Friday, June 27, 2014

Husband john extended his hand, extended his hand to his wife. and he finds, and suddenly he finds, that he has no hands (Yoko Ono) # 230 - 233

Yoko Ono  Open Your Box/ Power To The People (Apple Records, R 5892, 1971)

Yoko Ono  Mrs Lennon/ Midsummer New York (Apple Records, 1C 006-92940, 1971)

Yoko Ono  Death Of Samantha/ Yang Yang (Apple Records, Apple 47, 1973)

Yoko Ono  Run Run Run/ Men Men Men (Apple Records, Apple 48, 1973)

And so to Yoko. 

I know I'm a little way away from O in the countdown but Yoko's singles are a natural adjunct to Lennon's, particularly as she appeared regularly on his B sides. And I've catalogued them in my collection with John's singles.

So it's Yoko in a spotlight, and it's well deserved. Yoko is an acquired taste, I admit, but I love a lot of her stuff.

She challenges pre-conceptions, provides a freshness and an innovative vibe. She has great conceptual ideas and she is unique. So there!

Mrs Lennon is an exceptional song. That lyric in the title is jaw dropping. She was never afraid to get stuck into John. That honesty is refreshing.

Death Of Samantha and Run Run Run are less obviously singles material but they come from strong albums. In fact her first four Apple albums are amazingly varied. Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band , Fly, Approximately Infinite Universe and Feeling The Space are all corking albums that range from experimental noise to blistering rock and roll.

She's funny as well.

Hidden gems: John lends a hand on most of these B sides (in 1973's Feeling The Space he appeared on a couple of tracks only and not on the damning Men Men Men). Midsummer is a great rock song. It kicks off the first side of Fly in a super duper way.

Yang Yang is impressive too and to my mind would have been a better A side.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Your mind has changed the world (Yoko Ono) #226 - 229

John Lennon  (Just Like) Starting Over/ Kiss Kiss Kiss (Geffen Records, GEF49604, 1980)

John Lennon  Woman/ Beautiful Boys (Geffen Records, GEF49644, 1980)

John Lennon  Watching The Wheels/ Yes, I'm Your Angel (Geffen Records, GEF49695, 1980)

John Lennon  Nobody Told Me/ O'Sanity (Polydor 817 254-7, 1983)

Sadly - these are the final contributions to the John Lennon singles collection. 

Sadly because his murder ended an extraordinary sequence of singles and sadly because these final ones were not really classics of the genre. Boy that was tough to admit!

John was in a holding pattern in 1980 and the songs are pleasant and topical for him but they are a long way from Across The Universe, In My Life, Don't Let Me Down or even Good Morning Good Morning.

Thanks to the five years gap in recording John reentered the music biz behind the eight ball and no longer the force he was - even though he'd dwindled by 1975.

Therefore, Starting Over is pleasant in a retro Elvis/ Big O kind of way but it was hardly cutting edge - nor were the workmanlike but sappy Woman and the other two singles on display here.

There were some signs of a more gritty comeback with Nobody Told Me but... and the rest is mere speculation. I like to think that he wouldn't have succumbed to the nasty eighties production values that anchored that decade in time so firmly. But who knows.

Hidden gems: These singles re signaled the Yoko role as B side support in the singles and they are okay as far as they go. 

Yoko definitely had her ear to what was happening in the clubs and was much more adventurous than John with the sound design but ultimately her songs just aren't that memorable here.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Whenever you're in trouble won't you stand by me (Ben E. King) #222 - 225

John Lennon Stand By Me/ Move Over Ms. L. (Apple, NZP 3503, 1975 - France)

John Lennon Stand By Me/ Woman Is The Nigger Of The World (Starline, 6244, 1975 - USA)

Elton John Band/ featuring John Lennon I Saw Her Standing There; Whatever Gets You Through The Night/ Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (DJM, X11818, 1975)

John Lennon Jealous Guy/ Going Down On Love; Oh Yoko (Parlophone 12", GOOD 99, 1985)

These singles effectively take us up to the birth of Sean Lennon (October 9, 1975 - John's 35th birthday). We didn't know it at the time but John was about to hang up the guitar for a few years.

Nice then that he was singing old rock'n'roll songs from his youth. He sings the hell out of Stand By Me!

The Elton single contains only the songs he and John sang at the famous Madison Square Garden gig so it's rather wonderful to have them all together on one single.

Hidden gems: The strange Move Over Ms L is a definite gem. It's that rarest of beasts - an anti Yoko song by John. Okay it's on the playful side and therefore not quite Steel And Glass or How Do You Sleep but it still makes its point: I'll forgive your trespasses, if you forgive me mine.

