Living To Music – John Lennon ‘John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band’

John Lennon Plastic Ono Band




YEAR: 1970

This Sunday (March 7th) at 9pm, you’re invited to share a listening session with some likeminded souls, wherever you might be. This can be experienced either alone or communally, and you don’t need to leave the comfort of your own home to participate. If it’s not possible to make the allotted time, hopefully you can join in at your convenience at some point during the following weeks. See update here:

The Plastic Ono Band was originally a vehicle for John Lennon’s collaborations with Yoko Ono, with whom he’d begun both a personal and an artistic relationship in 1968. The Beatles were still together at this point, and Yoko would become a scapegoat for their demise, the group eventually splitting in 1970.

The first Plastic Ono Band single would be ‘Give Peace A Chance’, recorded in a Montreal hotel room in July 1969 during the 2nd leg of the infamous ‘bed-in’ that followed John & Yoko’s Gibraltar wedding (the first bed-in was in Amsterdam). 2 further hits, ‘Cold Turkey’ and ‘Instant Karma’, would follow, as well as a live album, ‘Live Peace In Toronto 1969’, when the couple were joined on stage by musicians Eric Clapton (guitar), Klaus Voormann (bass), and Alan White (drums).

John & Yoko 1970

John & Yoko then recorded 2 albums simultaneously, the covers of which were identical, apart from the positioning of the couple, who were lazing under tree. One was called ‘Yoko Ono / Plastic Ono Band’, the other ‘John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band’ – the first solo offering by the former Beatle. Co-produced by Phil Spector (although he was absent for much of the recording, John & Yoko doing the lion’s share of work), Klaus Voormann and Ringo Starr, along with John, made up the core musicians, with Billy Preston and Spector playing piano on a track apiece, ‘God’ and ‘Love’.

The LP was also referred to as the ‘primal’ or ‘primal scream’ album, because it was recorded just after the Lennon’s had undergone primal therapy with the American psychologist Arthur Janov, whose book ‘The Primal Scream’ had made a big impression on the couple, especially John, for whom it touched a particularly personal chord, enabling him to express the long-repressed childhood pain that had shaped his life. These raw emotions informed ‘John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band’, which Rolling Stone magazine, when placing it at #23 on its list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, described as ‘a pure, raw core of confession that, in its echo-drenched, garage-rock crudity, is years ahead of punk’.

Whilst 1971’s more polished ‘Imagine’ was the most commercially successful Lennon solo album, ‘John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band’ remains, for my money, the quintessential release by any of the ex-Beatles – an album of real heart and substance, documenting with honesty and artistic integrity John’s emotional and mental state at that critical juncture in his career, with The Beatles behind him and his move to New York still ahead.

Your own thoughts are always welcomed, and, should you join us for Sunday’s session, it’d be great if you could leave a comment here after you’ve listened to the album sharing your impressions – how the music affected you, who you listened to it with, where you were, plus anything else relevant to your own individual / collective experience.

John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band Wikipedia:

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5 Responses to Living To Music – John Lennon ‘John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band’

  1. Murph April 3, 2013 at 11:47 am #

    A truly outstanding album with brutally honest lyrics as well as Lennon using his brilliant sense of melody to make it emminently listenable. Could you imagine for example what the album would sound like if Roger Waters had written and sung it? Lennon also uses affectionate pastiche on the album, Billy Prestons piano playing on ‘God’ is reminiscent of ‘Love Letters’, ‘Remember’ has Lennon doing his Elvis impression and one other noticable thing on the album is the drumming. It’s Ringo and whenever Ringo drums on any Beatles solo album, it sounds so right, as to be taken for granted. This was the most natural album Lennon made until he made the now poignant ‘Double Fantasy’ LP some ten years later.

  2. Lou Lou April 7, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

    How sad. A album to break your heart to. Bit of a rollercoster of emotions throughout. It sounds so raw.

    I loved the really bass heavy one in particular but just found it basically heartbreaking. Just a lad, longing for his mum.

    On the whole I thoroughly enjoyed it. Nothing like a good cry to clear the head and be thankful for who you are and what you can do.

    Thanks Greg. I’d never heard this whole album before. Beautiful choice.

  3. TC April 8, 2013 at 9:30 am #

    This is John Lennon at his most auto-biographical, raw and honest. Marks a place in time in his life when he was stripping away the layers of ego. The tough lad, The Beatle and truly opening his heart to love and vulnerability. Shedding his skin as the 60’s faded into myth. The dream was over. I love the rawness of it and it dawned on me last night that tracks such as Well, Well, Well are simply jams left in their raw state. I could also hear where artists such as Bowie were influenced in the coming years. It has a pre-punk sensibility. The lyrics on this album are some of Lennon’s most powerfully charged as he invites us to bear witness to his catharsis . This is a man looking back through his life at what made him him and stating in no uncertain terms where he’s at presently. Like reading someone’s diary.

  4. Paul Wright April 9, 2013 at 8:53 pm #

    First time listening to this album, I’d only ever heard Love before, a really beautiful song. I knew John Lennon was expressive in his vocal deliveries but as Greg eluded to, Mother and Well, Well, Well were beyond that, an unleashing of raw emotion, quite disturbing. I was feared for him and his vocal chords as I listened in parts. Good for him to get that out though.

    I also found the album quite raw and John really exposes his thoughts and emotions at the time. Some cynicism, disillusionment; he shows his vulnerability and lack of self worth. What is great to hear too is the self reassurance and self belief coming back. The true legend that he is, the feelings of love still glimmer through the darkness.

    So glad and grateful he got through it. Nice choice Greg.

    All The Best

  5. BrianE April 10, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

    I guess this is the closest any of us who hadn’t actually met John Lennon will ever get to him. Definitely one from the heart, full of sadness, joy and personal memory’s from his turbulent early and subsequent lifelife. Yes it was raw, painful and REAL. So good to hear an album that actually means something as opposed to hearing commercial releases. But I guess he was in a position to say whatever he wanted to say having been a former member of the world’s biggest band. He certainly didn’t have anything to prove at this point in his life. There are some great tracks as well as perhaps a couple of ‘album fillers’ such as ‘Well Well’. From a musical point of view I really liked the ‘minimalistic’ opening track with just one chord every bar (or whatever itt was) and the drums holding it together……… love the drum sound throughout. I have this album on vinyl but haven’t heard it for years. I really should hook up Cerri’s dad’s old record player…………

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