John Lennon and friends, “1974 L.A. Jam Sessions” (HMC / TMOQ Gazette HMC 039)
Disk 1 – March 28th, 1974 – “Ya want a toot, Steve?” / “Never Trust A Bugger With Your Mother” / Little Bitty Pretty One / I Know You Don’t Love No More / Lucille / Sleepwalk / Stand By Me / Stand By Me 2 / Cupid – Chain Gang – Take This Hammer
May 23rd, 1974 – Rock Island Line / Midnight Special medley / Matchbox (guitar part) / Wake Up Little Susie / Railroad Bill / Everyday / Maybe Tomorrow – Maybe Baby / “Whole Lotta Brandy” jam / Matchbox / Let The Good Times Roll / Send Me Some Lovin’ (Take 1) / Send Me Some Lovin’ (Take 2/3) / Matchbox – Baby, Let’s Play House / Stand By Me / Send Me Some Lovin’ – “Do It Right” / “Gimme Head”
Disk 2 – “Gimme Head (Take 2) / “Gimme Head” (Take 3 with “Send Me Some Head”) / “Gimme Head” (Take 4) / “Alright, Alright” (Take 1) / “Alright, Alright” (Take 2) – “Send Me My Asshole” / “She Put The Squeeze On Me” – You Can’t Catch Me / Send Me Some Lovin’ – Well .. Alright / Well .. Alright (Con’t) / Do You Wanna Dance? / Do You Wanna Dance (Take 2) / “I Coulda Danced All Night” / Having A Party – Keep Your Hands Off My Baby / Take What You Need, Share What You Got / Stand By Me (Take 2) / Stand By Me (Take 3) / Stand By Me (Take 4) – “Do It Right” – “S*ck My F*ck” – “Goodnight Baby” / Johnny B Goode / Slippin’ and Sliding’ – Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On – Mean Woman Blues – Be Bop A Lula / Be Bop A Lula (Take 2) – “F*ck Your Mother” / “Somebody Gonna Give You Some F*ck” / “I Want You To Sit On My Face”
The latest release from HMC features two different recordings from the same vintage – both from John’s self described, ‘Lost Weekend’ as he was sent on a sabbatical from Yoko’s care, appointed a girlfriend to look after him and left to get a few things out of his system. During this time, it wasn’t always taking a back seat and John also chose to spend his time working with Harry Nilsson, trying to patch up the singers career and no one would question him working with a Beatle for support.
Of the sessions recorded and released here, the first was recorded a LA’s Record Plant studios on the 28th of March, 1974 as John partied with a group of like minded lunatics as they slowly got more and more drunk and evidently more coked up. The sessions from the evening were booted in the mid – nineties as Mistrals, ‘A Toot And A Snore, ’74’ (Evidently a mistake made in translation as, as we know, ‘snort’ is more likely to be the operative term for what was going on in the studio that night.) The tape used here is said to be a generation higher and slightly longer – It certainly sounds clearer, it’s still rough as the volume is pushed to it’s highest levels there is a certain amount of distortion here and there. Nothing that can’t ruin the mood of this smokey little get-together but it would be a blissfully Beatle awed mind that might find a great deal of promise from this rag-bag of oldies and jams. If you’ve managed to avoid this party before, you miss certain intriguing little elements – Imagine being a blind fly on the wall at an expensive party, hosted by some of rock and soul’s luminaries in 1974, nothing much is getting done on request of the loudest ego in the room bar shouting whatever comes in to his head and the songs that he remembers. Guitar in hand, he chips away while his buddies make use of the instruments that lay around the studio. You’ll hear nothing that you couldn’t glean from HMC’s previous Lennon sessions releases apart from musicianship and the fact that, despite what you might think, hanging around with this gang once they got their minds blow was not as amusing as you might hope.
Fast forward to May and we have a new to silver disk tape, originally uploaded to the internet as “Sunday Night At The Record Plant” and copied on to CDR as the same title, If you think of it in the way you might listen to the ‘Let It Be’ sessions but with one Beatle instead of four and wit many more profanities, you won’t go far wrong.
Featuring more of the same squabbling, jamming, boozing and wailing, Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel are actually audible on this tape (Where Macca wasn’t) and so for most that haven’t actually heard this session yet or enjoy the Get Back sessions – you may enjoy this. Incomplete and with a smattering of tape lead-in’s here and there. The first pressings of the disks (Most specifically disk two suffer with some serious disk issues essentially ruining anything that you might hear.)
The session tape leads in with a spark-out version of both ‘Rock Island Line’ and ‘Midnight Special’ sung, not especially well, by John and Paul Simon. It’s a straight forward sing along before John turns the real lyrics in to expletives, realising that things are going nowhere, Simon asks what else fits the tune and someone calls out for the second track instead,
A snippet of ‘Matchbox’ follows (This sounds suspiciously like Simon’s “Graceland” – Wonder if that’s where he got the idea from?)
“Wake Up Little Susie”, “Railroad Bill”, “Everyday”, “Maybe Tomorrow” and “Maybe Baby” all float round as Harry Nilsson throws in some suggestions as he’s really enjoyed playing some of the skiffle tracks that the band have been kicking around the studio, none of them get played fully as they don’t get much further than the suggestion stage as much as a few lines.
