Wednesday, October 31, 2012

We'll Meet Again

Having dispatched with much of the US Rock 'N' Roll promotion in a single phone call, John turned to the UK. Disc jockey and TV presenter Bob Harris, host of BBC2's Old Grey Whistle Test, flew to New York and filmed an interview with John at the Dakota on March 17th.

Accepting his fee in the form of Chocolate Olivers, John was relaxed, witty, and willing to discuss topics such as the American music scene, his telephone having been bugged, inebriated escapades with Harry Nilsson and Phil Spector, and his relationship with the other ex-Fabs. The interview would be broadcast April 18th, accompanied by two specially-shot performances of Rock 'N' Roll numbers (more on those in a future post).

Across the country, Paul and Wings were spending a few weeks in Los Angeles, adding the final overdubs to Venus And Mars and mixing tapes at Wally Heider Studios in Hollywood. On March 24th, Paul threw a launch party aboard the Queen Mary, permanently moored at Long Beach Harbor, to celebrate the LP's completion. Among those in attendance were George Harrison, Mal Evans, and Derek Taylor, along with Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye, Mick Jagger, Carole King, Cher, the Jackson Five, and members of the Monkees and Led Zeppelin.

Shipboard entertainment was provided by a number of New Orleans-based acts, including the Meters, Lee Dorsey, Ernie K-Doe, and Professor Longhair. The Professor's influence pervaded Venus & Mars, from a namecheck in "Rock Show" to the outtake "My Carnival" and an unreleased cover of "Mardi Gras In New Orleans". His set was recorded and released as the 1978 LP Live On The Queen Mary:

During his stay in Los Angeles, Paul played bass on an unreleased single by Kenney Jones, then a member of the Faces, who also attended the Queen Mary bash. Kenney had recently played drums on the soundtrack of the Tommy film, and he and Paul and Linda attended the movie's Hollywood premiere on March 19th. The ridiculously star-studded occasion was covered by ABC's Wide World Of Entertainment, whose host David Frost interviewed the McCartneys during the after-party, although it was Elton John who stole the show:

On March 26th, Tommy had its London premiere at the Leicester Square Theatre, and Ringo was present, accompanied by Nancy Andrews. He was interviewed by Nicky Horne for Capital Radio's Your Mother Wouldn't Like It, which was broadcasting live from the cinema that evening. (Does anyone have copies of the Frost or Horne interviews?)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

So This Is What Dawn Does

To promote Walls And Bridges, John had done one-on-one phone interviews with dozens of radio stations from his base in New York. For Rock 'N' Roll, he decided to kill 35 birds with one stone; on February 21st, 1975, he hosted a conference call from the Capitol offices in New York and fielded questions from disc jockeys across the country in a single phone event.

Unfortunately, this format didn't lead to any in-depth discussion and the topics covered were par for the course: reunion rumors, the Roots LP, the immigration case, disco music, and his reconciliation with Yoko. He also discusses "Have You Heard The Word", "What's The New Mary Jane", and "How Do You Do It". The event ends in humorous chaos when a pre-recorded voice interrupts to repeat "please hang up and try again".

Former US Attorney General John Mitchell had been found guilty of conspiracy in the Watergate case earlier that day, and John is asked to comment. He also mentions being in the studio the previous day to add ARP synthesizer strings to the single mix of "Stand By Me". The single was released March 10th in the US, where it would peak at #20. It failed to chart in the UK.

John also mentions his plans to cut a new album soon, claiming to have plenty of new material composed. Whatever the case, when Yoko discovered she was pregnant soon thereafter, John decided to put his musical career on hold for a while. He was still seen in public, beginning with a memorable appearance at the Grammy Awards on March 1st. John co-presented the award for Record Of The Year with Paul Simon and Andy Williams:

John, Yoko, and David Bowie socialized at the Grammies after-party, and early the next morning the trio (prompted by their limo driver) decided to call in to WPLJ-FM and speak live on the air with Alex Bennett. Bowie sounded a bit reluctant to chat, but John brought him out of his shell with a faux-interview, while Yoko mostly remained silent. John also conflated hearing "Love Me Do" on the radio for the first time (October 1962) with President Kennedy's assassination (November 1963).

