Some Time in New York City
|Some Time in New York City|
|Studio album and Live album by John Lennon and Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band with Elephant's Memory & Invisible Strings|
|Released||12 June 1972|
|Recorded||Studio: December 1971 – 20 March 1972
Live: 15 December 1969, at Lyceum Ballroom, London
6 June 1971, at Fillmore East, New York City
|Producer||John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Phil Spector|
|John Lennon chronology|
|Yoko Ono chronology|
|Singles from Some Time in New York City|
Released in 1972, it is John Lennon's third post-Beatles solo album, fifth with Yoko Ono, and third with producer Phil Spector. Some Time in New York City fared poorly critically and commercially compared to Lennon's previous two albums, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Imagine.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono moved to New York City in September 1971 and continued their involvement in political, peace and social justice causes of the counterculture era. When they eventually settled in Greenwich Village, in October, they were quickly contacted by activists Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman who persuaded them to appear at a rally for left-wing writer John Sinclair, who was jailed for possession of two marijuana joints. The Lennons also spoke out on the Attica Prison riots, jailing of Angela Davis and oppression of women. On 12 November, Lennon taped numerous demos of "The Luck of the Irish", which was filmed, and titled Luck of the Irish – A Videotape by John Reilly. On 9 December, Lennon and Ono flew to Ann Arbor in Michigan, for the John Sinclair rally, which was due to start the following day. On the morning before the rally, Lennon was recorded playing the song "Chords of Fame" with Phil Ochs. At the rally itself, Lennon and Ono played tracks that would end up on Some Time in New York City: "Attica State", "The Luck of the Irish", "Sisters O Sisters" and "John Sinclair". The performance was filmed, and included in the short film Ten for Two which was shown at Ann Arbor sometime in December.[nb 1]
Lennon and Ono, along with David Peel, performed Peel's "The Ballad of New York", on The David Frost Show, with Lennon playing tea-chest bass. The trio, now joined by The Lower East Side Band, played the same set of songs that Lennon and Ono had played at the John Sinclair rally, with the exception of a diminutive version of "The Luck of the Irish". This episode was recorded on 16 December 1971 and broadcast on 13 January 1972. The next day, Lennon and Ono performed at a benefit concert for families of victims of the Attica Prison riot at the Apollo Theater, playing acoustic versions of "Imagine", "Attica State", and "Sisters, O Sisters". By January 1972, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had opened a file on the Lennons, fearing they would organise the youth vote and prevent a second term for President Richard Nixon. Soon, the government would begin deportation proceedings against the couple, and the FBI began intense surveillance, documenting their every move.
The original double album contained the live album Live Jam containing the Plastic Ono Supergroup's 15 December 1969 live performance of "Cold Turkey" and "Don't Worry Kyoko (Mummy's Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow)"[nb 2] at the Lyceum Ballroom in London, from a UNICEF charity show, billed as the "Peace for Christmas Concert". In addition to Lennon and Ono, as part of the super group among others was former-Beatle George Harrison, The Who's drummer Keith Moon, Delaney & Bonnie, Billy Preston and Legs Larry Smith. Harrison, who before the performance had been touring with Delaney & Bonnie, was excited by Lennon's proposal over a phone call when asked if he wanted to play with him. The ballroom had its interior cover by posters declaring "WAR IS OVER, if you want it, love John and Yoko. For "Cold Turkey", Ono had sat inside a white bag which was located near Lennon's feet, while for "Don't Worry Kyoko (Mummy's Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow)", Ono jumped out of the bag, facing the crowd, and proceeded to scream at them. As the latter song got towards the end of its performance, Ono broke down crying. An early mix of the two tracks was arranged by the Abbey Road Studios engineers on 26 November 1970, and was sent to Lennon and Ono. The album also featured a recording of Lennon and Ono performing with Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention at the Fillmore East on 6 June 1971, which they performed with after the persistence of Andy Warhol. The performance was documented after Ono had arranged for someone to film it. Klaus Voormann overdubbed his bass at a later date.
