Thousands”

side oneside two
Cold Turkey
(Lennon)
Well (Baby Please Don’t Go)
(Walter Ward)
Don’t Worry Kyoko
(Ono)
Jamrag
(Lennon / Ono)
Scumbag
(Lennon / Ono / Zappa)
Au
(Lennon / Ono)
Live Jam
Live Jam, disc two. Inner sleeve rear

LONDON PLAYERS

John Lennon – guitar, vocal
Yoko Ono – bag, vocal
Jim Bordom – drums (Jim Gordon)
George Harrisong – guitar (George Harrison)
Derek Claptoe – guitar (Eric Clapton)
Raus Doorman – bass (Klaus Voorman)
Keif Spoon – drums (Keith Moon)
Bobby Knees – sax (Bobby Keys)
Dallas White- drums (Alan White)
Billy Presstud – organ (Billy Preston)
Sticky Topkins – piano (Nicky Hopkins)
Billanica Donnie – guitar & friends pecuss. brass) (Delaney & Bonnie))

FILMORE PLAYERS
John Lennon – guitar, vocal
Yoko Ono – bag, vocal
Frank Zappa- guitar & director
Mark Volman – vocals, dialog
Howard Kaylan – vovals, dialog
Ian Underwood – winds, keyboard, vocals
Aynsley Dunbar- drums
Jim Pons – bass, vocals, dialog
Bob Harris- 2nd keyboard, vocas
Don Preston – mini Moog

2010 Remastered CD

Produced by Yoko Ono

CD remaster gatefold. A much earlier photo- John in 1972 had an expensive styled hairdo.

more from the CD remaster gatefold

The remaster is a precursor (by a decade) to the Gimmee Some Truth box set. On that Yoko says that John liked to place his voice back in the mix, and that the remastered versions clarified the voice and made it more prominent. It does here.

CHARTS

UK ALBUMS #11
US Billboard #48
US Cash Box #26
Australia #10
Japan #15
Norway #2

Choosing a John Lennon album was hard. Discounting Two Virgins and Life With The Lions and The Wedding Album, there are still (justly) reviled albums, notably Live Peace in Toronto and Rock and Roll. I’ll by-pass Rock and Roll because I quite like it, and we’ve already covered the “Phil Spector ruined my album”category with Leonard Cohen’s Death of A Ladies Man. I don’t subscribe to the St. John The Martyr story either. I met musicians who’d played Hamburg in The Beatles era, and three quite separately expressed amazement at John Lennon’s “peace and love” era as they remembered him as aggressive and violent. Ask Cavern DJ Bob Wooler. He was badly beaten up by Lennon at Paul McCartney’s 21st Birthday Party for a jibe about Lennon’s Spanish holiday with Brian Epstein. The Guardian obituary in 1980 starts:

He was hard and cruel and uncompromising and this was reflected in his life-style and in his songs he wrote … He had a most aggressive manner and straight-from-the-shoulder style .
Stanley Reynolds, The Guardian 10 December 1980

So it’s going to be his angriest album, Sometime In New York City. I usually veer to records that critics reviled, but which I see virtue in. I loathed Sometime in New York City at first hearing, and I delayed doing this one because I couldn’t face the thought of listening to the full live Don’t Worry Kyoko ever again. Not that I got to the end the first time. At least they list “performers” rather than musicians. They felt far too famous to use Lennon or Ono added to their first names. Tony Tyler in New Musical Express insisted on dubbing them Johnandyoko.

Yoko Ono

It was done in the tradition of minstrels (singing reporters) who sang about their times and what was happening.

Yoko ono, Gimmee Some Truth, BOX SET 2020, from Sundance magazine 1972

John Lennon

The Beatles had a standard to live up to. And or that reason, when The Beatles went into the studio, they had to stay six months … I don’t want a standard to live up to.

JOHN lennon, Roy carr interview, new musical express, 30 september 1972

The Medium IS The Massage

The choice of album sleeve is the key to their intent. Today’s newspaper. Topical stuff. Tomorrow’s fish and chip wrapping, not a novel with leather binding. It was a British tradition. From 1957-1960 Cy Grant and Bernard Levin composed a daily “topical calypso” (wordplay on “tropical”) on the early evening Tonight TV programme. The calypsos were satirical and dealt with the week’s events, or even that day’s events. They were simply arranged, Cy Grant and acoustic guitar. On the late night Saturday TV programme, That Was The Week That Was, Millicent Martin carried on the theme in a jazzy style for the early 1960s. Later (after Sometime in New York City) Doc Cox did much the say on That’s Life a consumer affairs programme. The thing is, they didn’t record them. They were performed live on the day. So the song John Sinclair as performed at the John Sinclair benefit in December 1971 was the right place and the right time. Attica State and Luck of The Irish were on the same show.

In 1972, a major label rush-releasing a topical record meant three weeks minimum. Here, we’re looking at over six months (USA) to release or nine months (UK). The right medium was live at the concert … Instant Karma? An LP several months later was the wrong medium. The other point to note was that the Cy Grant and Millicent Martin predecessors were FUNNY as well as satirical. The political songs on here were not. Or not intentionally.

The Lennons weren’t the first to use a newspaper pastiche as sleeve. The Four Seasons did it with Imitation Life Gazette and Jefferson Airplane did it on the rear of Volunteers. Both of these earlier ones were funny. Sometime in New York City was po-faced, with the exception of the naked dancers photo with Nixon’s and Mao’s heads added.

Yoko Ono is aware of the topicality issue:

The deficiency of “headline news” songs of course is that every day brings new headlines to replace them. For all their honest rage and historical interest, some of the more topical songs have dated less well than the more general numbers.
Paul du Noyer, sleeve notes to the 2010 remastered CD

Lyrics

The issue was always the lyrics. Back to the sleeve design, they emphasised the effect by printing all the lyrics right in your face, not even on the inner sleeve or an insert. The radical American political issues were remote for UK listeners unless you read Rolling Stone (I never missed one). Also the victims (Angela Davies, John Sinclair, the Attica State prisoners) did not seem entirely innocent of violent intent. Over in New York, John Lennon may have felt general opinion supported the IRA and would appreciate the two songs about Ireland. Back in England, the bombing campaign had already started. An IRA bomb in Aldershot in February 1972 killed seven civilians: five women, an elderly gardener and (ironically) the Catholic chaplain. We read about kneecapping. Lennon was overtly raising money for the IRA. It’s the same in every country – nobody likes the emigre who goes elsewhere and spends their time abroad criticising the home country they left.