Monday, October 29, 2012

Waking Up On The Floor

George and Pattie had separated in 1974, and Ringo and Maureen followed suit in 1975. Ringo began dating model and photographer Nancy Andrews, and the new couple flew from London to Los Angeles on February 7th.

His solo music career was still in great shape, with the second US single from Goodnight Vienna ("No No Song") released January 27th, and climbing to #3 on the Billboard chart. For the UK, the Elton John/Bernie Taupin composition "Snookeroo" was chosen as the next single release on February 21st; surprisingly, it failed to reach the top 30.

Ringo spent much of February and March filming Lisztomania, directed by Ken Russell, fresh from putting the Who's Tommy on film. Roger Daltrey played Franz Liszt and Ringo co-starred as the Pope:

Ringo was also fast friends with Who drummer Keith Moon, and had contributed to Keith's first and only solo LP, Two Sides Of The Moon. It was released March 17th in the US, accompanied by a radio spot with Ringo audible in the background. Ringo also drummed on Keith's cover of "Together" by their mutual drinking buddy, Harry Nilsson:

Speaking of Harry, he too had a new LP out in March 1975. Duit On Mon Dei had a drumming contribution from Ringo on the song "Kojak Columbo", and he also appeared in the TV spot promoting the album:

Friday, October 26, 2012

You Should'a Been There

As part of a legal arrangement with music publisher Morris Levy, John had recorded songs from the Big Seven music catalog (including "You Can't Catch Me", which precipitated the issue) on his oldies LP. When John presented him with roughly-mixed tapes of the album, Levy enthused and proposed a TV campaign to sell the album via mail order (an increasingly popular, if somewhat tacky, way to hawk music in the mid 70's).

John tentatively agreed, but when he proposed the idea to Capitol's legal team, they nixed it immediately. Undaunted, Levy took the handshake agreement and ran with it, pressing up albums from the rough mixes, and slapping on an ugly cover with an inappropriate 1968 Lennon photo, calling the whole mess John Lennon Sings The Great Rock And Roll Hits: Roots, and releasing it on his own Adam VIII label.

Levy's TV spots began to air the weekend of February 8th-9th, by which time John had rushed to complete his own EMI-approved LP, Rock 'N' Roll. It omitted two songs ("Angel Baby" and "Be My Baby") and altered others via early fades and editing. While the lawyers went to work sending cease and desist orders to TV stations and record distributors, John set about promoting the new album, making sure to emphasize that Levy's package was inferior and unlicensed.

Towards the end of his 1974 appearance on WNEW-FM with Dennis Elsas, John had lamented that he missed reconnecting with DJ Scott Muni. He made up for that by giving Muni the first crack at airing Rock 'N' Roll. John brought the album, fresh off the presses, with him on February 13th, and spent three hours on the air with Scott, playing and chatting about each song from the LP.

The real bombshell, dropped in toward the end of the show, was John's announcement that he was now officially back together with Yoko, and that "their separation was a failure". He had abruptly moved back in to the Dakota a few days earlier, leaving a shell-shocked May Pang behind and scotching any plans to record with Paul in New Orleans.

Sometime in February, John also made a return visit to the airwaves of 3XY in Melbourne, once again talking with John O'Donnell about the new album.

Rock 'N' Roll was rushed to US shops by February 17th, accompanied by a radio commercial in which John advised listeners, "You should'a been there". The LP came out four days later in the UK, and would hit the top 10 in both countries; Levy's Roots would sell fewer than 2,000 copies before vanishing from the market.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Is It Any Wonder?

The new year began with the end of an old era, when the London High Court officially cut the legal ties binding The Beatles and Company on January 9th, 1975. John Lennon was at a bit of a crossroads, having an oldies album wrapped and ready to go and already composing material for a new solo LP.

