Sunday, December 23, 2018

John Lennon - 1974 - Walls And Bridges

John Lennon
Walls And Bridges

01. Going Down On Love 3:53
02. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night 3:25
03. Old Dirt Road 4:10
04. What You Got 3:07
05. Bless You 4:35
06. Scared 4:35
07. #9 Dream 4:44
08. Surprise, Surprise (Sweet Bird Of Paradox) 2:54
09. Steel And Glass 4:38
10. Beef Jerky 3:27
11. Nobody Loves You (When You're Down And Out) 5:07
12. Ya Ya 1:05

Released: 4 October 1974 (UK), 26 September 1974 (US)

John Lennon: vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, piano
Elton John: vocals, piano, organ
Nicky Hopkins: piano, electric piano
Jesse Ed Davis: electric guitar
Eddie Mottau: acoustic guitar
Ken Ascher: piano, electric piano, clavinet, Mellotron
Klaus Voormann: bass guitar
Arthur Jenkins: percussion
Jim Keltner: drums
Julian Lennon: drums
Bobby Keys, Steve Madaio, Howard Johnson, Ron Aprea, Frank Vicari: horns
Harry Nilsson, May Pang, Lori Burton, Joey Dambra: backing vocals
The Philharmonic Orchestrange (New York Philarmonic Orchestra)

The most focused set of recordings made during John Lennon's legendary Lost Weekend, Walls And Bridges marked a return to form following the clumsy sloganeering of Some Time In New York City and the frequently aimless Mind Games.

After completing work on Mind Games, Lennon had moved to Los Angeles with his girlfriend May Pang. Lennon and Yoko Ono had separated shortly before the album was begun, and although he hoped it would be a brief interlude in their relationship, she wished them to remain apart for a while longer.

Free from responsibility and control for the first time in his adult life, Lennon quickly fell victim to his excesses. He and Pang embraced Los Angeles' debauched lifestyle to the full, along with fellow party animals Ringo Starr, Keith Moon and Harry Nilsson.

Lennon initially began work on the Rock 'N' Roll album with Phil Spector, but the chaotic sessions eventually fell apart and Spector disappeared with the tapes. Lennon instead produced Harry Nilsson's album Pussy Cats in April and May 1974, although those sessions were equally rambunctious.

Eventually realising he was in danger of ruining his career, Lennon left LA for New York and finished producing Pussy Cats, as well as recording demos for a number of songs which eventually appeared on Walls And Bridges.

These new compositions charted his state of mind in the midst of the Lost Weekend. Lennon flitted between yearning desire to be reunited with Ono, expressions of love for May Pang, and accounts of his darkest hours at the bottom of a bottle.

"I think I was more in a morass mentally than Yoko was. If you listen to Walls And Bridges you hear somebody that is depressed. You can say, 'Well, it was because of years of fighting deportation and this problem and that problem,' but whatever it was, it sounds depressing. The guy knows how to make tables, but there's no spirit in the tables. I'm not knocking the record. But I'm saying it showed where I was. It's a reflection of the time."
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

In the studio

In New York Lennon instigated a professional work ethic, demanding his session musicians worked from noon to 10pm, five days a week. Drugs and alcohol were kept away from the studio, Record Plant East, and Lennon enjoyed a type of creative surge he hadn't known for many months.

"The Walls And Bridges sessions were the most professional I have been on. He was there every day, 12 o'clock to 10 o'clock; go home; off the weekends; eight weeks; done. John knew what he wanted, he knew how to get what he was going after: he was going after a noise and he knew how to get it. And for the most part he got it. What he explained, we used to get."
Jimmy Iovine
Lennon And McCartney: Together Alone, John Blaney

The band spent two days rehearsing and arranging the songs; several of the recordings later appeared on the posthumous collections Menlove Ave and John Lennon Anthology. Lennon produced the recordings, though he was happy to take direction from studio staff including Roy Cicala and Jimmy Iovine.