Then we’d also seen the Let It Be movie. Yoko’s presence clearly pissed off the other three who did not bring partners into the studio. Paul McCartney gave Linda co-writing credits and musicians made cruel jokes about her sitting behind a keyboard on Wings tours. But the Lennons were in a different league. John Lennon gave Yoko a whole album, Yoko Ono / Plastic Ono Band. That was OK.
He did one. We bought it.
She did one. We didn’t buy it.
But then three tracks on this album are solo Yoko writing. Yoko definitely suffered from racism and sexism, and probably general misogyny too. I’m wary of the charge of misogyny. Just because people dislike a particular person, who is female, does not mean that they dislike her because she is female. Though in both Linda McCartney and Yoko Ono’s cases, I think misogyny comes in.

Revisionist critical opinion in the last twenty years has finally begun to give Yoko more credit, but at the time she was widely disliked. The tabloid press were unfair and harsh, but it went through to general public opinion. Craig Brown’s One Two Three Four (2020) on The Beatles portrays her as a rich and spoiled person, and his description of her long pursuit of John, shows her in the role of determined, obsessive and even terrifying stalker. Incidentally, Craig Brown has new insights on the incredibly over-trodden path of Beatles history.

John gave a counter view:

John Lennon: If you really want to know, Yoko writes all her own chords and music completely. If I can get a riff in or something, then I’m lucky. A lot of people don’t know this, but Yoko was classically trained from the age of four, and that, as you know has its rewards and disadvantages, in the same way of any training. It’s always hard to hit upon specific details, but for instance, the idea for a song like Imagine came out of Yoko’s influence, regardless of what the format of that song was.
Interviewed by Roy Carr, New Musical Express 30 September 1972

From the front sleeve: Phil Spector

Phil Spector’s image appears within the Apple logo on the front sleeve. There is an issue right away. The current CD (2010) was remastered and remixed to lessen the Phil Spector murk. So it means listening to the original LP, bought back then, plus the remastered CD, bought now. The LP is the default version. That’s what I bought in 1972.

At the time, there was flak directed at Elephant’s Memory as an inept bar band. They’d been going since 1969, with an earlier album on Buddah. Their main qualification was extreme radical politics … living in a commune, studying bomb-making, and being trailed individually by the FBI. Their album, produced by John Lennon, lacks creative spark, and titles like Chuck ‘n’ Bo and Power Boogie say it all. Lennon was also savvy enough to employ Jim Keltner separately to keep it all together. A man who’s played with Ringo Starr knows that the truly solid drummer is the secret at the centre of a band.

What The Critics Said

The long essay by Tony Tyler in New Musical Express (NME) was in the form of a letter. John Lennon, endearingly I feel, responded to critics and reviews himself. Tyler had much to say and was more positive on the musical side than most. Then he got to the lyrics:

Now the lyrics themselves. I was groping for a single word to sum up their initial impression on me and I arrived at Insulting, Arrogant, Rigid, Dogmatic … in short the effect was the opposite of the effect desired (I hope). I finally settled on Pathetic.
Pathetic. The only way to describe an ageing revolutionary. But it’s tough how you’ve been caught out by history overtaking you. That’s what happens when you cling to dogmas, Johnandyoko, but it’s made you seem a little sillier than you intended … It’ll be easy to write off this review as the rantings of a male chauvinist fascist pig. I may be, Johnandyoko, but I deny your right to fasten the label.
You’ve still got important things to say, so SAY them. Don’t rely on cant and rigidity. Don’t alienate. Stimulate.
You know, like you used to.

Tony Tyler, New Musical Express, 1 July 1972
Reprinted in NME Originals Vol 1 Issue 10, October 2003

Some Time in New York City (1972), a disastrous collaboration between John and Yoko and leftish rock band, Elephant’s Memory. This was a 2 LP set divided between horrendous Phil Spector-produced protest epics and live recordings (some with Frank Zappa): the politics were witless and the live jams mindless. After John’s ideological flip flops of previous years (from the Maharishi to “peace” to primal therapy), each embraced as an Absolute Answer), it was hard to take his political commitments seriously; here, the question of taking his music seriously never came up.
One star * Rolling Stone Record Guide, 1979

The Lennons should be commended for their daring. (It is) incipient artistic suicide … except for ‘John Sinclair’ the songs are awful. The tunes are shallow and derivative and the words little more than sloppy nursery rhymes that patronise the issues and individuals they seek to exalt. Only a monomaniacal smugness could allow the Lennons to think that this witless doggerel wouldn’t insult the intelligence and feelings of any audience.
Stephen Holden, Rolling Stone, 20 July 1972

Such a terrible album that it’s hard to find words to describe it. Political dogma has deprived Lennon of all his artistic means, and all he’s left with is a batch of junior school poetry on which he expresses his fashionable third-hand opinions.
Beat Instrumental, November 1972

Half caterwauling live weirdness with The Mothers of Invention, half tuneless topical rock songs with Elephant’s Memory, this is where Lennon risks his charisma instead of investing it. I like its rawness and its basic good-heartedness, though J and Y’s politics are frequently condescending. But if agitprop is one thing, and wrong-headed agitprop is another, agitprop that doesn’t reach its intended audience is hardly a thing at all. rating C.
Robert Christgau, Christgau’s Guide: Rock Albums of the 70s.

It’s not half bad. It may be 49.9% bad, but not half.
Dave Marsh, Creem, August 1972

Sometime in New York City is a not bad rocking collaboration with the capable band, Elephant’s Memory; the lyrics about The Attica prison riots, feminism and Angela Davies are far below Lennon’s standard.
Two and a half stars, New RollingStone Album Guide

A contender for the worst LP by a major musical figure, its list of ’70s left-wing clichés hamstrung by the utter absence of conviction within the melodies and lyrics.
Gary Mulholland, Uncut, November 2010

These tracks – pedantic, topical, elitist – show that a latter-day Dylan he was not … Refer to the Beatles ‘Revolution’ or his own ‘Give Peace A Chance’ if you need a dose of John the Protest Singer.
Eliot Wilder, Boston Phoenix, 2005

For all its faults, this double album gets points for being the most politically aware rock (as opposed to folk) album before the advent of punk. Unfortunately, a lot of the messages were awkward or garbled and they corresponded with a sharp decline in Lennon’s songwriting quality … (It) isn’t exactly under-rated, but it’s not as bad as its reputation. The second disc, on the other hand was intended to be free, and it isn’t even worth that much. The jams with The Mothers of Invention are even more unlistenable than Yoko’s sixteen-minute Don’t Worry Kyoko.
Aaron Milenski, Galactic Ramble 2020