He spent much of January at the Record Plant in New York working with other artists. On the 13th, he co-produced a session with engineer Roy Cicala for Roy's wife Lori Burton. Lori had sung backup on a couple of John's albums, and was being backed by a group dubbed "BOMF" (Band of Mother Fuckers). On the 22nd, John & Roy co-produced a few songs by the band, now renamed Dog Soldier after the lyric from a Lennon/Cicala composition, "Incantation". This and two of the Burton numbers ("Answer Me, My Love" and "Let's Spend The Night Together") were eventually released on a CD included with the book Beatles Undercover in 1998. The rest of the sessions remain unheard.

Far more prominent was John's work with David Bowie a couple of weeks later. The two had become casual acquaintances during 1974, and Bowie was currently finishing up his LP Young Americans at New York's Electric Lady Studios. He invited John to join him in a new rendition of "Across The Universe", and having enjoyed his experience remaking "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" with Elton John (and not being satisfied with either Beatles release of the song), John readily agreed, playing rhythm guitar on the number:

During the session, a guitar riff improvised by Carlos Alomar developed into a jam which reminded John of the recent disco hit "Shame Shame Shame". He began to sing "Shame", morphing it into "Fame", which inspired Bowie to pen a set of lyrics on the topic of celebrity. With John providing backing vocals, the new song was recorded, and a surprising number one hit was born:

One person John came close to working with that winter was, even more surprisingly, Paul McCartney. He and Linda passed through New York en route to New Orleans, where they would arrive January 16th and continue recording Venus And Mars with Wings. An open invitation to join them (whether to record or just socialize) was offered via May Pang, and John tentatively agreed.

The iteration of Wings recording at Sea Saint Studios was now sans English drummer Geoff Britton, who was fired early in the sessions and replaced with American drummer Joe English (I know, right?). The band soaked up the local atmosphere during Mardi Gras week, and although little of it is present on the final album, they did cut a number for the occasion, "My Carnival", which would remain unreleased until 1985.

Local TV station WVUE was allowed to film the February 12th session for their News Scene Eight (broadcast on the 24th). A day later, Wings held a press conference aboard a steamboat chugging along the Mississippi.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Ring Out The Old

December 1974 was turning out to be a pivotal month in the relationships among the ex-Beatles. I've already discussed John and George's prickly meeting at the Plaza, and John and Ringo had been socializing in Los Angeles earlier in the month. Paul and Linda were also in New York for a pre-Christmas visit with the Eastman family.

The Beatles' business partnership had been in limbo since the March 1971 court decision to channel all their joint income through a receiver, but four years of negotiations had finally resulted in a dissolution agreement everyone could agree to. December 19th was chosen as a date to sign the papers, since George was in New York for his Madison Square concert that night and John and Paul were both in town.

Paul and George met up at the Plaza Hotel that afternoon, along with Ringo's representative (the drummer had returned to England for the holidays), and waited for John to arrive. And waited. And waited some more. Eventually a balloon arrived with a note attached: "Listen to this balloon".

That was all George could take, and he phoned John, angrily demanding an explanation. The only response was that John has consulted his (more accurately, Yoko's) astrologer and that "the planets weren't right" for him to sign anything that day. In truth, John had gotten cold feet at the last minute, and perhaps wanted to stick it to George after their earlier disagreement.

Paul and George went ahead and signed the agreement, the latter muttering "Krishna Krishna" to calm himself down:

An irate George then sent word to John that his presence at the Madison Square shows was now unwelcome, which must have come as a relief to John. George went on that night and vented some of his frustration at the audience, admonishing them for smoking "reefers":

The tour concluded December 20th with two more concerts at the Gardens. By now, George was in much better spirits (and his voice was mostly healed), and the tour was able to end on a high note. Paul and Linda were even present in not-so-subtle disguises:

Julian Lennon was in New York visiting his father for Christmas, and attended George's concert in proxy for his ostracized dad. Now that two of the things which had been weighing most heavily on his mind, the tour and the legal matters, were behind him, George was in a far more relaxed state. He met with Julian backstage and offered a peace branch, inviting John to his end-of-tour party at the Hippopotamus Club late that night.

