John Lennon – Cold Turkey

Not the most pleasant song available from John but it does get your attention. I do like the guitar sound that John and Eric Clapton get in this song.

This song is about drug withdrawal. Quitting “Cold Turkey” means abruptly stopping drug use and the effect it has on your body and mind. John Lennon quit cold turkey because he wanted to get off drugs and start a family with Yoko.

John wanted to record this with the Beatles but they rejected it so he went off and recorded it on his own.

Eric Clapton and John played guitar on this, Ringo drummed, and Klaus Voormann played the bass, It was released as a single in 1969 as The Plastic Ono Band. The song peaked at #30 in the Billboard 100, #14 in the UK, and #30 in Canada.

This was Lennon’s second single away from The Beatles. “Give Peace A Chance” was released a few months earlier. This was also the first song John took complete credit for as he dropped the McCartney from Lennon and McCartney.

Its first public performance on September 13, 1969, was recorded and released on the Live Peace in Toronto 1969 album by the Plastic Ono Band.

John Lennon: “Cold Turkey was banned. They thought it was a pro-drugs song. But I’ve always expressed what I’ve been feeling or thinking at the time. So I was just writing the experience I’d had of withdrawing from heroin. To some it was a rock ‘n’ roll version of The Man With The Golden Arm because it showed Frank Sinatra suffering from drug withdrawal.”

From Songfacts

Lennon performed this on September 13, 1969 at The Toronto Rock and Revival Show, where he introduced his Plastic Ono Band (at least the configuration of it for this show). Eric Clapton was on guitar, Klaus Voorman on bass, and Alan White on drums. Yoko Ono was also part of the act, and she made an impact during “Cold Turkey.” As the song played, she emerged from a bag on stage, stepped up to a microphone, and made turkey-sounding noises (not out of character). The set was released as a live album called Live Peace In Toronto 1969.

Eric Clapton played some of the guitar on this. Lennon asked Clapton to join The Plastic Ono Band, but Eric declined.

Lennon wrote and recorded this song before attending Arthur Janov’s Primal Scream therapy workshop, which played a part in his song “Mother.” The screams he used in “Cold Turkey,” he was actually emulating Yoko singing.

When John Lennon decided to return his MBE (Member of the British Empire) award on November 25, 1969, he sent it to Queen Elizabeth II with a note explaining, “I am returning this MBE in protest against Britain’s involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam and against ‘Cold Turkey’ slipping down the charts.”

Cold Turkey

Temperature’s rising
Fever is high
Can’t see no future
Can’t see no sky

My feet are so heavy
So is my head
I wish I was a baby
I wish I was dead

Cold turkey has got me on the run
My body is aching
Goose-pimple bone
Can’t see no body
Leave me alone

My eyes are wide open
Can’t get to sleep
One thing I’m sure of
I’m at the deep freeze

Cold turkey has got me on the run
Cold turkey has got me on the run

Thirty-six hours
Rolling in pain
Praying to someone
Free me again

Oh I’ll be a good boy
Please make me well
I promise you anything
Get me out of this hell

Cold turkey has got me on the run

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

33 thoughts on “John Lennon – Cold Turkey”

  1. I always liked John’s solo output including this song ‘Cold turkey’. This will come across as perhaps superficial on my part, but I’ll say it anyways….When I was watching the Beatles anthology I couldn’t help but notice how in the early years John was such a good looking young lad and hugely charismatic. I hadn’t ever associated that with him before because I had always remembered him with the long hair, the circular lens glasses, the serious ‘I’m going to change the world’ demeanor and the hippy attire. But in those early Beatles years he was a striking young man who truly had the world at his feet. You sometimes wonder what would have happened if Dylan hadn’t introduced them to pot and they had stayed on the stayed on the straight and narrow however unlikely that alternative universe is to conjure in one’s mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That was an important meeting for both of them. Between the both of them they shared the keys to the sixties. It made John think about the importance of lyrics and Bob to think about combining his music with a band.
      I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at that meeting. Out of all of them John changed the most that is for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes John publicly changed the most I would say. I would have loved to hear a Dylan-Lennon song…
        It’s funny when they came over…their hair was consider ridiculously long. To think they sang She Loves You in 64 and 3 years later were singing Sgt Peppers…that is growth.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I couldn’t argue with you about John’s change being most noticeable.

        I agree the musical gulf between She Loves You and Sgt peppers is BIG! A bit like that between Dylan’s Another Side to Bob Dylan and Blonde on Blonde.


      1. Yes – I thought that the Beatles rejection of it was most interesting. And John Lennon’s imitation of Yoko’s singing at the end, rather than sounding anguished, made me giggle.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Kind of agree with Bruce…interesting story & lyrics but not one of his more listenable songs. Another ‘parallel universe’ question- what if Clapton had joined John’ s band fulltime?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That would have been different. John mentioned Eric when George quit in Let It Be to join the Beatles. He really liked him but I don’t think they stayed close.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That was easier to listen to than “Tomorrow…” But, being five minutes long, I broke away at two minutes. I’ve seen videos of him screaming while playing. A guy that used to belong to my CT group loved the Beatles. He stated that Lennon used his music to get over bad parents (maybe I should do some screaming to music, too…). He had been abused.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You maybe the only person ever to say…”That was easier to listen to than “Tomorrow”… this is one of the most uncomfortable songs EVER to listen to. I know why the other Beatles said no. Who the hell wants to hear about cramps and cold turkey?

      Yea his mother got hit by car driven by an off duty drunk officer, his father and mother abandoned him to his Aunt Mimi. He was raised in a nice middle class home because of his aunt…but yea he had his demons.


      1. Hey. I didn’t get to the screaming part. Been there. Done that with his other video. Besides, I’m more music than lyrics.

        When Jon sent me the video of his screaming, he said that it had been very therapeutic for Lennon…and him, both. THAT video was hard to listen to. And…he had an audience, no less.

        I get the experimentation. I get the musical evolution. I get the therapy. But, if it gives me the same reaction as the chalk on the chalkboard squeak or a fork dragged across corningware…I just can’t, no matter how talented.

        I’m sorry for the man…all the way around.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. He went into scream thearpy in the early seventies. You should hear the song “Mother” by John…he lays it all out about his mom.

        Its alright…I have to pick on you….cause I just gotta.


      3. Thats better! That is correct!

        I’m sure that was it. It’s almost uncomfortable listening to it.


      1. I bought Lennon Legend for $5 from an op shop – a lot of the best stuff is non-album, His discography is a little frustrating – sharing albums with Yoko etc – so a compilation is a good option for him.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I like his first two proper albums…but yes a compilation is the way to go.
        One of my favorite album cuts of Lennon was I Know (I Know)…good pop song from Mind Games.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. The first time I heard this- when I bought the compilation Shaved Fish- I found this song jarring- and didn’t like it– with repeated listening- and more music listening in general- i grew to love the song. I guess my first impression was- this doesn’t sound like a Beatles song.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes it’s very brash and uncomfortable. It took me a while to warm up to it. I guess “uncomfortable” is what John was looking for because of the subject matter. I’ve grown to like it because it is honest…plus I love the guitar!

      Liked by 1 person

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