Throughout January, until the 21st, Lennon personally mixed the live album, at Record Plant. Lennon also mixed the recordings of the John Sinclair rally, the Apollo Theatre and Lyceum Ballroom performances, for possible release as EPs; however, only the Lyceum performance ended up being released. Lennon and Ono, with the assistance of studio drummer Jim Keltner, hired Elephant's Memory, a local band known for their hard partying and anti-establishment musical style, to back them for a series of albums and live performances. Lennon once again brought in Phil Spector to co-produce the new studio album, which was completed on 20 March 1972. Around this time, Lennon and Ono were producing Elephant's Memory's self-titled album. Several jams were recorded featuring Lennon and Elephant's Memory, all of which remained unreleased: "Don't Be Cruel", "Hound Dog", "Send Me Some Lovin'", "Roll Over Beethoven", "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On", "It'll Be Me", "Not Fade Away", "Ain't That a Shame" and "Caribbean".
Music and lyrics
The opening song of the studio album, "Woman Is the Nigger of the World" (a phrase Ono had coined in the late 1960s), was intended as a negation of sexism and was also issued as a single in the US to controversial reaction, and – as a consequence – little airplay and much banning. The Lennons went to great lengths (including a press conference attended by staff from Jet and Ebony magazines) to explain that the word "nigger" was being used in an allegorical sense and not as an affront to black people. A quote from Ron Dellums was featured in an issue of Billboard (referred to on an episode of The Dick Cavett Show), referring to the use of the word "nigger". Lennon's other tracks include the biographical "New York City", a Chuck Berry-styled rocker that details the Lennons' early months in their new home, as well as "John Sinclair", his musical plea for Sinclair's release from a ten-year sentence for giving two marijuana joints to an undercover policewoman.
Yoko Ono, very much a feminist supporter, responds musically with "Sisters, O Sisters", tackles the lacking education system with "Born in a Prison", and celebrates a culture of one in "We're All Water". In fact, this album is generally seen as the beginning of Ono's emergence as a songwriter after her rather challenging previous two releases. Together, Lennon and Ono lament police brutality in "Attica State", the hardships of war-torn Northern Ireland in "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "The Luck of the Irish", and pay tribute to Angela Davis with "Angela".
Some Time in New York City was issued in the US on 12 June 1972 but delayed until 15 September in the UK due to a dispute with Northern Songs over publishing rights on songs co-written by Lennon and Ono. The album was packaged like a newspaper, depicting the events covered in the album, causing even more consternation with an altered photo of Richard Nixon and Mao Zedong dancing nude together. (The photo was stickered over on many of the issued copies, with a non-removable seal.)
With most of the gatefold cover space taken up by printed lyrics and photographs, the album credits appeared on the first disc's inner sleeve. The customised label, featuring the face of Lennon morphing into Ono's, was created by Iain Macmillan. The inner sleeve for Live Jam featured Lennon's doodling over the cover of Zappa's album, Fillmore East - June 1971, adding his credits and commentary to Zappa's.
Although the UK release managed a number 11 chart peak, it only went to number 48 in the US. Lennon was reportedly stunned by the album's failure and consequently did not record new music for almost a year.
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
On release, Some Time in New York City provided a startling contrast for listeners expecting a repeat of the well-received Imagine in 1971. According to author Robert Rodriguez, the new album received "abysmal reviews". In a scathing critique published in Rolling Stone, Stephen Holden wrote that "the Lennons should be commended for their daring", but not before calling the album "incipient artistic suicide". Holden added: "except for 'John Sinclair' the songs are awful. The tunes are shallow and derivative and the words little more than sloppy nursery-rhymes that patronise the issues and individuals they seek to exalt. Only a monomaniacal smugness could allow the Lennons to think that this witless doggerel wouldn't insult the intelligence and feelings of any audience."