The two old mates socialized at the club and then returned to George's hotel room, where at 5AM, a lucky radio reporter was able to talk with two Beatles, although as it was a Harrison interview, John mostly kept his distance, only joining in when invited by George. After looking back on the tour, George chatted about his improved opinion of Texas, meeting Gerald Ford, writing "My Sweet Lord", and his favorite Beatle songs.

Just as quickly as New York had been full of Beatles, it emptied of them. Paul returned to Scotland, George to England, and John and Julian flew to Orlando where they spent Christmas at Walt Disney World (and where John finally signed the Beatles dissolution papers). George closed 1974 with a New Year-themed single, "Ding Dong Ding Dong", released December 23rd in the US and accompanied by a Pythonesque promo filmed at his home:

Monday, October 22, 2012

Magic In The Air

The week of November 16th, 1974 marked a commercial high point in John Lennon's solo career, as the single "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night" and album Walls And Bridges both topped Billboard's charts. All his promotional efforts of the past two months had paid off handsomely, and the album was certified gold in the US on October 22nd.

On December 7th, John and May flew to Los Angeles for a few days, stopping by Billboard's office on the 9th where John accepted an award from the magazine's chart director, Bill Wardlow. That evening, at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, John fulfilled a promise made to Howard Cosell back in October by appearing live during halftime of the Redskins-Rams game on ABC's Monday Night Football. The interview was brief and charming, if unenlightening, but would have a sickening echo nearly six years later:

John had been following the progress of George's hapless North American tour closely, well aware that he would be expected to join his ex-bandmate onstage when it reached New York. A meeting between the two at the Plaza Hotel on the 14th ended in anger when a frazzled George lashed out at Lennon for years of perceived slights. John refused to rise to the bait, and the two made amends the next day, with John and May attending George's performance at the Nassau Coliseum that night, but remaining offstage.

The tour was scheduled to conclude with three shows at Madison Square Garden on December 19th and 20th, and John offered to participate on the final night. He hinted at the reunion during a live interview on NBC's Today December 17th. Reporter Jim Hartz led off with the usual reunion questions before shifting to the immigration case (with John offering yet another lively and entertaining account of his 1968 drug bust):

John also took a moment to plug his new single, "#9 Dream", released the previous day in the US, where the song would peak (of course) at #9 on Billboard (I guess Bill Wardlow had a sense of humor). This turned out to be John's final live TV interview.

Friday, October 19, 2012

My Sweet Ford

George's 1974 tour continued to slide downhill as it trudged from city to city. Things went okay in Baton Rouge on November 26th, in Memphis the following night, and Atlanta the night afterwards:

The problems began after two shows in Chicago on the 30th:

Following the evening performance, Ravi collapsed backstage and was taken to the emergency room with a suspected heart ailment. It turned out to be severe indigestion brought on by stress, and he would miss the rest of the shows until December 19th in New York City.

The rest of the band carried on, but the next scheduled shows in Cleveland on December 2nd had to be cancelled due to a snowstorm. The tour continued north, hitting Detroit, Toronto, and Montreal by December 9th, when the Dark Horse LP was finally released in the US. Boston and Providence followed, and December 13th found George and company in Landover, Maryland.

At the Salt Lake City stop back in November, George had met with Jack Ford, son of US president Gerald Ford. Jack invited George to visit the White House during their Maryland visit, so prior to their matinee show on the 13th, George, Ravi, Tom Scott, Billy Preston, George's father Harold, and his budding sweetheart Olivia Arias congregated in Washington to meet the Prez:

After that peculiar summit, it was back to the Capital Centre for two more shows. At the tour's conclusion, Jack Sheridan of Baltimore station WCAO aired this hatchet job on the concert (and George in general), which was sadly representative of the mainstream rock press's feelings.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Joyous Occasion

All the events of 1974 in John Lennon's life came to a head on Thanksgiving night, November 28th, at Madison Square Garden. To backtrack a bit, when Elton John had participated on "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night" back in July, he had semi-jokingly extracted a promise from John that if the song hit #1, the two would perform it together at one of Elton's concerts.

