Monday, August 20, 2012

Surprise Surprise

Once he had moved back to New York and wrapped up the Pussycats sessions, John began to clean up his act. He accompanied Harry Nilsson to a meeting with RCA records executives, strongly insinuating that if they signed Harry, John would not only join the RCA roster when his EMI contract expired in 1976, but might bring some other ex-Beatles with him. The ruse worked, and Pussycats came out August 19th on RCA, accompanied by a TV ad:

Having written a new batch of songs that were his strongest in three years, John was ready to start recording another solo album at the Record Plant. Accompanied by a core band of Jesse Ed Davis on lead guitar, Ken Ascher on keyboards, Klaus Voormann on bass, and Jim Keltner on drums, John ran through all the new material on July 13th and 14th, recording the rehearsals and whipping the arrangements into shape:

Tracking sessions for Walls And Bridges began the following day, and wrapped up in a productive nine days, with overdubbing and mixing continuing into August. Ringo had been in Los Angeles since May recording his new LP, Goodnight Vienna, and John wrote and taped a demo of the title track using the Walls And Bridges band:

On August 6th, John flew back to Los Angeles (accompanied by May, Cynthia, and Julian) to participate in the Goodnight Vienna sessions. As well as playing piano on his own composition, John suggested Ringo record the Platters oldie "Only You (And You Alone)", laying down a guide vocal for Ringo to follow:

John and May left California on August 10th and flew to Colorado, meeting up with Elton John at Caribou Studios, where the latter was recording his LP Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. Elton had contributed backing vocals and piano to "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night" and "Surprise Surprise" on Walls And Bridges, and now he and John teamed up to remake "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" in a reggae style.

It didn't fit in with the autobiographical concept of Captain Fantastic, so Elton released "Lucy" as a stand-alone single in November, backed with another Lennon cover, "One Day (At A Time)" (from Mind Games). John played guitar on both sides of the single, which shot to the top of the charts, as had most everything from Elton lately:

During all this musical prolificacy, John still had the threat of deportation hanging over his head. In fact, on a taxi ride to the Record Plant July 16th, John heard a radio news bulletin that his latest appeal had been rejected by the INS, and that he once again had sixty days to leave the country. His response was to facetiously tell the cabbie to take him straight to the airport.

Good news came down August 8th while John was in L.A., as Richard Nixon resigned, taking most of the steam out of his administration; all that remained now was for the wheels of bureaucracy to grind slowly to a halt. On August 30th, John appeared in court again; with the widespread corruption of the Nixon government now common knowledge, John and his lawyer Leon Wildes were trying to cross examine high-ranking officials in an effort to prove that the deportation push was politically motivated.

Outside the courthouse, John spoke with reporters about his odds of staying in the US, and afterwards was cornered by some fans with a tape recorder and camera. He posed for photos and sang a bit of "Hello Dolly" before changing out of his "civvies" and heading to the Record Plant to finalize the Walls And Bridges lineup. From this point on, things would only improve in John's life over the next 24 months.

1 comment:

  1. The "Hello Dolly" clip is FANTASTIC. Beautiful, wow.....that's what it was like to meet John Lennon in NYC, what a guy, what a clip, thanks Mr. Winn for that one....and the fidelity is great! Fifty times better than the "Little Girl" tapes!