Friday, April 22, 2016

135. “The man in the mack” } a ferryman.

Ringo boards the Magic Christian; George “on holiday.” John returns to London with “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” calls on Paul at Paul’s and the two work it out: “John was in an impatient mood,” said Paul, “I was happy to help.” At Abbey Road (studio three, 2pm – 11, April 14, 1969), John sings lead, Paul sings harmony; John’s guitars (lead and acoustic), Paul’s rhythm and piano; eleven takes—“Take ten was the ‘best’ basic track."

“John recorded these sorts of songs with his new group, the Plastic Ono Band,” wrote Mark Lewisohn in The Beatles Recording Sessions, “and had the band existed at this time “The Ballad of John and Yoko” would probably have been theirs.” Paul’s presence brightens John’s song, brings to it a depth that, musically, it lacked. John’s solo record, “New York City”—another account of John and Yoko’s doings—gives a sense of what “The Ballad of John and Yoko” might’ve sounded like if John hadn’t made it Beatles. John’s guitar and Stan Bronstein’s sax on “New York City” attempt to fill it up—it’s manic; “New York City” is aggressive, “The Ballad of John and Yoko” is sly. Paul’s bass, maracas, hand claps, fun! but, “Christ, you know it ain’t easy… the way things are going, they’re gonna crucify me”—isn’t it that sneaky desperation that so startles on Smiths records? “New York City’s” jabs—policemen who shove, “God’s a red herring in a drag”—are hidden in the mix.

Prince died yesterday. Yesterday, coincidentally, I stopped at Rhode Island Historical Cemetery no. 41—a plot surrounded by industrial debris—where’s buried Edwin L. Green, died April 21, 1946, alongside his wife, Marion, who died in 1911, and their unnamed, infant daughter (“our only child”). I like to think about John and Paul in the studio together, in the midst of no little legal acrimony, in the midst of John’s heroin use, days after John’s marriage to Yoko, a month after Paul’s to Linda, at work. At work and able to enjoy the pleasure they found in work and in working together.

Two days later George, Ringo, Paul, and John recorded Harrison’s “Old Brown Shoe.” Philip Norman wrote (John Lennon: The Life), “…an indifferent George Harrison song ‘Old Brown Shoe’.” Indifferent? Christ! What about that song is indifferent? Listen to the way George pronounces his lyric—the blunt “shoe,” the way his delivery pushes and pulls.

“The Ballad of John and Yoko” single, b-side “Old Brown Shoe,” a neat pivot into the Abbey Road sessions, begun that day with “Something.”