Unlikely as it seemed (John hadn't reached the top 10 since "Imagine" three years prior), the single did indeed top Billboard's chart for the week ending November 16th. John agreed to fulfill his end of the deal, so he and Elton's band met up at the Record Plant a couple of days before the gig to choose and rehearse the numbers for John's appearance:

Things were changing in John's private life as well. He and May had been going through some rough times, exacerbated by John's November 5th assignation with another female companion at the Bottom Line following a Jerry Garcia show. After a photo of the couple was published in Cashbox, May was understandably outraged, and John ended up spending the night of November 16th back at the Dakota (sleeping in the living room while Yoko participated in an Arts Festival at Shea Stadium).

So John was understandably on tenterhooks the night of November 28th, knowing that Yoko had a ticket to the Elton show, that May would also be there, and that he had never performed (albeit as a guest) without his own band or at least Yoko before.

Towards the end of the show, Elton paused to make the dramatic introduction; a buzz was already in the building as rumors of John's attendance and sightings of May and Yoko made their way through the crowd, which absolutely exploded when John strolled onstage, guitar in hand:

John's mini-set was short but memorable, playing guitar and singing on "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night", "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" (Elton's new single, also headed for #1), and a song usually associated by his "estranged fiancee", "I Saw Her Standing There". John also returned for the encore, "The Bitch Is Back", to shake a tambourine.

As legend has it, John and Yoko decided to reunite after meeting backstage following the concert. In reality, the wheels had been in motion for their reconciliation for a long time, and it wasn't until 1975 that John finally returned to the Dakota for good. Thanksgiving 1974 should really be remembered as the last night of John Lennon's live performing career, and it's gratifying to observe that he went out on a high note.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Hari's On Tour (Depressed)

George Harrison's 1974 North American tour kicked off November 2nd in Vancouver, Canada. Fans' expectations were through the roof, with the Concert for Bangla Desh setting a high bar, never mind the ex-Beatle mystique and reunion rumors which dogged George at every stop on the tour.

The setlist began with a new instrumental, "Hari's On Tour (Express)", from the Dark Horse LP, which nobody in the audience had heard yet. The one-two punch of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and "Something" followed, but any thrill of hearing George sing these Beatles numbers was dampened by the state of his voice, and the lyrical changes he insisted upon ("while my guitar tries to smile", "something's in the way, remove it!"). Worse was to come with a dirge-like "In My Life" ("I love God more") and two unfamiliar songs from Living In The Material World which George was smart enough to drop from the setlist after the first night.

A lengthy set from Ravi Shankar and Friends occupied the last half of Act 1, and while the performances were top-notch, with participation from Tom Scott and the rest of George's backing band, 30 solid minutes of Indian music tried the patience of many audience members. The unquestioned highlights of the tour were Billy Preston's solo numbers, which brought the crowd to its feet each night.

The tour moved on to Seattle, San Francisco, Oakland, and Long Beach, before reaching Los Angeles on November 11th and 12th for three shows at the Forum. Reporter Ben Fong-Torres interviewed a rather testy George backstage on the 12th for the Rolling Stone News Service radio series. Fong-Torres tried to challenge George about meeting the audience's expectations, but he deflected all criticism by either claiming it was in God's hands, or telling disappointed fans to go see Wings instead.

From there, it was on to Tucson, Salt Lake City, Denver, St. Louis, and Tulsa, where friend and Bangla Desh cohort Leon Russell made a special guest appearance on November 21st:

The "Dark Horse" single finally came out in the US on November 18th, peaking at #15 on Billboard's top 40. On the 24th, George played two shows at the Hofheinz Pavilion in Houston. The following night (actually closer to 1AM on the 26th), he made a surprise appearance on local station KLOL-FM, sitting in on Levi Booker's overnight shift. He seemed to be in much better spirits, chatting freely about finances, meeting John & Paul, Sgt. Pilcher's arrest, the concept of happiness, Ravi, Monty Python, and Lord Buckley, as well as playing a rough mix of "Maya Love" from the (still-unreleased) Dark Horse LP.