Increasingly, critics are appreciative of Yoko:

The first album offers straight and rather uninteresting rock, surprisingly sloppy in its execution, given Phil Spector’s involvement, and accompanied by crude sloganeering lyrics that frequently border on the idiotic in their naive grasp of contemporary politics. It’s the second album that contains the real meat. Opening with a powerful reading of Lennon’s Cold Turkey, it proceeds with a superb rendition of Ono’s cathartic Don’t Worry Kyoko …
Richard Falk, Galactic Ramble, 2020

side one

Woman Is The Nigger of The World
(Lennon-Ono)

Single released 24 April 1972

Billboard US #57
Cashbox US #93

Woman Is The Nigger of The World: John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band, Apple 45 USA
Incorporates the Nova cover

The single, and the controversial opening song. It was based on a comment by Yoko Ono to Nova magazine in the UK in 1969. Nova thought it so striking that they put the phrase on the cover. Lennon was worried about the N-word to the extent that he asked Black activists if he should use it. In those more robust times, they told him it was OK. I note that Wikipedia prints the title in full, but The Beatles Bible online has it as Woman is The N ______ of The World. These are less robust times. The title was intended to shock. As someone who hung around rock bands, Yoko Ono understood the inherent sexism. I saw a great comment just this week on a YouTube video Bert Jansch and John Renbourn, “Note the woman in the background who has to put up with the jangling noise until it’s time for her to make a cup of tea or roll a joint.”

Nova magazine 1969

John Lennon: There were a few people that reacted strangely to it, but usually they were white and male … (People said) You’re a white man and you shouldn’t say it but all my black friends think I have a right to say it.
Interviewed on the Dick Cavett Show.

Live performance, Dick Cavett show

Pete Bennett, the Apple publicist in the USA, hated it and opposed the release and said he wouldn’t promote it. John said he’d promote it himself. Enter an issue. The UK charts are based on sales. The US charts are based on an arcane formula of sales and radio play. None of the AM stations would play the song. Pete Bennett said John phoned radio stations and gave them a free interview, but when he heard them play the song it was only in the studio, and was not transmitted. Bennett says Apple shipped 30,000 and got 15,000 returns.

In the UK, the single was assigned a release date, 12 May 1972, and a catalogue number, R5953. Acetates exist, but it was cancelled. One wonders whether Apple’s other directors were opposed to it.

I thought it a strong and memorable line. Lennon said on the Cavett TV programme that the line ‘woman is a slave of a slave’ was a quote from Irish revolutionary James Connolly.

The worker is the slave of capitalist society, the female worker is the slave of that slave

James Connolly

Also memorable. If only John Lennon had devoted a less-generic melody to the song. This will be a recurring theme throughout this review. I have the feeling Lennon was listening to recent hits and letting them influence him, hence the line Look at the one you’re with … which echoes Steve Stills Love The One You’re With.

I compared the 1972 LP to the 2010 remastered CD switching between them. They do sound different., but it’s not a ‘new light through old windows’ event (as early 1980s CD adverts promised). On the CD the voice is mellower and further forward. The piano and bass separate more, and the saxophone in particular is much richer. The voice on the LP sounded harsher, and the mix more Spector – I won’t go as far as Wall of Sound, but separation was not his thing. At the end, I preferred the original LP on this track.

It is the most-issued song on the album. It was the B-side of Stand By Me in 1977.
It appears on these compilations”
Shaved Fish 1975
Lennon 4 CD set 1990
Working Class Hero: The Definitive John Lennon (2005)

A home-recorded demo is on John Lennon Anthology (4 CD set) from 1998
So is a live recording,. The live recording is also on Wonsaponatime, the one CD distillation of the Anthology 4CD set

It is significantly not on:
Gimmee Some Truth Box set (2020)

Sisters, O Sisters
(Ono)

B-side of the single.

Sisters O Sisters: Yoko Ono / Plastic Ono Band, B-side of US single

First performed at the December 1971 Ann Arbor benefit for John Sinclair. John Lennon said they had intended it as a reggae song, but that Elephant’s Memory couldn’t play it. He had to teach them Desmond Dekker’s Israelites before they could even attempt it. The bass player tries, but never managed to get the point at all. I’ve heard amateur bar bands in the UK make a much better job of a reggae rhythm. Reggae was the thing … Paul McCartney and Paul Simon were trying to do it, and doing it way better, including live performances.

The top line tune is appealing. The lyrics are trite. Phil Spector who did girl group productions better than anyone else in the early 60s should have done better than this. Then again, regardless of which name was on the sleeve, he had Darlene Love and Cher in the mix and the Wrecking Crew playing the music. Yoko is squeaky which relates to some early 60s British girl singers, but not in a good way.

Yoko Ono: These days my songs are all rock … I was mainly doing my voice experiments. You know, screaming and all that, but then I got very interested in the rock beat, because it is like the heartbeat. It’s very basic and a very healthy thing. Most music, other than rock, went away from that healthy direction and into perversion.
Toy Carr interview, New Musical Express, 30 September 1972

An out of tune version of a 60s girl group vocalist.
Johnny Rogan, Complete Guide To The Music of John Lennon, 1997

Was it just before its time? It has a punk-era girl group feel with its slightly wavering voice and less than perfect backing band. It grows as you get used to it.

In contrast to the track before, I liked the CD remaster much better than the original LP track. They seem to have taken the extreme edge of her voice, and a tad more separation helps the reggae rhythm section bounce a little, though not enough.

Attica State
(Lennon-Ono)

September 1971. It was all current stuff. According to Wiki it was the bloodiest encounter in the USA since the Civil War (it has been surpassed). There was an uprising at Attica State Prison in New York, and 1281 of the prisoners (out of a population of 2200) took control, and held forty-two staff hostage, The governor, Nelson Rockefeller sent in state police. At the end of the ensuing battle, thirty-three prisoners and ten warders were dead. Following the retaking of the prison, The Weather Underground exploded a bomb outside the Department of Corrections offices.

The song was intended to be on a single with The Luck of The Irish, but it was cancelled. It had originated at a jam at his birthday party on 9 October 1971.

John Lennon: It was conceived on my birthday. We ad-libbed it, then we finished it off.

A demo version was recorded on 12 November 1971. Lennon performed it on 10 December at the Free John Sinclair Rally, then on The David Frost Show, and a week later performed it at a benefit concert for the relatives of the deceased prisoners. This third performance appears on the 1998 John Lennon Anthology box set. The studio version on the record dates from February / March 1972.