The album was recorded in an eight-week period over July and August 1974. He was joined in the studio by Elton John, at the time one of music's biggest stars, who performed on Whatever Gets You Thru The Night and Surprise Surprise (Sweet Bird Of Paradox).

"I was fiddling about one night and Elton John walked in with Tony King of Apple — you know, we're all good friends — and the next minute Elton said, 'Say, can I put a bit of piano on that?' I said, 'Sure, love it!' He zapped in. I was amazed at his ability: I knew him, but I'd never seen him play. A fine musician, great piano player. I was really pleasantly surprised at the way he could get in on such a loose track and add to it and keep up with the rhythm changes — obviously, 'cause it doesn't keep the same rhythm... And then he sang with me. We had a great time."
John Lennon, 1974

The songs

John Lennon often found inspiration at his lowest points, and the Lost Weekend was no exception. Walls And Bridges begins with Going Down On Love, in which Lennon reveals he is "drowning in a sea of hatred". The mix of indulgence and sorrow continues throughout the album, from the defiantly upbeat Whatever Gets You Thru The Night through to the morose Scared and Nobody Loves You (When You're Down And Out) – a song which Lennon hoped Frank Sinatra might record.

"Well, that says the whole story. I always imagined Sinatra singing that one, I dunno why. He could do a perfect job with it. Ya listenin', Frank? You need a song that isn't a piece of nothing. Here's one for you. The horn arrangement – everything's made for you. But don't ask me to produce it!"
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

What You Got and Bless You were written for Lennon's estranged wife Yoko Ono. The former showed the influence of the American R&B on his music, while the latter was a mournful lament in which Lennon spoke explicitly of the couple's separation: "Some people say it's over/Now that we spread our wings/But we know better darling/The hollow ring is only last year's echo". He even found the grace to wish well Ono's new partner, session guitarist David Spinozza, who had played on Mind Games.

Surprise, Surprise (Sweet Bird Of Paradox), meanwhile, was inspired by his unexpected contentment with May Pang, and his thanks to her for lifting his spirits from the gutter. Pang had been encouraged by Ono to begin a relationship with Lennon, and despite her initial wariness, the pair soon fell in love.

A key track on Walls And Bridges was #9 Dream, a lush production sounding unlike anything else he recorded, over which Lennon sang of romantic magic and nocturnal discovery. He adapted the melody of the string arrangement of Harry Nilsson's cover of Many Rivers To Cross for the verses, and the chorus – Ah! böwakawa poussé, poussé – was taken from a dream in which two women called his name.

"This was one of John's favorite songs, because it literally came to him in a dream. He woke up and wrote down those words along with the melody. He had no idea what it meant, but he thought it sounded beautiful. John arranged the strings in such a way that the song really does sound like a dream. It was the last song written for the album, and went thru a couple of title changes: So Long Ago, and Walls & Bridges."
May Pang

Two of the tracks referenced Beatles songs. Going Down On Love contained the line "Somebody please, please help me", and Surprise Surprise (Sweet Bird Of Paradox) ended with an echo of the 'beep beep, beep beep, yeah' refrain from Drive My Car.

The mostly instrumental Beef Jerky, meanwhile, borrowed the riff from Paul McCartney's Let Me Roll It – itself a stark recording seemingly inspired the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album. Lennon had been reunited with his former bandmate after McCartney unexpectedly dropped by a Los Angeles studio earlier in 1974, and while the resultant jam was disappointing, it showed that neither was eager to continue feuding.

Walls And Bridges also featured Old Dirt Road, a collaboration with Harry Nilsson, one of Lennon's most tenacious drinking buddies during the Lost Weekend. It also closed with a throwaway cover of Lee Dorsey's 1961 hit Ya Ya, featuring the 11-year-old Julian Lennon on drums.

One song from the Walls And Bridges sessions was left off the album. Move Over Ms L was originally to have been positioned between Surprise Surprise (Sweet Bird Of Paradox and What You Got on the album's second side, but Lennon decided to remove it shortly before the album's release. The song was subsequently re-recorded and released as the b-side to the Stand By Me single.

