L is for Lennon: John and Yoko

Lennon’s lead guitar work on Walking on Thin Ice, which he recorded 8 December 1980, was his final creative act.

JohnandYokoJohn Lennon met Yoko Ono at an art gallery in November 1966. Very soon, the thing that would really bug Paul, George, and Ringo was that SHE was in the studio with John and them; this had been the Beatles’ nexus, but now he’s bringing in his girlfriend?

Her vocals would eventually show up on Beatles songs, notably Revolution 9 from the white album, and the very strange song What’s The New Mary Jane [LISTEN, if you want] which actually never made it onto a legitimate record until the third Beatles Anthology album, released in the 1990s.

They did a number of albums together, including a couple avant garde albums called Unfinished Music. Two Virgins had the infamous nude cover; the CD release added the Yoko song Remember Love [LISTEN], the B-side to the Plastic Ono Band single, Give Peace A Chance [LISTEN].

The Life with the Lions, which corresponded with Yoko’s miscarriage, also had extra material for the CD release. This was followed by The Wedding Album, with side 1 filled with John yelling “Yoko!” and Yoko screaming, “John!”; at least side two was an informative interview.

Live Peace in Toronto was interesting, with Eric Clapton and “Revolver” cover artist Klaus Voorman playing with John. Side two was all Yoko, mostly experimental stuff. LISTEN for yourself to the whole album.

Almost saw John & Yoko at an antiwar demonstration in 1972 or 1973. We had taken a charted bus down from New Paltz, NY to NYC, but we had to get back at the appointed hour. While we were on the bus, still in Manhattan, we heard John on the radio at the rally we had just left only minutes earlier. Speaking of war: Yoko and a bunch of kids appear on Merry Xmas (War is Over) [LISTEN]. Likewise John regularly appears as guitarist and/or producer on songs she recorded in the 1970s.

They had their famous breakup, the “Lost Weekend”, but got back together in late 1974, then had a son together, Sean, on John’s 35th birthday, October 9, 1975.

When John decided to go back into recording in 1980, Yoko was inarguably an equal musical partner, with their songs alternating on Double Fantasy and the album after John’s death, Milk and Honey. No song better reflects, for me, John’s evolution as a person than Woman, from the former album.

Perhaps my favorite Yoko song is Walking on Thin Ice:

Released in 1981. She and John Lennon concluded the recording of the song on December 8, 1980. It was upon their return from the recording studio to The Dakota (their home in New York City) that Lennon was murdered… Lennon was clutching a tape of a final mix when he was shot.

Lennon’s lead guitar work on the track, which he recorded [that day], was his final creative act.

The B-side was It Happened [LISTEN], which starts with dialogue between John and Yoko, before she sings. Here’s a list, with links, to Yoko’s best songs, including the aforementioned Walking on Thin Ice.

Yoko has continued to record, as well as keep John’s music in the public eye. Sean is a recording artist as well, and I got to see him play a few years back.


ABC Wednesday – Round 14

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

21 thoughts on “L is for Lennon: John and Yoko”

  1. I always found John Lennon very talented, like the other Beatles , but I don’t know what to think of Yoko Ono. They did ridiculous things together. Was their music any better by it?
    Wil, ABCW Team

  2. I just KNEW you were doing this one for L-week…..or The Lennon Sisters! 🙂 Was never a big fan of Yoko. He was such a phenomenal talent.

  3. There’s still an astonishing lot of hatred out there for Yoko Ono. She is accused of being The Harpy Who Broke Up The Beatles. But it was John who brought her into the studio and into the magical tight-knit circle that was The Beatles. I never hear anyone blame the man for the disruption. Was it a deliberate ploy by John to bust up the Beatles?

  4. I am not surprised by your ‘L’ choice, Roger and pleased to learn a lot I didn’t know, (being of the wrong generation)!

  5. I have seen John’s house where he lived as a child and as a “Beatle” in Liverpool. I was quite surprised, I thought he grew up in a very poor area but actually it was a very nice house and area !
    ABC team

  6. They were truly a fascinating couple. I have a photograph of them in my classroom, as part of a collection of gifted individuals that have influenced our lives. Blessings!

  7. Great stuff. I have a few Yoko CDs; my favorite song of hers is “What a Bastard the World Is” off the album Approximately Infinite Universe. I have a lot of respect for her as an artist, and John Lennon has always been a hero of mine. He shows that–even if it was tragically cut short–you can come through rage and anger and find happiness and build a life. That’s a big deal for me.

  8. You reminded me I have that Plastic Ono Band Give Peace a Chance single, I may have to dive into the storage box and give it a spin. John is one of the great “what ifs” of a life cut shot.

  9. Long live Lennon! I was very little when I started seeing that long, straight hair that was Yoko. So that’s how she sounds…. Seriously it’s my first time to really listen to her. Thanks for the link (It Happened).

  10. Being a teenager in the Sixties and coming from LIVERPOOL UK, the Beatles were the biggest thing in my life then.
    We used to go down to the Cavern Club in Matthew Street to watch them, they were quite raw then, their biggest breakthrough was a ballad called ‘LOVE Me Do’…they appeared on TV, that was it, then, they hit the ‘big time’.
    They had a triumphant return to Liverpool after their first visit to America, I was at the front of the crowd and a kindly policeman let my friend and I in front of the barrier with a promise that we didn’t rush forward when they arrived in their LIMO, When they got out of the car we were in touching distance and actually managed to touch John’s sleeve and Pauls hand,
    I don’t think I washed that hand for a week.
    Nobody in LIVERPOOL liked Yoko and held her solely responsible for the break up of the Beatles….
    It was such an exciting time I could weep for those days, not a care in the world!
    I had every LP they made during that era, I di like John singing Imagine and Woman, I really couldn’t take to Yoko at all, We saw her at the Liverpool John Lennon Airport when she unveiled at bronze statue of him…she was gracious enough but I couldn’t help thinking, if it wasn’t for her influence over John, he would be still alive…C`est la vie !
    RIP John Lennon
    RIP George Harrison too.

    Thank you for such an interesting post, I shall be catching up on some of the music I’ve missed,

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