Well Well Well (John Lennon song)
|"Well Well Well"|
|Song by John Lennon from the album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band|
|Released||11 December 1970|
|Genre||Hard rock, blues rock|
|Producer||John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Phil Spector|
|John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band track listing|
Lyrics and music
The lyrics of "Well Well Well" describe mundane incidents from Lennon's daily life with wife Yoko Ono. Incidents described include eating a meal together, going for a walk, and discussing current events such as "revolution" and "women's liberation." The song also describes the uneasiness the couple feel during these events, but which they cannot understand. Authors Ben Urish and Ken Bielen suggest that this uneasiness is due to guilt the couple feel about being able to talk about issues but having the luxury of deciding whether or not to take action.
One line of the song refers to Yoko Ono as "she looked so beautiful I could eat her." Music critic Wilfrid Mellers interprets this line as evidence of a "cannibalistic impulse" to the song. However, critic Johnny Rogan believes it is more likely simply a reference to oral sex. Early lyrics for the song used a slightly different line: "she looked so beautiful I could wee." This is a variation of a commonly used phrase meaning "Supremely beautiful; aesthetically pleasing."§
The melody of "Well Well Well" is pentatonic, incorporating a proper tritone. In the stanzas there is little harmony other than the instruments doubling the vocal line and the thumping drum. The chorus is in call and response form, and uses triadic harmony.
Instrumentation for "Well Well Well" is provided by Lennon, Klaus Voorman and Ringo Starr performing as a power trio with Lennon on guitar, Voorman on bass and Starr on drums. Rock journalist Paul du Noyer describes Lennon's guitar playing as "clenched" and "grunge-like" and claims that Starr's drumming is "some of Ringo's toughest." Urish and Bielen suggest that Lennon's guitar playing on the song and on Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band were an influence on punk rock. Music critic Johnny Rogan comments on the "thumping bass drum" which, along with Lennon's guitar playing makes "Well Well Well" the "heaviest and loudest" song on Plastic Ono Band. Author John Blaney describes the rhythm track as "pulsing," claiming it "echoes the beating hearts" from Lennon's earlier song "John & Yoko" from The Wedding Album.
Lennon's singing on the song ranges between tender and ferocious. In the middle section he screams the song's title with particular abandon. Authors Chip Madinger and Mark Easter call this "the most tortured-larynx singing of John's career. Mellers attributes the screams of the title phrase at the end of the song to Lennon capitulating "to the infant's hysteria, traumatically howling for the maternal breast," as a result of Lennon undergoing Arthur Janov's primal therapy at the time he wrote the song.
Music critic Robert Christgau describes "Well Well Well" as an "unsung great song." Rolling Stone Magazine critic Stephen Holden considers the "furious howls" on "Well Well Well," as well as two other John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band songs–"Mother" and "Isolation"– to be unprecedented in rock 'n' roll. Music critic Paul Evans claims that the Plastic Ono Band songs "Well Well Well" and "I Found Out" are "tougher rock than nearly anything released before the Sex Pistols."
The musicians who performed on the original recording were as follows:
Lennon played "Well Well Well" live in concert twice, at the One on One benefit concerts at Madison Square Garden on 30 August 1972. A heavily edited version of the matinee performance was included on the album and video Live in New York City. Urish and Bielen note that the live version is taken at a quicker pace than the studio version, which they believe makes it one of the stronger songs on Live in New York City. Music critic Johnny Rogan, though not considering "Well Well Well" to be one of the strongest songs on Plastic Ono Band, notes that the live performance "works remarkably well." On the other hand, Allmusic critic Richard Ginell calls the live performance "a perfunctory run-through."
An acoustic version of "Well Well Well" was released on the 2004 album Acoustic. The instrumentation on this version include just Lennon playing acoustic guitar. This version of the song contains the line "She looked so beautiful I could wee" instead of "She looked so beautiful I could eat her." Urish and Bielen raise the possibility that since Lennon was singing in a nasal voice and dropping some consonants, he may have been actually singing "She looked so beautiful I could weep." Allmusic critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine calls the Acoustic version "lean, mean...with a heavily phased vocal."
A small portion of "Well Well Well" appears within "Something More Abstract," a bonus track on the CD version of the Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band album. On this version, Ringo Starr and Klaus Voorman get to briefly play drums and bass before Yoko Ono tells them play "something more abstract."
Super 8 covered "Well Well Well" for the 1995 tribute album Working Class Hero: A Tribute to John Lennon. It was included in the soundtrack to Martin Scorsese's film, The Departed, and also in the Showtime series, Brotherhood.
- Blaney, J. (2007). Lennon and McCartney: together alone : a critical discography of their solo work. Jawbone Press. pp. 35, 38, 173, 266–267. ISBN 9781906002022.
- Urish, B. & Bielen, K. (2007). The Words and Music of John Lennon. Praeger. pp. 22, 96, 115. ISBN 978-0-275-99180-7.
- du Noyer, P. (1999). John Lennon: Whatever Gets You Through the Night. Thunder's Mouth Press. p. 33. ISBN 1560252103.
- Rogan, J. (1997). The Complete Guide to the Music of John Lennon. Omnius Press. pp. 43–44, 136. ISBN 0711955999.
- Mellers, W. (1973). The Music of the Beatles: Twilight of the Gods. Schirmer Books. pp. 163–165. ISBN 0670735981.
- Madinger, C. & Easter, M. (2000). Eight Arms to Hold You. 44.1 Productions. pp. 36, 39, 79–84. ISBN 0-615-11724-4.
- Christgau, R.. "John Lennon". robertchristgau.com. Retrieved 19 December 2012.
- Holden, S. (7 December 2010). "Lennon's Music: A Range of Genius". Rolling Stone Magazine. Retrieved 20 December 2012.
- Evans, P. (2004). Brackett, N. & Hoard, C., ed. The Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 481–482. ISBN 0743201698.
- Blaney, John (2005). John Lennon: Listen To This Book. Guildford, Great Britain: Biddles Ltd. p. 60. ISBN 0-9544528-1-X.
- Ginell, R.S. "Live in New York City". Allmusic. Retrieved 16 December 2012.
- Erlewine, S.T.. "Acoustic". Allmusic. Retrieved 16 December 2012.
- "Soundtracks for The Departed". imdb. Retrieved 1 January 2013.