John Lennon – Rock ‘N’ Roll (1975)

FrontCover1Rock ‘n’ Roll is the sixth studio album by John Lennon. Released in 1975, it is an album of late 1950s and early 1960s songs as covered by Lennon. Recording the album was problematic and spanned an entire year: Phil Spector produced sessions in October 1973 at A&M Studios, and Lennon produced sessions in October 1974 at Record Plant Studios (East). Lennon was being sued by Morris Levy over copyright infringement of one line in his song “Come Together”. As part of an agreement, Lennon had to include three Levy-owned songs on Rock ‘n’ Roll. Spector disappeared with the session recordings and was subsequently involved in a motor accident, leaving the album’s tracks unrecoverable until the beginning of the Walls and Bridges sessions. With Walls and Bridges coming out first, featuring one Levy-owned song, Levy sued Lennon expecting to see Lennon’s Rock ‘n’ Roll album.

The album was released in February 1975, reaching number 6 in both the United Kingdom and the United States, later being certified gold in both countries. It was supported by the single “Stand by Me”, which peaked at number 20 in the US, and 30 in the UK. The cover was taken by Jürgen Vollmer during the Beatles’ stay in Hamburg. It was Lennon’s last album until 1980: With no recording contract obligation, he took a hiatus from the music business to raise his son Sean.

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In 1969, Lennon composed the song “Come Together” for the Beatles’ album Abbey Road. Inspired by the Chuck Berry tune “You Can’t Catch Me”, it bore too much of a melodic resemblance to the original—and Lennon took the third line of the second verse (“Here come old flat-top”) for the new lyric. Publisher Morris Levy brought a lawsuit for infringement, and the case was due to be heard in a New York court in December 1973. It was later settled out of court, with the agreement that, according to an announcement by Levy, Lennon had to “record three songs by Big Seven publishers on his next album”. The songs [he] intends to record at this time are “You Can’t Catch Me”, “Angel Baby” and “Ya Ya”.” Lennon had the right to change the last two songs to any other songs that were published by Big Seven. In the meanwhile,

Lennon had split with Yoko Ono and was living in Los Angeles with his personal assistant, May Pang. Nostalgia was a popular trend on film with American Graffiti, and television was readying the series Happy Days (Lennon and Pang had even visited the set). Lennon, rather than writing his own songs, and partly inspired by his arrangement to include at least three songs from Levy’s publishing company catalogue, Big Seven Music, decided to record an album of oldies as his next release, following on from Mind Games. (by wikipedia)

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Although the chaotic sessions that spawned this album have passed into rock & roll legend and the recording’s very genesis (as an out-of-court settlement between John Lennon and an aggrieved publisher) has often caused it to be slighted by many of the singer’s biographers, Rock ‘n’ Roll, in fact, stands as a peak in his post-Imagine catalog: an album that catches him with nothing to prove and no need to try. Lennon could, after all, sing old rock & roll numbers with his mouth closed; he spent his entire career relaxing with off-the-cuff blasts through the music with which he grew up, and Rock ‘n’ Roll emerges the sound of him doing precisely that. Four songs survive from the fractious sessions with producer Phil Spector in late 1973 that ignited the album, and listeners to any of the posthumous compilations that also draw from those archives will know that the best tracks were left on the shelf — “Be My Baby” and “Angel Baby” among them. But a gorgeous run through Lloyd Price’s “Just Because” wraps up the album in fine style, while a trip through “You Can’t Catch Me” contrarily captures a playful side that Lennon rarely revealed on vinyl.

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The remainder of the album was cut a year later with Lennon alone at the helm, and the mood remains buoyant. It might not, on first glance, seem essential to hear him running through nuggets like “Be Bop A Lula,” “Peggy Sue,” and “Bring It on Home to Me,” but, again, Lennon has seldom sounded so gleeful as he does on these numbers, while the absence of the Spector trademark Wall-of-Sound production is scarcely noticeable — as the object of one of Lennon’s own productions, David Peel once pointed out, “John had the Wall of Sound down perfectly himself.” Released in an age when both David Bowie and Bryan Ferry had already tracked back to musical times-gone-by (Pin-Ups and These Foolish Things, respectively), Rock ‘n’ Roll received short shrift from contemporary critics. As time passed, however, it has grown in stature, whereas those other albums have merely held their own. Today, Rock ‘n’ Roll sounds fresher than the rock & roll that inspired it in the first place. Imagine that. (by Dave Thompson)

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Personnel:
Ken Ascher (keyboards)
Jeff Barry (horn)
Hal Blaine (drums)
Jim Calvert (guitar)
Steve Cropper (guitar)
Jesse Ed Davis (guitar)
José Feliciano (guitar)
Michael Hazelwood (guitar)
Peter Jameson (horn)
Arthur Jenkins (percussion)
Jim Keltner (drums)
Bobby Keys (horn)
Michael Lang (keyboards)
John Lennon (vocals, guitar)
Gary Mallaber (drums)
Barry Mann (horn)
Dennis Morouse (horn)
Eddie Mottau (guitar)
Leon Russell (keyboards)
Joseph Temperley (horn)
Nino Tempo (saxophone)
Frank Vicari (horn)
Klaus Voormann (bass guitar, vocals on 10.)

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Tracklist:
01. Be-Bop-A-Lula (Davis/Vincent) 2.37
02. Stand By Me (Leiber/Stoller/King) 3.30
03. Medley: Rip It Up/Ready Teddy (Blackwell/Marascalco) 1.34
04. You Can’t Catch Me (Berry) 4.53
05. Ain’t That A Shame (Domino/Bartholomew) 2.33
06. Do You Wanna Dance? (Freeman) 2.54
07. Sweet Little Sixteen (Berry) 3.05
08. Slippin’ And Slidin’ (Bocage/Collins/Penniman/Smith) 2.18
09. Peggy Sue (Allison/Petty/Holly) 2.05
10. Medley: Bring It On Home To Me/Send Me Some Lovin’ (Cooke/Marascalco/Price) 3.42
11. Bony Moronie (Williams) 3.50
12. Ya Ya (Dorsey/Lewis/Robinson/Levy) 2.18
“13. ust Because (Price) 4.27

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