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John Lennon – Come On, Listen To Me (His Master’s Choice HMC 004)

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  Come On, Listen To Me (His Master’s Choice HMC 004)

Disc 1: Going Down On Love (rehearsal), Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (overdub on take seven), Old Dirt Road (rehearsal), What You Got (alternate take), Bless You (rehearsal with false start), Scared (rehearsal), #9 Dream (promo edit), Surprise Surprise (Sweet Bird Of Paradox) (rehearsal), Steel And Glass (rehearsal), Beef Jerky (rehearsal), Nobody Loves You (When You’re Down And Out) (rehearsal). Whatever Gets You Thru The Night sessions (part 1): Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (take unknown), Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (take unknown), Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (take unknown), Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (take unknown), Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (take unknown), Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (take unknown), Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (take unknown), Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (take unknown), Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (take unknown)

Disc 2, Whatever Gets You Thru The Night sessions (part 2): Ain’t She Sweet (improvisation), Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (take unknown), Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (take unknown), Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (take unknown), Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (take unknown), Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (take unknown), Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (take unknown), Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (take unknown), Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (take unknown), Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (take unknown), Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (take unknown), Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (take unknown), Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (take 10), Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (take 11), Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (take 12 & 13), Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (take 14), Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (take 15), Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (take 16 & 17), Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (take 18), Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (take unknown), Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (take unknown). Walls And Bridges outtakes: Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (alternate take), Move Over Ms.L (rehearsal with false start), Bless You (alternate take), Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (rehearsal), Beef Jerky (alternate take), Move Over Ms.L (alternate take), Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (rough mix)

Come On, Listen To Me on His Master’s Choice is a two-disc set covering various session and outtake material from John Lennon’s Walls And Bridges album. Much of the material stems from Lennon’s “lost weekend,” rehearsed in the middle of July, 1974 and the LP was recorded during a two-week long session at the Record Plant in New York City in August, 1974. The final product of all this activity was released two months later on October 4 and was his final album until 1980′s Double Fantasy. There are several releases covering some of this material. One of the earliest and most comprehensive is Vigotone’s 1994 release Listen To This… (VT-175/176/177). Other titles include Off The Walls (Trade Mark Of Quality), The Complete Lost Lennon Tapes Vol. 1 & 2 (Walrus Records 003) in 1996 and The Complete Lost Lennon Tapes Vol. 19 & 20 (Walrus Records 031) 1998, The Lost Lennon Tapes Vol. 33, 34 & 35 (Bag Records BAG 5105/6/7/A/B), Over Walls, Under Bridges (no label), Studio Tracks Vol. 8 (Chapter One CO 25187) Winston O’Boogie (Bag Records BAG5072) and “Move Over Mrs. L” on Out Of The Blue (Toasted Condor 1968),

This new release on His Master’s Choice has a taste of rehearsals, alternate mixes and edits, but the bulk focuses upon hitherto unreleased sessions for the hit single “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night.” The material on this release is presented in three sets. The first eleven numbers constitute an “alternate” version of Walls And Bridges, presenting alternate takes of the songs as they appear in proper sequence on the final product. The second set of outtakes, which comprises the majority of Come On, Listen To Me, are run-throughs, rehearsals, and various takes of the album’s hit song “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night.” Finally, on the tail end of the second disc, are various outtakes. Author Nicholas Shaffner, in The Beatles Forever, writes: “Written and recorded in New York in a fortnight’s outpouring of creativity, Walls And Bridges proved to be John Lennon’s most diverse, insightful — and commercial — in years. The 10 songs synthesized the confused and painful emotions he had experienced during a six-month spree of partying and dissipation in Los Angeles, the most notorious incident being forcibly shown the door at the Troubadour Club along with drinking companion Harry Nilsson after heckling a Smothers Brothers performance and striking a waitress in March 1974.

Because most of the record’s lyrics explore the barriers separating himself from others, while also frequently expressing the hope that these might somehow be overcome, John chose the title Walls And Bridges. ‘Walls,’ said Lennon, ‘keep you in either protectively or otherwise, and bridges get you somewhere else.’ In its searing emotional intensity, Walls And Bridges resembles John’s first post-Beatle album, while the richly textured arrangements and melodic diversity recall Imagine. But Walls And Bridges also features an ingredient that those earlier confessionals conspicuously lacked: vintage Lennon humor, which can go a long way toward alleviating the potential heaviness of John’s subject matter. A renewed determination to find a few laughs even in the face of adversity illuminates every aspect of Walls And Bridges from the inclusion of a brief, good-natured duet between Lennon and 11-year-old son Julian — along with a booklet of paintings John did himself when he was that age — to the half dozen playful pseudonyms ranging from Rev. Thumbs Ghurkin (piano) to John’s favorite, Dr. Winston O’Boogie (electric guitar); and Lennon’s Dylanesque acoustic strumming on ‘Nobody Loves You When You’re Down and Out’ is credited to Dwarf McDougal — Dwarf being Dylan’s music company and McDougal the name of his Greenwich Village street.” (pages 173-174) The opening track is a rehearsal of “Going Down On Love.”

