Tag Archives: John Lennon

Paul McCartney Julian Hey Jude 1968

Paul McCartney Julian Hey Jude 1968

Released August 26, 1968

Paul McCartney Julian Hey Jude 1968

The Smile Orchestra playing ukulele, melodika (pianica), piano and e-bass.
Paul McCartney Julian Hey Jude 1968

Iconic notes

Some song’s first notes are so embedded in our lives that hearing them immediately transport us to a place, a time, a person, an era.

For me, the Beatles “Hey Jude” is one of those songs. It is late August 1968, just before going away to college for the first time and leaving behind the tanned friendship-ringed beautiful girlfriend whose September letters will only made me make more homesick. “Don’t make it bad.”

Paul McCartney Julian Hey Jude 1968

John and Cynthia on the verge

Just a year before in August 1967 the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi had enchanted the Beatles. On their group trip to see him, John had left behind Cynthia struggling with luggage to keep up at the station. She missed the train and  had to get a car ride to the site.

John Lennon had met Yoko Ono in November 1966 and they began a friendship that blossomed into a close relationship when the two recorded Two Virgins on May 19, 1968 while Cynthia was away on a vacation.

Cynthia Lennon had discovered the two of them together after coming home early from that vacation.  They separated that month and John sued for divorce accusing Cynthia of adultery, an accusation she denied.

On August 22, 1968, Cynthia counter-sued. Lennon did not contest the divorce. It became official on November 8, 1968.

Paul McCartney Julian Hey Jude 1968

Hey Jules

In June Paul McCartney  visited Cynthia and Julian Lennon. Though she was now separated, Paul and she had been friends since 1957 when Paul joined the Quarrymen and she was already John’s girlfriend.  Paul thought of Julian and in the car on his way out wrote the lines, “Hey Jules [Julian], don’t make it bad, take a sad song and make it better.”

Paul would later change the name to Jude.

A month later, on July 26, Paul played it for the first time to John. John loved it from the beginning.

Paul McCartney Julian Hey Jude 1968

Hey Jude

The Beatles recorded the song over four days: July 29 – 31 July and 1 August.

According to the Beatles Bible site the personnel were:

  • Paul McCartney: vocals, piano, bass
  • John Lennon: backing vocals, acoustic guitar
  • George Harrison: backing vocals, electric guitar
  • Ringo Starr: backing vocals, drums, tambourine
  • Uncredited: 10 violins, 3 violas, 3 cellos, 2 double basses, 2 flutes, 2 clarinets, 1 bass clarinet, 1 bassoon, 1 contrabassoon, 4 trumpets, 2 horns, 4 trombones, 1 percussion
Paul McCartney Julian Hey Jude 1968

August 26, 1968

Apple released “Hey Jude” August  26 in the US [Aug 20 in the UK].  “Revolution” was the B-side.

It reached number one on September 28 and stayed there for nine weeks, the longest time a Beatles single was at number one. It was also the longest-playing single to reach number one.

“Hey Jude” was the 16th number-one hit for Beatles in America, They would eventually have 20, the most of any group.

Paul McCartney Julian Hey Jude 1968

4 September 1968

The Beatles asked Michael Lindsay-Hogg to film a promotion for the song. He had done the same for “Paperback Writer” in 1966. The idea was to film it in front of a live audience, albeit, a selected one.

David Frost played the part of an MC and introduced the band as ““the greatest tea-room orchestra in the world”.” The audience is not seen at first and the two-tiered  orchestra, seen during the playful introductions during which the Beatles also briefly play Elvis’s “It’s Now or Never.”  Frost plays it straight and doesn’t crack a smile.

After the last chorus, the cameras pan back and suddenly the Beatles are surrounded by that unheard audience. Now, though, they clap along and sing the famous “Naa naa naa na na na naaa….”

They settled on the idea of filming with a live, albeit controlled audience. In the film, the Beatles are first seen by themselves, performing the initial chorus and verses, and then are joined by the audience who appear as the last chorus concludes and coda begins; the audience sings and claps along with the Beatles through the song’s conclusion. Hogg shot the film at Twickenham Film Studios on 4 September 1968,

Paul McCartney Julian Hey Jude 1968
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John Lennon Opines Jesus

John Lennon Opines Jesus

July 29, 1966

August 1966 interview about his March opinion 
John Lennon Opines Jesus

Looking for trouble

By 1966, the whole world seemingly knew who Beatles were and that most of the world liked their music and them, too. That is only a somewhat accurate statement. Of course there were many who did not like the Beatles’s music nor the Beatles themselves. Critics made wise cracks about them needing a haircut, looking like girls,  their looks in general.

Rock and Roll was just a teenager and there were plenty of people who were suspicious of the music and anyone associated with it. The Red Scare and McCarthyism of the 1950s still echoed in the early 60s, the Soviet Union was still our arch nemesis, and the re-invigorated civil rights movement threatened the status quo, however unjust that status quo was.

Parents warned their teenagers, “If you go looking for trouble, you’ll find it.” Teenagers knew, “If you want to find a reason to dislike my music, you’ll find a reason.”

