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John Lennon – Remember New York City (His Master’s Choice HMC003)

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Remember New York City (His Master’s Choice HMC003)

Disc 1: New York City (takes unknown), New York City (takes unknown), New York City (takes unknown), New York City (takes unknown), New York City (takes unknown), New York City (takes unknown), New York City (takes unknown), New York City (takes unknown), New York City (takes unknown), New York City (takes unknown), New York City (takes unknown), New York City (takes unknown), New York City (takes unknown), New York City (takes unknown), New York City (takes unknown), Let’s Ride (improvisation)

Disc 2: Remember (takes unknown), Remember (takes unknown), Remember (takes unknown), Remember (takes unknown), Remember (takes unknown), Remember (takes unknown), Remember (takes unknown), Remember (takes unknown), Remember (takes unknown)

Remember New York City is a strange hybrid. It contains, in excellent sound quality, previously undocumented sessions for the songs “New York City” and “Remember.” The former was rehearsed and recorded in 1972 in New York and the latter two years earlier in 1970 at Abbey Road in London. Except for being John Lennon songs, there is no relationship between the two of them and are given a marriage of convenience. The second disc, containing the sessions for “Remember,” would have fit better on It’s Gonna Be Alright (HMC 002) which documents the Plastic Ono Sessions and would have been a very good and comprehensive three disc set. The probable reason why this was released as such is to fit the packaging which holds two discs comfortably. Aside from the strange arrangement of the two, everything on these two discs have never circulated before making putting this in line with the other releases in this series and it is a small miracle that we now have almost two more hours of Lennon working in the studio. Some may not care for these long outtake sessions because of the repetition of material. One may grow weary after listing to snippets of one song for hours on end.

But for others who can’t get enough John Lennon, nothing beats hearing him as he works with his band and producer in the studio whipping these songs into shape. A majority of outtake releases of other band feature alternate takes of well known songs, but rarely feature hours of working tapes where one can hear and study the artists working in the studio as these tapes so. Like The Beatles Twickenham sessions, these offer a glimpse into the daily routine of musicians rarely found on releases.  The first disc offers a pristine sounding, previously unheard sessions for “New York City” which date sometime between November 1971 and March 1972 after Lennon’s emigration to the city. Some Time In New York City was released that summer and was a critical flop, but the song is an engaging Chuck Berry style old time rocker and is one of the highlights of the album.

It is an interesting document of Lennon’s first months in the city and mentions some of the characters he met like David Peel (who also played with Lennon at the Ten For Two benefit) and places Lennon visited like the Apollo and Max’s Kansas City. Phil Spector produced the session and his voice can be heard over the intercom orchestrating the musicians throughout the hour-long tape. The tape opens with some studio chatter with Lennon saying, “piano’s not loud enough for you? The problem is, it’s all right until he tries to take a solo….You want more piano? Try to give him a little more. That’s what you get for being a pianist. Tex [guitarist Wayne "Tex" Gabriel], just one time try doing that with me. I mean one time around so when we hear it we can hear the bits doubled.” The Elephant Memory Band play with the tones in the middle of the fifth track where Lennon instructs, “play some treble, Tex…that sounds great!” the eight track is played more up-tempo and they break down by the ninth. Tex spits out a heavy metal style guitar solo in the eleventh track with Lennon shouting, “rock on!” Things break down by the end of the twelfth track and Lennon takes a break at the end of thirteenth. The disc ends with Lennon asking, “does anyone have any grass?” before they play a short improvisation called “Let’s Ride” on this release.

The second disc offers previously unreleased takes for “Remember” from Plastic Ono Band. This song was recorded in the sessions for the album from September 26 to October 9, 1970 in Abbey Road studios in London. Like with the session on the first disc, there is no indication from either Lennon or the engineer what takes these may be and sound more like rehearsals than attempts to complete and polish the final track. The versions here are generally at a slightly slower tempo than the final version as it appears on Plastic Ono Band. Also the vocals do not have the echo and sound “flatter.” The first track is four minutes long and the band run through the entire track with all of the lyrics until it breaks down with some conversation and the band playing the opening of “God.” After a cut in the tape Lennon is speaking to Phil Spector, saying he wants to hear the “boom boom and the bass” louder to establish the rhythm.

The second track is nine minutes long and features the band pounding the rhythm harder. As Lennon sings the track he ad-libs lyrical asides: “and don’t you worry about what you’ve done and how you run and what the fun what was like and one and two…” by the fifth attempt he sings it through fits of laughter. The sixth track is augmented with a mouth harp and the bass is louder. It features a long instrumental passage ending with him saying, “rolling and calling all over the world” and the opening to “Tutti Frutti.” The seventh track begins with Lennon saying, “limit the piano and let’s hear it in the ears.” It breaks down with Lennon shouting instructions for Mal Evans to bring in the electric piano in case he wants to change. “Let’s get some service from Evans. Tell him I want my money’s worth out of my road manager” he quips.

Apparently he chose not to use the electric piano because no takes exist with Lennon using it. The eighth track begins at a much slower tempo but picks up the pace and Lennon sings an angry “always let you down…what a fucker.” By the end of track nine the band experiment with a new melody and Lennon speaks to Klaus Voorman and Ringo Starr about the arrangement of the piece, asking their preference. “It’s a bit funny on some of them…I think you better stick with it, Ringo.” “I like it, but you changed it” Ringo replies off mic. After they figure out the chords again Ringo tells John what he likes and this interesting exchange reveals just how much input Ringo had in arranging the track. The disc ends with Ringo and Klaus playing different melodies and Lennon laughing “stop it, you idiots!” All of the takes feature the basic parts of the finished track: the stomping rhythm on piano, bass and drums and the complete lyrics.

They obviously lack the final mastering, and the tempo was increased. The same people behind Remember New York City also released Remember Lennon (Yellow Cat YC 2004) which also features several previously unreleased takes of both of these songs. While they all come from the same tape, there is no overlap between the two releases. In fact the tracks on the Yellow Cat come from the ending of these sessions with more polished versions so the HMC gives a more comprehensive view of what transpired before. This release is packaged in a thick cardboard book with liner notes pulled from the Wikipedia article about Some Time In New York City and many period photos with the discs themselves housed in a plastic sleeve affixed to the binding. This is a great sounding and valuable document worth having. (GS)

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John Lennon - Remember New York City (His Master’s Choice HMC003), 3.3 out of 5 based on 3 ratings

1 Comment

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  1. Avatar of Stuart
    Stuart says
    March 20, 2010, 3:09 pm

    the second disk is one of my favorite ever Lennon disks. the track “Remember” has long been a standalone track in the Lennon cannon & to hear John & his band romp through it fueled by a sense of abandon & lashings of beer is quite thrilling. the fact that it’s a superb studio tape just makes it better & better.
    hopes abound that HMC have cupboards full of this stuff & will realise it all through time.

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