Complete Live Lennon Tapes (Misterclaudel mccd-48/49/50)
Misterclaudel’s Complete Live Lennon Tapes is an admirable and enjoyable collection of a majority of John Lennon’s solo live material. All of the material in this collection has been released before but this collects all those hard to find releases in one convenient package.
With any collection like this the sound quality varies from source to source but there is nothing here that would not rate very good plus with some of the material being excellent professionally mixed tapes. The only quibble is this collection is not really “complete” as the title promises. Missing is the September 13th, 1969 show in Toronto 1969 (released officially as Live Peace In Toronto and the audience source was released by Misterclaudel last year).
Also missing is the UNICEF charity concert at the Lyceum Ballroom, London on December 15th, 1969 where they played “Cold Turkey” and “Don’t Worry Kyoko” (and released officially on Sometime In New York City) and the complete “One To One” concerts from 1972, although a fragment from the soundboard is included.
Disc 1: Rock And Roll Circus – December 11th, 1968: Yer Blues, Whole Lotta Yoko, Yer Blues (rehearsal). Fillmore East with Frank Zappa – June 6th, 1971: Introduction, Well, Jamrag, Scumbag, Au. John Sinclair Benefit, Ann Arbor, MI – December 10th, 1971: Attica State, The Luck Of The Irish, Sisters O Sisters, John Sinclair. “David Frost Show” – December 16th, 1971: Hippie In New York City, Ballad Of New York City, Attica State, The Luck Of The Irish, John Sinclair. Attica State Prison Benefit – December 17th, 1971: Introduction, Attica State, Imagine
The first disc begins with Lennon’s first live solo appearance with the Rolling Stones’ Rock And Roll Circus and his pick up band Dirty Mac (featuring Eric Clapton, Mitch Mitchell and Keith Richard). This comes straight from the official release in excellent quality. Also included is a short fragment of the Dirty Mac rehearsing “Yer Blues” the previous day. It sounds good but too short to be of any interest.
The set with Frank Zappa at the Fillmore East was first released on Sometime In New York City. It was omitted on the official remastered version which might be why Misterclaudel includes it in this collection. And although it’s good the label makes this material again, this is the reason why that particular Lennon release was so reviled. Quite honestly, this collaboration with Frank Zappa is a new level of suck and is completely unlistenable. “Scumbag” is the band shouting that word over and over and over again for six minutes, and “Au” is simply Ono screeching for an eternity before it mercifully ends.
The John Sinclair benefit set is a redaction of two different sources. “Attica State” sounds a bit distorted, but clears up to excellent for “Luck Of The Irish” and “Sisters O Sisters”. It returns to the lesser sounding source for “John Sinclair”.The “David Frost” show recording is a week after the John Sinclair benefit and features John and Yoko singing with David Peel and the Lower East Side (who also appeared at the John Sinclair benefit) playing “Hippie In New York City”.
David Peel had minor attention in the late sixties before dropping into obscurity and briefly gained some attention in the early nineties for writing a campaign song for Howard Stern’s aborted gubernatorial campaign. For some reason Lennon felt Peel was an interesting artist and hung around with him, although Peel sucks too. “Hippy In New York City” is one note played over and over again, as is “Ballad Of New York City”. Lennon plays a bit of “Luck Of The Irish” before singing “John Sinclair”.
This, and the following Attica State Prison benefit from the following day are in excellent quality and come from the peak of his political revolutionary weirdness.
Disc 2: “Mike Douglas Show” – 1972: It’s So Hard (Jan. 31st), Midsummer New York (Feb. 1st), Sisters O Sisters, Memphis Tennessee, Johnny B Goode (Feb. 2nd), Imagine (Feb. 4th), The Luck Of The Irish, Sakura (Feb. 7th). “Aquarius” – Feb. 28th, 1972: Attica State. “The Dick Cavett Show” – May 5th, 1972: Woman Is The Nigger Of The World, We’re All Water. “One To One Concert” – August 30th, 1972 (evening show): It’s So Hard, Woman Is The Nigger Of The World, Mother, We’re All Water, Come Together, Imagine, Give Peace A Chance
Most of disc two covers appearances on the “Mike Douglas”, “Dick Cavett” and “Aquarius” television programs. The sound quality on all of these is sourced from a copy of the broadcast and sound very good. The “Mike Douglas” tapes are particularly interesting since we can hear Lennon jamming with Chuck Berry on “Johnnie B. Goode” and having a fun time. Even Yoko’s contributions “Sisters O Sisters” and “Sakura” aren’t offensive but are enjoyable.
The disc ends with a soundboard fragment from the evening “One To One” Concert on August 30th, 1972. Misterclaudel use a high generation tape that sounds dull. “Mother”, “Imagine”, “Come Together” and “Give Peace A Chance” were released on Come Together (Undercover UC-006-1) in much better quality.
This release has more more tracks that haven’t surfaced before which is a bonus. It will be a great find if the complete soundboard for those shows were to be released someday since the audience recordings are quite poor.
Disc 3: “Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon” – Sept. 6th, 1972: Introduction, Imagine, Now Or Never, Give Peace A Chance. Elton John’s Thanksgiving Concert, Madison Square Garden, NY – November 28th, 1974: Introduction by Elton John, Whatever Gets You Through The Night, Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, I Saw Her Standing There. “Old Grey Whistle Test” recorded March, 1975, broadcast April 18th, 1975: Stand By Me (Version 1), Stand By Me (Version 2), Stand By Me (Version 3), Slippin’ and Slidin’ (Version 1), Slippin’ and Slidin’ (Version 2), Slippin’ and Slidin’ (Version 3). “A Salute To Sir Lew Grade” – April 18th, 1975: Introduction (audience source), Slippin’ and Slidin’ (audience source), Stand By Me (audience source), Imagine (audience source), Slippin’ And Slidin’ (soundboard source), Imagine (soundboard source)
The third and final disc in this collection begins with John and Yoko’s set on the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Labor Day telethon. Lewis introduces them as unique people and Lennon says how happy they are to participate before playing “Imagine”, “Now Or Never” and a new arrangement of “Give Peace A Chance”.
The Elton John concert, more than two years after Jerry Lewis comes from the same soundboard that has circulated before with Elton’s introducing Lennon and playing a great version of “Whatever Gets You Through The Night”. That song hit number one (which is why Lennon played at this show) and is one Lennon’s best solo tracks.
The “Old Grey Whistle Test” material covers the different versions of the songs released on the Rock And Roll LP and are contained on MBE’s You Should’a Been There…Vol. 2. The final segment, “A Salute To Sir Lew Grade” is his final live appearance ever and is also on the MBE release in similar quality.
Lennon was a transparent artist who didn’t let his changing thoughts and attitudes interfere with any pre-conceived notion of how his music should sound. Whether or not his music was any good is beside the point. He wanted to express what he was feeling and thinking and that is what comes across in the music. Some of the music is bad (“Scumbag”, et al), but we can at least appreciate what he is trying to say and get across.
Complete Live Lennon Tapes is an excellent and well thought out collection that is fun to have. The packaging is excellent as usual for this label, utilizing high quality paper inserts and picture discs. Overall the only thing I hadn’t heard before was the additional tracks from soundboard for “One To One”. Other than that all of this has been released before in similar quality so collectors who have it all might want to pass.