The slide guitar is nice, the tune is generic. It sounds like any of a host of British blues bands, but like several of these rapidly written songs on the album, the boogie beginning reminds of something recent … in this case, Norman Greenbaum’s much crunchier (and superior) Spirit in The Sky.

What a waste of human power
What a waste of human lives
Shoot the prisoners in the towers
Forty-three poor widowed wives

Is the chorus meant to be funny? It is.

Attica State, Attica State, we’re all mates with Attica State

I just look at that and Quintessences song comes to mind:

Things look great in Notting Hill Gate.

There is a problem with rock and protest songs. Folk is much better for protestors because you can hear the lyrics clearly. With the LP, you do need the sleeve, which is probably why they printed the lyrics on there. If you heard this at a benefit concert you might find it hard to follow what he’s singing. It became obvious, switching between LP and remastered CD that while overall it’s not that different, in every case the vocal, so the lyrics, are clearer on the CD.

The live version at the John Sinclair concert is on John Lennon Anthology (4 CD set) from 1998.

Born In A Prison
(Ono)

Good saxophone opening and later. The best part of this band is the sax. Cocktail jazz sort of feel. But Yoko’s fluttery high-pitched voice is such an acquired taste, and I never acquired it. I’ve heard people say that Kate Bush was acclaimed for singing like that, and I like Kate Bush. There’s a difference in underlying vocal power … and pitch. Yoko’s extended “Yoooooooo …’ grates on me.

Rogan describes it as:

Combining a beautiful high-pitch reading with some off-mic yelps the imagery is a trifle convoluted, with extended lines used to convey Ono’s arresting aphorisms in which bare wood can be transformed into a flute and a broken mirror into a razor.
Johnny Rogan: Lennon: The Albums 2006

Broken mirror? Razor? Does he mean she’s singing sharp?

It’s another where the lyrics are more transparent on the 2010 CD version.

New York City
(Lennon)

The first bars sound like You Really Got Me, then it sounds uncannily like T-Rex. Lennon was paying attention to the British charts … Norman Greenbaum there, T. Rex here (and on Attica State), Mungo Jerry on John Sinclair. This boogies along well enough. Then John wasn’t very nice about ‘David Bowie bitchin’ with Marc Bolan’ in his 1972 NME interview.

The Pope Smokes Dope: David Peel & The Lower East Side Apple 1972
Produced by John Lennon and Yoko Ono

We’re into naming his pals in the lyrics … David Peel, whose The Pope Smokes Dope album with The Lower East Side was produced by John and Yoko and released on Apple the same year, as were Elephant’s Memory, also name checked in the song. I’ve been curious to hear the Pope Smokes Dope again … the last time I saw a vinyl copy was in Rough Trade, Brooklyn, it was expensive and scratched and abraded. As far as I can tell, Apple never released the album in the UK. Nor in Italy or The Vatican City, I’d suppose.

Paul McCartney’s old favourite Little Richard gets a most of a verse with an In My Own Write ending:

We played some funky boogie
And laid some “Tutti Frutti”
Singing “Long Tall Sally’s A man”
Up come a preacher man trying to be a teacher
Singing “God’s a red herring in drag!”

The fifth in a row where you can hear the lyrics better – and that’s the point of a protest song – on the CD. By this track I was convinced that if you want a copy of this album, you should opt for the 2010 CD.

A home recorded demo is is on John Lennon Anthology (4 CD set) from 1998
New York City is on Working Class Hero: The Definitive John Lennon (2005)

side two

Sunday Bloody Sunday

Fast written to the event: Bloody Sunday, Derry / Londonderry, 30 January 1972, aka The Bogside Massacre, Derry 30 January 1972. (The choice of Londonderry v Derry shows what side you’re on).

Sign: Belfast Airport 2015: the issue persists

British troops shot 26 civilians during a protest march of 15,000 people protesting against internment without trial. 13 were killed outright, a 14th died from his injuries. They’re still arguing about it in 2021.

It’s delicate ground; ground to step onto lightly. Not only that, Paul McCartney had beaten John and Yoko to it, recording Give Ireland Back To The Irish the day afterwards on 1 February 1972. It was in the shops by 25 February … the fastest EMI could do it. The BBC banned it at once. More galling for John, such a vocal supporter of independence, McCartney’s song was a hit: #1 in Ireland, #16 in the UK and #21 in the US Billboard chart.

Give Ireland Back To The Irish: Wings, Apple 1972

The songwriting was credited to Paul and Linda too, so directly competing with John and Yoko. Paul was still in dispute and refused to have the Apple logo on the single, replacing it with shamrocks.

Paul McCartney: From our point of view, it was the first time people questioned what we were doing in Ireland. It was so shocking. I wrote “Give Ireland Back to the Irish”, we recorded it and I was promptly ‘phoned by the Chairman of EMII, Sir Joseph Lockwood, explaining that they wouldn’t release it. He thought it was too inflammatory. I told him that I felt strongly about it and they had to release it. He said, “Well it’ll be banned”, and of course it was. I knew “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” wasn’t an easy route, but it just seemed to me to be the time [to say something]
Quoted by Mark Lewison in Wingspan

John and Paul both had Irish ancestors, but Paul’s mother was Catholic, and Paul was baptised as a Catholic, though he says the family didn’t focus on religion. Paul’s Irish / Catholic connection was stronger than John’s.

There was an underlying point. The British troops were initially welcomed by the Catholics as protectors against Ulster Unionist Orange Day marchers. The trouble was that mainly Scottish regiments were sent, and the Lowland Scots were traditionally Protestant. Go back further, and Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite rebellion of 1745 had Highland old Catholic support. Significant numbers of the “English” army were Protestant Lowland Scots. So it was inevitable where sympathies lay. It was also true that the UDF (Ulster defence Force) focussed their violence on Catholics, while the IRA, because of their history, were inclined to see the “English” soldiers as the enemy.

Tony Tyler goes into this:

Other occasions find ignorance catching you out – like on Sunday Bloody Sunday:
Anglo pigs and Scotties / Sent to colonise the North
looks stupid if you examine history further back than the Boyne. Facts and info, Johnandyoko, the Scots were originally (around 400 AD) an IRISH tribe. They descended on Western Caledonia with rape and pillage and gave their name to Scotland. So the “Scotties” were only coming home.
Tony Tyler, New Musical Express, 1 July 1972

Sorry Mr Tyler and Mr Lennon, but arguing who lived where 1600 years ago leads to all sorts of problems. It was true that in the 16th and 17th centuries, especially under Cromwell, Scots Protestants were encourage to settle in (or colonise) Ireland, and mainly settled in the North. I don’t think turning the clock back 300 years is much more relevant than 1600 years though.

