Monday, April 30, 2012

This Is Not Here

Yoko Ono's art exhibition, This Is Not Here, occupied the entire Everson Museum at Syracuse University from October 9th (John's 31st birthday) through the 27th, 1971. John and Yoko, along with museum director Jim Harithas, held a press conference at the Hotel Syracuse on October 5th to promote the event.

Yoko also gave some remarks and fielded questions at the museum on October 8th, the day prior to the opening. The next day, John looked on like a proud parent as the crowds explored and participated in Yoko's pieces.

Late that night, John's birthday was celebrated with a singalong party in their suite at the Hotel Syracuse, attended by Ringo and Maureen Starr, Phil Spector, Klaus Voormann, Allan Ginsberg, and Jonas Mekas, who shot a bit of footage:

John, Yoko, and Mekas participated in a bizarre (even by their standards) television show a few days later, apparently to promote the gallery show. Taped October 14th at a Syracuse TV studio, the program was 64 minutes of television without form or narrative, consisting of audience participation pieces culled from Yoko's career, extracts of her films, and exercises from Grapefruit, all tossed together in a surreal fashion. The result was aired on the WNET (public TV) series Free Time, to the bafflement of all:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Get It On And Rip It Off

Yoko's Fly LP was accompanied by a single, released September 29th, 1971 in the US, which paired two surprisingly conventional numbers from the album: the ballad "Mrs. Lennon" and the rocker "Midsummer New York".

She promoted the new releases in an interview at the St. Regis with WNEW-FM's Scott Muni, who had been interviewing John and his cohorts since their first New York visit in 1964. The first half of the interview is largely devoted to Yoko, but John participates, and takes a larger role in the second half. (Unfortunately, the circulating tape was dubbed on a machine with dying batteries, and speeds up dramatically as it reaches the end).

One of John and Yoko's final film projects was produced in their hotel suite that month. Titled Clock, in best Warhol fashion, it consisted of a one-hour continuous shot of the face of an alarm clock. Its only redeeming factor would have been the soundtrack, consisting of John singing Buddy Holly tunes and other oldies while strumming an acoustic guitar.

Perhaps the film's only screening (no copy circulates at present) was during Yoko's first major American art exhibition, in October at the Everson Museum in Syracuse, NY. John and Yoko talked about the preparations for that event to their old pal Howard Smith of WPLJ radio. The interview also found John defending himself against a number of attacks, both real and perceived, ranging from a letter in the Village Voice, to the lyrics of Ram, to George Martin, of all people!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What You Gonna Do Now?

Ringo Starr spent the summer of 1971 in Spain and Italy, co-starring in the ABKCO-produced spaghetti western, Blindman. Ringo played the role of a bandito named Candy, which just happened to be the title of an earlier Ringo movie.

The film premiered in Rome November 15th, 1971 and trickled into theatres worldwide over the next year or so, to poor reviews and minimal attendance. Ringo's only attempt at promoting the film was to compose a dreadful song, "Blindman", and sneak it out on the B-side of "Back Off Boogaloo" in the spring of 1972.

Apart from appearing at the Concert for Bangla Desh, Ringo's other major project that summer was the launching of a home furnishing design company, ROR Ltd., with partner Robin Cruikshank. The duo exhibited their wares that September at Liberty's department store, and Ringo recorded a message promoting the event. He also appeared on the BBC children's show Blue Peter September 16th to show off some of their steel and glass pieces (this footage survives but isn't circulating widely).

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Betty Rollin's Legs

Once they settled into their suite at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City, John and Yoko wasted no time hitting the promotional circuit. The Imagine LP was released in the US on September 7th, 1971, with Yoko's companion album, Fly, coming out later that month.

On September 2nd, John and Yoko were interviewed by a Japanese journalist about their new releases. With Yoko translating the queries and responses, the 20-minute recording has a minimum of Lennon content, but listen out for his Kabuki impression at the very end!

September 6th found visitors to the St. Regis suite, including George Harrison and Dick Cavett, stepping in front of the camera for the Imagine companion film. Cavett was there to meet the couple prior to interviewing them on his ABC talk show.

The conversation, videotaped September 8th, turned out to be one of John's most entertaining television appearances, and as such over-ran the 90-minute time slot. John and Yoko took up the whole show on September 21st, and a further 25 minutes of leftover material was slotted in on the 24th:

Another early September guest at the St. Regis was writer Peter McCabe, who was working (with Robert Schonfeld) on a book about the dismantling of The Beatles' financial empire, Apple To The Core. Highlights of McCabe's four-hour conversation with John were aired in a 1984 radio special which coincided with the publication of a book containing the full interview, John Lennon: For The Record.

Monday, April 16, 2012

1971 Beatleg Roundup

One of the more notable early Beatlegs appeared in August, 1971 on the Trademark Of Quality label. Yellow Matter Custard was the first of a plethora of titles to include Beatles BBC Radio performances - in this case, an exciting mixture of tunes from Pop Go The Beatles otherwise unreleased by the group (apart from "Slow Down"). Most purchasers probably had no clue about the source of the recordings, and even John Lennon assumed them to be Decca audition tapes when presented with the album later that year.

