Rock 'n' Roll (John Lennon album)
|Rock 'n' Roll|
|Studio album by John Lennon|
|Released||17 February 1975|
|Recorded||A&M Studios, October 1973;
Record Plant Studios (East), 21–25 October 1974
|Genre||Rock and roll|
|Producer||John Lennon and Phil Spector|
|John Lennon chronology|
|Singles from Rock 'n' Roll|
Rock 'n' Roll is the sixth studio album by John Lennon. Released in 1975, it is an album of late 1950s and early 1960s songs as covered by Lennon. Recording the album was problematic and spanned an entire year: Phil Spector produced sessions in October 1973 at A&M Studios, and Lennon produced sessions in October 1974 at Record Plant Studios (East). Lennon was being sued by Morris Levy over copyright infringement of one line in his song "Come Together", as part of an agreement, Lennon had to include three Levy-owned songs on Rock 'n' Roll. Spector ran away with the session recordings, later being involved in a motor accident, which left the album's tracks unrecoverable until the beginning of the Walls and Bridges sessions. With Walls and Bridges coming out first, featuring one Levy-owned song, Levy sued Lennon expecting to see Lennon's Rock 'n' Roll album.
The album was released in February 1975, reaching number 6 in both the United Kingdom and the United States, later being certified gold in both countries. The album was supported by the single "Stand by Me", which peaked at number 20 in the US, and 30 in the UK. The album's cover was taken by Jürgen Vollmer during the Beatles' stay in Hamburg. The album would be Lennon's last until 1980; he took a hiatus from recording to raise his son, Sean Lennon.
In 1969, Lennon composed the song "Come Together" for The Beatles album Abbey Road. Inspired by the Chuck Berry tune "You Can't Catch Me", it bore too much of a melodic resemblance to the original—and Lennon took the third line of the second verse ("Here come old flat-top") for the new lyric. Publisher Morris Levy brought a lawsuit for infringement, and the case was due to be heard in a New York court in December 1973. The case was later settled out of court, with the argreement that, according to an announcement by Levy, Lennon had to "record three songs by Big Seven publishers on his next album. The songs [he] intends to record at this time are "You Can't Catch Me", "Angel Baby" and "Ya Ya"." Lennon had the right to change the last two songs to any other songs that were published by Big Seven. In the meanwhile, Lennon had split with Yoko Ono and was living in Los Angeles with his personal assistant, May Pang. Nostalgia was a popular trend on film with American Graffiti and television was readying the series, Happy Days (Lennon and Pang had even visited the set). Lennon, rather than writing his own songs, and partly inspired by his arrangement to include at least three songs from Levy's publishing company catalogue, Big Seven Music; decided to record an album of oldies as his next release, following on from Mind Games.
Lennon initially teamed up with producer Phil Spector to record the album, letting Spector have full control. Spector chose some of the songs, booked the studio, and the musicians. When news got around that Lennon was in Hollywood making a record, every musician there wanted to be part of the sessions. In mid-October 1973, sessions were booked at A&M Studios, with many of them having over 30 musicians, but the sessions quickly fell into disarray—fuelled by alcohol. Spector once showed up dressed in a surgeon's outfit and shot a gun in the ceiling of the studio, hurting Lennon's ears. On another occasion, a bottle of whiskey had spilled on the A&M Studio's mixing console causing future sessions to be banned from the facility. Unknown to Lennon, each night Spector would remove the master tapes from the studio, and move them to his house. Spector then disappeared with the session tapes and would not be heard from for several months. Spector made one cryptic call to Lennon, claiming to have the "John Dean tapes" from the recent Watergate scandal; Lennon deduced that Spector meant he had the album's master tapes. When a car accident on 31 March 1974 left Spector in a coma, the project was put on indefinite hold. In mid-1974, Lennon returned to New York with Pang and began writing and recording a new album of original material, Walls and Bridges. Shortly before these sessions began, Al Coury, then-head of A&R/promotion for Capitol Records retrieved the Spector tapes. Not wanting to break stride, Lennon shelved the tapes and completed work on Walls and Bridges.
