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Staff Picks Category: John Lennon

Plastic Ono Band by John Lennon []



The Plastic Ono Band LP is commonly referred to as the “Primal Scream” album as John and Yoko were going through Arthur Janov’s Primal Scream therapy during the album’s creation in 1970. While Lennon’s lyrics had been hinting at the pain of his childhood since “Help” and “I’m a loser”, on Plastic Ono Band he becomes overtly confessional and addresses directly the disillusionment and isolation of fame and the overwhelming pain of his youth. The cryptic and surreal wordplay that characterized many of John’s contributions to the Beatles albums of the late 60’s is abandoned here and the results are split equally between straightforward quiet love songs (“Hold on”, “Love” and “Look at Me” which more closely resemble his fingerpicked contributions from 1968 such as “Julia” and “Dear Prudence”), filthy distorted rockers (“I Found out” and “Well, Well, Well” which share the heavy tube distortion sounds of “Revolution” and “Cold Turkey”) and epic declarations of loss and rebirth (“Mother” and “God”, both of which feature ‘simple’ piano/bass/drums arrangements). Released in October 1970, in the wake of Altamont, Manson and Kent State, “Plastic Ono Band” addresses the disillusionment of the end of the sixties, the break-up and dispelling of the Beatles myth and the tragedies of John’s childhood. Opening with the intense primal therapy of “Mother” (in which John finally overtly addresses his feelings of abandonment as a child and his mother’s sudden death just as they were reconciling) and closing with the myth-busting “God”, the album is easily Lennon’s most cohesive solo work. Lennon famously hated the sound of his own voice unadorned, and was constantly imploring producers to swathe it in reverb or other effects, and his most famous Beatles contributions were often dense, sonically experimental psychedelic studio creations. On Plastic Ono Band, stripped of daft wordplay and overproduction (Phil Spector, who produced half the sessions, is most notable here for his uncharacteristic restraint), with exceptional accompaniment by Ringo Starr, Billy Preston and Klaus Voorman, Lennon produces his most complete raw and honest solo work.

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