The “Whole Lotta Brandy” jam forms from Harry requesting that more liquor gets brought in – It’s more of a aimless skit than a real extended jam though and isn’t one for following up – Attempts at getting a tune from it are pretty fruitless anyway.
‘Let The Good Times Roll’ and ‘Send Me Some Loving’ are messy folderol – the first featuring some screwed up guitar and lazily recited lyrics as they jumble up together. Someone calls out for the key that they’re supposed to be playing in as the drummer starts to jumble over a fill, John asks if it’s a real song that’s being played and berates the engineer for screwing out the sounds in the studio.
“Send Me ..” has the elements of being played in effect – John flits between professionalism, Harry messes around barking in the background from time to time. It’s true that the band just don’t have their heart in it all and so say the musicianship is ‘sluggish’, well, maybe that’s over embellishing things a little too much.
John gives a few more studio instructions to the producers before ‘Baby, Lets Play House’ but a short while in to it’s running time, it all breaks down. Essentially because it’s not being recorded properly but certain people aren’t really following the studio rules anyway. Harry and John attempt a run through of ‘Stand By Me’. Badly.
Returning to ‘Send Me Some Loving’, John leads, Harry bawls and ad-libs again, it might be the most together thing that they attempt all night. Subtitled, ‘Do It Right’, this is the jam that the song mutates in to by part – that is to say, it’s a phrase screamed over the same tune. This in turn, blends seamlessly in to ‘Gimme Head’. The sound of fellatio being shouted for in the style of a 3 year old who wants what he can’t have and having a crying fit. Laughably, the idea is there – were the lyrics a little more, er, nuanced, they’d fit a treat on to this b-side sounding throwaway.
The band agree too as they go for it again over four other takes. Each time the thing doesn’t seem to get a great deal better – maybe we’ll chalk it all up to silly antics. The second run through of the take strips back most of the lyrics and takes us in to surreal territory in the lines of the Beatles, ‘You Know My Name ..’ with a fictional band getting a namecheck.
Things get worse at the 2nd proper take, as it all pools in to a parody of ‘Send Me An Angel’, thankfully that doesn’t last long though and falls apart soon after it begins.
‘Alright, Alright’ follows the same vein – improvised lyrics by John over a lazy backing. This also falls in to smut after a short while as John gets filthy again mixing the words to “Send Me Some Loving” with obscenities – Another piece that could be saved with a little more work and studio time.
“She Put The Squeeze On Me / You Can’t Catch Me” is another improv that reminds John of the Chuck Berry track, ‘You Can’t Catch Me’ – At least the lyrics fit – and that’s the way that John continues – With a little help from the rest of the guys there on daft harmonies, this is another track that would benefit from a repeated listen.
Returning to old tunes, “Send Me Some Lovin'”, Dennis Dunaway, recalls it being a bitch to play and after trying attempting it again, the band instead change to playing Buddy Holly’s “Well .. Alright”, another half passible attempt at resurrecting something from nothing even though the bass lines waver a way from where the vocals tend to be .. or it may be vice versa .. Quickly shifting the pace up to the Beach Boys “Do You Wanna Dance” is prompted by John after he remembers it from somewhere quite unrelated to what the band are playing and also what the band can play. The Wrecking Crew they aren’t and this collision comes off unsightly. It prompts another jam in turn, ‘I Coulda Danced All Night’, and to say this was unprepared, it sounds much better than what came before. Lyrics that are cobbled together, a stumbling bass line – it all sounds better than “Havin’ A Party” which, despite what they might try, doesn’t exactly land.
The next takes of “Stand By Me”, an evergreen for John and his oeuvre, start off pleasant enough but again slowly descend in to madness as they get bored by playing as they get drunker and more out there, John mentions that he’d like a sexual favour from one of the women that he’s spotted in the studio before wandering off in to the further reaches of the studio. He comes back for another take, this one is a little more polished, the piano, guitar and bass pushing the urgent riff. It doesn’t take long before John becomes a little more ‘tired and emotional’ and starts thinking about different things though his thoughts return to the song later on. Returning for their last take, they once again start with good intentions but John starts to let his mind wonder and rolls off in a different direction, the band begin plodding in to the jam they started earlier, reel in to swearing again then wonder in to another improv, “Goodnight Baby”, not without it’s rum moments.
“Johnny B Goode” is thrown in to the suggestions bowl and while John once again remembers most of the lyrics, he’s not above playing it strange and the band give up what they’re doing part of the way through. They give it a little more for the oldies medley though it all begins to get a little wayward.
The session ends with two disparate improvisations, “Somebody Gonna Give You Some F*ck” and “I Want You To Sit On My Face”, the two seem to be lead by Dennis, the lyrics need no scoping, the band are winding down and the mood reflects it.
I can only recommend this set for the fact that it’s pressed on to silver CD and, if you’re a fan of John’s roughly thought out lost period, you might find something to love within. It’s a pressing listen though and not a set that you’ll be pulling out all too often.
The full HMC / TMOQ gazette is here – Packed with articles on Jon and Harry’s lost weekend and how Harry’s career crossed with the Beatle’s twinned with an anti-gun screed, advertisements for the Eight Days A Week movie and the Harry Nilsson boxed set.