PS - Thanks to TFM for uploading a substantially more complete recording of George's October 23rd L.A. press conference. It can be downloaded here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

You Better Not Fight

In November 1974, Paul McCartney and Wings settled in at EMI's Abbey Road Studios to begin recording their next album, Venus And Mars. On the 6th, the day's "session" was actually a ruse to lure boxer John Conteh to the location in order to spring Eamonn Andrews and his big red This Is Your Life book on the pugilist.

Paul and Linda had been close friends with Conteh, who appeared on the Band On The Run album cover; in turn, they had attended his Empire Pool bout on March 12th, congratulating him on his victory afterwards. So it was easy enough to convince him to participate in a photo shoot at Abbey Road, where the TV camera crew waited. Wings went through the motions of rehearsing "Junior's Farm" as John entered:

The EMI sessions only produced a few numbers for the LP, such as "Letting Go", "Love In Song", and Jimmy McCulloch's "Medicine Jar". Part of the problem was that drummer Geoff Britton wasn't a good fit with the other band members, whose recreational drug use ranged from casual to heavy. Britton was a health fanatic and a karate practitioner who frowned on such activity. In fact, his participation in an Amateur Karate Association tournament on November 11th was filmed by MPL in London. The film, titled Empty Hand, included a soundtrack of "abstract percussion" contributed by Paul. It was completed in 1976 or 77, but doesn't circulate.

One gem from the November Abbey Road sessions was this superb alternate take of the song "Rock Show":

Wings' other task that month was to promote their new single "Junior's Farm", taping a TV appearance on Top Of The Pops November 20th for airing the following night. This clip was considered lost until it surfaced in the 2001 Wingspan documentary; the full performance was released on the McCartney Years DVD in 2007.

Paul and Linda closed out the month on November 27th by making a surprise guest appearance at Rod Stewart's Lewisham Odeon concert. The show was being filmed for the US TV series Midnight Special (aired April 25th, 1975); their cameo amounted to brief backing vocals towards the end of "Mine For Me", Paul's song for Rod's recent LP.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Fancy Bumping Into You, Basingstoke

Goodnight Vienna, the eagerly-anticipated follow up to the smash Ringo, was released November 15th in the UK and three days later in the US. The first single was a cover of "Only You (And You Alone)", an oldie made famous by the Platters. Ringo's version featured John Lennon on acoustic guitar and Harry Nilsson providing smooth backing vocals.

As John had a month earlier, Ringo sat down with EMI's Bob Mercer in Los Angeles around the beginning of November for a chat to promote the single and LP. Their brief conversation was issued on a white-label promo single for EMI's British sales staff, with "Only You" on the flip.

The single came out November 11th in the US, where it peaked at #6; the UK release (simultaneous to the LP) scraped into the top 30 for a couple of weeks, then disappeared. Ringo went all-out to promote the song, filming a humorous and elaborate promo on November 14th at the Capitol Tower building in Hollywood. Harry joined Ringo for the shoot, which carried out the LP cover's Day The Earth Stood Still theme to ridiculous proportions:

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Footage from the day's shoot was also used in the TV advertising campaign, with a voice-over assist from John:

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Perhaps inspired by John's September DJ stint, Ringo spent three hours on November 19th co-hosting Billy Pearl's evening shift at KHJ-AM in Los Angeles. He proved to be a natural on-air personality, reading local ad spots, interacting with hysterical callers, and spinning discs by Neil Diamond, the Rolling Stones, Little Richard, Jim Croce, Chuck Berry, Harry Nilsson, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Elton John, America, Billy Swan, B.T. Express, the Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin, Jim Stafford, Olivia Newton-John, Harry Chapin, Jerry Lee Lewis, John Lennon, Wings, and of course... "Kung Fu Fighting" by Carl Douglas.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Soundstage Of Mind

With Walls And Bridges now finally in his rear-view mirror, John could focus on completing his oldies album. Having realized that only a few of the songs taped with Phil Spector were salvageable, he reenlisted the Walls studio band to record the rest of the tracks.

