John Lennon’s Imagine.

In May 1971 John Lennon assembled some musician friends at his home studio in Ascot and began the main sessions for what would become the follow up album to Plastic Ono Band. As with his last album Phil Spector was invited to take on production duties and while Klaus Voormann did return, this is a grander affair than the three piece we heard in 1970. The band for the Imagine sessions at various times includes Nicky Hopkins on piano, members of Badfinger on acoustic guitars, Jim Keltner, Jim Gordon and Alan White on drums, and members of the New York Philharmonic orchestra on strings. George Harrison provides some quite beautiful moments on guitar, which is interesting as we remember that in 1970 the pair seemed, ideologically at least, quite far apart; Harrison was singing about his sweet lord while  John was busy denouncing all false prophets in songs like I Found Out and God. Plastic Ono Band was recorded from September to October 1970 and the sessions for All Things Must Pass concluded in late October, so at times both men were in Abbey Road at the same time, a studio room away from each other but in very different places.

On his second album, John Lennon attempts to paint on a wider canvas and he gives himself many more colours to create with.

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John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band

Brutal and Beautiful; John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band

As music goals go, John Lennon had it right; start a band, change the world, don’t hang around for people to get bored of you. It’s a simplistic way of looking at it of course, and it minimises the beautiful journey that everyone went on, the Beatles were after all the twentieth century’s greatest romance.

In 1970 John Lennon was not inviting passengers, he wasn’t even really looking to tell any stories aside from his own,  he was stating his own truth. Plastic Ono Band, released in December of that year is his truth. It is harsh and brutal and beautiful all in one and the listener is meant to feel all the sharp edges because the man himself felt them all too. Plastic Ono Band isn’t for everyone, it’s almost as if the listener is a scruffy urchin, perhaps an Apple Scruffy urchin, standing on the roadside wanting to hitch a ride with the driver, and the driver has to pick us up because no one else will.  We are merely catching a lift, it’s not our journey and we don’t have to go to his destination, but we are on the ride for the duration of this album at least, as uncomfortable as it may be.

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The Physical Impossibility Of Hard Copy In The Mind of Someone Digital

I blame Robert Zemeckis.

At the end of the monumental hit movie Back to the Future, as a joke, the time-travelling Delorean containing Doc Brown and Marty McFly alongside Marty’s girlfriend Jennifer, takes off and zooms into the year 2015. Doc utters the words “roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads!” and the credits roll. The creators of the film never intended to make a sequel and ending the Back to the Future in this way created problems they’d struggle with once a sequel became inevitable, problems being the flying vehicle, and the presence of Marty’s girlfriend.

The second any film goes into the future, the makers are on a hiding to nothing because the majority of the future we see will be guess work. We are still waiting for a motorway in the sky and flying cars, for instance, but multi channel television screens are a thing, house security is pretty much where they said it would be and we had enough fun pubs in the nineties to show you the cafe 80’s looked positively prophetic.

One of the major plot points centres around a sports almanac Marty buys in an ‘antique’ store. In Hill Valley of 2015, books and magazines are considered artefacts of a bygone age. We watched that at the time and we thought it was funny.

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Turning New Pages

The Last Word on Puppet Rebellion

Please don’t put your life in the hands of a rock and roll band, who’ll throw it all away

Someone sung those words once, and they have rebounded around my head like pinballs since Manchester band Puppet Rebellion announced they were disbanding. Life is in your hands though, so you can put it in the hands of whichever band you want to.

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You sing the words of your band like they are chiselled on your heart. I mean, if you are lucky, you sing them like they are everything. If you are lucky and you find a band who speaks to you, speaks for you and becomes crucial to your everyday life. If you think I am being dramatic then you’ve probably never had that kind of relationship with music. How awful that must be for you. But then again, you’d be able to read about Puppet Rebellion riding off into the sunset and you’ll be able to brush it off as if I just told you that Marks and Spencer’s don’t put ring pulls on their own brand of baked beans. No big deal!

But music is a big deal. A band should write the soundtrack to your life. Lyrics about nothing can become everything. It works for you because you believe it, and when you believe it then you become a passenger on a journey. Bands and their fans create this thing together, a promise, a contract between the two; you follow where they lead you, living the highs and experiencing whatever lows may come. Maybe you’ll even agree to be in the same room a few times. That is the best feeling. Magic things happen in that room. That’s when everything is created, from nothing, right in front of you. There is nothing there until someone counts off and you suddenly realise, they weren’t just your everything they spoke to all the other people too and you are an army.

Better than drugs.

Puppet Rebellion leave behind an army. Believers. I can sit here and say it shouldn’t have ended this way, it shouldn’t have ended at all. But an unwritten part of the contract is the hope that if the heroes on that stage ever get to the point where they are phoning it in, you hope they will drop their capes and depart. Music can be many things, after all, but it should never be false. Sometimes they have to do the honourable thing and get a divorce. Those who love the band will probably ask questions, like hurt kids, whats next? Why now? Don’t they love us?

Those questions are all scenic and the answers will become clear in time. Maybe. n2f21k1539858029Maybe not. The contract is never iron clad, bands throw it all away, remember? And now the Rebellion is over we have the time and the space to look at the legacy they left us and, as anger and confusion leaves us, we can admit it’s a fucking epic legacy.
They wanted to write their own tunes and play them back to people who loved them. They were never in any rush to complete their album, it had to be right when we got it. So EP’s came first, song after song improving, changing and staying the same. You cannot be angry that the journey ends here, because from verse one through to chapter the last, it has been monumental and it still exists. Anyone new stumbling through life can stagger into a pacey melodic story and take the journey when they are ready. The lucky ones knew how good the journey was while it was happening. We’ll never get the promised second album.

Leave a beautiful corpse though, right?

Puppet Rebellion will never again tug at our heartstrings, the contract is null and void and we move on.
If they spoke to you, you were ahead of the others. The cool kids needed you on the top playground, you knew the handshake, you were in on the joke.
Dear friends, you were born three nil up, you were lucky. We were lucky.

Lets turn our new pages now.

Given to Sounds, October 2018.

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Daydreaming in the Passenger Seat

Elbow’s Best Of: Reviewed

 

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When a band releases a Best Of it’s easy to be cool and write it off as a cash grab, the band in question might have split up, might be going on an indefinite hiatus, might be at the end of their contract, there’s lots of reasons for them in fairness. For a long time I didn’t get Elbow’s Best Of, that’s not be being cool by the way, it just passed me by. I’ve spent the best part of a month with it and I really really didn’t want to like it but I’m here to tell you the boys have done well with it. I wanted to be all yeah well buy the albums, scoff scoff scoff, they’ve missed off such and such well this isn’t for the Day One crowd is it scoff scoff… but it is. This isn’t the end of their story, but this collection works as the end of a phase – I don’t even want to say Phase One because at over twenty five years thats some first chapter. Whatever you call it, from Asleep to Little Fictions it’s been a journey; they were some way down the road before the world seemed to wake up to them after all, and the journey is told in this collection.

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