Posts Tagged ‘Plastic Ono Band’

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This is a great hard bluesy song on one of my favourite Beatle’s albums…“The White Album”. This is one reason I like the White Album so much. The song was written and composed by John Lennon during the Beatles’ retreat in Rishikesh, India. The song was a parody of blues music, specifically English imitators of blues. Lennon said that, while “trying to reach God and feeling suicidal” in India, he wanted to write a blues song, but was unsure if he could imitate the likes of Sleepy John Estes and other original blues artists he had listened to in school. In “Yer Blues” he alludes to this insecurity with a reference to the character Mr. Jones from Bob Dylan’s “Ballad of a Thin Man” and with the third verse, which draws on Robert Johnson’s “Hellhound on My Trail.” Instead, Lennon wrote and composed “Yer Blues”  featuring tongue-in-cheek guitar solos and rock and roll-inspired swing blues passages. In the chorus, Lennon sings, “If I ain’t dead already, girl you know the reason why.”

What I like about it is the rawness. This song and Helter Skelter show what a great rock band they were. The room they recorded this in was called Room 2A, which was next to the control room of EMI Studio Two and was a mere 8 ft. by 15.5 ft. The room had been used for storing four-track machines before it was emptied. It was very tight quarters for The Beatles once they set everything up. That added to the sound. They jammed together from 7pm to 5am and after 14 takes produced this song.

Lennon was self-conscious about singing the blues based tune.

John Lennon: “There was a self-consciousness about suddenly singing blues,” John continues. “Like everybody else, we were all listening to Sleepy John Estes and all that in art school (in the late ’50’s). But to sing it, was something else. I was self-conscious about doing it.”

Paul McCartney recalled, “We were talking about this tightness, this packed-in-a-tin thing. So we got in a little cupboard – a closet that had microphone leads and things, with a drum kit, amps turned to the walls, one mic for John. We did ‘Yer Blues’ live and it was really good

Ringo Starr: “We were just in an 8 foot room, with no separation, just doing what we do best: playing.” .

The song is in the key of E major, but like many blues numbers, it prominently features accidentals, such as G, D, and B♭. It is primarily in a 6/8 meter, but as with several of Lennon’s tunes, the time signature and tempo are altered many times.

The stripped-down, bluesy nature of the number bears similarity to much of Lennon’s early solo output, including “Cold Turkey” and his 1970 John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album and marks a retreat from the concerns that Lennon had with such studio experimentation as had marked such songs as “Tomorrow Never Knows” and “Strawberry Fields Forever.”

A Toronto promoter named John Brower was on the phone trying to convince John and Yoko they should attend a September 13th musical event in Canada featuring a host of ’50s rock ‘n’ roll legends. Maybe, suggested the ever-keen and eager Brower, John might even consider a performance piece?.  Two days later, the Lennons had gathered at Heathrow Airport with guitarist Eric Clapton, Klaus Voormann (bass player), Alan White (drummer working with Alan Price), Beatles manager Allen Klein and roadie Mal Evans for the flight to Toronto and a show later that evening.

Only three first-class tickets were available, so the newly formed Plastic Ono Band gathered in the rear of the 707 jet, vamping their acoustic way through a cluster of classic rock ‘n’ roll favorites. Songs that the principal players worshipped. Perhaps this in-flight camaraderie inspired the bout of intense honesty that unfolded en route to the Toronto Rock ‘N’ Roll Revival concert. Later it came out that John had informed both Eric Clapton and Klaus Voormann that he was thinking about starting a new group. It seems he went as far as to enquire about their interest in joining him in this new enterprise . . . At Varsity Stadium the jet-lagged John was extremely nervous. He hadn’t been onstage in three years, and he admitted to throwing up from nervousness before the show — with abundant reason. “Imagine if you were in The Beatles from the beginning, and you were never in any other band?” he postulated. “Then all of a sudden you’re going onstage with this group who’ve never played live together, anywhere. We formed on the plane coming over here, and now we’re gonna play in front of 20,000 people.”

The audio would be released in December of that year as the Plastic Ono Band’s “Live Peace In Toronto” LP. John bounced out onstage, bedecked in a white tropical suit overpinning a black shirt, and was bedeviling with his new band. The Toronto audience was equally uplifted. After whipping through a number of rock ‘n’ roll chestnuts, John plunged into “Yer Blues” from the White Album.

