Label: Vigotone, VT-175
Record Plant Rehearsal JULY 13, 1974
1 Steel And Glass
2 Going Down On Love
3 Move Over Ms. L
4 Surprise Surprise (Sweet Bird of Paradox)
5 Beef Jerky
7 Old Dirt Road
8 Bless You
9 Whatever Gets You Through The Night
10 Nobody Loves You (When You're Down and Out)
Alternate Takes and Rough Mix - JULY 14, 1974
11 Move Over Ms. L
12 Bless You
13 Beef Jerky
14 Whatever Gets You Through The Night
15 What You Got
16 Move Over Ms. L
17 Whatever Gets You Through The Night
18 (It's All Da-Da-Down To) Goodnight Vienna
Having started to clean up his act during the production of Harry Nilsson's Pussycats LP earlier in the year, John began the process of assembling his own album. Somewhat unusual was the lack of availability of older material to draw from, having used up most of his left-over songs from the political days on Mind Games, and the songs that he contributed to the Pussycats and Goodnight Vienna albums. Thus, Lennon found himself in "craftsman" mode, having to come up with material to order, although not without influences from his L.A. days and new "Pangs" of conscience. Not to say that it didn't result in some fine music; it certainly did. But it also led to perhaps the most commercial sounding album he would produce.
After assembling classic solo Beatle sidemen Jim Keltner, Klaus Voorman and Jesse Ed Davis in the studio, John conducted rehearsals of most of the songs that would eventually appear on Walls And Bridges. Some of these rehearsals would later be released on 1986's Menlove Avenue in remixed and edited form. The complete and unedited tapes from the mid-July session appear here. The sparseness of the line-up, especially in the "harder" numbers, almost give us a "Plastic Ono Band" version of the Walls And Bridges album. Following the run-throughs of Listen To This are a handful of rough mixes and alternate takes, exhibiting the songs in a more advanced state. The finalized, commercially issued recordings also featured the talents of Nicky Hopkins (piano), Ken Ascher (piano and keyboards) and Arthur Jenkins (percussion) as well as guest appearances by Harry Nilsson (vocals), Elton John (piano and vocals) and Julian Lennon (drums). Closing the disc is the familiar studio of "Goodnight Vienna", recorded during this era, and presented here from an alternate source. Unfortunately, this recording has been subjected to what has been termed "tapus interuptus".
Not surprisingly, John's later recollections of many of his Walls And Bridges songs were not always to forthcoming or revealing...after all, it's a little discomforting to talk about some songs written for your girlfriend when your wife is in the room.
1. Steel And Glass One of the heavier songs of this collection and one of the nastier ones as well. It takes some obvious verbal swipes at out-of-favor former manager Allen Klein, although John was never too forthcoming on that score. "I was trying to write something nasty" he stated, "and I don't really feel that nasty, but there's some interesting musical stuff on it...Allen Klein doesn't have an L.A. tan does he? So it must be a combination of resentments. It's about a few people but it doesn't mean anything." Right John, and "How Do You Sleep?" wasn't really about Paul, either.
2. Going Down On Love Definitely a "craftsman-like" number, a jazz-tinged performance "This song really speaks for itself. I can't describe it" was how John put it in a radio interview on KSAN radio in San Francisco in September, 1974. And so it does.
3. Move Over Ms. L Destined for a B-side fate, this tune from these sessions addressed to the missing in action Mrs. Lennon ironically is presented here with a home demo recorded while the current flame/paramour is heard making a phone call. Ouch! The studio rehearsal version and subsequent session take show Lennon still able to call upon his formidable rock and roll skills to turn this into a pretty slick track.
4. Surprise, Surprise (Sweet Bird Of Paradox) Perhaps John's most explicit ode of lust to girlfriend May Pang. John seems to express himself very emotionally at what she had done for him. And how did he remember it six years later?... "Just a piece of garbage" he said.
5. Beef Jerky As evident from even the first studio rehearsal session, this song seems to have been fairly well-developed even at such an early stage. " I get off on this because I don't have to hear my voice all the time" John told listeners on KSAN radio. "That was an instrumental that I had the lick. The thing is I couldn't, whenever I played the lick on the guitar, I couldn't sing it and play it at the same time, so I never got any lyrics for it, so it ended up an instrumental. And I'm rather glad of it, really."
6. Scared Undoubtedly inspired by a bout of desperation during the lost weekend, John recalled to Dennis Elsas "at the moment I was writing it that's how I felt, but now I'm quite happy thank you." We're glad to hear it.
7. Old Dirt Road was a collaboration with Nilsson from the Pussycats era. "Just to write a song" John told Andy Peebles again in 1980. "You know, seeing as we're stuck in this bottle of vodka together, we might as well try and do something." Nilsson would go on to release his own version of the song six years later on his U.K. only LP Flash Harry.
8. Bless You "...is again about Yoko", said John again to Playboy. "I think Mick Jagger took 'Bless You' and turned it into 'Miss You'. Wherever you are, child on a shooting star...the engineer kept wanting me to speed that up...he said, 'This is a hit song if you'd just do it fast.' He was right. 'Cause as 'Miss You' it turned into a hit. I like Mick's record better. I have no ill feelings about it. I think it's a great Stones track and I really love it. But I do hear that lick in it."
9. Whatever Gets You Through The Night Just as "Please Please Me" was originally written in a slow tempo and then speeded up to become the Beatles' first number one single, this song also benefited from a tempo change and became John's first solo number one hit. "How that record came about was that Elton John was in town and I was doing it and needed a harmony" John told Andy Peebles in his 1980 BBC interview. "He did the harmony on that and a couple more, and played beautiful piano on it, and jokingly he was telling me he was going to do this Madison Square Garden concert and he said, will you do it with me if the record's number one? And I did not expect it to get to number one at all. I didn't think it had a chance in hell, because my, you know, I wasn't being very well received on any level then, you know, with my Kotexes and the hamburgers or whatever. And it was the first number one I had actually. "Imagine" wasn't number one. "Instant Karma" wasn't number one, which I think were all better records than "Whatever Gets You Through The Night."
10. Nobody Love’s You (When You're Down And Out) Once again referring to the lost weekend John told David Sheff "I wrote 'Nobody Love’s You (When You're Down And Out)' during that time. That's how I felt. It exactly expresses the whole period. For some reason, I always imagined Sinatra singing that one. I don't know why. It's kind of a Sinatraesque song, really. He would do a perfect job with it. Are you listening, Frank? You need a song that isn't a piece of nothing. Here's one for you, the horn arrangement and everything's made for you. But don't ask me to produce it."
15. What You Got One of the demos included here shows an early rockabilly approach as John works out this one out...with a few lyrics of Little Richard nicked for good measure. He tries again with softer run-through on un-amplified electric guitar, with early attempts at some lyrics dropped along the way. "That's talking about Yoko. You don't really know what you got till you lose it", John told David Sheff for Playboy in 1980. (Ann Orson, November 1998)
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The sessions featured the following musicians:
John Lennon - Vocals and Guitar
Elton John - Lead Vocal
Jim Keltner - Drums
Jesse Ed Davis - Guitar
Eddie Mottau - Acoustic Guitar
Ken Ascher - Keyboards
Nicky Hopkins - Piano
Klaus Voorman - Bass
Arthur Jenkins - Percussion
Horns by - The Little Big Horns
(Bobby Keys, Steve Madaio, Howard Johnson, Ron Aprea, Frank Vicari)
Backing vocals by - The 44th Street Fairies
(May Pang, Lori Burton, Joey Dambra and John Lennon)