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.
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.
We really should thank our sweet Lord that the song writing partnership of Lennon and McCartney frustrated George Harrison in the later, troubled years of that band they were in. You know that band; you’ve heard of them, I’m sure. There was John, Paul, George and that guy who voiced Thomas the Tank Engine and doesn’t do autographs anymore (peace and love, peace and love). The Beatles.
To quote Lennon, he and Paul “carved up the empire” between themselves because at first George wrote one throwaway song for each Beatle album and by the time he got good, the group was losing interest in being ‘fab’. This frustration at being overlooked is something that Harrison turned to his advantage. When the time came to deliver the statement that was his debut solo album; All Things Must Pass (1970), he had a huge backlog of songs to include.
I’d Have You Anytime was written whilst hanging around Bob Dylan after the unhappy White Album sessions with those Beatles. Whilst Dylan wrote some of the lyrics it’s perfect musical representation of Harrison because it features George’s favourite chords, or in Tom Petty’s words ‘the naughty chords’; diminished and augmented that just drip from the song beautifully.