|Single by Plastic Ono Band|
|B-side||"Don't Worry Kyoko (Mummy's Only Looking for a Hand in the Snow)" by Yoko Ono|
|Released||20 October 1969 (US)
24 October 1969 (UK)
|Recorded||30 September 1969 at EMI Studios, London|
|Producer(s)||John Lennon, Yoko Ono|
|Plastic Ono Band singles chronology|
"Cold Turkey" is a song written by John Lennon, released as a single in 1969 by the Plastic Ono Band on Apple Records, catalogue Apples 1001 in the United Kingdom, Apple 1813 in the United States. It is the second solo single issued by Lennon, and it peaked at number 30 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 14 on the UK Singles Chart. The song's first appearance on an album was Live Peace in Toronto 1969 where the song had been performed live on 13 September 1969 with Lennon reading the lyrics off a clip-board.
Writing and recording
According to Peter Brown in his book The Love You Make, the song was written in a "creative outburst" following Lennon and Yoko Ono going "cold turkey" from their brief heroin addictions. However Lennon's personal assistant in the late 1970s Fred Seaman claimed otherwise, stating that Lennon confided in him that the song was actually about a severe case of food poisoning suffered by John and Yoko after eating Christmas leftovers "cold turkey". Lennon thought people would laugh at him if they knew the truth about the song's origin, so he said it was inspired by his recent heroin withdrawal. Brown states that Lennon presented the song to Paul McCartney as a potential single by The Beatles, as they were finishing recording for their Abbey Road album, but was refused and released it as a Plastic Ono Band single with sole writing credits to him.
"Cold Turkey" was the first song Lennon wrote for which he took sole credit; his previous compositions, including his first single release, "Give Peace a Chance", were attributed to the Lennon–McCartney partnership, although the credit for "Give Peace a Chance" was later changed to Lennon alone. It was recorded in Abbey Road Studio 2, and features Eric Clapton. There are other versions besides the single, several of which are acoustic, and a live version included on Live in New York City that features Ono adding vocalizations.
Release and reception
The single was released with a standard green Apple label, with the words "Play Loud" printed on the spindle plug of the UK pressing and above and beneath the spindle hole of the US pressing. This instruction would also appear on the labels of Lennon's next solo single, "Instant Karma!".
"Cold Turkey" rose to number 14 on the UK Singles Chart on 15 November 1969. On 22 November, "Cold Turkey" dropped to number 15, and on 25 November Lennon returned his MBE to Buckingham Palace saying "I am returning this MBE in protest against Britain's involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam, and against Cold Turkey slipping down the charts. With love, John Lennon of Bag."  In March 2005, Q magazine placed "Cold Turkey" at number 74 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks.
The original single cover art features Lennon's head with glasses on an X-ray image. An alternative sleeve with the X-ray photographs of John and Yoko side by side, rather than on either side of the cover, was issued in several European countries. The Japanese version includes a colour photo of both in a smaller size.
Its first public performance on September 13, 1969, was recorded and released on the Live Peace in Toronto 1969 album by Plastic Ono Band which included Lennon, Yoko Ono, Eric Clapton, Klaus Voormann, and Alan White. Yoko introduced it as the newest song written by John; John added that the band had never played the song together as a group before. He also performed this song on 15 December 1969, along with "Don't Worry Kyoko (Mummy's Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow)", at the Lyceum Ballroom with more members of the Plastic Ono Band. This version would be available on his Some Time in New York City album. Lennon performed the song again, at two Madison Square Garden shows, on 30 August 1972.
- John Lennon – lead and backing vocals, lead and rhythm guitar
- Eric Clapton – lead guitar
- Klaus Voormann – bass
- Ringo Starr – drums
|Canadian RPM Singles Chart||30|
|Dutch Top 40||39|
|UK Singles Chart||14|
|US Billboard Pop Singles||30|
|US Cashbox Top 100||32|
- Freddie Hubbard recorded an instrumental version in 1970, as an outtake from his CTI Records album, Red Clay. Hubbard's version, featuring Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson, Ron Carter and Lenny White, is influenced by funk and free jazz.
- A live recording of the song appears on the 1979 LP A Can of Bees by the Soft Boys.
