John Lennon, “Holy Grails, Upgrades & Reconstructions Vol. 3” (TMOQ Gazette / HMC 048)
DVD: Plastic Bands And More
1-1 Give Peace A Chance (May 31, 1969 Hotel Queen Elizabeth, Montreal) 6:36 / W5 (Toronto December 1969 CTV News Canada) 6:04 / Avro’s Televizier – Dutch TV, 16 December 1969 (Rec’d In Canada) 3:10 / University Of Toronto CBS News (20 December 1969) 54:56 / Man Of The Decade (Filmed 2 December At Tittenhurst Ascot, Aired 15 December UK) 22:35 / Instant Karma Original BBC Version From Top Of The Pops (5 Feb 1970) 03:25
CD: Audio Clean Up Time Volume 4
2-1 Love (Full Band Run-Through) / It’ll Be Me (Jack Clement, Rec’d By Jerry Lee Lewis 1958) / Love (Acoustic Guitar Take 1) / Love (Acoustic Guitar Take 2) / Love (Acoustic Guitar Take 3) / Love (Acoustic Guitar Take 4) / Love (Acoustic Guitar Take 5 FS) / Love (Acoustic Guitar Take 5) / Look At Me (Incomplete) / Love (Acoustic Guitar Take 6) / Love (Acoustic Take 7) / Love (Acoustic Take 8) / Love (Acoustic Take 9 FS) / Love (Acoustic Take 9) / Love (Acoustic Take 10) / Love (Acoustic Guitar Take 11) / Love (Acoustic Guitar & Piano Take 12) / Love (Acoustic Guitar & Piano Take 13) / Love (Un-numbered French Take!) / Love (Acoustic Guitar & Piano Take 14) / Love (Acoustic Guitar & Piano Take 15 With Ugly French Take) / Love (Acoustic Guitar Tuning To Piano Take 16) / Love (Acoustic Guitar & Piano Take 16 – False Start) / Love (Acoustic Guitar & Piano Take 18 John Guides) / Love (Acoustic Guitar & Piano Take 19) / Love (Acoustic Guitar & Piano Take 20 – False Start) / Love (Acoustic Guitar Tuning To Piano Take 21) / Love (Acoustic Guitar Tuning To Piano Take 21 Mistake)/ Love (Acoustic Guitar Tuning To Piano Call For Take 22-23) / Love (Electric Guitar & Piano Take 24 False Start Tuning) / You’re So Square (Baby I Don’t Care) (Leiber-Stoller)/ Love (Piano Only Take 24 – FS) / Love (Electric Guitar & Piano Take 25) / Love (Acoustic Guitar & Piano Setting John Echo Levels) / Love (Acoustic Guitar & Piano Take 26) / Love (Acoustic Guitar & Piano Take 27) / Love (Acoustic Guitar & Piano Setting Levels Take 28 False) / Love (Acoustic Guitar & Piano Take 29) / Love (Acoustic Guitar & Piano Take 30)
Volume 4 of the HMC series, ‘Holy Grails, Upgrades and Reconstructions’ focuses on that anomaly album afore ‘Imagine’, John Lennon’s “Plastic Ono Band”. John’s first fore in to solo album success but possibly , or arguably, his most introspective, therefore, a little tougher to listen to than the latter (Though far less indulgent than ‘Sometime In New York City’) – Split between a DVD and CD set, the former detailing the first of John’s solo active years and the infamous ‘Bed-Ins’ of Amsterdam and Montreal but also his political interviews. The CD side is detailed below.
Our film begins with the shoot for ‘Give Peace A Chance’, a composite of video and audio, sticked and picked from the best available materials – all in perfect quality (Though there’s a spot between the gathering of the crowd and the start of the track where John is giving out instructions that’s a little shady on it’s audio as if he’s not miked up, however, he’s still keenly heard and so you don’t miss anything.) It’s quite the event too – No doubt you’ve all seen something like this but this looks fantastic and the sound, a true stereo picture, is as clear as being there – You really do have to feel for the people in the hotel room below however.
