John Lennon – Mother

This came off of John Lennon’s debut solo album….John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. The church bell heard at the start of this track was actually faster and higher-pitched initially, and John actually slowed it down to make it sound spookier and more haunting.

What I’ve told people is if you have a party going on…don’t play this album! Don’t get me wrong…this is one of the great solo Beatle albums but it’s not a toe tapper to say the least. It’s probably my favorite Lennon album. This song is obviously about his mom Julia.

This is one of three songs which Lennon wrote for his mother, along with “Julia” and “My Mummy’s Dead”.

He lost his mother when he was 17. She was walking to catch a bus and was hit at a crosswalk and killed instantly. The driver was Eric Clague an off-duty cop… he was also a learner-driver and shouldn’t have been on the road unaccompanied, and he was suspended from the force because of it…he was never charged with being drunk, and alcohol wasn’t mentioned at the inquest.

His Aunt Mimi raised John from a youth when his mom and dad split up and his dad left never to be seen by John again until he was famous. He lost his mom when he was young and permanently at 17 when she was killed.

Lennon wrote this while he was undergoing Primal Scream therapy by psychotherapist Arthur Janov… where he was dealing with a lot of issues that were detailed in the lyrics.

The album peaked at #6 in the Billboard Album Charts, #2 in Canada, and #8 in the UK in 1970.

Lou Reed: “That was a song that had realism,” “When I first heard it, I didn’t even know it was him. I just said, ‘Who the f–k is that? I don’t believe that.’ Because the lyrics to that are real. You see, he wasn’t kidding around. He got right down to it, as down as you can get. I like that in a song.”

From Songfacts

This features Klaus Voormann on bass and Ringo Starr on drums. In addition to his work in music, Voorman is an artist, and designed the cover of The Beatles album Revolver. He also played bass with Manfred Mann. 

On many of his early solo recordings such as this one, Lennon’s arrangements are more simpler and sparser than on the Beatles songs. In the January 1971 edition of Rolling Stone, he explained this was because, “I’ve always liked simple rock.” The former Beatle added: “I was influenced by acid and got psychedelic, like the whole generation, but really, I like rock and roll and I express myself best in rock. I had a few ideas to do this with ‘Mother’ and that with ‘Mother’ but when you just hear, the piano does it all for you, your mind can do the rest. I think the backings on mine are as complicated as the backings on any record you’ve ever heard, if you’ve got an ear.

Anybody knows that. Any musician will tell you, just play a note on a piano, it’s got harmonics in it. It got to that. What the hell, I didn’t need anything else.”

Producer John Leckie explained to Uncut magazine August 2010 that the screams heard on this track were actually edited into the song once the rest of the vocal had been recorded. Lennon would attempt the screaming finale every night, careful never to try it in the daytime in case it destroyed his voice. “The screams were double-tracked,” Leckie pointed out. “John didn’t like the raw sound of his own voice. He always wanted lots of stuff on it. Spector’s contribution, really, was to be generous with reverb and echo.”

Arthur Janov created primal scream therapy, which he detailed in his book The Primal Scream. Folks were always sending Lennon books, and a copy of Janov’s book found him. Lennon was intrigued because the therapy reminded him of the screaming Yoko would often do in her works, but then he looked into it as a way of helping him resolve issues from his childhood. John and Yoko invited Janov to England, where they met with him to vet his practice. They liked what they heard and decided to try some sessions when they went to Los Angeles. For Lennon, it was a breakthrough, and led to this song.

“It’s just a matter of breaking the wall that’s there in yourself and come out and let it all hang out to the point that you start crying,” Yoko said in describing the therapy (Uncut, 1998). She added: “He was going back to the days of when he wanted to scream, ‘Mother.’ He was able to go back to that childhood, that memory.”

This is the theme song to the FX TV series Better Things, which stars Pamela Adlon as a single mom to three girls. To get the song, she wrote a letter to Yoko Ono and lobbied FX to budget for it.

David Bowie covered this in 1998 for a Lennon tribute collection that never came to fruition. His take was done in collaboration with longtime producer Tony Visconti. It remained unreleased until January 8, 2021, when it was made available for the first time to mark what would have been Bowie’s 74th birthday.

Mother

Mother, you had me
But I never had you
I, I wanted you
You didn’t want me
So, I
I just got to tell you
Goodbye
Goodbye

Father, you left me
But I never left you
I needed you
You didn’t need me
So, I
I just got to tell you, mm
Goodbye
Goodbye

Children, don’t do
What I have done
I couldn’t walk
And I tried to run
So, I
I just got to tell you
Goodbye
Goodbye

Mama don’t go
Daddy come home
Mama don’t go
Daddy come home
Mama don’t go
Daddy come home
Mama don’t go
Daddy come home

Mama don’t go
Daddy come home
Mama don’t go
Daddy come home
Mama don’t go
Daddy come home
Mama don’t go
Daddy come home

Mama don’t go
Daddy come home
Mama don’t go
Daddy come home

John Lennon – Love

A simplistic beautiful song by John Lennon. Love was on the John Lennon album Plastic Ono Band. Phil Spector produced this as well as playing the piano on it.

The Lettermen recorded the song in 1971. This single became a top 20 hit on the Japanese Oricon singles chart and hit number 42 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, becoming the only charting version of the song in the US and the last charting single of the group’s career.

Other covers included The Dream Academy, Barbara Streisand, and many others.

John’s version charted when he was killed in the UK at #41  in 1981. It also charted at #58 in Japan in 1998.

The Plastic Ono Band album peaked at #6 in the Billboard Album Charts, #8 in the UK, and #1 in Canada in 1971.

 

Love

Love is real, real is love
Love is feeling, feeling love
Love is wanting to be loved

Love is touch, touch is love
Love is reaching, reaching love
Love is asking to be loved

Love is you
You and me
Love is knowing
We can be

Love is free, free is love
Love is living, living love
Love is needing to be loved

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

Toronto Rock and Roll Revival 1969

Since I posted Paul McCartney’s Concert for Kampuchea yesterday I thought I would concentrate on the festival John Lennon popped up at in 1969… The Toronto Rock and Roll Revival. Unlike Kampuchea which was spread out on multiple days and nights, this festival was held on one day September 13, 1969.

John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band just played fifties songs plus John’s new song that Beatles rejected…Cold Turkey. The reason for the fifties’ songs was because the band had limited time to rehearse and they wanted to do songs they all knew.

It was a great festival lineup but it’s remembered mostly by John Lennon’s participation. The Doors were the headliners and John only agreed to do it

The concert was conceived by promoters John Brower and Ken Walker with financial backing from Eaton’s department store but stymied by poor ticket sales, the venture began to lose support. The festival was almost canceled but Brower called Apple Records in the UK to ask John Lennon to emcee the concert. Lennon agreed to appear on the condition he would be allowed to perform.

The Lennons flew in from England with a makeshift band that included Eric Clapton, Klaus Voormann, Alan White, and Yoko. They arrived at the backstage area at about 10 p.m, while Cat Mother and the All Night Newsboys were singing Good Old Rock ‘n’ Roll to an audience of about 20,000.

Lennon was quoted as saying “I threw up for hours until I went on” because it had been three years since he played live in a concert setting. The band went on and did a good job…ragged but it was a hastily assembled band with only a rehearsal on the plane ride and backstage.

John Lennon:  “The ridiculous thing was that I didn’t know any of the lyrics. When we did Money and Dizzy, I just made up the words as I went along. The band was bashing it out like hell behind me. Yoko came on stage with us, but she wasn’t going to do her bit until we’d done our five songs….Then after Money there was a stop, and I turned to Eric and said, ‘What’s next?’ He didn’t know either, so I just screamed out ‘C’mon!’ and started into something else.”

Little Richard: “I remember the show that people were throwing bottles at Yoko Ono. They were throwing everything at her. Finally, she had to run off the stage. Oh, boy, it was very bad.”

John Lennon: And we tried to put it out on Capitol, and Capitol didn’t want to put it out. They said, ‘This is garbage; we’re not going to put it out with her screaming on one side and you doing this sort of live stuff. And they just refused to put it out. But we finally persuaded them that, you know, people might buy this. Of course it went gold the next day.”

John Lennon and Yoko’s setlist

  • Blue Suede Shoes.
  • Money (That’s What I Want)
  • Dizzy Miss Lizzy.
  • Yer Blues.
  • Cold Turkey.
  • Give Peace a Chance.
  • Don’t Worry Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow)
  • John John (Let’s Hope for Peace)

Performers 

John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band

Whiskey Howl

Bo Diddley

Chicago

Junior Walker and the All Stars

Tony Joe White

Alice Cooper

Chuck Berry

Cat Mother and the All Night News Boys

Jerry Lee Lewis

Gene Vincent

Little Richard

Doug Kershaw

The Doors

Kim Fowley The Master of Ceremonies

Screaming Lord Sutch