The Ballad of John and Yoko
|"The Ballad of John and Yoko"|
US picture sleeve
|Single by The Beatles|
|B-side||"Old Brown Shoe"|
|Released||30 May 1969|
|Recorded||14 April 1969
EMI Studios, London
|Genre||Rock and roll|
|The Beatles singles chronology|
"The Ballad of John and Yoko" is a song written by John Lennon, 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.
Authored by Lennon while on his honeymoon in Paris, 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. "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."
The song was recorded without George Harrison (who was on holiday) and Ringo Starr (who was filming The Magic Christian). In Barry Miles' 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. 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!"
- John Lennon – lead vocal, lead guitars, acoustic guitar, percussion
- Paul McCartney – harmony vocal, bass, drums, piano, maracas
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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!"
- Finnish singer-songwriter Kari Peitsamo recorded a Finnish version of the song called Balladi Kari Peitsamosta in 1978.
- Brazilian rock band Titãs recorded a Portuguese language version of the song for their 1984 self-titled debut album.
- Dave Edmunds at John Lennon tribute concert in Liverpool 1990
- Beatallica recorded a mashup of the song and Metallica's "Battery" titled "The Battery of Jaymz and Yoko", on their 2009 album Masterful Mystery Tour.
- Israeli singer Arik Einstein and The Churchills recorded a Hebrew version of the song.
- American jam band Widespread Panic has performed the song live on multiple occasions and an acoustic version is featured on their 2012 album Wood (Widespread Panic album).
- Scottish band Teenage Fanclub released a cover of the song as a single (1990) and on their B-Sides and rarities compilation album 'Deep Fried Fanclub'.
- "The Beatles - The Ballad of John and Yoko". AllMusic. Retrieved November 23, 2014.
- RIAA 2009.
- Smith 1980, JOHN: "I wrote that in Paris on our honeymoon. It's a piece of journalism. It's a folk song.".
- Official UK Charts 2009.
- 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.".
- 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.".
- Miles 1997, p. 551: "John brought it round to Paul's house on 14 April 1969 for him to help complete".
- "48 - 'The Ballad of John and Yoko'". 100 Greatest Beatles Songs. Rolling Stone. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- Miles 1997, p. 551.
- Lewisohn 1988, p. 173.
- MacDonald 2005, p. 345.
- Lewisohn 1988, p. 200.
- Fong-Torres 1969.
- Cross 2005, pp. 539–540.
- "The Top 1,043 Classic Rock Songs of All Time: Dirty Dozenth Edition". Q1043.com.
- Wallgren 1982, p. 55.
- "Beatles - The Ballad of John and Yoko". Official UK Charts Company. 2009. Retrieved 28 November 2009.[dead link]
- Cross, Craig (2005). The Beatles: Day-by-Day, Song-by-Song, Record-by-Record. Lincoln: iUniverse, Inc. ISBN 0-595-34663-4.
- Fong-Torres, Ben (26 July 1969). "Christ, They Know It Ain't Easy". Rolling Stone.
When 'Ballad' was released in late May, dozens of stations immediately announced a ban. Program directors have called the casual reference to the deity 'profane,' 'sacrilegious,' 'offensive,' and 'generally objectionable.'
- Fontenot, Robert (2010). "The Ballad of John and Yoko". About.com.
- Harry, Bill (2003). The Paul McCartney Encyclopedia. Virgin Books. ISBN 978-0-7535-0716-2.
- Lewisohn, Mark (1988). The Beatles Recording Sessions. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 0-517-57066-1.
- MacDonald, Ian (2005). Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties (Second Revised ed.). London: Pimlico (Rand). ISBN 1-84413-828-3.
- Miles, Barry (1997). Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now. Henry Holt & Company. ISBN 0-8050-5248-8.
- "RIAA Gold & Platinum Searchable Database - The Beatles Gold Singles". RIAA. 2009. Retrieved 20 July 2009.
- Smith, Alan (3 May 1969). "Beatles Music Straightforward on Next Album". New Music Express.
- Smith, Alan. "Beatles Ultimate Experience: Songwriting & Recording Database". New Music Express.
- Wallgren, Mark (1982). The Beatles on Record. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-45682-2.
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