The second film is a TV broadcast from Canada’s CTV news schedule, ‘W5’. A black and white interview, book-ended with the Jonas Mekas cut up film of one of John and Yoko’s bed ins, cut up with various seconds of street film and live footage. This film, as the liner notes suggest, is in fantastic quality, without timecode but including the insane questioning that was brought at the time (At least the intention was meant well – Fast forward 45 years, John would no doubt be running up the curtains with the kind of questions he’d have been posed nowadays.) John gives his standardised answers to whatever is thrown his way.
Next we have a spot recorded for Dutch TV, Avro Televizer Magazine. Another B&W film, John talks about the peace programme along with the multi-language posters that were produced for the message as a bag drop. Seated around a desk with Yoko, who says nothing and Jerry Rubin also sat quietly at the end. This was recorded in Canada but, as it’s for a Dutch audience, John is asked for a message to the people of the Netherlands, which he does so in English (We have to guess his stay in Holland didn’t have him grabbing around for the Dutch dictionary that often)
The longest segment on the DVD is a John and Yoko interview from the University of Toronto. Aired on the 20th of December, 1969, just in time to promote the message of Christmas peace to the country – And syndicated others! – A sepia cum colour broadcast, it doesn’t help that John and Yoko are still in their ‘dressing all in black phase’ and they’re sat in university office, the colours are the standard for 60’s TV. It features a light timecode towards the top of the screen – Not very invasive, your eyes are drawn to John and Yoko’s body language
Running for around 55 minutes, it’s one of those long, lingering videos that wears it’s seriousness on it’s sleeve – neither John nor Yoko are being particularly entertaining throughout. Maybe it’s because they know they’re being interviewed by a scholar from the establishment of they’re so deep in their ‘peace’ phase, the interview drags a little for me – Right in the middle I shuffled off to do something else instead like reorganise my books, make a coffee and got a biscuit. Things get a little more light-hearted towards the end as the couple begin to tire of the interview but I’m afraid I’d drifted off a little bit by then. Sure, if you’re a fan of the spoken word of John, this might be something to wallow in on a quiet afternoon but lacks that entertainment feel.
‘Man of The Decade’ was broadcast on the BBC on the 15th of December, 1969. Shot in various locations, including Tittenhurst and featuring much archival footage, Beginning with a short clip from Montreal’s ‘Give Peace A Chance’ and an introduction by Desmond Morris – Who’s disbelief at a ‘Beatle’ being introduced as “Mon Of The Decade” he quickly counters by way of drawing John’s name against some of the politicians that were also chosen and their crimes with a clip from ‘A Hard Days Night’ – written in the Fabs famous irreverent style, clips of the band dropping in to America, the Shea Stadium films, ‘All You Need Is Love’ (Twinned with the video from ‘Something’, all alongside of the time clips of John and Yoko tramping through the grounds of Tittenhurst. The storm that the Beatles whipped up throughout the world when they were building their empire was obviously unprecedented – The bands politicking isn’t mentioned as much as it could be for an argument, though John’s message of now still rings throughout.
Edited to be much more information style than straight interview, the film doesn’t just concentrate on the worlds greatest love story but also the world as it was at the time – There are the Berkley riots, the Vietnam War, etc to punctuate the message that John and Yoko were spreading at the time. It’s rather more informative than the later broadcast (24 Hours with ..) which centred around more of John and Yoko’s peace antics and life and with I personally, would have preferred to have been included here.