John has his usual bob each way - move over Ms Lennon and I wish you well.

Nothing revelatory on the rest of the B sides I'm afraid but the 12 inch does have the wonderful Oh Yoko and the lesser known Going Down On Love which comes from Walls And Bridges

Friday, June 13, 2014

Chicken suckin', mother truckin', Meat City (John Lennon) #216 - 221

John Lennon Mind Games/ Meat City (Apple, 2C008 05494, 1973 - France)
John Lennon Mind Games/ Meat City (Apple, NZP 3463, 1973 - NZ)
John Lennon No. 9 Dream/ What You Got (Apple, 2C004 05776, 1974 - France)
John Lennon *9 Dream/ What You Got (Apple, NZP 3495, 1974 - NZ)
John Lennon Whatever Gets You Thru The Night/ Beef Jerky (Apple, 2C004 05731, 1974 - France) 
John Lennon Whatever Gets You Thru' The Night/ Beef Jerky (Apple, NZP 3486, 1974 - NZ)

By 1973 I was firmly into my John Lennon obsession and haunting Marbeck's Records in the Queen's Arcade (Auckland) for solo Beatles and Apple Records singles. 

I played the Mind Games album and single endlessly in 1973.

The other two A sides are from Walls And Bridges - a rather spotty album that reflects the turmoil of the Lennons' relationship. a formulaic hit song that I'm not that keen on, whereas No. 9 Dream is a well crafted, polished song - not really single material though I wouldn't have thought.

Hidden gems: No Yoko B sides this time out. Instead we have Meat City - a wonderful rock song which is slightly different to the album version (in the backwards bit John says 'buy the album').

Beef Jerky is an instrumental jam dressed up as a song. Not sure what the point was - Lennon's appeal is always in the singing of his lyrics, so take that away and you're left with a ho hum B side.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

We insult her every day on TV (John Ono Lennon) #210 - 215

John Lennon Woman Is The Nigger Of The World/ Sisters O Sisters (Apple, 2C006 05062, 1972 - France)
John Lennon Woman Is The Nigger Of The World/ Sisters O Sisters (Apple, NZP 3441, 1972 - NZ)
John Lennon Happy Xmas (War Is Over)/ Listen, The Snow Is Falling (Apple, NZP 3446, 1972 - NZ)
John Lennon Happy Xmas (War Is Over)/ Listen, The Snow Is Falling (Apple, A 10047, 1972 - Australia)
John Lennon Happy Xmas (War Is Over)/ Listen, The Snow Is Falling (Apple, R 5970, 1972 - UK, Green Vinyl) 

The next two Lennon/Ono singles are from the same time period but with completely different agendas.

While WITNOTW was all indignant feminist rant, Happy Xmas was an olde timey Christmas song (even though it had Hare Krishna mantras and a War Is Over, If You Want It message).

The man's a genius though because every year we dig out that Xmas jingle all over again and, blow me down, if it's not as fresh as a daisy every year.

The message on Woman... hasn't dated either - women are still treated badly every day in all sorts of ways, but that n word is a real problem that I wish he hadn't felt compelled to include.

Hidden gems: Sisters O Sisters is an admirable attempt at celebrating womanhood but, for me, it's just not a good idea to trivialise it so aggressively in a pop song like this. The converted will be okay but that's not what was intended by Yoko. She'd have been better to try a more oblique propaganda method for my money. 

Listen, The Snow Is Falling, however, shows what she can do when she's on her game and not trying too hard. I love this song.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Imagine your head filled with pencil leads (Yoko Ono) #203 - 209

John Lennon Power To The People/ Open Your Box (Apple, 2C006 04766, 1971 - France)
John Lennon Power To The People/ Open Your Box (Apple, NZP 3400, 1971 - NZ)
John Lennon Imagine/ It's So Hard (Parlophone, NZP 3412, 1971 - NZ)
John Lennon Imagine/ It's So Hard (Apple, 1840, 1971 - USA)
John Lennon Imagine/ It's So Hard (Apple, NZP 3412, 1971 - NZ)
John Lennon Imagine/ It's So Hard (Apple, 2C004 04940, 1971 - France)
John Lennon Imagine/ Working Class Hero (Apple, R 6009, 1971 - UK)

Seven versions of two JOL singles here, which provide a stark contrast to Lennon's personality.

