The Ballad of John and Yoko

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"The Ballad of John and Yoko"
Single by The Beatles
B-side "Old Brown Shoe"
Released 30 May 1969
Format 7"
Recorded 14 April 1969
EMI Studios, London
Genre Rock
Length 2:59
Label Apple
Writer(s) Lennon–McCartney
Producer(s) George Martin
Certification Gold (RIAA)[1]
The Beatles singles chronology
"Get Back"
(1969)
"The Ballad of John and Yoko"
(1969)
"Something" / "Come Together"
(1969)

"The Ballad of John and Yoko" is a song written by John Lennon,[2][3] attributed to Lennon–McCartney as was the custom, and released by the Beatles as a single in May 1969. The song, chronicling the events surrounding Lennon’s marriage to Yoko Ono, was the Beatles’ 17th and final UK number one single.[4]

Writing[edit]

Authored by Lennon while on his honeymoon in Paris,[3] it tells of the events of his marriage, in March 1969, to Ono, and their publicly held honeymoon activities, including their "Bed-In" at the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel and their demonstration of "bagism".

Lennon brought the song to McCartney’s home on 14 April 1969, before recording it that evening.[5][6][7] "Paul knew that people were being nasty to John, and he just wanted to make it well for him," said Ono. "Paul has a very brotherly side to him."[8]

Recording[edit]

The song was recorded without George Harrison (who was on holiday) and Ringo Starr (who was filming The Magic Christian).[9][10] In his biography, McCartney recalls that Lennon had a sudden inspiration for the song and had suggested that the two of them should record it immediately, without waiting for the other Beatles to return.[9] Reflecting this somewhat unusual situation, the session recordings include the following exchange:

Lennon (on guitar): "Go a bit faster, Ringo!"
McCartney (on drums): "OK, George!"[9]

This session also marked the return of Geoff Emerick as recording engineer of a Beatle session after he quit working with the group during the tense White Album sessions nine months earlier.[10]

Personnel[edit]

Per Ian MacDonald[11] and Mark Lewisohn:[10]

Release[edit]

Backed with Harrison’s "Old Brown Shoe", the single was released in the United Kingdom on 30 May 1969; Lennon and Ono were performing a second Bed-In at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal at the time. The United States release followed a few days later on 4 June.[12]

In the UK and Europe, it was the first Beatles single to be released in stereo. It was therefore the first release not given a mono mix.[10]

The song has been included on several compilation albums: Hey Jude (US, 1970), 1967–1970 (1973), 20 Greatest Hits (UK, 1982), Past Masters (1988) and 1 (2000).

An uncredited 20-second sample of the song is used in the title track of Timothy Leary's 1970 album You Can Be Anyone This Time Around, with Leary's words: "You can be anyone this time around; John and Yoko this time around" spoken over the sample.

The last drumbeat is louder on the single releases than the albums.

Reception[edit]

Several US radio stations declined to broadcast the song[13][14] because of what they saw as sacrilegious use of the words Christ and crucify in the chorus:

Christ, you know it ain’t easy,
You know how hard it can be,
The way things are going,
They’re gonna crucify me.

"The Ballad of John and Yoko" never appeared on the surveys of either WLS in Chicago nor WABC in New York, two of the largest Top 40 stations in the U.S.

The song was ranked as the 404th best song of all time by Q104.3[15]

The Spanish government under Franco objected to the song because of its statement, "Peter Brown called to say, 'You can make it OK, you can get married in Gibraltar near Spain.'" The status of Gibraltar is a long-running subject of debate between Spain and the United Kingdom.[2]

The single became the Beatles' 17th and final UK number one;[4] it reached number eight in the US.[16]

When cartoonist Al Capp visited John Lennon and Yoko Ono at their 1969 Bed-In for Peace in Montreal, Capp pointedly asked Lennon about the meaning of the lyrics of the song. Their testy exchange later appeared in the 1988 documentary film Imagine: John Lennon. On Capp's exit, Lennon sang an impromptu version with a slightly revised, but nonetheless prophetic lyric: "Christ, you know it ain't easy / You know how hard it can be / The way things are goin' / They're gonna crucify Capp!"

Cover versions[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ RIAA 2009.
  2. ^ a b Fontenot.
  3. ^ a b Smith 1980, JOHN: "I wrote that in Paris on our honeymoon. It's a piece of journalism. It's a folk song.".
  4. ^ a b Official UK Charts 2009.
  5. ^ Smith 1988, PAUL: "John came to me and said, 'I've got this song about our wedding and it's called The Ballad Of John And Yoko.' He came around to my house, wanting to do it really quick. He needed to record it so we just ran in and did it.".
  6. ^ Harry 2003, 'B': "On Monday 14 April 1969 John brought the number around to Paul's house in Cavendish Avenue for him to aid in its completion.".
  7. ^ Miles 1997, p. 551: "John brought it round to Paul's house on 14 April 1969 for him to help complete".
  8. ^ "48 - 'The Ballad of John and Yoko'". 100 Greatest Beatles Songs. Rolling Stone. Retrieved 20 June 2012. 
  9. ^ a b c Miles 1997, p. 551.
  10. ^ a b c d Lewisohn 1988, p. 173.
  11. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 345.
  12. ^ Lewisohn 1988, p. 200.
  13. ^ Fong-Torres 1969.
  14. ^ Cross 2005, pp. 539–540.
  15. ^ "The Top 1,043 Classic Rock Songs of All Time: Dirty Dozenth Edition". Q1043.com. 
  16. ^ Wallgren 1982, p. 55.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Dizzy" by Tommy Roe
UK number one single
11 June 1969 (three weeks)
Succeeded by
"Something in the Air" by Thunderclap Newman

oh yeah