We are just months after the Aldershot IRA bombing mentioned above. John’s claims were wrong:

You claim to be a majority
Well you know that it’s a lie
You’re really a minority
on this sweet Emerald Isle

The 1921 partition of Ireland was based population, and the six counties then had a Protestant majority. That was eroded steadily. According to Wikipedia, the 2011 Election saw 48% Protestant, 43% Catholic. The trouble is that the minority is a very large minority indeed, and one that was heavily discriminated against and one which had been intimidated for years by Orange marches. OK, go to Belfast. Take the guided taxi tour. See both sides. See the Peace Wall dividing communities for their own protection. If you have a solution you’re doing better than a century of politicians.

Johnny Rogan in Lennon: The Albums compared the song to How Do You Sleep? directed at McCartney in a most perceptive summary:

In both songs vitriol and overstatement are employed as an artistic device to bludgeon Lennon’s opponents into oblivion. Both combine hate and humour in disconcerting fashion to create a narrative in which justifiable hurt seems to have been transformed into retribution beyond reason. The final verse of Sunday Bloody Sunday perfects this tactic. Having built a reasonable argument, Lennon’s froth of indignation spills over into hysterical hyperbole. Long Kesh is described as a concentration camp, ad leaving himself open to accusations of sectarianism, Lennon advocates the compulsory repatriation of Protestants who ally themselves with English rule. Even the Provisional IRA never went that far.
Johnny Rogan: Lennon: The Albums, 2006

He does too:

Keep Ireland for the Irish
put the English back to sea

then

Well it’s always bloody Sunday
In the concentration camps
Keep Falls Road free forever
From the bloody English hands
Repatriate to Britain
All of you who call it home

He is even (to a degree), in adding Rome to the foreign manipulators:
Leave Ireland to the Irish, not for London or for Rome

The recording opens with military drums, and John utilises the section where there’s just voice and drums. Yoko wails multi-tracked backing vocals, which work well. Elephant’s Memory are turgid.

The Luck of The Irish
(Lennon / Ono)

It has a lilting tune and a touch of flute, presumably so as to sound Irish. It’s also an appealing tune. In this one, they finally worked out that clear vocals are the basis of a protest song. They take the verses turn and turn about. There’s an intriguing HATE – LOVE theme to this. John gets the angry ranting verses, while Yoko takes the evocative ones about shamrocks and flowers, the mountain (sic) of Mourne (they’re plural), dreams like Irish streams, morning dew, Galway Bay, leprechauns and the blarney stone.

My theme continues though, rather than being his normal original and creative self, Lennon is taking ideas and quoting: (As they kill) with God on their side). Thank you for the phrase, Bob Dylan. You can argue that it’s a deliberate reference back, just as classical composers quoted bits of folk tunes.

Mural, Belfast, Northern Ireland 2015 © Peter Viney

How sad that the only thing in years on which he (John) and Paul have agreed should have drawn from both their very worst work. Neither ‘The Luck of the Irish’ nor ‘Give Ireland Back to the Irish’ can do anything but increase the bigotry of the already ignorant.
Richard Williams, Melody Maker, 1972

Albert Goldman’s The Lives of John Lennon states that all royalties from this song were assigned to Northern Irish Aid, an organization which openly bought arms for the IRA. In the 1970s, much was said about Gadaffi and Libya financing the IRA and shipping them weapons. I was teaching Libyans in the UK, and we had a few police check visits. They said Libya was a mere drop in the ocean on arms and bombs … the vast majority was financed by putting the hat around in Irish bars and Irish-American groups in Chicago, New York and Boston. For supporting terrorism, Libya was dwarfed by the USA. As The Clancy Brothers could sing in concert at Carnegie Hall and on album, ‘Three cheers for the bold IRA.’ Lennon was into that. Johnny Rogan interviewed an IRA man for his book on Lennon, and Lennon was in contact with them, offering to do benefit concerts. I guess the IRA needed the money what with The Clancy Brothers being less of a draw.

I really don’t trust Goldman on either Lennon or Presley, but he quotes A.J. Webberman. This was the guy who used to ransack Dylan’s dustbins. Lennon initially attacked his hobby, but then got to know him when Webberman’s “Rock Liberation Front” protested about the Concert for Bangla Desh money. Goldman quotes him:

A.J. Webberman: Lennon believed in violence. Otherwise he wouldn’t have introduced me to people like the IRA guy. He knew something was going to happen in Miami – that it wasn’t going to be altogether peaceful. He gave us the money nonetheless. They DID finance the riots in Miami – that happens to be the truth.
Albert Goldman The Lives of John Lennon.

The riots (or protests) in Miami took place at the Republican National Convention. John Lennon’s suspected involvement was a contributor to Nixon’s intent on deporting him. Lennon’s main offence for Nixon was that he wanted young people to register to vote. No, nothing changes.

OK, Webberman was a dickhead quoted by a sensationalist. However, it sounds plausible. Goldman also quotes Jerry Rubin:

Jerry Rubin: John was more radical than I was in this period. He would joke about their earlier projects, saying, “SHE’s the one who’s into peace and love.’ He was really, really angry. He ranted and raved about the police.”
Albert Goldman The Lives of John Lennon.

Having said all that, I agree the lyrics are way over the top, especially the accusation of genocide. But I also recall that the HATE v LOVE contrasts on the verses suggest they intended to reveal this dichotomy. Yoko’s verses ARE the genuine ‘luck of the Irish’ in contrast to John’s aggression. The more I listen, the better the melody gets.

It took me back to a taxi ride from Dublin to the airport. The driver said, ‘Do you know that this would be the most beautiful country on God’s Earth? (PAUSE) If it would only stop fecking raining for just one moment’

A live version from the John Sinclair Benefit is on John Lennon Anthology (4 CD set) from 1998

John Sinclair

(Lennon)

John Sinclair was the leader of The White Panther party, whose slogan was “Rock and roll, dope and fucking in the streets” and manager of the Detroit band, The MC5. He was sentenced to ten years for selling two joints to an undercover cop, which was his third offence. John could identify following his 1968 set-up bust in London. Lennon had appeared at the rally on his behalf in Ann Arbor and sang the song.

Yoko and John: The Ten for Two Freedom Rally, Ann Arbor

On the Monday after the rally, Sinclair was released after the Michigan Supreme Court reduced the sentence for marijuana possession to one year.

The only interesting piece in this clutch of agitprop pieces was Lennon’s plea for John Sinclair’s release. An archaic, rural strain, twanged out on a National Steel guitar and intoned with folkie sincerity, this bit of hip primitivism came to climax on the plea phrase, repeated no less than fifteen times.
Albert Goldman The Lives of John Lennon.

