Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My favorite albums: Plastic Ono Band

What's cracking people?

Guess who's birthday it was yesterday?

Yeah this guy's!

I forgot to mention it here yesterday, but I did on FaceBook, along with all of the other various tributes to him on that site.

You know for me personally, it's hard to pick out a favorite album of Lennon's, if only because to be honest, I'm not that big a fan of his solo albums. Yes I know, blasphemy for sure, but it's true. There'll be some songs I like here and there, but as for liking his entire albums as a whole, yeah, not so much.

But that doesn't there mean there isn't one major solo album of his that I don't enjoy all the way through. I do, and that's the subject for this week's edition of My favorite albums.

Plastic Ono Band came out in 1970, but was brewing in John Lennon's mind since 1968. He had really gotten involved with his future wife Yoko Ono, both physically/romantically and professionally, and started pumping out little solo works while still officially with the Beatles.

By the time the Beatles split up for good in april of 1970, Lennon threw himself completely into making his first real solo album. Regarded as one of the best, if not best solo album Lennon ever made until his last one, Double Fantasy, Plastic Ono Band is the total summation of all the therapy, all the stress both Beatles-related and personal, all thrown in there for the world to see.

The original album has 11 tracks on it, while the 2000 reissue has two more added on it. These added tracks are "Power to the people", and "Do the Oz." Out of the two, I love "Power to the people" more. It's just a great protest anthem, that you might find yourself wanting to shout "down with the man" and joining those 99% er's real quick!

Just looking at the sheer amount of hits this album produced, should leave no doubt in anybody's mind just how highly regarded this album is.

The first track is the classic "Mother."

This song was written just right after Lennon immersed himself in a type of therapy called Primal Therapy.
This type of therapy causes the subject to undergo regressive states going back to their childhood to deal with traumas that person went through during that period. Screaming is a big part of it, and it's the sort of primal screaming that John does on this track as a way of reliving the pain of when his mother was killed. Deep, deep stuff, but still a beautiful song. I especially love the beginning part, where you hear the chimes of Big Ben, the famous English clock.

"Hold On" is next, and I really love this song as well!

It's basically John talking to himself, his wife Yoko, and the the world, to just calm down and try not to get too stressed about things, especially things we can't control. It's a nice little short ditty, but so, so honest, and so John Lennon.

"I found out" is supposed to be a song written during his days with the Beatles, since it really has that type of sound to it. Listening to it and the lyrics, John talks about his disillusionment with religion, false gods and teachers, and just basically the entire institution of it. Typical Lennon talking shit about religion, but it sounds good, and has a very raw, gritty sound to it as well.

From the bitter to the sweet, "Love" is just what it says it is; a song about love. It's amazing to see the different myriads of emotions and thoughts that flow throughout this entire album, as they all run in stark contrast to one another.
"Love" is simply John Lennon at his most loving and introspective. To me it's one of the most beautiful songs he's ever written, and considering he also wrote "Imagine", that's saying something. Love the piano parts he plays throughout the song, as it seems to just help hammer down his message.

"Working Class Hero" is another classic, vintage Lennon song. Hell the title was so popular, it was later used as the title to a tribute album. Basically the song's about Lennon's thoughts on the different social classes that exist, and just how much shit on he feels is done to the working class. These reflections as come from his own personal experiences of course, as he witnessed first hand the division between the different social classes, the rich and the poor.

Hey, personally, I think this song's just as relevant if not more so than it was back then since not much has changed since then.

Then there's a song called "Isolation". Yeah it shouldn't take too many guesses to figure out what Mr.Lennon was feeling on that particular day:)

Actually it's a sweet song about all of the stress and bullshit John and Yoko had to deal with during that particular period. Between Protest marches and concerts, Yoko being blamed for the Beatles breaking up, and numerous other sources of aggravation, John simply had to let it out, and so he does in this song. Really, really well done here.

Up next is a track called "Remember." It's alright, but it does tend to sound like Isolation and I found out. It's John talking about his disillusionment with how things were at the time, especially cultural and societal cliches. I hear that, as that definitely seems to be a problem in today's "all about me" technological-oriented era.

I like the track "Well, well, well" also. It's a nice little track that rocks.
While it may sound like typical Lennon complaining about stuff, I prefer to look at it as a sort of "Day in the life" in the life of John and Yoko during the post-Beatles, Vietnam period.

I like the lyrics "I took my loved one out to dinner
So we could get a bite to eat
And though we both had been much thinner
She looked so beautiful I could eat her
Well, well, well, oh well
Well, well, well, oh well 

I took my loved one to a big field
So we could watch the English sky
We both were nervous feeling guilty
And neither one of us knew just why
Well, well, well, oh well
Well, well, well, oh well

We sat and talked of revolution
Just like two liberals in the sun
We talked of women's liberation
And how the hell we could get things done
Well, well, well, oh well
Well, well, well, oh well 

I took my loved one to a big field
So we could catch the English sky
We both were nervous feeling guilty
And neither one of us knew just why
Well, well, well, oh well
Well, well, well, oh well"

Nice huh?
If the other tracks were introspective, then you really have to include "Look at me" in there as well. It's Introspective as fuck, with John pleading to someone, maybe Yoko, maybe the audience, "Here I am, look at me. Who am I? Who am I supposed to be?"

And really, who hasn't asked or thought that themselves at one time or another?

The infamous/famous song "God" is next.
If Lennon didn't manage piss off enough people when he compared the popularity of the Beatles at the time with Jesus Christ, then I'm sure he was swinging for the fences on this one! Especially when he says "God is a concept with which we measure our pain." While I don't agree with that opinion, I do kind of see the point he's getting at.
Also in the song, Lennon famously proclaims he doesn't believe in Buddha, Kennedy, Hitler, or even the Beatles....He just believes in Himself and Yoko. Sure some might listen to it and think Lennon's being childish; it kind of does sound like something a kid would say, "Nothing else exists but my reality" sort of thing. But in another light, it's Lennon saying "all the ideological trappings, political and societal/cultural trappings don't mean shit to me, because I have Yoko and my music, and that's enough for me." And you know what? He's probably right.

Right after that is a little snippet of a song called "My mummy's dead" Yeah, and I'm supposed to be Mr.Morbid and all, but I don't think I'd ever write a song with that particular title, true or not.

But it's in this song that John seems to continue the message from "Mother" about his Mom being dead, of course. It doesn't last too long, 49 seconds and all, but yeah that's pretty much what it's all about.

And that's that.

I wonder what Ringo thought about "God" since that line about not believing in the Beatles had to be kind of awkward. You know, since Ringo played drums on the whole album and all.

Hmm. I guess he took it well enough:)

Not to mention Billy Preston, at one time considered the unofficial 5th Beatles back in 1969, played piano on God. I wonder, since Preston comes from a gospel music background, what he himself thought about the song. I guess it didn't bother him too much since he still played on the track.

Maybe there was Hell up in Harlem that night after all........;)

Seriously though folks, ignoring all the accolades and praise this album gets, I highly suggest giving this album a try. After all, this just leads into Lennon's next album, the famous "Imagine."

Not bad for my 250th post huh?


Omega Agent1 said...

Dude, your on a roll with these post. this is some things I didn't know, Kings to you my friend.

Dale Bagwell said...

Thank you for the props good sir:) Like I said, I have a love of history and of music, so stuff like this is natural for me. The History thing is something we definitely both have in common; you know, game recognizes game and all that:)

Anyhoo, thanks for stopping by man, glad you learned something out of all that.

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