The musicians spent October 18th and 19th rehearsing the material at a farm in upstate New York owned by music publisher Morris Levy. Levy's company, Big Seven, owned the rights to Chuck Berry's "You Can't Catch Me", a lyric from which Lennon had appropriated in "Come Together". As part of an agreement with Levy, John agreed to record some songs from the Big Seven catalog in his oldies project.

In exchange, Levy loaned the band use of his dairy in Ghent for the rehearsals, which were recorded. Among the numbers tried out were several that didn't make the final cut, including "Thirty Days", "C'mon Everybody", and "That'll Be The Day":

The band made quick work of the sessions at the Record Plant in New York, completing the basic tracks for the rest of the album in five days of sessions from October 21st through the 25th. Overdubbing and remixing continued through November.

On the other side of the country, George was rehearsing his own band for the Dark Horse tour, scheduled to begin November 2nd in Vancouver. George officially launched the tour during a press conference October 23rd at the Beverly Wiltshire Hotel in Los Angeles. His comments about "going back in his cave for another five years" foreshadowed the troubles ahead.

The truth was that George had been simultaneously rehearsing on a soundstage at Hollywood's A&M Studios and still recording the Dark Horse LP throughout October, with sessions running as late as the 31st. The result was an album and tour marred by George's croaky, raspy vocals, as heard in this promo clip for "Dark Horse" filmed during rehearsals:

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

That's Entertainment

Believe it or not, John Lennon wasn't the only ex-Beatle doing things in the early autumn of 1974.

Two songs from Paul McCartney and Wings' Nashville sessions were released as singles in October. "Walking In The Park With Eloise", credited to the Country Hams, came out October 18th in the UK (on EMI, not Apple) and unsurprisingly failed to chart anywhere. "Junior's Farm", backed with "Sally G", fared much better. It went on sale October 25th in the UK (where it peaked at #16), and November 4th in the US, which took the A-side to #3 and then found the B-side creep into the top 40 when it was promoted as a country crossover.

Ringo had spent most of the summer recording Goodnight Vienna, which received final overdubs and mixes in September and October. He also worked on a live action/animated film with Harry Nilsson, Ringo And Harry's Night Out; it was never completed, but brief glimpses were seen in the documentary Who Is Harry Nilsson?

Inspired by Dark Horse, Ringo was in the process of starting his own label, Ring O'Records. Its first signing was David Hentschel, who had been an engineer at Trident Studios (working on All Things Must Pass and Red Rose Speedway) before branching out into music. He played synthesizer on numerous albums, and Ringo commissioned him to record a synth-based remake of the Ringo LP (akin to Paul's Thrillington remake of Ram). This odd project was taped during September 1974 at the home studio Ringo had installed in Tittenhurst after buying it from John. Startling Studio provided the LP's name (Sta*rtling Music), and Ringo reprised his role of finger clicks on the cover of "Step Lightly". Phil Collins played drums on several of the songs:

George was running himself and his throat ragged recording the Dark Horse LP, working with Ravi Shankar, and rehearsing his own band for a US tour, the first by an ex-Beatle. At some point, he sat down by a roaring fire at his Friar Park home with DJ Alan Freeman and recorded a lengthy interview for syndication on the US series Rock Around The World.

The exact recording date is uncertain, as the show was apparently first aired in October 1975 to promote Extra Texture. But there is no mention of that album, and George plays solo acoustic renditions of both sides of the first US single from the 1974 LP ("Dark Horse" and "I Don't Care Anymore"). He also drops in brief performances of "Awaiting On You All" and "Far East Man" in response to Freeman's questions.

Most of George's replies early in the conversation ("force-grown rhubarbs in a hothouse", "if there's a God, we must see Him", "Ravi's the only person I met who impressed me") will be familiar to interview collectors, but as time passes, George opens up about his inspirations ("One Meatball", Buddy Holly, "Heartbreak Hotel"), calls Beatles songs "80% overrated" but explains how they revolutionized studio recording, touches on his recent separation from Pattie, and in one breath claims that Paul "ruined" him as a guitarist, and in the next talks of how he and Paul have recently begun to reconnect as friends and enthuses about doing the same with John as soon as possible.