If he had been a soldier man
Shooting gooks in Vietnam
If he was the CIA
Selling dope and making hay
He’d be free, they’d let him be
Breathing air, like you and me

So John is not content with the N-word, but gets in Gooks as well. The tales of the CIA using heroin smuggling to finance their covert operations were around a lot in the mid-1970s. John was early on that conspiracy theory.

The jaunty steel guitar contributes to a lurching jug band campfire feel. It sounds like a Mungo Jerry song with a touch of Country Joe & The Fish. Not a bad thing at all. That repeated gotta, gotta goes on long enough to make you think the record’s stuck. i.e. too long.

John Lennon: They wanted a song about John Sinclair. So I wrote it. That’s the craftsman part of me. If somebody asks me for something, I can do it. I can write anything musically. You name it. If you want a style and if you want something for Julie Harris or Julie London, I could write it. But I don’t enjoy that kind of work. I like to do inspirational work. I’d never write a song like that now.
Quoted in David Sheff, All We Are Saying, 1980

The live version from the John Sinclair Benefit is on John Lennon Anthology (4 CD set) from 1998

Angela
(Lennon-Ono)

Angela Davis FBI Wanted poster, August 8th 1970

African-American Civil Rights activist Angela Davies had been fired twice as a lecturer by UCLA, the first time for simply ‘being a Communist’ and the second for her rhetoric. In August 1970, 17 year old Jonathan Jackson, brother of George Jackson (see Bob Dylan for how to write a protest song …), entered a court in Marin County, armed the black defendants and kidnapped the judge and three female jurors. The aim was to demand the release of the Soledad Brothers, including his brother George. A fire fight erupted with the judge and three others killed. Davies owned three of the guns, and had purchased one, a shotgun, just two days earlier, and after purchase the barrel had been sawn-off so it could be concealed. Davies had corresponded with one of the defendants in the court case. She fled, snd was put on the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list. She was arrested in New York City and placed in solitary confinement as “a dangerous terrorist” (Richard Nixon). After 16 months in prison, she was eventually acquitted. She became a major cause, and her striking appearance with her Afro hair contributed to her image.

It’s one of the songs I like best on the album, probably my favourite. (It’s been the ear-worm of writing this article). It’s probably the limpid guitar part, plus the two voices really work very well together in a conventional way, and Yoko’s hesitancy with the “w:” and “r” in “world” is kinda sweet. Yoko is the top voice mostly and here it doesn’t offend my ear at all. The organ solo has that classic Hammond sound.

Angela is the third stronger song in a row … if you start listening with the trio Luck of The Irish, John Sinclair, Angela you might be surprised that the album was so reviled … well, if you listen to the LP rather than the clearer lyrics on the Yoko remastered CD.

John Lennon: We write the song, we get in the studio that night to record it. That day she’s just been released! We just get in the studio and everybody comes running and says, ‘She’s out! ‘ We said, ‘Well, we’re going to sing it anyway. It still means something.
Gimmee Some Truth Box set (2020)

It didn’t placate the NME’s Tony Tyler:

Since you wrote ‘Angela’ and ‘John Sinclair’ the subjects of both have been freed, and although the sentiments are justified, I’d have more respect for you if you had used your power to highlight a less fashionable couple of injustices.
Tony Tyler, New Musical Express, 1 July 1972

Sweet Black Angel: The Rolling Stones 45 B-side, 1972
The stones got there first. Cool company sleeve too.

Lennon was keenly competitive, not only with Paul, but with Mick Jagger. The Rolling Stones also did a song about Angela Davies, Sweet Black Angel, on Exile on Main Street. It was released as the B-side of Tumbling Dice in April 1972, so like Give Ireland Back to The Irish, beat the Lennons to it by a couple of months. At UK #5 and US #7 it sold considerably better too. Then a couple of weeks later, Exile on Main Street came out and hit #1 almost everywhere. The Lennons were trailing badly in both timing and popular appeal. (And the guitar part sounds very Stones-like!)

John went into a rant on TV, explaining that he would tour to free prisoners. He mentioned going to China and then to Chicago, and the free concert would then pay to free the first 500 prisoners, chosen alphabetically, on bail. Nice for Angela Davies, not so good for John Sinclair. He ended up saying while the Rolling Stones would be touring America for money, he and Yoko would be doing it for free. He ended, ‘What do you think about that, Mick Jagger?’

The answer is not recorded, but was probably, ‘I’ll believe it when I see it, John … oh, and good luck with China, mate.’

It is on Gimmee Some Truth Box set (2020). It’s an interesting choice, especially as Woman Is The Nigger of The World didn’t make that compilation. It’s remastered and remixed of course.

We’re All Water
(Ono)

Yoko takes the vocal, and it’s related to her 1967 poem Water Talk. At 7m 14s it’s the longest track. Her voice seems swamped by the backing … and that’s the remastered version. It’s a tiny voice, but not squeaky.

The theme is that we’re all alike, so she twins Richard Nixon and Mao Zedong (if they’re naked) , Marilyn Monroe and Lenny Bruce (if we check their coffins), The White House and The Hall of People (if we count their windows), Raquel Welch and Jerry Rubin (if we hear their heartbeat), Eldridge Cleaver and the Queen of England (if we count their tears), Charles Manson and The Pope (if we press their smiles), Rockefeller and you (if we hear you sing).

Look up The Great Hall of The People, which is on Tiananmen Square in Beijing. I’d say it has vastly more windows than The White House. Accuracy is not the strong point of the album.

Critic Dave Marsh thought it the best song on the album.
Johnny Rogan thought it channelled Johnny & The Hurricanes.

LIVE JAM

I’ve enjoyed the first LP more than I thought I would up to this point. On to LP2. Can this go on?

Live Jam – side one

Performed live at the Lyceum Ballroom in London, England on 15 December 1969 for UNICEF with George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Klaus Voorman, Keith Moon, Alan White, Billy Preston, Delaney & Bonnie and others. It was recorded a long time before the album, and too many superstars banging out a basic riff usually spoil the broth. They did a 25 minute set with just the two songs.

I bought the original Cold Turkey single on release in October 1969 and struggled hard to like it, and failed. You could see it in a movie soundtrack, you could even admire its honesty and intensity … but you wouldn’t want it on a jukebox. The B-side was considerably worse. Now you get both stretched out over a whole side of an LP.

On going cold turkey, Goldman surmises his apparent decline in interest in politics after Sometime in New York City was due to his return to using hard drugs.

