The Alternate Plastic Ono Band (Strange Apple SAR 021)
(68:14): Mother (alternate mix), Hold On (outtake), Hold On (outtake), I Found Out (rough mix), Working Class Hero (outtake), Working Class Hero (censored version), Isolation (outtake), Remember (outtake), Remember (acetate), Love (rehearsal), Love (outtake), Well Well Well (rough mix), Look At Me (outtake), Look At Me (rough mix), God (demo), My Mummy’s Dead (demo)
When the happy family finally broke up in 1970, each of the four released solo albums as a statement of intent for their career after The Beatles. And the albums they each released provides an interesting study of contrast. Paul McCartney released McCartney, songs filled with the simplicity of country living. The domesticity is proven by Paul himself playing all the instruments.
George Harrison trolled his own personal archives of materials dating back to 1968 and complimented them with hymns to Krishna on All Things Must Pass. And Ringo Starr, perhaps the most self-conscious performer of the group, released two alums worth of covers tunes: standards on Sentimental Journey and country and western songs on Beaucoup Of Blues.
John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band was the most stark, brutal, and honest of the lot. It’s a tough but fascinating listen because he spent several months in primal therapy with Arthur Janov and, confronted his traumas in musical form. The songs are bare (guitar, bass, drums and sometimes piano), abrasive, but ultimately uplifting. It’s the best example of an artist using an LP as a confessional.
The Alternate Plastic Ono Band is like other titles produced by Strange Apple of late. It doesn’t contain anything necessarily new, but it is a re-imaging and a good compilation of interesting material. They’ve taken the better outtakes and rough takes of the album tracks and arranged them in LP order.
The first track “Mother” is basically the same as the commercial version, except for an extra rhythm piano in the mix.
“Hold On” is included in two takes. The first is instrumental and a rudimentary attempt at a take with vocals. The second it taken at a quicker tempo. “This is getting a bit cramped around the wrists” Lennon complains at the end. “I Found Out” follows, and is a rough mix of the take that would find itself on the LP.
Two takes of “Working Class Hero” follow. The first is a rehearsal run-though with much of the lyrics, but sung with a different melody. The censored version of the song follows, the LP version with the explatives edited out.
“Remember” exists as two very long rehearsals. It came out of John’s banging on the piano and his stream of consciousness ramblings. Both takes are extremely long. The first ends only when George Harrison enters the studio. The second take from an acetate continues even past the Guy Fawkes’ reference from the studio cut with laughs, giggles, and a Frank Zappa reference.
“Love” has one of Lennon’s most haunting melodies. The first outtake is a pristine recording of Lennon running through the song on acoustic guitar, staring off with a complaint about a bum note and ends with him complaining about the guitar and asking Yoko for another. The second outtake starts off with a long period of studio chatter followed by a piano / acoustic guitar demo of the song.
“God” exists as an armature recording demo with Lennon singing the song accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. The lyrics are similar, except in the demo he goes through the “I don’t believe…” list two times, and it lacks “I was the walrus, but now I’m just John … you’ll just have to carry on.”
Strange Apple have been producing very good quality Beatle and Beatle-related titles for many years. Alternate Plastic Ono Band is a very good rearrangement of the available outtakes into a new image of the completed album.