John Lennon, “Holy Grails, Upgrades & Reconstructions Vol. 1” (TMOQ Gazette / HMC 042)
DVD – “Several Times In New York City” – “Luck Of The Irish” – Bank Street rehearsal reconstruction / Bank Street “Home T-Shirt” news interview (Raw footage in colour) / Bryant Park Peace Rally (Raw news footage in colour) / Immigration Hearing (Raw news footage in colour) / The Labor Day Telethon (Complete broadcast version – Black and white) / The Labor Day Telethon (Complete In-Line Feed version – Colour)
CD – “Audio Clean Up Time Volume 1” – Getting Levels / Quick Soundcheck / New York City – Take 1 / New York City – Take 2 / New York City – Take 3 / Getting More Levels / New York City – Take 4 / Tex’s Levels / New York City – Take 7 / New York City – Take 8 – John’s Levels / New York City – Take 9 & 10 / New York City – Takes 9 & 10 / New York City – Take 11 & 12 / New York City – Take 12 / New York City – Takes 13 & 14 / New York City – Take 15 / New York City – Take 16 / New York City – Take 17 & 18 / New York City – Take 19 – “Well, That’s Right” / New York City – Take 20 / New York City – Take 21, 22 & 23 / The Telethon – Repaired (Bonus)
The latest release from HMC’s ‘TMOQ Gazette’ series brings us a collection of video and audio recordings from John Lennon’s political year (1972) whilst living in New York. The era for John was an interesting one even if the album that was released was an uneven, shoddy affair which bought him very few new fans if any at all. Swayed by the various political movements that had started to rise since the late ’60’s, John left his soul searching behind and decided that he’d also join the upheaval against the ongoing Nixon presidency while also sticking his fingers in other pies including race relations, women’s rights, et al. His own personal life was beset by his own immigration problems, Kyoko, Yoko’s daughter from a previous relationship, was the subject of a paternity battle and things must have been chaffing between the Lennon’s themselves as the following year, they decided to separate for a while. This gazette, as the title suggests, heralds the appearance of a good stock of rare visual and audio materials and, as HMC have proved time before, they have been able to put together enough exclusive material to make a the purchase of this title extremely worthwhile, despite a lot of it coming from this less-than-lauded period of John’s musical career.
The DVD portion of the set begins with an over 22 minutes ‘Luck Of The Irish’ rehearsals – significantly longer than has ever been circulated before. Shot on a home movie camera and featuring beautifully clear sound (The tape wobbles a little towards the end though), the couple rehearse their parts through the songs – John is buzzing on something, either excited by the fact that he’s in the moment or having a moment of his own as they try to attempt their own ‘Ohio’ and get the rehearsals preserved for posterity. The song, as we know, is interminable, a piece of politically charged dross that makes, ‘Give Ireland Back To The Irish’ sound …well… they’re both bad – but thankfully, there’s more to this footage than that. In-between takes, John discusses the differences in electrical charge between America and England, the way the video in the states is formatted, and the difference it makes to the broadcast of their ‘Imagine’ film. John throws out some white asides and wise cracks, Yoko smokes and seems just a bit pissed off.
The playbacks are seen at the end showing the couple listening to the final recording. The picture, the label admits, is mixed, going between bleached white and fuzzy to a very clear monochrome. It is hard to positively rhapsodize about this film because of the bloody song itself but it is what it is and we’re lucky enough that John and Yoko arranged this rapid recording session for us to enjoy 45 years later.
Following this is the ‘Home’ t-shirt, Bank St. interview. Appearing for the first time in such quality, the video is slightly pale, but in true 1970’s station master tape quality, is unfortunately marred by a thin black bar, covering the time code, right in the middle of the screen. The full recording seems to be here, including set ups and parts of the interview that did not have the audio recorded. – Affected occasionally by extraneous sound, Yoko is not miked up properly at points and so some of her interview is only partly heard (Which might be a good job), John, with his sonorous Liverpudlian voice, is captured very well.
Two short pieces are also included – The first, John and Yoko’s appearance at the Bryant Park Peace Rally & John’s immigration hearing – Both presented in full colour with sound, and noted as upgrades, they both feature a timecode towards the top of the screen, They are of nice enough quality and clear enough to be called as such, as it is more ’70’s tape quality. Totally essential for people who enjoy the fact that they have to have pretty much everything from the timeline, but arguably less essential for the rest.
But this set’s main visual draws are two versions of John and Yoko’s appearance on the Annual Jerry Lewis Labour Day Muscular Dystrophy Telethon broadcast on Monday, September 24th, 1972. If ever there were Lennon holy grails, these are them! Introduced by Jerry Lewis (and joined towards the end of the set on trumpet), the first version in black and white warps at the very beginning of ‘Imagine’ with an audio wobble in the middle of the song but is nice and clear throughout the rest of the broadcast, it’s clarity is again, broadcast quality for the time, the footage also features the toll-numbers that people could call to donate, though is in a fine white / grey font and doesn’t distract from the broadcast itself – In any case, it is what it is and adds a timeframe appeal.
The second version is an amazing find as it features the whole of the selection in misty hued, full colour – The sleeve notes mention that this is as how would have been seen on the broadcast monitors in the control room and is free of the superimposed call-in numbers. The audio on this version is even more impressive. It’s an exciting watch considering the lack of John’s solo performances on bootleg (Though he was busier at this point than he ever would be again.) Several ‘edgy’ camera shots sneak in to the performance though it’s mainly focused on whomever the main performer is. It should be noted that the audio from both versions were edited together to make a flawless version as a bonus track for the CD – superior to any version heard previously.
The CD portion of the set features the studio recording from John’s opener from the album, ‘Sometime In New York City’, titled, “New York City”. Upgraded from it’s appearance on the earlier HMC set, ‘Remember New York City’ – The session, about which GSparaco wrote, “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 Elephants 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.” – was presented previously as a mono recording with various artifacts throughout, the take numbers were also unknown as some of the session tracks were spread over Yellow Cat’s ‘Remember John Lennon’ CD (These are on the end as takes (20 to 23).
It is presented here with a nice clean stereo mix (previously unheard) and is in it’s most complete form, the saving grace is that it is possibly the most interesting track from the album (Remember, HMC – If you find multiple takes of ‘We’re All Water’, you should keep that to yourselves ..) The gazette is the standard production, thicker paper slightly with rare photos inside, some original text promoting the contents inside, a brief overview of John’s Beatlemania era and post era love affair with New York running up to 1974, an article on the history of Jerry Lewis’ telethon, plus ads for Peta (Staring Cory and Susie Feldman in a tenuous ‘Bed In’ pose) and an ad for the 2017 Sgt. Pepper remaster. A brilliant compilation from the HMC staff once again. There’s no doubting that this set must find a place on your solo Lennon shelf (If you’re an ‘ex-Beatle’ collector, that is) and I can only hope for some more new material, upgrades and reconstructions for ‘Imagine’ or even ‘Mind Games’ in the near future.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)