Finally, the DVD gives us the hastily compiled promo for ‘Instant Karma’. The brief spell during which the song was recorded, pressed and released didn’t give much time for the couple to prepare a video and so this version (Broadcast on Top Of The Pops on the 5th of February, 1970) is a quick comp of John and Yoko’s balloon ride, their meeting with, the POB ‘laugh’ session, meetings at Apple, the man of the decade interview and the still unreleased ‘Apple records’ promo film. All included with it’s original audio (IE; not as clear as the ‘Give Peace .. ‘ audio and footage of Tony Blackburn, the presenter of the show, bookending the clip and talking to one member of the audience about her knee-cap warmers.
The audio side of the set is, as standard, from a cache of new stereo tapes that the company have been given that detail a full recording session – This time, it’s ‘Love’ from the POB sessions. One of John’s most delicate and romantic songs, from the almost spiritual hymnal that it appears as on the album, it’s a little light-upon-magic to hear that it started life, or was considered to be conceived as a full band work through. Now, I ran through ‘Remember’ on “Holy Grails 4” track for track – As there are 39 tracks here, it’s not worth your time to read through the resulting barrage of gushiness – I’ll lay down for this session so I’m just going to pick through some of what I consider to be the best parts, you can decide if you agree when you listen to the disk.
Take one is the considered ‘Full band take’ – Featuring John, Nicky Hopkins, Ringo and Klaus, it’s actually not bad. It does feel like it might have been an early rehearsal for ‘Anthology’, it is well built but I’m not sure John was feeling it as his singing isn’t quite up to spec, breaking at the high points. Once it breaks down, John leads us through a rude pastiche of ‘It’ll Be Me’ – This is really rather fun as John isn’t drunk this time, he’s just playing for giggles.
‘Acoustic guitar 1’ is more familiar, back to the song that we know. The band kicked out, it takes John a while to get to where he wants to be, fumbling with the notes, having problems with his headphones, getting his lines wrong (Therefore getting Mal to change his lyrics), breaking into a very, very brief ‘Look At Me’ before normal work resumes.
From there we have various alternate takes and breakdowns of the acoustic track – As he’s finger picking, it all gets a little harder to do as time passes. Changing chords, changing guitars, suggesting that he play ‘God Is a Concept’ (sic) just to loosen himself up, John starts to get a little more quippy (“I was thinking about me bum .. guitar note”) and grabs his crib sheets, spreading them around him so that he can grab a little more inspiration from the air.
Take 12 brings us the introduction of the piano, rounding out the sound, the first couple of takes put John off as he’s comfortable with the guitar track on his own so the introduction of an additional instrument throws off his timing. John asks the control room how it sounds, “Shitty” is the response.
After a couple of these, it’s time for a bit of messing around – An (unnumbered) pidgin- French take in double speed is a nice diversion, another take on, John complains of not having a guitar strap and asks for a stool as he likens it to being on the Johnny Cash show.
From here on in, the track begins to gel, there are moments when either John or Nicky stumble a little and there’s a little bit of levity between them but it gets a little further apart. Take 24 introduces the electric guitar giving the tune a little more bounce, but it’s, as yet, untuned. John takes a moment to rectify this, runs through an impromptu ‘Baby, You’re So Square’ then it’s back to ‘Love’.
Take 25 takes us back to acoustic guitar whence John begins to ask for echo through his cans. We’re back on to normal again though John’s voice begins to scratch.
Finally, take 30, Nicky plays a few piano fills, Phil suggests a change in piano notes but John is quite happy with the way they were playing and doesn’t want to start chopping at this point. We end the tape as Nicky misses a chord out and John misses his cue.
It’s strange but 39 tracks of essentially the same track (With another 10 minutes coming soon!) should, by rights, get very boring, very quickly. That it doesn’t is testament to the sound. It really sounds like you’re in Yoko’s place (or sat next to her) whiling away the time, watching John record.
I much preferred the audio side to this set this time. As entertaining as John’s foray in to the world is, his humour was dulled as soon as he was taking a message and taking it all just a little too seriously. It’s not all doom and gloom of course and the film rarities that HMC have uncovered are nice gems to have, it’s just I’ll be listening to the audio tracks a lot more often this time.