Cover artwork

Walls And Bridges was presented in a fold-out cover featuring various photographs of Lennon taken by Bob Gruen, and reproductions of artwork drawn by Lennon as a schoolboy in the 1950s. The fold-over flaps could be rearranged in various combinations, and were designed by Roy Kohara.

The LP's inner sleeve was enclosed inside another card container featuring more photographs of Lennon, and an eight-page booklet completed the package. The booklet contained song lyrics, five more artworks from the 1950s, and an extract from the book Irish Families, Their Names, Arms And Origins by Edward Maclysaght which detailed the history of the name Lennon.

The booklet also featured credits for the album, and two quotations: '"Possession is nine-tenths of the problem" – Dr. Winston O'Boogie'; and 'On the 23rd August 1974 at 9 o'clock I saw a U.F.O. – J.L.'

The release

An advertising campaign ran to promote Walls And Bridges. The concept, suggested by Lennon, was around the theme "Listen to this...", and was applied to button badges, stickers, advertisements, posters and t-shirts. In New York City it also featured on the rear of 2,000 buses.

A television commercial also ran in late 1974. It showed the album sleeve in various permutations, and had a voiceover by Ringo Starr. Lennon returned the favour by voicing the advert for Starr's album Goodnight Vienna, released in November 1974.

Walls And Bridges was released on 26 September 1974 in the United States. It was a Billboard number one, was awarded gold status, and spent 35 weeks on the charts.

In the United Kingdom it was issued on 4 October 1974. It peaked at number six, and was in the charts for a total of 10 weeks.

Shortly after its release Lennon supervised a quadrophonic mix of Walls And Bridges, although the popularity of the format was limited in 1974 and it sold poorly.

Walls And Bridges Sessions
Misterclaudel – mccd - 386/387/388/389/390

101. Going Down On Love (Piano Demo Sequence)
102. Going Down On Love (Demo Take 1)
103. Going Down On Love (Demo Take 2)
104. Going Down On Love (Demo Take 3)
105. Going Down On Love (Studio Rehearsal )
106. Going Down On Love (Takes 5 & 6 Breakdown)
107. Going Down On Love (Offline Monitor Mix)
108. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Demo Sequence #1)
109. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Demo Sequence #2)
110. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Demo Sequence #3)
111. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Demo Sequence #4)
112. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Demo Sequence #5)
113. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Studio Rehearsal #1)
114. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Studio Rehearsal #2)
Recording Session #1
115. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Ain't She Sweet)
116. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 1)
117. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 2)
118. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 3)
119. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 4 Breakdown / Yesterday Parody)
120. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 5)
121. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 6 Breakdown)
122. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 6)
123. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 7 Breakdown)
124. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 7)
125. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 8 Breakdown)
126. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 9 Breakdown)
127. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 9)
128. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 10)

201. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 11)
202. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 12 Breakdown)
203. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 13 Breakdown)
204. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 14)
205. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 15 Take 14 By Engineer)
206. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 16 Breakdown)
207. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 17 Breakdown)
208. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 18)
209. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 19 Breakdown)
210. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 20 Breakdown)
211. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 21 Breakdown)
212. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 22)
213. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 23)
214. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 24)
Re-Make Recording Session #2
215. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 1)
216. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 2)
217. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 3 With Breakdown)
218. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 4)
219. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 5)
220. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 6)
221. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Take 7 - Backing Track Master Take)
222. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Mixing Session - Offline Monitor Mix Guitar & Bongos Overdubs)
223. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Mixing Session Over Take 7 - Offline Monitor Mix)
224. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Rough Mix - Single Vocal)
225. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (Vocal Overdubs Over Take 7)
226. Old Dirt Road (Studio Rehearsal)
227. Old Dirt Road (Takes 11 & 12)
228. Old Dirt Road (Mixing Session - Offline Monitor Mix)

