Tag Archives: Two Virgins

TMBP Extra: Celebrate anything you want

Three years ago in this space, we celebrated Paul McCartney’s 70th birthday with a brief look back at the period between June 18, 1968 and 1969, a stretch that straddled the Get Back/Let It Be sessions that we explore here. On the occasion of the diamond jubilee of John Lennon’s birth, we’ll do the same thing people have done for more than 50 years: compare John and Paul, and as usual, with much different results.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono with Birthday Cake

Smile, John, it’s your birthday!

Forty-seven years ago today — October 9, 1968 — was John Lennon’s 28th birthday. The Beatles were primarily in the mixing stage of the White Album. John was in the midst of a divorce with Cynthia. Nine days later — there’s that number that follows John around — he and Yoko were victims of a drug bust at their home as they were handling the difficult release of Two Virgins.

In the coming months, the White Album was completed and released, the Beatles assembled in January 1969 for a monthlong writing and recording session and they subsequently recorded and completed Abbey Road (along with other songs, like John’s “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” a No. 1 hit). Those achievements fell in the same period as between Paul’s 1968 and 1969 birthdays. So what’s different for John and in the time frame that’s shifted by four months?

Yoko, obviously, and her dramatically increased role in John’s life, replacing Paul as his primary collaborator. It wasn’t just her, but what she enabled John to be willing to do. John with Yoko creating their own art and performance outside of the Beatles — bed-ins, experimental music, films, publications — all things that grew from being an outlet away from the band to becoming a full replacement for the band that Paul was expending his energy to keep together and internally manage. Like John and Yoko, Paul got married, too, and started his own life with Linda, increasingly spending time at his farm in Scotland. The Beatles were his band.

Three weeks before the Get Back sessions, John formed the Dirty Mac for the Rolling Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus in December 1969. His bed-in recording of “Give Peace a Chance” was released within days of “The Ballad of John and Yoko” in June 1969. Two weeks before the release of Abbey Road in September 1969, his first iteration of the Plastic Ono Band took the stage in Toronto.  Upon his return on Sept. 20, he told the rest of the Beatles he quit the group. He wouldn’t perform together with the other three Beatles again. Ten days later he recorded “Cold Turkey.”

All of the Beatles by this point had their own lives, marriages, projects outside the band.  For John, the Beatles had become the outside project in a wildly tumultuous period coinciding with his divorce, his immersion into Yoko, a use of harder drugs and a willingness to move on past Paul. All the factors are related. This may not have been John’s greatest period as a pop music songwriter, at least in volume, but given the variety of artistic pursuits and chances he was willing to take — including the biggest one of all, replacing Paul with Yoko — it was a remarkable period in John Lennon’s career and life.

On August 28, 1969, Linda gave birth to Mary, Paul’s first child. On October 9, John’s 29th birthday and the end of the period we’re recalling here, Yoko miscarried.  They would have their first child together, Sean, exactly six years later, on October 9, 1975.

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TMBP Extra: Christmas time is here again

1968_sleeve_back

Quick quiz: When the Beatles convened Jan. 2, 1969 at Twickenham for the Get Back/Let it Be sessions, what was their most recent record release?

It wasn’t the “Hey Jude” single, which was still on the charts , but came out the end of August 1968. It’s not the White Album either — that came out at the end of November.  The soundtrack to the Yellow Submarine film was released nearly two weeks into the January 1969 sessions, with songs that had long been recorded.

Check the solo discographies, even, and you come close —  but not close enough. Two Virgins — cut in May — came out a week after the White Album. John also participated in the Rock & Roll Circus on Dec. 11, 1968, but that recording wasn’t released until 1996. George’s Wonderwall Music was close, too, released Nov.1, 1968 in the U.K. and Dec. 1 in the U.S.

The answer, a giveaway by now thanks to the post title and above image, is the Beatles’ Sixth Christmas Record, recorded post-White Album sessions in November 1968 and released Dec. 20, 1968, less than two weeks before the band assembled at Twickenham in Jan. 1969, and while the band was in active discussions planning out the film and potential shows.

There’s no need for a play-by-play breakdown of the recording, since if you’re at this blog, you either already have heard it or, if not, you really should just click and listen — it’s less than eight minutes long.

Does it portend anything musically for the band? Well, no, not at all.

It’s odd and experimental in (most) places. But perhaps more relevant, this is the first of the fan-club-only Christmas releases, which date back to 1963, in which the group wasn’t actually a  group, with each of the four members submitted their own message for inclusion. How separate were they? It was an international affair with George literally phoning it in from L.A., while the rest of the band put their respective pieces together from their homes.

Alas, they were forced back together again days later at Twickenham, but by the time their following (and last) Christmas album came out in Dec. 1969, they’d be done recording as The Beatles, separately or together, altogether.

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