Left: the picture sleeve. Right, my standard company sleeve copy bought on the day of release. Very few Apple picture sleeves went outside London and DJs.

Cold Turkey (live)

So, the start is the dreaded inept group trying to agree vaguely when to start playing, with microphone feedback, ‘Hello, hello’ from John, that run around all the drums, Klaus Voorman farting around plucking the bass guitar, various esteemed guitarists trying a chord. The classic British band who have no idea how to start a show. They needed to check out David Bowie the same year – he was straight on stage, BANG, straight in. I can’t stand this sort of deeply uncharismatic start. You tune up backstage not on stage. OK, the heat of a sweaty audience under old-fashioned stage lights changes tuning, but not quickly enough for most to ever notice. I did lights on stage variety shows for two summers, including visiting Sunday one off shows, and never saw anyone walk on and fart around finding levels, and checking mics. The lights went up, they started playing. The roadies should have tested amp levels first and had instruments ready. Why didn’t they cut this crap?

Then we get, ‘This song’s about ME!’ Though even on the remaster, John’s voice is a long way back. The distorted thrashy guitars communicate pain, then John’s screaming and moaning competes. Nicky Hopkins piano rocks along in the centre. At last the piano starts playing weird stuff at the treble end. Why didn’t Klaus Voorman stop when everyone else did? Why did they have another farting about competition at the end, bass guitar being the worst offender? Presumably getting ready for the next song. Why did they need to retest the mic? I can see that if you’re into grunge and thrash this track is a seminal moment.

I think it’s a waste of space from someone who thought anything they did was worthy of recording for posterity.

Cold Turkey (Live) is on the 2010 CD Power To The People: The Hits.

Don’t Worry Kyoko (live)

What probably mystified audiences in 1969 can now be seen as a stunning finale by a greatly underrated performer. Setting the scene, Yoko emerges from her white bag and announces, ‘John I love you,’ then accuses, ‘Britain, you killed Hanratty, you murderers.’
Johnny Rogan, Lennon: The albums 2006

WTF? Hanratty was one of the last hanged in Great Britain in 1962, so ten years earlier. He had been convicted of ‘The A6 Murder’, a murder, and rape, after which the assailant shot the woman five times and left her paralysed. The evidence was not watertight, though and there was considerable protest at his conviction. Years later, the A6 Defence Committee was formed to posthumously overturn the verdict, and the committee was partly funded by John and Yoko. In fact the case was re-opened in 1997. In 2002, DNA evidence was analysed by modern methods and it was declared that Hanratty’s guilt was ‘proven beyond doubt.’

Yoko Ono hadn’t even been in the UK in 1962. Why had they got so involved? There was a definite leap on the nearest protest bandwagon.

If 16 Were 40 … Johnny Rogan quotes the NME review by Alan Smith, who saw the live concert. He believed the song was forty minutes long, and complained that it gave him one of the worst headaches he had ever had. Smith had a point. It feels forty minutes long. Longer.

Yoko is yelling away. Even at one minute in my finger is hovering over the STOP button. OK, wipe my brow, I’ve got to 3m 50s and she sounds like she’s calling the faithful to prayer. Then it sounds like she’s fallen off the very high minaret indeed and the sound is a long descent.

The twin drumming of Moon and white is the most impressive part. By 6m 35s it’s just YOW! YOW! YOW! YOW! At last the guitarists have noticed this and tried to follow her with slashing chords except one who’s gone off on a meander. By 8 minutes MY headache has started. This is the furthest I’ve ever got with it.

11m 44s. This might be the worst piece of utter crap I’ve sat this far through. At 12m 30 we get another truncated rhythmic section. It is. The drums are speeding up. Keith Moon’s getting over-excited on drums. I think a helicopter is taking off. Now Keith Moon’s gone mad. Madder. She’s chanting something like Wan-ta-lee! The whole band is now a thrashing chaos. Suddenly mad saxophone appears. They end. Or collapse! I got all the way through. The audience is clapping for more against a horrible bass drone.

It is truly awful.AND Hanratty was guilty.

Reminder: I used to go into a large Virgin Records store every Monday morning at 9.15. They always seemed to have Nirvana Live on the sound system very loud. I’d watch as young mothers with pushchairs, and pairs of retirees stepped into the store and stepped straight back out. I asked the manager why they were playing stuff that was clearing the store of customers. ‘Perfect Monday morning record,’ he said, ‘We have all the new stock to put out and it keeps us free of customers.’ I recommend this track to him.

John remained excited at playing with seventeen piece band:

John Lennon: It was a FANTASTIC show – very heavy. A lot of the audience walked out you know, but the ones that stayed – they were in a TRANCE man. They just all came to the front because it was one of the first real heavy rock shows where we had a good, good backing. Some of those kids – they were really young- it was a UNICEF concert show or something. Some of those kids formed those freaky bands later. Because there were about 200 kids at the front there, some were about 13, 14, 15 who were looking at Yoko and looking at us the way we were playing that Don’t Worry Kyoko and it really reached a peak of (whatever you call it) it really went out there that night.

Live Jam – side two

Recorded live at the Fillmore East in New York City with Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention 6 June 1971.

It was a Mothers of Invention gig, with John and Yoko joining them unannounced at the end. There was previous … The Beatles had held up the Mothers of Invention release of We’re Only InIt For The Money because it parodied Sergeant Pepper. SEE The Art of the LP: Sergeant Pepper for more.

Frank Zappa had much to say about the ethics of this relese.

Frank Zappa: We played for about 40 minutes I guess, and it just so happens that we had made arrangements to record that night…and the whole thing got laid down on tape. And John and I had an agreement that we were going to jointly mix the tape and decide how we were going to put it out because they’re big contract [inaudible] involved in getting the thing out. So it sat around for awhile, I guess about a year, and there was nothing done about releasing it.  Finally I got word that John was going to release it, and that some negotiation was going to be worked out.  The negotiation never occurred; as a matter of fact, we went in..I sent him a safety copy, 16-track masters, and I guess he went in with Phil Spector and mixed the thing with this ridiculous tape delay echo on it; he turned off Mark [Volman] and Howard [Kaylan]’s voices on the section called Scumbag, and they were the only ones really singing on it. You can’t hear them on their version of the thing.  I have a mix of the thing too–you wouldn’t even recognize the two events.
And they did weird things like put in certain applause where it didn’t really occur. They changed the thing around and then the ultimate insult was to take the tune “King Kong” which was  obviously an ensemble performance where everybody in the Mothers knew what they were playing, they were playing the melody, it was obviously a song…if it had been a situation where I was mixing the thing I would say ‘that’s obviously a song, what’s the name of that song; who has the writing and publishing on that?’  Well it didn’t occur in their case.  They retitled [the song King Kong] ‘Jam Rag’, took the publishing and writing credit and put that on the album [Sometime in New York City] that way. Consequently there were a number of very irate phone calls between our office and Allen Klein…anyway that’s the story of the Filmore album.”

