John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
|John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band|
|Studio album by John Lennon|
|Released||11 December 1970|
|Recorded||26 September – 23 October 1970|
|Studio||Abbey Road Studios, London; Ascot Sound Studios, Sunninghill, Berkshire|
|Producer||John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Phil Spector|
|John Lennon chronology|
|Singles from John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band|
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band is the debut solo album by English musician John Lennon. It was released in 1970, after Lennon had issued three experimental albums with Yoko Ono and Live Peace in Toronto 1969, a live performance in Toronto credited to the Plastic Ono Band. The album was recorded simultaneously with Ono's debut avant-garde solo album, Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band, at Ascot Sound Studios and Abbey Road Studios using the same musicians and production team and nearly identical cover artwork.
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band is generally considered one of Lennon's finest solo albums, documenting with honesty and artistic integrity his emotional and mental state at that point in his career. In 1987, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it fourth in its list "The 100 Best Albums of the Last Twenty Years" and in 2012, ranked it number 23 in "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time".
– Arthur Janov, on Lennon's psychological state
Following the Beatles' break-up in April 1970, John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono undertook primal therapy with the guidance of Arthur Janov for four weeks at his London offices, before the three flew to Los Angeles to continue the therapy for four months. Janov's therapy technique emphasised emotionally reliving repressed childhood traumas rather than analytical discussion. In July 1970, Lennon started to record demos of songs he wrote that would show up on John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, and on one particular day, the 26th, Lennon recorded numerous demos of his song "God", which includes the line "I don't believe in Beatles". Lennon's therapy was never completed due to the expiry of his US visa. With the experience he received from the therapy, he was able to channel his emotions into an album's worth of self-revelatory material.
Having exhausted the extensions of their American visas, Lennon and Ono returned from the US on 15 September 1970. Recording began at Abbey Road Studios between 26 September and 27 October 1970 using Lennon, Klaus Voormann, and Ringo Starr as the core musicians, with Phil Spector and Billy Preston each playing piano on a track. The group jammed to a variety of songs in between recording new tracks: "When a Boy Meets a Girl", "That's All Right Mama", "Glad All Over", "Honey Don't", "Don't Be Cruel", "Hound Dog", and "Matchbox". "Plastic Ono Band" refers to the conceptual band Lennon and Ono had formed in 1969 of various supporting musicians they would use on their various solo albums. Lennon asked Spector, who had produced Lennon's hit "Instant Karma!" earlier that year, to co-produce the album. Spector played piano on "Love", but Lennon and Ono produced the album largely on their own, as Spector was unavailable during most of the recording sessions. Spector mixed the album for three days toward the end of October.
Music and lyrics
Lennon's experience in primal therapy strongly influenced both the lyrical content of the album, pushing him toward themes of child-parent relationships and psychological suffering, and the simple yet intense style of the album's music. Throughout the album Lennon touches on many personal issues: his abandonment by his parents, in "Mother"; the means by which young people are made into soldiers, in "Working Class Hero"; a reminder that, despite his rage and pain, Lennon still embraces "Love"; and "God", a renunciation of external saviours. In the piano-driven climax of "God," after listing a handful of "idols" he does not believe in, including Jesus, Hitler, Elvis, Zimmerman (Bob Dylan), and Beatles, Lennon proclaims that he believes only in himself and Ono.
"Look at Me" dates from the period of The Beatles, and is built on a fingerpicking guitar pattern very similar to the one Lennon used in "Dear Prudence", "Happiness Is a Warm Gun", and "Julia". Donovan claimed that he taught Lennon this technique while the two were in Rishikesh. The album was released in Japan under the title ジョンの魂 (John no Tamashii), which translates as "John's Soul".
Lennon's album cover is almost identical to Ono's companion piece, the subtle difference being that on Ono's cover, she is lying on Lennon's body. The photo was snapped at Lennon's Tittenhurst Park estate with a consumer-grade Instamatic camera by actor Dan Richter, who also worked as an assistant for the Lennons at the time. The initial compact disc issue of the album listed the title and artist, while the 2000 remastered version restores the original artwork. In addition, the original LP had no track listing on the back cover, which instead showed a school photo of Lennon in his youth.
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band was released in both the UK and US on 11 December 1970, the same day as Yoko Ono's matching album. "Mother", backed with Ono's track "Why", was released as a single in the US. 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 1] In 2000, Ono supervised a remixing of John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band for its remastered CD reissue, including two bonus tracks: Lennon's 1971 hit "Power to the People", and "Do the Oz", which had appeared on the 1998 box set John Lennon Anthology. In 2003, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab reissued the album in 24-karat Gold CD audio and 180 gram half-speed mastered GAIN 2 Ultra Analog in vinyl reissues. In 2010, a digital remaster of Lennon's entire discography was released, using original mixes and artwork.
Reception and legacy
|Christgau's Record Guide||A|
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band was received with high critical praise upon release. Critic Greil Marcus remarked, "John's singing in the last verse of 'God' may be the finest in all of rock." In early 1971, the album reached number eight on the UK and went to number six in the US, spending eighteen weeks in the Top 100. The album was particularly successful in the Netherlands, knocking George Harrison's blockbuster All Things Must Pass from the top of the chart and remaining at number one for seven consecutive weeks. Robert Christgau named it the best album of 1970 in his year-end list for The Village Voice, and in a decade-end list, he ranked it 21st best from the 1970s. In a retrospective review for Rolling Stone, he wrote that the lyrics are political, existential, and carefully thought, while Spector's production is elegantly simple so each instrument resonates, including Lennon's voice: "Left out in the open, without protective harmonies or racket, Lennon's singing takes on an expressive specificity that anyone in search of the century's great vocal performances would be foolish to overlook."
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band is generally considered one of Lennon's finest solo albums. In 2000, Q placed John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band at number 62 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever. In 1987, the album was ranked fourth on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 best albums of the period 1967–87, and in 2003, it was placed at number 22 in the magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. In 2006, the album was placed by Pitchfork Media at number 60 of its Top 100 Albums of the 1970s. In 2006, the album was chosen by Time as one of the 100 best albums of all time.
All songs written by John Lennon, except where noted.
- "Mother" – 5:34
- "Hold On" – 1:52
- "I Found Out" – 3:37
- "Working Class Hero" – 3:48
- "Isolation" – 2:51
- "Remember" – 4:33
- "Love" – 3:21
- "Well Well Well" – 5:59
- "Look at Me" – 2:53
- "God" – 4:09
- "My Mummy's Dead" – 0:49
2000 reissue bonus tracks
- John Lennon – vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, piano, keyboards
- Ringo Starr – drums
- Klaus Voormann – bass guitar
- Phil Spector – piano on "Love"
- Billy Preston – piano on "God"
- Yoko Ono – "wind"
- Mal Evans – "tea and sympathy"
|United States (RIAA)||Gold|
- UK EMI JLB8
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