on John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band
Super Deluxe Box Set, April 2021
© Madeline Bocaro, 2021. No part of this site may be reproduced or re-blogged in whole or in part in any manner without permission of the copyright owner.
John would have done this very differently. It’s very upsetting that Yoko’s mere twelve tracks (vs. over 100 Lennon songs, demos and mixes) have been relegated to one disc – and that they are on BluRay, a format which many people do not own. John would have done the opposite! He would have released seven Yoko CDs, and put his own material at the back, on one disc. The Yoko tracks are glorious! It’s amazing to hear some of these vintage Yoko utterances after 50+ years!
(See track listing below).
Yoko’s POB sessions…
Much of the greatness of all the POB tracks and sessions comes down to Ringo’s drumming. John is noodling a lot on guitar, yet he somehow carries the songs without interfering with Yoko “doing her thing all over you”. Klaus Voormann is stellar on bass, always understanding exactly what is needed. The raw sessions illuminate the work that Yoko did later in the studio fifty years ago, enhancing the tracks, heavily using echo – especially on the drums, and additional sound effects. She was “mixing” in analogue, decades before digital loops existed.
Chimera Music gave us 8:41 minutes of ‘Why’ on the YO/POB release in 2017. Here we get the full 18:01 session. Ringo can be heard asking, “Are you putting an echo on the cymbals Phil?” I can’t help picturing the Ronettes, the Righteous Brothers and the musicians (The Wrecking Crew) who helped create Spector’s ‘wall of sound’ listening to this wild session in shock!
The jam sessions represent what these tracks would have sounded like
live in concert!!
‘Paper Shoes’ is mind-blowing – a 12-minute jam, (almost double in length) which sounds like a cool band improv, unlike the treated atmospheric piece on the album. There is no train intro, nor any other sound effects except for Yoko’s vocal echo. It sounds like John is playing a skiffle tune throughout. I always loved her voice during the final time Yoko says the word, “Paper”. Here, her voice is up front! I wish they had added on the howling wolves and Yoko saying, “Don’t Worry” at the end.
‘Greenfield Morning’ is almost 3 minutes longer!! It’s not as haunting as it is on the album, with all the spooky after-effects added. This is the original, untreated jam, (as all of Yoko’s sessions were, before they were ‘enhanced’ for the album). I love how Yoko starts giving instructions for the next take at the end of the session – while her voice is still on echo!!! Her request: “A bit more quiet, and a bit more Indian!” (which can be faintly heard in the original beneath the birds twittering). And she vocally imitates a drone! So funny! It’s amazing to learn how much extra work they did in the studio to make these tracks sound otherworldly.
There is a really cool mix of ‘Greenfield Morning…’ on the 2005 compilation CD, The Enochian Way presented by Super Numeri.
It’s so sweet when John stops the slow bluesy groove of ‘Why Not’. Yoko is genuinely disappointed that he stopped it at “a really nice point.” The session is 21 minutes long!
‘Life’ is an amazing upbeat session, which would have been the fastest track if it had been on the final album. I have had a 20-minute tape of outtakes with this on it for years, and wondered what it was called. We will never know how this may have been treated for the album.
‘I Lost Myself Somewhere in the Sky’ is in the vein of the live rehearsal with Ornette Coleman, ‘AOS’. There is an escalating vocal at the start (both in pitch and in volume), slowly building into a frenzy, then slowly building again. Of course, ‘AOS’ is not included, as it was a live rehearsal with Ornette Coleman and his band, and was not a part of these studio sessions.
The almost 16 minutes of ‘Touch Me’ is 3x longer than the album track. This piece has several ‘movements’ which makes it very interesting.
‘Omaeno Okkaa Wa’ (a.k.a. ‘Slow Blues’) is a bit slower than the version that I have on tape, but the sound quality is better. This was titled ‘Slow Blues’, when ‘Why’ was still known as ‘Fast Rocker’. It is actually the blueprint for ‘Midsummer New York’ which would later appear on Fly in 1971.
Yoko sings in Japanese:
Omaeno okkaa wa kanashigatteiruyo
Omaeno okkaa wa kanashigatteiruyo
Omaeno okkaa wa Shinjimattoyo
Your mother is sad / Your mother is sad
Your mother is dead / Your mother has died
The interesting thing is she uses “omae”, which is a way to say “you”, only used by men. Women would normally never use this form of speech. Even for men it’s not very polite. So Yoko is probably speaking as a man here.