Power To The People is a simple, loud, foot stomping rant and Imagine is, of course, the quietly delivered utopian vision for how the world should be, but never will. Probably. Maybe. I'd like to think I'm a dreamer too.

There has been a lot of commentary over the years on the song and its lyrics.

John was naive but not that naive. He knew what he was doing when he said Imagine no possessions. For me, this aligns to a spiritual quest: you have succeeded in life when all you really want is only what you really need (Vernon Howard).

Of the two, Imagine is the more powerful and more long lasting song. John always referenced his inspiration - lines from Yoko's Grapefruit book, but it's his song, not Yoko's.

Ironic that Yoko later turned into the uber business woman while John was looking after Sean, given that her initial thought had inspired John.

Hidden gems: Open Your Box is a Yoko song and a great one! There's definitely a playfully sexual vibe at work with lines like open your thighs, open for legs, open your flies and so on. Great musical support happening with John on guitar, old Beatles friend Klaus Voorman on bass and Jim Gordon drums. 

The other B sides come from John and were on the Imagine and the Plastic Ono Band albums. Working Class Hero is a classic in its own right.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Who has seen your dream? (Yoko Ono) #197 - 202

John Lennon Give Peace A Chance/ Remember Love (Apple, A 8833, 1969 - Australia)
John Lennon Cold Turkey/ Don't Worry, Kyoko (Apple, A 8967, 1969 - Australia)
John Lennon Mother/ Why (Apple, 1827, 1970 - USA)
John Lennon Instant Karma/ Who Has Seen The Wind? (Apple, APPLES 1003, 1970 - USA)
John Lennon Instant Karma/ Who Has Seen The Wind? (Parlophone, APPLES 1003, 1970 - New Zealand)
John Lennon Instant Karma/ Who Has Seen The Wind? (Apple, APPLE 9084, 1970 - Australia)

Okay - time for another deep breath. The next series of posts will focus on my hero - John Ono Lennon.

It'll get a tad messy at times because I have multiple versions of these singles - the differences centre mainly on the country of origin. The Apple and Parlophone labels will also differentiate them at times. 

The first batch gets underway with the legendary Give Peace A Chance and takes in two years work from 1969 to 1970 and, therefore, overlaps with Beatle John.

Give Peace works...somehow. All those name checks and yet it became an anthem. It also helps that it's a catchy damn toon.

Mother is a bizarre single's choice. This one was released in America at some point. It's not one of my favourite Lennon songs, I grant you, but who thought this could trouble the single's chart? 

Cold Turkey and Instant Karma are great singles though. They highlight JOL's talent for brutally self examining his pain and a pop hook. respectively. That grinding metallic guitar sound is amazing on Cold Turkey and the drum pattern on Karma sells the song.

Hidden gems: The B sides are all Yoko Ono songs - an idea that lasted until 1973 and the so called 'lost weekend' (with a couple of exceptions). I need to state at the outset that I'm a Yoko fan. So these are definitely gems.

Why (no question mark) is an amazing sonic adventure, helped by John's brutal guitar and Ringo's driving drums. 

Remember Love and Who Has Seen The Wind? are at the opposite end of the noise continuum. Soft guitar and lovely vocals from Yoko replace Why and Kyoko's screams.

As for Don't Worry, Kyoko - John famously declared it the best rock'n'roll song ever written - while I applaud his enthusiasm, he was biased. But Why? Now I might go along with that!

Monday, June 2, 2014

The hammer of the gods (Led Zeppelin) #196

Led Zeppelin Whole Lotta Love; Good Times Bad Times/ Immigrant Song; Hey Hey What Can I Do (Atlantic EP, EP A 220, 1973)

Led Zep were THE band to follow in the early seventies at my school. They were cool as heckfire.

They were an album band - they didn't rely on singles and they didn't need their name on albums (or even album names!). COOL!

This extended play is weird then - coming out in NZ in 1973 - the same year they were releasing Houses Of The Holy. It contains songs from the band's first three albums (1968 to 1970) and a B side from 1970 (the only non album song released during the band's existence).

The two A siders are stone cold classics. Good Times indeed!

Hidden gem: Hey Hey What Can I do began life as a B side to Immigrant Song so it's fitting that it's paired with that song here. 

Immigrant Song was the first Led Zeppelin song I heard and fell in love with (having bought Led Zeppelin III from a shop in Onehunga in 1970, IS is side one, track one).

Hey Hey... is a great track. It wouldn't have been out of place on LZ III so clearly it's a case of an embarrassment of riches. Bonham's drums, Jone's bass and Page's guitar are utterly distinctive and Plant's vocals are superb.