Other Beatlegs from 1971 covered the by-now familiar "Get Back" acetates (Let It Be - Live), the Let It Be film soundtrack (More Get Back Session), the Hollywood Bowl concert (Shea The Good Old Days), the Shea Stadium concert (Last Live Show), and the Fan Club flexis (Complete Christmas Collection 1963-1969). And the cannibalization had begun: one album paired half of Last Live Show with half of a Rolling Stones bootleg (Battle)!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Save Us From The Queen

In August, 1971, John Lennon spent his final days in England completing filming of Imagine and lending his name to a couple of causes.

Most conspicuous was his support of Oz magazine, whose editors were being prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act. John had composed a song, "God Save Oz", recording a demo in April and then producing an Apple single in May, performed by the "Elastic Oz Band" and released as "God Save Us" in July. John and Yoko recorded a quick promo to plug the song for radio play.

On August 5th, a verdict of guilty was handed down for all three defendants, along with a prison sentence (later overturned on appeal). John and Yoko wasted no time in taping a message of support the following day, for airing on pirate station Radio Free London.

On August 11th, John and Yoko joined a protest march in London, not only against the sentences but the British government's recent arrest and internment of 342 people suspected of having ties to the IRA. Both spoke to reporters about their reasons for marching, with John's reply unwittingly sowing the seeds of a future song.

August 12th, 1971 may have been John's final day in his native country. According to his tape archive, he spent part of it with Yoko reading selections from her book Grapefruit, although the recording more likely stems from July, when they were heavily promoting the republication.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Help Us Save Some Lives

One of the highlights of George Harrison's solo career, the Concert for Bangla Desh went from chance remark to superstar benefit in just over a month. In late June, 1971, George was in Los Angeles working with Ravi Shankar on the soundtrack for the long-delayed documentary Raga. Ravi lamented to George about the war occurring in Bangladesh and causing thousands of starving refugees to flood into India from East Pakistan.

George immediately agreed to call attention to the issue by composing a song, "Bangla Desh", hastily recorded and released as a single by the end of July. More importantly, he began rounding up every musical friend he could think of to perform at a charity concert in New York.

Madison Square Garden was booked for two shows on August 1st, and an amazing lineup was assembled, with Ravi himself opening the show and George leading an all-star band including many of the people who had contributed to All Things Must Pass: Ringo, Eric Clapton, Jim Keltner, Billy Preston, Badfinger, Leon Russell, Klaus Voormann, Carl Radle, and of course Phil Spector, recording the show from a mobile unit outside the Garden.

George and Ravi held a press conference at Allen Klein's ABKCO office on Broadway July 27th, explaining the reasons for the concert and the planned album and film, which would generate the bulk of the revenue to be sent as relief aid. Most of the band had only that week prior to the Sunday shows to rehearse, and Eric Clapton didn't arrive until Saturday, with Jesse Ed Davis filling in during his absence (and joining the group onstage).

The already-stellar lineup was given a turbo boost when Bob Dylan, who hadn't toured in five years, agreed to participate, although nobody in the band was certain he would until the moment he walked onstage with his acoustic guitar and harmonica at the matinee performance.

Both concerts sold out almost immediately and raised $250,000, but despite George's press conference prediction of a 6-10 day turnaround for the album to be released, it wouldn't be out until December, with the film delayed even longer; more on that later.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Greatest Book I've Ever Burned

John and Yoko spent early July, 1971 at the Record Plant East in New York, overdubbing and Mixing Imagine and recording tracks for Yoko's companion LP, Fly. They returned to England on July 14th and spent the rest of the month shooting scenes for the Imagine companion film and promoting new product such as the "God Save Us" single and a reissue of Yoko's book Grapefruit.

On the 17th, they taped an appearance for that evening's edition of the BBC1 chat show Parkinson. Host Michael Parkinson was game enough to conduct part of the interview from within a black bag (an experience which Eamonn Andrews and David Frost had earlier declined to participate in), but the line of questioning was decidedly stale.

After three years in the public eye with Yoko, and fresh from visiting freaks and artists in New York, John had to be frustrated spending this entire interview explaining his choice of partner and defending Yoko's concepts to a hostile British press. It's little wonder he would soon make America his permanent home.

Sometime in the latter half of July (possibly during a press day on the 20th), John was interviewed at Tittenhurst for BBC Radio's Scene And Heard. An atrocious off-air tape exists, mostly indecipherable, but topics include a progress update on Imagine, John's reasons for not participating in the upcoming Concert For Bangla Desh, and his opinion of Ram.

John also responds to a rumor published in Disc And Music Echo about a "lost" Beatles single called "Baby Jane" or "Maisy Jones". He assumes they are referring to "What's The New Mary Jane", and even sings a bit of it. If anyone has a better copy of this interview, or can understand more of what's being said, please let me know!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Statue Of Liberty Said "Come"

On June 1st, 1971, John and Yoko landed at Kennedy Airport in New York, where they were met by Apple's Pete Bennett. They had been issued a two-week visa to enter the country in a continuing effort to track down Anthony and Kyoko Cox and settle the custody issue. With no work permit, John was technically not supposed to perform or record any music during his stay, but that turned out not to be the case.