301. What You Got (Demo #1)
302. What You Got (Demo #2)
303. What You Got (Demo #3 Breakdown)
304. What You Got (Demo #4)
305. What You Got (Alternate Take)
306. What You Got (Take 10 Mixing Session - Offline Monitor Mix #1)
307. What You Got (Take 10 Mixing Session - Offline Monitor Mix #2)
308. What You Got (Take 10 Mixing Session - Offline Monitor Mix #3)
309. What You Got (Mono Promo)
310. Bless You (Studio Rehearsal #1)
311. Bless You (Studio Rehearsal #2)
312. Bless You (Studio Rehearsal)
313. Bless You (Alternate Take #1)
314. Bless You (Alternate Take #2)
315. Bless You (Offline Monitor Mix)
316. Scared (Studio Rehearsal)
317. Scared (Take 4)
318. Scared (Offline Monitor Mix)
319. #9 Dream (Demo #1)
320. #9 Dream (Demo #2)
321. #9 Dream (Demo #3)
322. #9 Dream (Mixing Session - Offline Monitor Mix)
323. #9 Dream (Rough Mix)

401. #9 Dream (Edit Promo Mono)
402. #9 Dream (Edit Promo Stereo)
403. Surprise, Surprise (Demo #1)
404. Surprise, Surprise (Demo #2)
405. Surprise, Surprise (Studio Rehearsal)
406. Surprise, Surprise (Alternate Take)
407. Surprise, Surprise (Offline Monitor Mix)
408. Steel And Glass (Demo #1 'Pill' 1971)
409. Steel And Glass (Demo #2 1973)
410. Steel And Glass (Demo #3 1973)
411. Steel And Glass (Demo #4 1974)
412. Steel And Glass (Studio Rehearsal)
413. Steel And Glass (Take 8)
414. Steel And Glass (Mixing Session - Offline Monitor Mix 1)
415. Steel And Glass (Mixing Session - Offline Monitor Mix 2)
416. Steel And Glass (Offline Monitor Mix 3)
417. Steel And Glass (Long Version - Quad Mix)
418. Beef Jerky (Studio Rehearsal)
419. Beef Jerky (Alternate Take)

501 Nobody Loves You (Demo 1973)
502 Nobody Loves You (Studio Rehearsal)
503 Nobody Loves You (Take 9)
504 Nobody Loves You (Take 18 Breakdown)
505 Nobody Loves You (Take 19)
506 Nobody Loves You (Offline Monitor Mix)
507. Move Over Ms. L (Demo #1)
508. Move Over Ms. L (Demo #2)
509. Move Over Ms. L (Studio Rehearsal #1 Breakdown)
510. Move Over Ms. L (Studio Rehearsal #2)
511. Move Over Ms. L (Alternate Take Breakdown)
512. Move Over Ms. L (Alternate Take)
513. Move Over Ms. L (Alternate Take 2)
514. Move Over Ms. L (Offline Monitor Mix)
515. Move Over Ms. L (Rough Mix Take 3)
516. Move Over Ms. L (Walls And Bridges Radio Spot)
517. Just Because #1 (1973 Demos)
518. Just Because #2 (1973 Demos)
519. Just Because #3 (1973 Demos)
520. So Many (1973 Demos)
521. The Boat Song (1973 Demos)