Speaking of John, he had one last bit of promotion to do for Walls And Bridges, namely shooting a promo clip for "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night", which was rapidly climbing the US charts, to be shown on Top Of The Pops. On October 17th, John and a BBC film crew wandered around New York filming John's interactions with fans and kids in Central Park.

Thirty years later, the raw footage was re-edited to create a video for the 1973 song "Mind Games":

Friday, October 5, 2012

New York Talk

John Lennon spent the first half of October, 1974 in pre-production for the Rock And Roll LP. Having retrieved the tapes from the late 1973 Phil Spector sessions, he spent several days in the Record Plant listening to the material, remixing and editing and overdubbing (for instance, replacing his drunken lead vocal on "Just Because" with a fresh take that referred to the New York studio).

After celebrating his 34th birthday, John took one final lap in the Walls And Bridges promotional marathon. On October 10th at Capitol Records' New York offices, he spoke with Jim Ladd for the syndicated radio series Innerview. The finished broadcast includes plenty of Lennon and Beatles songs, and finds John reflecting on broad topics such as peace, philosophy, drugs, meditation, charity, and art. Another recording dated October 10th circulates, labeled Rock World, that mostly overlaps this one (which may indicate Ladd's interview was used in other shows); here is a unique bit from the alternate source.

On October 11th at the Record Plant, John took a phone call from Australia (showing up late to the 2PM appointment). This interview, with John O'Donnell of Melbourne's 3XY Radio, was more prosaic than the Innerview, basically describing each song on Walls And Bridges track-by-track. The interview exists in two forms: a very good quality (but heavily truncated) broadcast with O'Donnell's original questions, and a lesser quality (but complete) airing on Sydney's 2SM, with disc jockey Ron E Sparks dubbing in the questions. I've combined both sources into a full composite; John also read a station ID for 3XY, plugging "Rocktober".

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Many Vicissitudes

John's promotional campaign took an odd turn on October 3rd, 1974 when he visited the New York headquarters of ABC Radio. He was there to appear on media icon Howard Cosell's syndicated talk series, Speaking Of Everything.

In typically loquacious fashion, Cosell elicited thoughtful conversation from John about his immigration case, the Beatles as cultural leaders, the state of relations among the ex-group, and intellectualism in music. John and Howard got along so swimmingly that John agreed to appear on Monday Night Football a couple of months later.

Meanwhile, John was still phoning disc jockeys across the USA to plug the new album and single. Sometime during late September-early October (exact dates unknown), he chatted with Ginger Sutton at WEBN in Cincinnati and John Houghton of WZMF in Milwaukee. The latter interview is particularly interesting, covering musical influences, John's acceptance of his Beatle past, the Plastic Ono Band album, comparisons with Van Gogh, Dylan Thomas, and Brendan Behan, his Dick Cavett Show appearances, Allan Klein, reunion rumors, and his current feelings about Yoko.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Listen To This Blog Post

After appearing in local markets from California to Texas to Canada, John Lennon finally appeared live on his hometown radio. Late in the afternoon of September 28th, 1974, he showed up at WNEW-FM's studio for a surprise appearance during Dennis Elsas's Saturday shift.

Armed with a stack of singles, John spent the next two hours spinning tracks from Walls And Bridges, and deconstructing songs old and new by Bobby Parker, ELO, Marvin Gaye, Harry Nilsson, Splinter, Ringo Starr, Richie Barrett, Ray Charles, the Rolling Stones and Derek Martin, often playing "spot the influence".

The tape has been rebroadcast with some regularity over the years, and most of it was included in the Lost Lennon Tapes radio series; here is the complete broadcast (minus commercials):

Hour 1
Hour 2

Walls And Bridges was officially released in the US on September 30th, trailed by an extensive promotional campaign consisting of radio and TV ads, buttons, billboards, posters, matchbook covers, T-shirts, bumper stickers, and more, all labeled "Listen To This [X]":