With Walls and Bridges coming out first, Lennon had reneged on his deal with Levy and he threatened to refile his lawsuit when Lennon explained to Levy what had happened, and assured him that the covers album was indeed in the works. Levy gave Lennon use of his farm in upstate New York to rehearse material. Lennon then recalled the session musicians from Walls and Bridges to complete the oldies tracks. Several tracks never made it past the rehearsal stage: "C'mon Everybody", "Thirty Days", "That'll Be the Day" – the band also played a few impromptu jams. On 21 October, Lennon went into Record Plant East, completing the oldies tracks in a few days. Lennon wanted the musicians to stay close to the original arrangements of the songs, apart from "Do You Wanna Dance?". Mixing and editing lasted until mid-November. To assure him progress was being made, Lennon gave Levy a rough tape of the sessions to review. Levy took the tapes and pressed his own version of the album called Roots: John Lennon Sings the Great Rock & Roll Hits on his record label, Adam VIII, then proceeded to sue Lennon, EMI and Capitol for $42 million for breach of contract. Capitol/EMI quickly sought an injunction. After two trials, in which Lennon had to convince the court of the difference between a rough version and a final take, Levy won $6,795 in damages, and Lennon won $144,700, in February 1976. The album was originally scheduled for release in April 1975, however, in February 1975, Capitol Records rush-released the official Rock 'n' Roll.
Reception and aftermath
The album was critically derided as "a step backward". The album was released on 17 February 1975 in the US,[nb 1] and a few days later in the UK, on 21 February 1975.[nb 2] It reached number 6 in both the United Kingdom and the United States. On 10 March and 18 April 1975, in the US[nb 3] and UK[nb 4] respectively, "Stand by Me" was released as a single, backed with "Move Over Ms. L", a song that was meant to appear on Walls and Bridges but cut from the final line-up. Peaking at 20 number in the US and number 30 in the UK. Lennon promoted the song by appearing on the BBC TV show Old Grey Whistle Test, which also featured an interview by Bob Harris. The show had Lennon singing live over the backing tracks of "Stand by Me" and "Slippin' and Slidin'". Lennon also appeared on Salute to Sir Lew – The Master Showman singing live again over backing tracks, this time for three songs: "Stand by Me", "Slippin' and Slidin'" and "Imagine". A second single, "Ain't That a Shame" b/w "Slippin N Slidin" (Apple 1883) was announced, promotional copies were pressed, but was never released. "Ya Ya", backed with "Be-Bop-A-Lula", was released as a single only in Germany, peaking at number 47 on the Media Control Charts.[nb 5] Lennon said the following about Rock 'n' Roll: "It started in '73 with Phil and fell apart. I ended up as part of mad, drunk scenes in Los Angeles and I finally finished it off on me own. And there was still problems with it up to the minute it came out. I can't begin to say, it's just barmy, there's a jinx on that album."
Not long after the album appeared, Lennon reconciled with Ono, and she soon became pregnant. Determined not to lose another baby after three consecutive miscarriages, Lennon decided to halt his musical career for his family. Sean Lennon would be born that October (on his father's 35th birthday); following the release of the compilation, Shaved Fish, Lennon would not return with a new release until 1980. "Stand by Me" was reissued in the US, with "Woman Is the Nigger of the World", on 4 April 1977.[nb 6] The album re-charted in the UK on 17 January 1981, at number 64. In the US, it was reissued in October 1980, also at budget price.[nb 7] The album was briefly reissued in the UK by the budget label Music for Pleasure with an alternative cover on 25 November 1981.[nb 8] After Lennon's death, the album, along with 7 other Lennon albums, was reissued by EMI as part of a box set, which was released in the UK on 15 June 1981.[nb 9] In 1981, Belgium and France issued the album, along with The Beatles' Rock 'n' Roll Music, as part of a box set.[nb 10] The album was first issued on CD on 26 May 1987.[nb 11] In 2004, Yoko Ono supervised the remixing of Rock 'n' Roll for its reissue, including four bonus tracks from the ill-fated Spector sessions. Other leftovers from the sessions had already appeared, as part of 1986's Menlove Ave.[nb 12] (a collection of outtakes) or the John Lennon Anthology box set. In 2010, the original album mixes were remastered, the album was available separately[nb 13] or as part of the John Lennon Signature Box.[nb 14]
Lennon planned to use some of his childhood drawings for the cover of his oldies album, and production had already begun when Lennon switched gears, so the artwork was used instead for Walls and Bridges. In September 1974, May Pang attended the first Beatlefest convention at Lennon's behest, and met Jürgen Vollmer, an old friend of the Beatles from Hamburg, Germany, who had photographed the band from their Hamburg days. He was selling some striking portraits, and Pang immediately phoned Lennon to tell him of her find. Reuniting with Vollmer in New York, Lennon chose one of his photos for the album's cover.
