John Lennon – ‘Plastic Ono Band’

❉ An appreciation of Lennon’s soul-bearing solo debut, which turns 50 later this year.

“If I Found Out pre-empted punk, Well Well Well preceded grunge; one could very easily mistake Lennon’s acidic bite for Kurt Cobain’s.”

1970 proved a fruitful year for the solo Beatles, George Harrison releasing his behemoth All Things Must Pass, Paul McCartney cobbling his arresting homemade debut and John Lennon expressing his soul in a manner he never again equalled. Plastic Ono Band, a compilation of thirty years of anger thrown on record, proved a compelling album, reigniting Lennon’s taste for the viperous, iconoclastic and lethal in equal doses.

Sparser than the latter-day Beatles albums, the record proved the work of Lennon’s guitar playing (without the more proficient Harrison here, Lennon shows how commendable a guitarist he was), Ringo Starr’s drumming (Starr rarely sounded this good again) and Klaus Voorman on bass (there were unsubstantiated rumours that he would take McCartney’s place in The Beatles, though Voorman would record I’m The Greatest with Lennon, Harrison and Starr in 1973). Delighted with Phil Spector’s work on Let It Be (a ninety degree contrast to Paul McCartney), Spector was invited to Abbey Road to co-produce Lennon’s debut (though it later transpired the album was primarily the charge of Lennon and Yoko Ono), playing a beautiful piano on the album’s only respite-filled song Love.

Cut from the same seismic cloth as The Beatles’ Across The Universe, Love was a song laden in instrumental simplicity, emphasis placed on the purity of the words, the opening of which Freddie Mercury would transpose for Queen’s Life Is Real.

Elsewhere, the album screamed with only ferocity and rage thirty years of disillusionment could bestow. After leaving The Beatles, Lennon and Ono underwent Primal Scream Therapy under the supervision of Arthur Janov. Re-aligned with childhood traumas, Lennon gave album opener Mother and closer My Mummy’s Dead a ballast of excruciating vocal plying. “Mother, you had me/but, I never had you” still remains one of the most startling ways to open a record.

I Found Out, a viperous attack on the disingenuous nature of the sixties’ hippie ideals, had a kick to it, fiery in its lyrics, troublesome in its music, its guitar hook a guide for Steve Jones and Johnny Ramone to perfect. If I Found Out pre-empted punk, Well Well Well preceded grunge; one could very easily mistake Lennon’s acidic bite for Kurt Cobain’s.

Look At Me, finger plucked with the same veneer as some of his acoustic White Album ballads, Lennon alone on his guitar brings desolation, the adage that song writing should be three chords and the truth at the forefront.

If Look… seemed a bit close to the bone, it paled in comparison to the gross desperation of Isolation, Spector’s sparse mix both spacious and claustrophobic; long time Lennon-phile Roger Waters looked to Plastic Ono Band as the template for Dark Side of The Moon’s mix. One of Lennon’s best songs, its covers ranged from esoteric pop-stars Snow Patrol to balladeer Marianne Faithfull’s courtly rendition.

God proved the most iconoclastic, a four-minute ballad where he attacked the validity of religion, before expounding the rest of the song to everything else he didn’t believe in; Gita, yoga, Zimmerman and, most alarmingly, Beatles.

“I just believe in me” he counters, sighing with relief, the world off his shoulders. “I was the walrus/but now, I’m John” he sings with certainty and belief. And yes, he is.

For no one could mistake this as a Beatles record (his follow-up Imagine, with its decidedly fuller sound and commercial zest could have been). Only Lennon’s vulnerability and directness could bring an album as Ono to life, one of the purest examples of soul-bearing on vinyl.

❉ ‘John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band’ was released in both the UK and US on 11 December 1970 (Apple PCS 7124/Capitol SW 3372). 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.

  A regular contributor to We Are Cult, Eoghan Lyng’s writing has also appeared in New Sounds, Record Collector, CultureSonar, Punk Noir Magazine, DMovies, Phacemag and other titles. Follow him on TwitterVisit his homepage. Article Source:

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