Label: Vigotone, VT-175
Record Plant Rehearsal 7/13/74
1 Steel And Glass
2 Going Down On Love
3 Move Over Ms. L
4 Surprise Surprise (Sweet Bird of Paradox)
5 Beef Jerky
7 Old Dirt Road
8 Bless You
9 Whatever Gets You Through The Night
10 Nobody Loves You (When You're Down and Out)
Alternate Takes and Rough Mix - July '74
11 Move Over Ms. L
12 Bless You
13 Beef Jerky
14 Whatever Gets You Through The Night
15 What You Got
16 Move Over Ms. L
17 Whatever Gets You Through The Night
18 (It's All Da-Da-Down To) Goodnight Vienna
These ought to get you through the night! Enclosed are over three and a half hours of uncommonly superb studio offerings and historically significant home recordings. As the good doctor himself once said, "PLAY LOUD!" You'll be glad you did.
Listen To This Text.
HERE WE GO AGAIN...no, we're not referring to the John Lennon song of that name, but this, the next exciting chapter from the Lennon archives. Walls And Bridges was the 1974 result of John's latter "lost weekend" period, somewhat repeating the successful formula of solo outings that he and his former mates had been busy with the previous year. Although unbeknownst at the time, this album provided several "lasts" in John's career...his last Number One hit single (his first as a solo artist) and album prior to his death, his last true concert performance (his 1974 Thanksgiving Day appearance with Elton John as a result of the pair's offhand wager), and his last true solo effort of original material.
Having started to clean up his act during the production of Harry Nilsson's Pussycats LP earlier in the year, John began the process of assembling his own album. Somewhat unusual was the lack of availability of older material to draw from, having used up most of his left-over songs from the political days on Mind Games, and the songs that he contributed to the Pussycats and Goodnight Vienna albums. Thus, Lennon found himself in "craftsman" mode, having to come up with material to order, although not without influences from his L.A. days and new "Pangs" of conscience. Not to say that it didn't result in some fine music; it certainly did. But it also led to perhaps the most commercial sounding album he would produce.
After assembling classic solo Beatle sidemen Jim Keltner, Klaus Voorman and Jesse Ed Davis in the studio, John conducted rehearsals of most of the songs that would eventually appear on Walls And Bridges. Some of these rehearsals would later be released on 1986's Menlove Avenue in remixed and edited form. The complete and unedited tapes from the mid-July session appear here. The sparseness of the line-up, especially in the "harder" numbers, almost give us a "Plastic Ono Band" version of the Walls And Bridges album. Following the run-throughs on disc one of Listen To This are a handful of rough mixes and alternate takes, exhibiting the songs in a more advanced state. The finalized, commercially issued recordings also featured the talents of Nicky Hopkins (piano), Ken Ascher (piano and keyboards) and Arthur Jenkins (percussion) as well as guest appearances by Harry Nilsson (vocals), Elton John (piano and vocals) and Julian Lennon (drums). Closing disc one is the familiar studio of "Goodnight Vienna", recorded during this era, and presented here from an alternate source. Unfortunately, this recording has been subjected to what has been termed "tapus interuptus".
Listen To These Songs.
Not surprisingly, John's later recollections of many of his Walls And Bridges songs were not always to forthcoming or revealing...after all, it's a little discomforting to talk about some songs written for your girlfriend when your wife is in the room.
Going Down On Love Definitely a "craftsman-like" number, the resulting jazz-tinged performance belies the more ballad style evident on the acoustic demos appearing on disc three. However, the following piano demo shows the change to a more straightforward approach. "This song really speaks for itself. I can't describe it" was how John put it in a radio interview on KSAN radio in San Francisco in September, 1974. And so it does.
Whatever Gets You Through The Night Just as "Please Please Me" was originally written in a slow tempo and then speeded up to become the Beatles' first number one single, this song also benefited from a tempo change and became John's first solo number one hit. "How that record came about was that Elton John was in town and I was doing it and needed a harmony" John told Andy Peebles in his 1980 BBC interview. "He did the harmony on that and a couple more, and played beautiful piano on it, and jokingly he was telling me he was going to do this Madison Square Garden concert and he said, will you do it with me if the record's number one? And I did not expect it to get to number one at all. I didn't think it had a chance in hell, because my, you know, I wasn't being very well received on any level then, you know, with my Kotexes and the hamburgers or whatever. And it was the first number one I had actually. "Imagine" wasn't number one. "Instant Karma" wasn't number one, which I think were all better records than "Whatever Gets You Through The Night."
Old Dirt Road was a collaboration with Nilsson from the Pussycats era. "Just to write a song" John told Andy Peebles again in 1980. "You know, seeing as we're stuck in this bottle of vodka together, we might as well try and do something." Nilsson would go on to release his own version of the song six years later on his U.K. only LP Flash Harry.
What You Got One of the demos included here shows an early rockabilly approach as John works out this one out...with a few lyrics of Little Richard nicked for good measure. He tries again with softer run-through on un-amplified electric guitar, with early attempts at some lyrics dropped along the way. "That's talking about Yoko. You don't really know what you got till you lose it", John told David Sheff for Playboy in 1980.