The photo depicts Lennon in a doorway with three blurry figures walking past him in the foreground. Those figures are Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Stu Sutcliffe. The album's working title had been Oldies But Mouldies; no official title had been chosen until Lennon saw the neon sign prepared as cover art by John Uomoto, with Lennon's name and the words "ROCK 'N' ROLL" beneath. This struck Lennon in a positive way, and it became the album title.
All tracks produced and arranged by John Lennon, except † produced by Phil Spector, and arranged by Spector and Lennon.
- Side One
- "Be-Bop-A-Lula" (Tex Davis, Gene Vincent) – 2:39
- "Stand by Me" (Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller, Ben E. King) – 3:26
- "Medley: Rip It Up/Ready Teddy" (Robert 'Bumps' Blackwell, John Marascalco) – 1:33
- "You Can't Catch Me" † (Chuck Berry) – 4:51
- "Ain't That a Shame" (Fats Domino, Dave Bartholomew) – 2:38
- "Do You Wanna Dance?" (Bobby Freeman) – 3:15
- "Sweet Little Sixteen" † (Chuck Berry) – 3:01
- Side Two
- "Slippin' and Slidin'" (Eddie Bocage, Albert Collins, Richard Wayne Penniman, James H. Smith) – 2:16
- "Peggy Sue" (Jerry Allison, Norman Petty, Buddy Holly) – 2:06
- "Medley: Bring It On Home to Me/Send Me Some Lovin'" (Sam Cooke, John Marascalco, Leo Price) – 3:41
- "Bony Moronie" † (Larry Williams) – 3:47
- "Ya Ya" (Lee Dorsey, Clarence Lewis, Morgan Robinson) – 2:17
- "Just Because" † (Lloyd Price) – 4:25
- 2004 reissue bonus tracks
- "Angel Baby" † (Rosie Hamlin) – 3:44
- "To Know Her Is to Love Her" † (Phil Spector) – 4:31
- "Since My Baby Left Me" † (Arthur Crudup) – 4:40
- "Just Because (Reprise)" † – 1:25[nb 15]
- John Lennon: Guitars, vocals
- Jesse Ed Davis: Guitar
- Jim Calvert: Guitar
- Eddie Mottau: Acoustic guitar
- José Feliciano: Acoustic guitar
- Michael Hazelwood: Acoustic Guitar
- Steve Cropper: Guitar
- Klaus Voormann: Bass guitar, answer vocal on "Bring It On Home to Me"
- Leon Russell: Keyboards
- Ken Ascher: Keyboards
- Jim Keltner: Drums
- Hal Blaine: Drums
- Gary Mallaber: Drums
- Arthur Jenkins: Percussion
- Nino Tempo: Saxophone
- Jeff Barry: Horn
- Barry Mann: Horn
- Bobby Keys: Horn
- Peter Jameson: Horn
- Joseph Temperley: Horn
- Dennis Morouse: Horn
- Frank Vicari: Horn
Chart positions (reissue)
- US Apple SK 3419
- UK Apple PCS 7169
- US Apple APPLE 1881
- UK Apple R 5905
- Germany Apple 1C 006-05 924
- US Capitol/Starline 6244
- US Capitol SN-15969
- UK Music for Pleasure MFP 50522
- UK EMI JLB8
- France Music for Pleasure 4M128-54084/85/86
- UK Parlophone CDP 7 46707 2
- The songs are: "Angel Baby", "Since My Baby Left Me", "To Know Her Is to Love Her" and "Here We Go Again".
- UK EMI 906 5062
- Europe EMI 5099990650925
- Lennon adds "It's all down to Goodnight Vienna, I'd like to say hi to Ringo, Paul and, George ... how are you? (and) Everybody back home, in England ... what's cookin'?"
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- Blaney 2005, p. 155
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