Dave Marsh wrote a mixed review for Creem, stating that "it's not half bad. It may be 49.9% bad, but not half." The Milwaukee Sentinel declared that John and Yoko had produced "another crude, superficial look at trendy leftist politics and have plunged even further into their endless echo chamber". In the NME, Tony Tyler presented his album review in the form of an open letter, titled "Lennon, you're a pathetic, ageing revolutionary". After criticising Lennon for "the general tastelessness of the presentation", particularly the album's lyrics and cover art, Tyler concluded: "Don't rely on cant and rigidity. Don't alienate. Stimulate. You know, like you used to."
More recently, Garry Mulholland of Uncut magazine has described Some Time in New York City as "a contender for the worst LP by a major musical figure, its list of '70s left-wing clichés hamstrung by the utter absence of conviction within the melodies and lyrics". Writing in the Boston Phoenix in 2005, Eliot Wilder said that listening to the album was "a painful experience". Although he conceded that Lennon "had his heart in the right place", Wilder opined: "these tracks – pedantic, topical, elitist – show that a latter-day Dylan he was not … Refer to the Beatles' 'Revolution' or his own 'Give Peace a Chance' if you need a dose of John the Protest Singer." More impressed, Mark Kemp of Paste considers that "the album has been unfairly chastised", and he identifies "Woman Is the Nigger of the World" as "one of Lennon's finest songs" and Ono's "Born in a Prison" as another highlight.
On 30 August 1972, Lennon and Ono performed two benefit concerts for the Willowbrook State School for the mentally challenged at Madison Square Garden, at friend Geraldo Rivera's request. The shows, known as One to One, were filmed and recorded, with the evening show broadcast on ABC Television, and the earlier matinée show compiled for release as the 1986 live album and video, Live in New York City. New York mayor John Lindsay declared the date "One to One Day". They proved to be Lennon's last full live concerts.
Zappa criticised the presentation of the Mothers performance on Some Time in New York City, as the vocals of Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan had been removed, and Zappa did not receive writing credit for "King Kong", which was wrongly identified on this release as "Jamrag". He and Lennon had also agreed that each would release their own version of the performance, but Zappa was legally prevented from issuing his version, which did not appear until the release of Playground Psychotics in 1992.
After Lennon's death, the album, along with seven other Lennon albums, was reissued by EMI as part of a box set, which was released in the UK on 15 June 1981.[nb 3] Some Time in New York City was remixed, remastered and reissued in November 2005 as a single CD, removing, in the process, several of the Live Jam cuts, while adding "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" and "Listen, the Snow Is Falling". On this remastered release, "John Sinclair" and "Attica State" were not remixed. In 2010, the album was digitally remastered in its original format.
All songs written by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, except where noted.
- Side one
- "Woman Is the Nigger of the World" – 5:15
- "Sisters, O Sisters" (Ono) – 3:46
- "Attica State" – 2:54
- "Born in a Prison" (Ono) – 4:03
- "New York City" (Lennon) – 4:30
- Side two
- "Sunday Bloody Sunday" – 5:00
- "The Luck of the Irish" – 2:56
- "John Sinclair" (Lennon) – 3:28
- "Angela" – 4:06
- "We're All Water" (Ono) – 7:11
- Side three
- Performed live at the Lyceum Ballroom in London, England on 15 December 1969, for a UNICEF charity concert
- Side four
- Recorded live at the Fillmore East in New York City with Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention on 6 June 1971
- "Well (Baby Please Don't Go)" (Walter Ward) – 4:41
- "Jamrag" (Lennon/Ono) – 5:36
- "Scumbag" (Lennon/Ono/Frank Zappa) – 4:27
- "Au" (Lennon/Ono) – 8:04
- Remixed version of Side 4
A remixed version of the live recordings captured on side four of Some Time in New York City was released in 1992 on Frank Zappa's album Playground Psychotics. The album features the recordings remixed, making Zappa more prominent in the mix, and in some cases, the songs were given new titles (i.e. "Say Please" and "Aaawk" are edited from the longer piece on SiNYC, "Jamrag", and "Au" is retitled "A Small Eternity With Yoko Ono"). The songs, which appear as tracks 22 through 26 on disc one of the CD, are denoted as follows:
|22.||"Well" (Walter Ward)||4:43|
|23.||"Say Please" (John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Zappa)||0:57|
|24.||"Aaawk" (Lennon, Ono, Zappa)||2:59|
|25.||"Scumbag" (Lennon, Ono, Howard Kaylan, Zappa. In this mix, Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan can be heard improvising lyrics, including "Now Yoko's in the scumbag". This is inaudible on Some Time in New York City.)||5:53|
|26.||"A Small Eternity with Yoko Ono" (Lennon, Ono)||6:07|
2005 CD reissue
This remixed/remastered edition, issued on a single disc, omits much of the live material with Zappa (though it is available in a different mix/edit on Zappa's Playground Psychotics) and includes two bonus tracks. Some of the track times, notably for "We're All Water" and "Don't Worry Kyoko", differ from those on the original vinyl LPs.