Bless You "...is again about Yoko", said John again to Playboy. "I think Mick Jagger took 'Bless You' and turned it into 'Miss You'. Wherever you are, child on a shooting star...the engineer kept wanting me to speed that up...he said, 'This is a hit song if you'd just do it fast.' He was right. 'Cause as 'Miss You' it turned into a hit. I like Mick's record better. I have no ill feelings about it. I think it's a great Stones track and I really love it. But I do hear that lick in it."
Scared Undoubtedly inspired by a bout of desperation during the lost weekend, John recalled to Dennis Elsas "at the moment I was writing it that's how I felt, but now I'm quite happy thank you." We're glad to hear it.
#9 Dream "This song started out with the working title 'Walls And Bridges'." John recounted to Andy Peebles "It got to about number nine actually. That's what I call craftsmanship writing, meaning I just churned that out. I'm not putting it down, it's just what it is, but I sat down and wrote it, you know, with no real inspiration based on a dream I had. But I though, I need a track. I wrote it around the string arrangement I'd written for Harry Nilsson's album I produced. 'Many Rivers To Cross', the Jimmy Cliff number I'd done this string arrangement for and it was such a nice melody on the strings. I thought this is a tune, you know, so I just wrote words to the string arrangement. That was '#9 Dream', kind of psychedelic, dreamy kind of thing."
Surprise, Surprise (Sweet Bird Of Paradox) Perhaps John's most explicit ode of lust to girlfriend May Pang. John seems to express himself very emotionally at what she had done for him. And how did he remember it six years later?... "Just a piece of garbage" he said. Included here are two straight-forward demos.
Steel And Glass One of the heavier songs of this collection and one of the nastier ones as well. It takes some obvious verbal swipes at out-of-favor former manager Allen Klein, although John was never too forthcoming on that score. "I was trying to write something nasty" he stated, "and I don't really feel that nasty, but there's some interesting musical stuff on it...Allen Klein doesn't have an L.A. tan does he? So it must be a combination of resentments. It's about a few people but it doesn't mean anything." Right John, and "How Do You Sleep?" wasn't really about Paul, either.
Beef Jerky As evident from even the first studio rehearsal session, this song seems to have been fairly well-developed even at such an early stage. " I get off on this because I don't have to hear my voice all the time" John told listeners on KSAN radio. "That was an instrumental that I had the lick. The thing is I couldn't, whenever I played the lick on the guitar, I couldn't sing it and play it at the same time, so I never got any lyrics for it, so it ended up an instrumental. And I'm rather glad of it, really."
Nobody Love You (When You're Down And Out) Once again referring to the lost weekend John told David Sheff "I wrote 'Nobody Love You (When You're Down And Out)' during that time. That's how I felt. It exactly expresses the whole period. For some reason, I always imagined Sinatra singing that one. I don't know why. It's kind of a Sinatraesque song, really. He would do a perfect job with it. Are you listening, Frank? You need a song that isn't a piece of nothing. Here's one for you, the horn arrangement and everything's made for you. But don't ask me to produce it."
Ya Ya Sadly, no alternate versions of this father-son duet have come to light. Perhaps somewhere in the Lost Julian tapes...
Move Over Ms. L Destined for a B-side fate, this tune from these sessions addressed to the missing in action Mrs. Lennon ironically is presented here with a home demo recorded while the current flame/paramour is heard making a phone call. Ouch! The studio rehearsal version and subsequent session take show Lennon still able to call upon his formidable rock and roll skills to turn this into a pretty slick track.
Curiously, we get a glimpse into a bit of John's personal world through some of his TV viewing choices. We have already experienced John's frustrating habit of recording over previously used tapes. In this instance, we hear a television report on the U.S. House Judiciary Committee hearings surrounding the impeachment of Richard Nixon recorded as the end of a tape that John was using to document a playback session (see disc 2 track 8). It seems as if he had somewhat of a passing interest in the downfall of the administration that was the cause of much of his grief at the time. These hearings began on July 24, 1974, just as post-production of the LP was starting up.
Wrapping up disc three, as promised last time around, we pick up where wee left off with a continuation of John's composing tape for "Steel And Glass". John fumbles with a repetitive chord pattern and nonsensical lyrics before improvising "The Boat Song" and running out of tape. Unfortunately, some of the home demo material on disc three is a little challenging in regards to sound quality. However, we feel that these recordings are significant enough to warrant their inclusion in this package. Rest assured, this is not the bottom of the barrel.
Listen To This Advert.
The ad campaign was called "Listen To This..." and the basic ad was simply a picture of John's eyes. There was a "Listen To This Billboard, "Listen To This Press Kit," "Listen To This T-shirt," even "Listen To This Bus." John would embark on quite a bit of promotional activity pushing Walls And Bridges. Perhaps the two most famous plugs are his guest DJ appearances on WNEW in New York City on September 28 and the preceding day on KHJ in Los Angeles. Also notable is the brief interview by Howard Cosell on Monday Night Football on December 9, (where, ironically, the first reports of his death that many would hear would be announced nearly six years to the day later). He also appeared on the Today show, talking about his immigration status as well as the Beatles' own film history "The Long And Winding Road" (!).
In fact, he would continue right into 1975 as his appearances began to promote his next project of rock and roll oldies. Finding himself now with the formerly elusive Spector tapes from the Moldies But Oldies project begun in late 1973, Lennon proceeded to salvage what tracks he could and recruited the Wall And Bridges crew to quickly lay down some new ones to finish what would become Rock 'N' Roll which we will cover in our next adventure... You Should Be There.