Within a few days of arriving, John and Yoko had managed to make the acquaintance of several notorious radicals, such as Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman, as well as street musician David Peel, in Greenwich Village. On the afternoon of June 6th, they appeared on WPLJ-FM with their old pal Howard Smith, producing a "happening" in which very little of substance actually happened. Imagine "Revolution 9" being performed live for two hours with audience participation in the form of callers, and you'll get the idea. Here is a 36-minute recording of "highlights" from the event.

Smith went from the radio studio to interviewing Frank Zappa in a hotel room, and brought John and Yoko with him. By the end of the conversation, it was decided that the couple should make a surprise appearance at Zappa and the Mothers' show that night at the Fillmore East. John acquitted himself well on an oldie, "Well (Baby Please Don't Go)", and joined in on Zappa's composition "King Kong", which was hijacked to become "Scumbag":

The performance was later released in differing edits on LPs by both Lennon and Zappa. Three nights later, John and Yoko were back on WPLJ radio, this time for a more conventional interview by Alex Bennett, once again taking calls from listeners (and with John having to step out briefly when overcome by nausea).

On June 12th, John and Yoko attended a party at Allen Klein's home, celebrating his wife Betty's birthday. Also attending were Andy Warhol, Miles Davis, Jack Nicholson, and filmmaker Jonas Mekas, who shot some footage:

Friday, April 6, 2012

How Do You Sheep?

In recent years, Paul McCartney's album Ram has grown in stature to become one of the most beloved by fans and respected by critics from his entire solo catalog. But that wasn't the case when the LP hit stores in May of 1971.

Ram sold well enough, topping the UK charts and peaking at #2 in the US (boosted by the #1 single, "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey"), but was a disappointment to many fans, and many rock critics tore Paul a new one when reviewing the album.

Paul didn't help matters by refusing to promote Ram at the time. He didn't have a touring band assembled yet, but he also didn't bother with any in-person TV or radio appearances or major print interviews. He and Linda did slap together a couple of home movies and set them to "3 Legs" and "Heart Of The Country" (neither of which were singles). These aired on Top Of The Pops June 24th:

Paul's major promotional idea was to smoke a giant bag of weed, compose an annoying jingle, ramble into a tape recorder, and edit the result together with sheep effects and snatches of Ram songs. He called the result Brung To Ewe By and sent it to undoubtedly puzzled disc jockeys in the form of a 12" disc containing 12 30-second and 3 60-second radio spots.

Other Ram spinoffs included the Muzak incarnation, Thrillington, and a dedicated mono mix of the LP for radio play. All the above plus session outtakes will be included in the upcoming Ram Deluxe package, due out near the album's 41st birthday.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Comment Dormez-Vous?

John and Yoko spent much of April and May 1971 tracking down Yoko's ex-husband Tony Cox and her daughter Kyoko across the globe. Their travels took them to France, to Majorca, Spain (where the couple were taken into custody briefly after "abducting" Kyoko from her school playground), and to Trinidad and Tobago.

They eventually returned to France on May 14th, this time to attend the Cannes Film Festival, where their films Apotheosis and Fly were in competition. On the 15th, they were interviewed by Pål Bang-Hansen for Norwegian television:

On May 17th, José Arthur spoke with John and Yoko for the ORTF TV show Le Grand Amphi, broadcast June 12th. And at some point during their stay, they recorded an interview for French radio (which unfortunately means most of their responses were buried beneath French translations).

Meanwhile, back at Tittenhurst, recording for Imagine was ongoing, with Phil Spector once again producing, and George Harrison sitting in on a few songs. On May 28th, John and Yoko took a break to record (and film for their own archives) a lengthy interview for BBC Radio's Woman's Hour, on the topics of love and sex.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Growing All The Time

Ringo Starr spent the first week of February, 1971 at Pinewood Studios participating in the filming of Frank Zappa's 200 Motels, in which he portrayed a stylized version of the movie's writer/director/composer:

Ringo's first pop single, "It Don't Come Easy", was released April 9th in the UK and a week later in the US. It rocketed up the charts, peaking in the top 5 on both sides of the pond.

This led to a remarkable situation on April 24th, when all four ex-Beatles had songs in the Melody Maker top 30: "It Don't Come Easy" (#17), Paul's "Another Day" (#14), John's "Power To The People" (#18), and George's My Sweet Lord" hanging on at #28.

The initial promo for "It Don't Come Easy" was a homemade affair, assembled by Ringo from various clips dating back to 1967 and having nothing to do with the song. It was aired on Top Of The Pops April 22nd.

On April 27th, Ringo was in Norway, filming a guest spot on Cilla Black's TV special, Cilla In Scandinavia. Ringo's appearance on a ski slope found him singing the "Snowman Song" alongside Cilla and fox puppet Basil Brush:

While in Norway, Ringo also shot a second promo for "It Don't Come Easy", this time miming the lyrics in between schussing. This version was aired first on Top Of The Pops April 29th, and later as part of Cilla In Scandinavia, broadcast November 27th on BBC-TV.