John Lennon Opines Jesus

Maureen Cleave

Journalists knew that a Beatle interview was money in the bank.  Maureen Cleave, of the London Evening Standard, ran a series of interviews called “How does a Beatle Live?”

On  March 4, 1966, Maureen Cleave interviewed John Lennon for the series.

During the interview, Lennon, who had been reading about various religions said, “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that. I’m right and I’ll be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now. I don’t know which will go first, rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.”

John Lennon Opines Jesus

The article appeared and that was that.   No outrage by the British.
John Lennon Opines Jesus

US reaction

Tony Barrow was the Beatles press officer. He offered the rights to all four interviews to US teen magazine, Datebook.

John Lennon Opines Jesus

On July 29, 1966 the article appeared with a headline featuring the Lennon Christianity quote, which was only a small part of the entire interview.

John Lennon Opines Jesus

It became national news on August 4. A NY Times article lead sentence read: “Dozens of radio stations throughout the United States are banning music by the Beatles because of a statement by one of the rock ‘n’ roll singers that his group is more popular than Jesus.

The article’s last sentence read: “Several radio stations scheduled bonfires for the burning of Beatle records and pictures.

John Lennon Opines Jesus

Some support

The US negative reaction was not universal. A Kentucky radio station declared that it would give the Beatles’ music airplay to show its “contempt for hypocrisy personified”, and the Jesuit magazine America wrote: “Lennon was simply stating what many a Christian educator would readily admit.”

John Lennon Opines Jesus

Aftermath

The Beatles toured that summer, but it was their last. While the Christianity comment alone did not cause that cessation, it was a part of it.

And in 2008, the Vatican issued the following statement: “The remark by John Lennon, which triggered deep indignation, mainly in the United States, after many years sounds only like a ‘boast’ by a young working-class Englishman faced with unexpected success, after growing up in the legend of Elvis and rock and roll. The fact remains that 38 years after breaking up, the songs of the Lennon-McCartney brand have shown an extraordinary resistance to the passage of time, becoming a source of inspiration for more than one generation of pop musicians.” [BBC article]

John Lennon Opines Jesus
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Plastic Ono Some Time New York City

Plastic Ono Some Time New York City

John Lennon
Released June 12, 1972
“New York City” live @ Madison Square Garden Que pasa, New York?
Plastic Ono Some Time New York City
The photo was taken by Lennon’s photographer and friend Bob Gruen August 29, 1974 at Lennon’s rented New York penthouse apartment.
Plastic Ono Some Time New York City

Life after the Beatles

The last Beatle album, Let It Be, was  already more than two years old. Each of the individual Beatles had been active since the breakup. Elvis met President Nixon and asked for a badge to be a drug czar. The FBI was investigating Lennon to back up a plan to deport him.

Life for John Lennon and Yoko Ono had become political. It is no surprise that Some Time in New York City happened.

Ironically, Lennon pursued this political avenue at the same time that traditional political singers such as Joan Baez and Judy Collins had moved away. No matter.

Plastic Ono Some Time New York City

In Your Face

The album was not a subtle one and smacked us right in the face with its first track: “Woman Is Nigger of the World.” To say some stations wouldn’t play it is an understatement.  The National Organization for Women awarded Lennon and Ono a “Positive Image of Women” citation for the song’s “strong pro-feminist statement” in August 1972.

The album cover resembled a newspaper with articles reflecting the songs. I’m sure the picture of President Nixon and Chairman Mao dancing nude didn’t help get Lennon off of Nixon’s Enemies List.

Plastic Ono Some Time New York City

Plastic Ono Some Time New York City

Some Time in New York City

It was a double-album with the second disc live material. The studio tracks were the main statements. All were co-written by Lennon & Ono except where noted:

Side one
  1. “Woman Is the Nigger of the World”
  2. “Sisters, O Sisters” (Ono)
  3. “Attica State”
  4. “Born in a Prison” (Ono)
  5. “New York City” (Lennon)
Side two
  1. “Sunday Bloody Sunday”
  2. “The Luck of the Irish”
  3. “John Sinclair” (Lennon)
  4. “Angela”
  5. “We’re All Water” (Ono)

Yoko Ono’s influence, presence, and art continued to rankle some fans and critics. Even today it seems de rigueur and reflexive at the mention of her name for many to mock and demean her.

Rolling Stone magazine still held powerful sway over what fans felt. Stephen Holden’s July 20, 2972 review read in part, ““except for ‘John Sinclair’ the songs are awful. The tunes are shallow and derivative and the words little more than sloppy nursery-rhymes that patronise the issues and individuals they seek to exalt. Only a monomaniacal smugness could allow the Lennons to think that this witless doggerel wouldn’t insult the intelligence and feelings of any audience.”

Time has been kinder than Holden, but still few today think of this work as Lennon’s best. [All Music review] [Ultimate Classic Rock review]

Having said that, Lennon on a bad day is far better than nearly all of us on any day.

Plastic Ono Some Time New York City
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