It isn’t clear which take this is, but this is at a slightly slower tempo than the final song with only guitar, drums and vocals and missing the saxophones. “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night” is take seven with overdubs. This is again close to the final version but with an additional ten seconds of studio chatter preceding the performance. “Old Dirt Road (rehearsal)” is the basis for the final track but without the final string arrangement and has thirty extra seconds. “What You Got” is one of the heavier rockers on the album and was released as the B-side to the “#9 Dream” single. The alternate take of this song on the first disc has the lyrics and basic arrangement of the piece, featuring vocals, guitars, drums and piano and missing the saxophones and percussion. “Bless You” begins with Lennon saying, “not so loud….there seems to be more notes than I need.  There are some notes there that I don’t like, even if the are the right ones.” After playing the main melody it breaks down with Lennon saying, “it’s harder to play slower.” This run through is stripped down compared to the final version, missing the cocktail piano.

The same is true for the rehearsal of “Scared.” The released version is the most produced song on the album with coyote howl at the beginning, saxophones, strings and all sort of percussion. The rehearsal is simply Lennon at piano singing the lyrics with drums, guitar and bass. “#9 Dream” is a radio promo edit released by Apple (SPRO-8035). This single, released in December 1974, contains both stereo and mono mixes for radio airplay. The LP version is 4:47, but the edited version clocks in at 2:58. The second verse is cut out and the song goes to the coda after the chorus. HMC use the stereo mix for this release. “Surprise Surprise (Sweet Bird Of Paradox)” is a simple run through of the track. “Steel & Glass,” “Beef Jerky” (without the “beef jerky” shouts), and “Nobody Loves You (When You’re Down And Out)” are in a similar vein as the others: guitar, drums, bass and piano basic arrangements with none of the production elaborations. The “alternate Walls And Bridges” is followed by copious amounts of run through and rehearsals for “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night,” the big hit from the album.

Lennon himself spoke about how fast the sessions for this song came together and the number of takes shows that. The first half of the lot are labeled “take unknown.” These represent the song in the earliest stages of development, but the lyrics, rhythm and basic melody are all present. The first two tracks contain Lennon singing the lyrics over guitar, bass and drums (like the other songs present of the first disc). He stops the rehearsal at the beginning of the third track and lowers the volume of his vocals before the band stumble over the tempo. By the fourth track he complains about the guitar sounding like a ukulele and narrates the lyrics over the rhythm section. The fifth track continues in the same frenetic energy but with a heavier funk style on the guitar. The sixth take begins with Lennon listening to the engineer before the engineer says, “six.” “A great count-off” Lennon says dramatically before the band go into the track again.

He alters the vocal melody a bit before he stops singing and stops the rehearsal. “Sorry, the congas got a little loud, you turned them up halfway through the take?” “A little,” the engineer responds. “Not a little, a lot!” The following track, an un-numbered take, is taken at a slightly slower tempo than the others. The second disc begins with a twenty-seven second ditty called “Ain’t We Sweet,” a silly little number written by Yellen and Ager and recorded by Frank Sinatra. “Did you record that, Shelley?” someone asks at the end. The sessions pick up again with “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night,” still without Elton John at this point. The first six tracks are mainly instrumental with Lennon singing scattered lyrics and choruses, trying to get the band to play at the proper tempo. There are several breakdowns, and at one point Lennon sings, “suddenly…I’m not half the man I used to be…’cause now I’m an amputee.” After two more takes Lennon tells them “just pretend you can hear bongos…congas.” After several minutes the electric piano starts having trouble with the tempo causing the session to come to a halt. In fact, the remainder of the sessions show the band playing with the tempos and adjusting the different instruments to the mix.

This all comes to a head on track twenty-two where the band play the track and speed up which breaks the studio down into laugher and Lennon saying, “all right, all right!” “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night” alternate take is the first track of the outtakes section. This alternate take is taken slower with Lennon singing some of the lyrics and features a fuzz guitar melody playing over everything else. For those who can listen to Lennon outtakes and rehearsals all day this is a fascinating tape to listen to. It would have been much more interesting if the sessions that included Elton John existed so that we can hear how he whipped the song into its final form. The following outtake is a rehearsal of the song “Move Over Mrs. L.” this song was included on Walls And Bridges up until Lennon changed his mind three weeks before the album’s release and was pulled off. The song was to be placed between “Surprise Surprise (Sweet Bird Of Paradox)” and “What You Got,” but was later placed on the B-side of “Stand By Me” six months later.

The following alternate take of “Bless You” is mellower than the final version (if such a thing were possible). Following is a one minute-forty-four second rehearsal of “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night.” This sounds very early in development with a completely different melody and almost reggae rhythm. “Beef Jerky” sounds very similar to the rehearsal on disc one. The alternate take of “Move Over Mrs. L” features the song in a boogie arrangement. Finally, “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night” is a rough mix of the final track. Elton John’s piano can be heard, although deep in the mix. His backing vocals are likewise buried, the volume of the congas is higher and the saxophone is present. Come On, Listen To Me is packaged is a hard cover, twenty-page book filled with essays, photographs, artwork and lyrics that is both gorgeous to look at and informative to read. This release, along with the other Lennons It’s Gonna Be Alright and Remember New York City, are some of the nicest to come out in a long time and contain hours of previously unreleased, pristine quality outtake material. And since the sound quality is perfect, these are essential for the collection. (GS)                                                

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John Lennon - Come On, Listen To Me (His Master’s Choice HMC 004), 5.0 out of 5 based on 2 ratings

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