Also included is a never previously heard, two-minute version of ‘Don’t Worry Kyoko’ (jam) made during the 1970 YO / POB sessions with the backing of George Harrison’s droning tanpura (fretless sitar) loop from ‘Greenfield Morning…’ John is singing “Don’t Worry” along with Yoko!!!! It is incredible!
We also get the 9:28 version of ‘DWK’ (a shorter version appears on Yoko’s Fly album. This is twice as long as the Fly album track which is edited to 4:55. I have had this long version for a long while – but this remaster is great. On the unedited tape, Yoko sings for four minutes – when she determines that this is the end of the piece, saying “That’s it.” (at the 4:10 mark). However, and thankfully the band apparently does not hear her, and they continue to play on. Forty seconds later, Yoko- again trying to wrap it up says, “OK.” but the musicians are still oblivious. This is where the album track actually begins. Yoko surrenders and begins singing again for the five minutes that we have come to know and love. On the album, the edit takes place at the start – with Yoko’s newly recorded vocal, screaming the word “Snow” and the sounds of the band fading up.
An added bonus to the Blu Ray disc are Yoko’s B-sides, ‘Who Has Seen The Wind?’ and ‘Remember Love’ !!!
I have always adored the heavenly weird and wonky out-of-time instruments on ‘Who Has Seen the Wind?’. It is so wrong that it is perfect! The remastered single released on Record Store Day in 2020 and this remaster are even more magical. The fluttering flutes sound like flapping butterfly wings. They bounce and echo off each other. One track of John’s double-tracked guitar is in another dimension – behind the beat. So strange. The trilling harpsichord takes us time traveling to a baroque ballroom dance. The instruments sound wobbly, like a children’s music recital, just about to go off-key.! However, Yoko’s intimate vocal sounds so pure and innocent, like a young child. She comes in a bit too early in the intro, which adds to the sublime madness. She is on beat and in perfect pitch. We have only ever heard this on a scratchy record and on AM radio. This new mix is mind-blowing in headphones! At times, the recording sounds like a drunken cuckoo clock!
In the final verse, she sings about the peaceful legacy that John and Yoko are hoping to leave when they are long gone. Their shared dream will become a reality. They will become invisible, but the ripples of their effect on the world will be known and everlasting, like the wind.
The first appearance of WHSTW on CD was in mono – on the 1997 Rykodisc reissue of Wedding Album. This is the first digital reissue of the song in glorious stereo!)
You can’t improve much on ‘Remember Love’ – it’s so basic – just John and Yoko on the last night of the Montreal Bed-In with his guitar and her voice. Here, it sounds wonderful again, without the usual pops and cracks from the vinyl B-side of ‘Give Peace a Chance’.
In conclusion, if you anticipate dying or becoming deaf any time soon, play ‘Paper Shoes’ and ‘Greenfield Morning’ first!!! And those 2 versions of ‘Don’t Worry Kyoko’. And ‘Who Has Seen the Wind’. Oh just play the whole thing!
I wish they had included the 16 + minutes ‘The South Wind’ (which is on the YO/POB 1997 Ryko release), and on the 2017 Chimera Music issue of YO/POB. Also missing is ‘Something More Abstract’ (really just a brief instruction from Yoko as to what the musicians should play). And there is no reason they could not have added the wonderful ‘Poem Game’ from a July 1970 recording session on which Yoko recites her favorite words which John had written down randomly.
Don’t Worry Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking For A Hand In The Snow) [Jam] 2:21
Why [Live Sessions] 18:01
Why Not [Live Sessions] 21:23
Greenfield Morning I Pushed An Empty Baby Carriage All Over The City [Live Sessions] 8:24
Touch Me [Live Sessions] 15:54
Paper Shoes [Live Sessions] 12:16
Life [Live Sessions] 6:56
Omae No Okaa We [Live Sessions] 6:32
I Lost Myself Somewhere In The Sky [Live Sessions] 5:02
Remember Love [Live Sessions] 4:03
Don’t Worry Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking For A Hand In The Snow) [Live Sessions] 9:29
Who Has Seen The Wind? [Live Sessions] 2:04
This is an excerpt from my upcoming book
In Your Mind – The Infinite Universe of Yoko Ono
by Madeline Bocaro
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My story about John’s album:
My story about Yoko’s album…