Al Aronowitz: Before the second show at the Fillmore, Zappa, Lennon and Yoko jammed in the second-level dressing room to an overflow crowd of Fillmore cognoscenti and hangers-on. They played old R&B: Zappa lead, John chording rhythm and Yoko playing her Ornette Coleman voice. Just good old R&B, folks.” Zappa also showed John the hand signals he uses to conduct the Mothers, mostly with his middle finger. 
“When I do this,” Zappa said, sticking his middle finger into the air, “everybody’s going to scream.” John dug it.

Al Aronowitz, Melody Maker, 19 June 1971

Frank gives the finger

Well (Baby Please Don’t Go)
(Walter Ward)

Well! The Olympics, UK 78 rpm 10″ version, HMV
This is the correct title

This was the B-side of Western Movies by The Olympics. Zappa was a fan of doo-wop groups… note Ruben & The Jets. This was NOT a doo-wop version, the original at half the length wasn’t really either. It was also a song The Beatles had performed at the Cavern, according to John.

Frank Zappa: For you in the band who have no idea what is about to happen … this is A minor. And it’s not standard blues changes.

It starts. The Mothers of Invention are immediately more competent than the assembled and famous mob at the Lyceum. Yoko on yelps. Zappa is on lead guitar for a tremendous solo. Lennon’s in great voice. Johnny Rogan suggests it would have been the best track on Rock ‘n’ Roll. I’m inclined to agree. I’m surprised this didn’t get on the many Lennon compilation sets. Terrific.

Jamrag
(Lennin-Ono)

There is some confusion about where Jamrag ends and Scumbag starts but the female to male vocal is the divide as per the unsavoury titles. As Zappa later pointed out it’s all messing around with the Mothers’ King Kong anyway. Ian Underwoods keyboard work is the most interesting thing, and Yoko’s voice is a long way back mostly.

Scumbag
(Lennon-Ono-Zappa)

The Mothers sounded great at the start of this. Then John begins yelling ‘Scumbag!’ over the top.

Al Aronowitz: Yoko meanwhile was belting it out with her electronic voice. When they finally got to a number called “Scumbag,” Zappa told the audience: “We want you boys and girls to join along. It’s a simple lyric.” One of the singers from the Turtles put a canvas bag over Yoko and her microphone during the song but she kept on wailing. She was still wailing when Zappa left the stage and started walking up the dressing room steps.
Al Aronowitz, Melody Maker, 19 June 1971

The audience did sing along. Note Zappa said, ‘Let’s hear it for THE scumbag.’

Au
(Lennon-Ono)

There’s eight minutes and ten seconds of this. It starts with Lennon still yelling ‘Scumbag, Baby!) then he’s groaning ‘Scumbag’ Then it seems to end around 1m 30s after ‘Goodnight, boys and girls’ before going into Au. I thought for a while I’d put on Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music in error as various noises buzz around. Unpleasant noises. Then we hear Yoko. Zappa’s subsequent retitling A Small Eternity with Yoko Ono is an improvement.

Live Jam – overall

The combination of Zappa and John and Yoko is of historic interest. Only Well! (the original title) is worth keeping or hearing ever again. The whole of both sides of LP2 reminds me of Howard Hughes obsessively collecting his nail and hair clippings and worse. What’s the point? You do something on the spur of the moment. That’s it. Listen back? It’s very poor indeed. Throw it away.

Frank Zappa: Playground Psychotics, 1992

Plsyground Psychotics : Frank Zappa / The Mothes of Invention 1992

Zappa remixed the Filmore set for this release bringing the Mothers of Invention higher in the mix. Say Please and Aaawk are edited from Jamrag, a title too much even for Zappa, and Scumbag.

Au is retitled A Small Eternity With Yoko Ono.I know what he means. Zappa felt cheated. They’d agreed both could release the material, then the Lennons stopped him. He also pointed out that Jamrag / Scumbag was based on his King Kong without credit.

The writer credirs were ‘corrected.’

Playground Psychotics
22 Well
(Walter Ward)
23 Say Please
(John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Frank Zappa)
24 Aaawk
(John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Frank Zappa)
25 Scumbag
(John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Howard Kaylan, Frank Zappa)
26 A Small Eternity With Yoko Ono
(Lennon, Ono)
Playground Psychotics: Frank Zappa 1992

LATER VERSIONS

2005 CD reissue

A single disc. It has side one of Live Jam, but only Well (Baby Please Don’t Go) from side two.

There are bonus trscks:

Listen The Snow Is Falling
(Ono)
Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
(Lennon / Ono)
Bonus tracks 2005

The Remastered CD Edition

Current amazon copies have a French shrink wrap

And in the end …

LP1 was better than I remembered (on Rolling Stone’s system 2.5 stars). LP 2 was as awful as I remembered ( 1 star, but only if 0 star is not available) though I’d forgotten how good Well! was..

The sound on the remastered CD is clearer, but then the muffled voice on the vinyl version meant that you weren’t confronted by the lyrics, which are indeed often (but not always) banal.

I grew to like that sequence of three: Luck of The Irish, John Sinclair, Angela more and more.

THE REVILED ALBUMS ARE (so far) …

Beatles For Sale – The Beatles
Their Satanic Majesties Request … The Rolling Stones
Speedway (and Elvis film music) – Elvis Presley
Electric Mud– Muddy Waters
Self Portrait – Bob Dylan
Byrdmaniax – The Byrds
Cahoots – The Band
Carl and The Passions- So Tough! – The Beach Boys
Wild Life – Wings
Sometime in New York City – John and Yoko / Elephant’s Memory
Recall The Beginning: A Journey From Eden … The Steve Miller Band
Hard Nose The Highway … Van Morrison
Chicago III … Chicago
Berlin– Lou Reed
Pinups – David Bowie
Death of A Ladies’ Man – Leonard Cohen
Born Again – Randy Newman
Mingus – Joni Mitchell
Everybody’s Rockin’ – Neil Young
American Dream – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Jefferson Airplane – Jefferson Airplane (1989)

And here’s a rule-breaker. I’d decided one album each, but Van Morrison got so much vituperation from critics (unjustly) in 2021, that I had to add it:

Latest Record Project Volume1… Van Morrison

This list will grow steadily

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