- The Godfathers recorded a version of the song in 1986 with producer Vic Maile; the song was first released on a 1986 compilation album called Hit by Hit that included their three early 12" singles.
- The track was also covered by PiL originator/guitarist Keith Levene on his solo album Violent Opposition in 1989.
- Cheap Trick recorded two versions of the song in 1994. One went on the album Working Class Hero: A Tribute to John Lennon, and the other was released on one of the Bun E.'s Basement Bootleg albums.
- Beki Bondage of Vice Squad released a version on her 2000 solo covers album also called Cold Turkey.
- Lenny Kravitz recorded a version for the 2007 benefit album Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur.
- Billy Talent did a cover for it on the B-side for their single "Rusted from the Rain" in 2009.
- Most recently, Alice Cooper covered the song with his supergroup Hollywood Vampires on their debut album, released September 11, 2015.
- Ben Urish; Kenneth G. Bielen (2007). The Words and Music of John Lennon. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 14–15. ISBN 978-0-275-99180-7.
- John Blaney (2005). John Lennon: Listen to This Book. Paper Jukebox. p. 41. ISBN 978-0-9544528-1-0.
- "John Lennon Discography". Homepage.ntlworld.com. Retrieved 31 March 2013.
- Brown, Peter. The Love You Make: An Insider's Story of The Beatles. McGraw-Hill, 1983. New American Library, 2002. 331.
- Noyer, Paul Du (2010). "John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band". John Lennon: The Stories Behind Every Song 1970–1980 (Rev. ed.). London: Carlton Books Ltd. pp. 25–26. ISBN 978-1-84732-665-2.
- Seaman, Frederic. (1991). The Last Days of John Lennon: A Personal Memoir.
- Noyer, Paul Du (2010). "John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band". John Lennon: The Stories Behind Every Song 1970–1980 (Rev. ed.). London: Carlton Books Ltd. p. 27. ISBN 978-1-84732-665-2.
- "John Lennon - Give peace A Chance". Jpgr.co.uk.
- "GIVE PEACE A CHANCE (Legal Title) BMI Work #476096". BMI.com. Retrieved 24 October 2009.
- Noyer, Paul Du (2010). "Shining On". John Lennon: The Stories Behind Every Song 1970–1980 (Rev. ed.). London: Carlton Books Ltd. p. 14. ISBN 978-1-84732-665-2.
- "Images for Plastic Ono Band, The - Cold Turkey / Don't Worry Kyoko (Mummy's Only Looking For A Hand In The Snow)". Discogs.com. Retrieved 4 July 2012.
- "Images for Plastic Ono Band* - Cold Turkey / Don't Worry Kyoko (Mummy's Only Looking For A Hand In The Snow)". Discogs.com. Retrieved 4 July 2012.
- "Images for Lennon* With Plastic Ono Band, The - Instant Karma". Discogs.com. Retrieved 4 July 2012.
- "Images for John Ono Lennon* - Instant Karma (We All Shine On)". Discogs.com. Retrieved 4 July 2012.
- MBE that John Lennon returned in protest is found
- Noyer, Paul Du (2010). "John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band". John Lennon: The Stories Behind Every Song 1970–1980 (Rev. ed.). London: Carlton Books Ltd. p. 28. ISBN 978-1-84732-665-2.
- Blaney, John (2005). John Lennon: Listen to This Book (illustrated ed.). [S.l.]: Paper Jukebox. p. 41. ISBN 978-0-9544528-1-0.
- "Top Singles - Volume 12, No. 19, December 27, 1969". RPM. Retrieved 7 February 2011.
- "De Nederlandse Top 40, week 50, 1969". Retrieved 5 December 2008.
- "JOHN LENNON | Artist". Official Charts. Retrieved 24 March 2013.
- "Allmusic - John Lennon - Billboard Singles". Retrieved 5 December 2008.
- Blaney, John (2005). John Lennon: Listen to This Book (illustrated ed.). [S.l.]: Paper Jukebox. p. 326. ISBN 978-0-9544528-1-0.
- Liner notes for original 1986 release of Hit by Hit (Link Records #009). Retrieved 17 Feb 2011.
- John Lennon - Cold Turkey at Graham Calkin's Beatles Pages