Day 22: “The Ballad of John & Yoko”

When was it recorded?  Apr. 14, 1969

When was it first released, and on which album?  May 30, 1969 as a single

Who wrote it?  Lennon (duh)

Have I heard this song before?  Apparently

What my research dug up:

Guess what this song is about based on the title.  Go ahead, guess.

John wrote this one while honeymooning in Paris (where didn’t this guy write a song?) and it’s about his relationship with second wife Yoko Ono.

“The Ballad” was recorded solely by John and Paul – George was on vacation and Ringo was filming a movie when inspiration struck.  The duo recorded the track “impulsively” in one session with the instrumentation being split thusly:

  • John = lead vocal, lead guitar, acoustic guitar, percussion
  • Paul = backing vocal, bass, drums, piano, maracas

Quoth Allan Pollack, “Beyond technique, you don’t need to read Lewisohn to tell with your own ears how urgent a sense of creative fun and collaborative byplay was shared by John and Paul in this April 1969 recording session, in spite of the overtly John and Yoko focus of the narrative.”

“The Ballad of John and Yoko” was the Beatles’ 17th and final #1 single in the UK (it peaked at #8 in the US).  Another song courting controversy, several American radio states banned the song because they found the lyrics “Christ” and “crucify” sacrilegious.  Pollack argues that this was probably John’s jab the media’s inflation of his infamous “bigger than Jesus” comment.

The more I listen to this song, the more I like it.  There’s a real solid groove going on with the guitars (although there’s a particular riff that brings “Margaritaville” to my mind) and the lyrics are clever.  This is a nice jam that doesn’t disappoint on re-listens.




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