John Lennon – Live New York City (1986)

FrontCover1.jpgLive in New York City is a posthumous live album by English rock musician John Lennon with the Plastic Ono Elephant’s Memory Band. It was prepared under the supervision of his widow, Yoko Ono, and released in 1986 as his second official live album, the first being Live Peace in Toronto 1969.

Recorded on 30 August 1972 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, Lennon performed two shows, one in the afternoon and one in the evening, a benefit concert for the Willowbrook State School for Retarded Children in New York, at friend Geraldo Rivera’s request. Rivera introduces Lennon and Ono at the beginning of the album, and he is referenced in Lennon’s impromptu revised lyrics in the opening song, “New York City”.

The benefit concerts, billed as One to One, also featured other performers in addition to Lennon, including Stevie Wonder, Roberta Flack, Melanie Safka and Sha-Na-Na, although their performances are not included on this album, nor on the simultaneous video release.

Live in New York City captures Lennon’s last full-length concert performance, coming right after the release of Some Time in New York City. Backing Lennon and Ono were Elephant’s Memory, who had served as Lennon and Ono’s backing band on Some Time in New York City. Although the material Lennon performed was largely drawn from his three most recent albums of the period (John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, Imagine and Some Time in New York City), he also included in the setlist his Beatles hit “Come Together” and paid tribute to Elvis Presley with “Hound Dog” before leading the audience in a singalong of “Give Peace a Chance”. “Come Together”, originally in the key of D minor, was performed in E minor.

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Upon its early 1986 release, Ono was criticised by former members of Elephant’s Memory for using the first – and weaker – performance instead of the stronger evening show. They also took issue with the simultaneous video release of the concert, which it was alleged had been edited to show Ono as prominently as Lennon. However, on the album release, Ono’s vocal performances on such numbers as “Hound Dog” had been mixed out completely. Additionally, all of her solo performances, which included “Sisters, O Sisters”, “Born in a Prison”, “We’re All Water”, “Don’t Worry Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow)”, “Move on Fast” and “Open Your Box”, were deleted from the audio edition of the concert, to create a pure Lennon album. The video release retained the Lennon complete set-list including Ono’s “Sisters, O Sisters” and “Born in a Prison”.

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Portions of the evening performance later saw release on the John Lennon Anthology.

Live in New York City reached No. 55 in the UK, and surprised many with its US appeal where it peaked at No. 41 and eventually went gold.

The concerts documented on Live in New York City were Lennon’s only rehearsed and full-length live performances in his solo career, and his first – and last – formal, full-fledged live concerts since the Beatles retired from the road in 1966. Lennon never mounted a tour during his post-Beatles career. The concerts also marked the last time he performed live with Ono or with Elephant’s Memory. (by wikipedia)

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John Lennon’s concert appearances during his solo years were rare and scattered about, so any live document is worth hearing. Yet this one, the fabled One to One concert at Madison Square Garden, doesn’t live up to its legend, however noble the cause (a benefit for the Willowbrook School for Children). Much of the problem, one suspects, is that Lennon concerts tended to be quick, casual one-offs; this material might have really rocked if John had broken the tunes in on the road first. Also, the Plastic Ono Elephants ConcertPoster.jpgMemory Band is a fairly crude bunch of bashers, with Stan Bronstein’s flailing sax and surprisingly poor drumming, despite the support of Jim Keltner. So Lennon is pretty much left to his own devices. In the first few numbers he sounds distracted, not in full command, even disconnected from the band.

A core primal scream piece “Well Well Well” is given a perfunctory run-through; “Instant Karma” sounds stiff, with embarrassing drum breaks (“We’ll get it right next time,” John says); and he makes only one reference to his Beatle past with a heavy-handed “Come Together.” Things do improve later on when “Mother” and “Cold Turkey” work up a good lather, and “Hound Dog” is not bad, although the concluding “Give Peace a Chance” is limited to the brief excerpt included on Shaved Fish. Phil Spector was the original producer of the recording, and it’s one of his murkier jobs, not nearly as focused as his work on The Concert for Bangla Desh in the very same arena the year before. More from the concert, including some of Yoko’s numbers, can be found on the companion video cassette released at the same time. (by Richard S. Ginell)

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Personnel:
John Lennon (vocals, guitar, keyboards)
Jim Keltner (drums)
Yoko Ono (keyboards)
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Elephant’s Memory:
Stan Bronstein (saxophone)
Richard Frank Jr. (drums)
Wayne ‘Tex’ Gabriel (guitar)
Adam Ippolito (keyboards)
Gary Van Scyoc (bass)
John Ward (bass)

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Tracklist:
01. New York City (Lennon) 3.39
02. It’s So Hard (Lennon) 3.18
03. Woman Is The Nigger Of The World (Lennon/Ono) 5.30
04. Well Well Well (Lennon) 3.51
05. Instant Karma! (Lennon) 3.40
06. Mother (Lennon) 5.00
07. Come Together (Lennon/McCartney) 4.21
08. Imagine (Lennon) 3.17
09. Cold Turkey (Lennon) 5.29
10. Hound Dog (Leiber/Stoller) 3.09
11. Give Peace A Chance (Lennon) 0.59

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Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too

Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You, you may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you will join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You, you may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you will join us
And the world will live as one