Like most of John Lennon's solo albums, Walls and Bridges came with its share of bumps along the way. And like much of Lennon's work starting around the time the Beatles were working on the White Album, many of those bumps were spurred by Yoko Ono.
While recording Mind Games in 1973, Lennon and Ono split up. His year-and-a-half separation from her became known as Lennon's Lost Weekend, a fabled period that lasted way longer than a weekend, and included such figures as Ono's personal assistant (with whom Lennon shacked up), Harry Nilsson and Phil Spector.
John Lennon was about a year into his break from Ono – and about a month removed from wrapping work on Nilsson's Pussy Cats album – when he began recording Walls and Bridges in New York in July 1974. About nine months earlier, Lennon had holed up with legendary producer Spector (who had also assembled the Beatles' final album Let It Be from hours of unedited tapes, much to the disappointment of the group's fans) in hopes of making a record of rock 'n' roll oldies.
But like many things during Lennon's Lost Weekend, alcohol sidelined the sessions and Spector left with the tapes (they'd later be revisited for 1975's Rock 'n' Roll album). So, Lennon fleshed out the new songs he'd been working on since finishing Mind Games a year earlier, assembled some Los Angeles session vets, including some string and brass players, and began work on Walls and Bridges.
He was all over the place, playing around with various styles (pop, rock, R&B), themes (some songs were about Ono, some were about his new love and some were about the Lost Weekend) and intention. Its best songs – "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night," "Bless You," "Scared," "#9 Dream" and "Nobody Loves You (When You're Down and Out)" – dipped as much into Lennon's past as they pointed toward his future.
Nilsson co-wrote one song. Another was a cover of an R&B oldie. Lennon wrote one song with Frank Sinatra in mind. And Elton John came in at the last minute and added vocals and piano to "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night," Lennon's first solo No. 1 hit.
("#9 Dream," the other single from Walls and Bridges reached No. 9, appropriately enough.)
The album also went to No. 1, repeating the success Imagine had achieved three years earlier. But its reputation, even at the time, is far removed from that of Lennon's 1971 classic, mainly because he sounds a little lost – emotionally and musically. No doubt some of that aimlessness had to do with Lennon's separation from Yoko Ono. But it's telling too that after relaunching his Spector-produced oldies project a year later, John Lennon took a long break from music, not returning until 1980's fateful Double Fantasy.
It was almost like the music didn't matter much to him at this point. And maybe it didn't. Rollicking numbers on Walls and Bridges like "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night" are offset by pained confessionals like "Scared." Lennon sounds torn on the album, and his retirement, in hindsight, was much needed.
When he returned in 1980 with his "Heart Play" collaboration with Ono, Lennon was refreshed – lighter and more open to the world. Past demons behind him, he was all set to enter the third stage of his career until it was ended on Dec. 8.
These days, Walls and Bridges comes off like the tossed-off Lost Weekend castaway it often is. Even though Lennon and crew set aside much of the drug- and alcohol-fueled debauchery that marked the Pussy Cats and initial Rock 'n' Roll sessions, the album can't help but take on the signs of a slight hangover ... or at least a kinda rough morning after. There may have been some good times put into it, but there were way better days long before.

With Walls & Bridges, John Lennon finally lets go of his Beatles history, seems to overlook his acrimonious relationship with Paul McCartney, and overcomes his tendency to indulge his rather bloated ego. There's little of the sanctimony that plagues Imagine, little of the navel gazing that renders Plastic Ono Band as bitter as dry aspirin, and little of the pretention that mars Mind Games. It's as if Lennon found the freedom to just enjoy making music with a certain abandon and with a good healthy dose of the kind of funk that was bubbling to the surface of the music scene in 1974. Indeed, I would even call this album Lennon's 1970s funk album. Whether this newfound freedom to create something enjoyable and listenable comes from his infamous lost weekend or simply through creative inspiration and attention to musical trends is probably a moot point by now. In any case, Lennon offers a great time on this LP, even in the more acerbic numbers like Steel and Glass. That number could be taken as a weak point -- "oh, no, more McCartney bashing," right? However, at least to my ears, Lennon is not directing his anger to McCartney at all but rather to himself. In Steel and Glass, this is the Lennon who wrote "Mother" and "Yer Blues," the Lennon who, through some sliver of self-realization cracking through the hardened ego, realizes that his own selfish is a worthy target, is something that has inhibited his personal growth. Who, after all, is the man with the L.A. tan and the New York vibe except none other than the man you took up New York as his home town and hired L.A. musicians to finish this album?   

There is so much going for this album. On Walls and Bridges, Lennon is confident and strong, funky and rollicking. Plus, if I were to name the most Beatle-esque John Lennon album, this is it -- great production, melodies and all.