- "Woman Is the Nigger of the World" (Lennon/Ono) – 5:17
- "Sisters, O Sisters" (Ono) – 3:48
- "Attica State" (Lennon/Ono) – 2:55
- "Born in a Prison" (Ono) – 4:05
- "New York City" (Lennon) – 4:29
- "Sunday Bloody Sunday" (Lennon/Ono) – 5:03
- "The Luck of the Irish" (Lennon/Ono) – 2:59
- "John Sinclair" (Lennon) – 3:30
- "Angela" (Lennon/Ono) – 4:08
- "We're All Water" (Ono) – 5:19
- "Cold Turkey (Live Jam)" (Lennon) – 8:35
- "Don't Worry Kyoko (Live Jam)" (Ono) – 15:20
- "Well (Baby Please Don't Go) (Live Jam)" (Ward) – 4:33
- Bonus tracks
- "Listen, the Snow Is Falling" (Ono) – 3:06
- "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" (Lennon/Ono) – 3:34
- Elephant's Memory:
All credits taken from Lennon's handwritten credits on the Live Jam inner sleeve.
- 15 December 1969
- John Lennon – guitar, vocal
- Yoko Ono – bag, vocal
For everyone except himself and Ono, Lennon made up pseudonyms:
- Eric Clapton ('Derek Claptoe') – guitar
- Delaney & Bonnie ('Bilanie & Donnie') – guitar, percussion (and friends, brass, percussion)
- Jim Gordon ('Jim Bordom') – drums
- George Harrison ('George Harrisong') – guitar
- Nicky Hopkins ('Sticky Topkins') – electric piano (overdubbed in N.Y. as organ was lost)
- Bobby Keyes ('Robbie Knees') – sax
- Keith Moon ('Kief Spoon') – drums
- Billy Preston ('Billy Presstud') – organ
- Klaus Voormann ('Raus Doorman') – base (sic)
- Alan White ('Dallas White') – drums
- Jim Price – trumpet
- 6 June 1971
- John Lennon – guitar, vocals
- Yoko Ono – bag, vocals
- Aynsley Dunbar – drums
- Bob Harris – keyboards, vocals
- Howard Kaylan – vocals
- Jim Pons – bass guitar, vocals
- Don Preston – Mini-Moog
- Ian Underwood – keyboard, vocals, woodwinds
- Mark Volman – vocals
- Klaus Voormann – bass guitar, vocals
- Frank Zappa – guitar, vocals
- The title is rendered Sometime in New York City on the record label, inner jacket, and original compact disc.
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- Blake 1981, p. 91
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- Some Time in New York City at AllMusic
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At the same time John and Yoko claimed copyright on the entire jam, giving 'King Kong' the new title 'Jam Rag' (British slang for tampon)
- Zappa, Kurt (1988). The Rolling Stone interview with Frank Zappa. The Rolling Stone. Interview with Kurt Loder. Retrieved 5 February 2010. "They put out this record and took 'King Kong' – which obviously has a tune, and a rhythm, and chord changes – and they called it 'Jam Rag', and accredited the writing and publishing to themselves … the way they mixed it, you can't hear what Mark and Howard are singing."
- Blaney 2005, p. 203
- Some Time in New York City (Inner sleeve). John Lennon and Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band with Elephant's Memory & Invisible Strings. Apple, EMI. 1972.