A 9 minute version with Lennon, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Mitch Mitchell was performed on the Rolling Stones’ Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus. They called the band the Dirty Mac.

Recorded before a live audience in London in 1968, The Rolling Stones “Rock and Roll Circus” was originally conceived as a BBC-TV special. Directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, it centers on the original line up of The Rolling Stones — Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman (with Nicky Hopkins and Rocky Dijon) — who serve as both the show’s hosts and featured attraction. For the first time in front of an audience, “The World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band” performs six Stones classics. The program also includes extraordinary performances by The Who, Jethro Tull, Taj Mahal, Marianne Faithfull, Yoko Ono, and The Dirty Mac. A ‘supergroup’ before the term had even been coined, the band was comprised of Eric Clapton (lead guitar), Keith Richards (bass), Mitch Mitchell of The Jimi Hendrix Experience (drums) and John Lennon on guitar and vocals.

Check out this great cover of the John Lennon Beatles song “Yer Blues” covered by his son Sean Lennon

Sean Lennon – “Yer Blues” 2012

Plastic Ono Band - Cold Turkey single artwork

Recorded on This Day – In 1969, John Lennon recorded the track ‘Cold Turkey’, with Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Klaus Voorman and Yoko. Lennon presented the song to Paul McCartney as a potential single by The Beatles, as they were finishing recording for their Abbey Road album but was refused and released it as a Plastic Ono Band single with sole writing credits to him. There are other versions besides the single, several of which are acoustic, It was the second solo single issued by Lennon , The single was released with a standard green Apple label, with the words “Play Loud” printed on the spindle plug of the UK pressing. This song is about drug withdrawal. Quitting “Cold Turkey” means abruptly stopping drug use and the effect it has on your body and mind. John Lennon quit cold turkey because he wanted to get off drugs and start a family with Yoko. Eric Clapton and John played guitar on this, Ringo drummed, and Klaus Voormann played the bass, It was released as a single in 1969 as The Plastic Ono Band.

The song’s first appearance on an album was Live Peace in Toronto 1969 where the song had been performed live on 13th September 1969 with Lennon reading the lyrics off a clip-board  Here is a super live performance of Cold Turkey by Lennon with the Plastic Ono Band in New York City. More bluesy, more jazzy and more rock than the single version.

Enjoy Lennon performing the track live in New York City.

This was Lennon’s second single away from The Beatles. “Give Peace A Chance” was released a few months earlier. This was also the first song John Lennon took complete credit for as he dropped the McCartney from Lennon and McCartney. Its first public performance on September 13, 1969, was recorded and released on the Live Peace in Toronto 1969 album by the Plastic Ono Band.

John Lennon: Cold Turkey was banned. They thought it was a pro-drugs song. But I’ve always expressed what I’ve been feeling or thinking at the time. So I was just writing the experience I’d had of withdrawing from heroin. To some it was a rock ‘n’ roll version of The Man With The Golden Arm because it showed Frank Sinatra suffering from drug withdrawal.”

Original John Lennon “Cold Turkey” Complete Promo

Lennon performed this on September 13th, 1969 at The Toronto Rock and Revival Show, where he introduced his Plastic Ono Band (at least the configuration of it for this show). Eric Clapton was on guitar, Klaus Voorman on bass, and Alan White on drums. Yoko Ono was also part of the act, and she made an impact during “Cold Turkey.” As the song played, she emerged from a bag on stage, stepped up to a microphone, and made turkey-sounding noises (not out of character). The set was released as a live album called Live Peace In Toronto 1969.

Eric Clapton played some of the guitar on this. Lennon asked Clapton to join The Plastic Ono Band, but Eric declined. Lennon wrote and recorded this song before attending Arthur Janov’s Primal Scream therapy workshop, which played a part in his song “Mother.” The screams he used in “Cold Turkey,” he was actually emulating Yoko singing.

When John Lennon decided to return his MBE (Member of the British Empire) award on November 25, 1969, he sent it to Queen Elizabeth II with a note explaining, “I am returning this MBE in protest against Britain’s involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam and against ‘Cold Turkey’ slipping down the charts.”