December 11 – Lennon’s Primal Debut Album

12/11/70: John Lennon – Plastic Ono Band

John Lennon ushered in his post-Beatles career 50 years ago today with the stark, bare-bones, powerful, and sometimes harrowing Plastic Ono Band. Production was credited to John, Yoko, and Phil Spector, though the album bears little resemblance to Spector’s multi-layered behemoth by George Harrison which appeared a few weeks earlier. While all of Lennon’s albums are to some degree self/Yoko/Beatles-referential, his solo debut was a scab ripping primal scream therapy session played out on vinyl, and it became a classic.

John Lennon's Children, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr Honor Legend on 40th  Anniversary of His Killing | Hollywood Reporter

It’s interesting to me how the ex-Beatles waded into their respective post-Fabs lives. Paul secluded himself at his Scotland farm and wrote and recorded the loose McCartney album earlier in the year as an exercise – with Linda’s help – to pull himself out of his Beatles hangover. George spent months in the studio with Phil Spector and a cast of musicians so numerous he wasn’t even aware of all of them for a few decades. The results included songs of lament over lost friendships as well as further declarations of his spiritual aspirations. Ringo’s musical breakthrough was still a few years away. Then came John’s rather minimalist Plastic Ono Band.

John Lennon - John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band Lyrics and Tracklist | Genius

There were many indications in the music world at the turn of the 1970’s that the Flower Power era was over, and John put his own stamp on it with this album. His wounds were deep and went all the way back to childhood. He was barely thirty years old but had lived ten lives by 1970. He had entered an alternative, “primal” therapy developed by Arthur Janov which used screaming more so than analysis as part of one’s healing. Two of the heaviest songs feature this element: the opening track, Mother, and side two’s God. The latter is a paring down of all the things he no longer wants, needs, or believes in, from religion to political cults of personality to Elvis, Dylan, and lastly, the Beatles. He only believed in Yoko and himself by that point, and the world would just have to deal with it.

John & Yoko/Plastic Ono Band | Book by John Lennon, Yoko Ono | Official  Publisher Page | Simon & Schuster

The rest of the album is no less dramatic in its simplicity with John, Ringo, and Klaus Voormann playing the majority of the instruments. Love is a welcomed respite in the middle of the onslaught, but it’s an emotionally draining affair overall from start to finish. Coincidentally, I’m writing this the day after the 40th anniversary of Lennon’s passing. I played Plastic Ono Band before leaving for work yesterday morning and I’m still feeling it. It’s just as powerful as ever.


Side One:

  1. Mother
  2. Hold On
  3. I Found Out
  4. Working Class Hero
  5. Isolation

Side Two:

  1. Remember
  2. Love
  3. Well Well Well
  4. Look at Me
  5. God
  6. My Mummy’s Dead


13 thoughts on “December 11 – Lennon’s Primal Debut Album”

    1. That’s a funny thought: You’re at a nice holiday party or something, and suddenly “Mother” comes on and everyone gets depressed. That’s when you run to the stereo and put McCartney’s “Bip Bop” on.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think it was with old pineapple face- Manny Noriega- they were trying to get him out of the presidential compound by playing non stop Led Zeppelin loud… he would have came out in 5 minutes if they had blasted Miss Ono’s music.

        Liked by 2 people

  1. Ringo did a couple of albums in 1970: an album of standards called “Sentimental Journey” and another of country songs called “Beaucoups of Blues.” They didn’t get a whole lot of attention, which is a shame, because they were not too bad. Just thought I’d mention it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I watched Looking for Lennon tonight. Thank you for that recommendation. That was really deep into his childhood…much deeper than I’ve seen others go…Thanks Stephen!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re welcome. Glad you liked it. I was surprised at how many childhood/young adult friends they interviewed, but it wasn’t like scraping the bottom of the barrel. I’m guessing Lewisohn has thoroughly interviewed all those folks as well.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. They all had a purpose and were pretty honest good and bad. It does show he was the “middle-class” Beatle but his losses piled up within a short span.

        Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: