I'm all in favor of John Lennon. He was one of the greatest singers and songwriters in the history of rock music. As a teenager, I particularly idolized him. Hey, John Lennon and the Beatles led me away from Christ, and showed me new worlds.
But even John Lennon couldn't sell me on the 1972 album Some Time in New York City. Even as a Beatle worshiping teenager, you have to know to discount Lennon's contemptuously self-indulgent foolishness on some of those solo albums. A couple of quick listens had me lumping this in the discard pile with the infamous Two Virgins.
Listening to the remastered single disc CD just released on Capitol, it sounds somewhat better than I remembered it a quarter century ago. Then again, that's setting the bar pretty low.
Basically, this album represents very little effort or thought put into the songwriting. Lennon was obviously far more interested here in radical political posturing than in music.
The album cover pretty well says it all, presenting the lyrics formatted as newspaper stories. As you can readily tell by perusing the cover, he's pretty much just regurgitating the current radical laundry list of supposed injustices by The Man. There's precious little in these words showing any unique personal perspective or insight, just dumb posturing. Just makes me want to shoot this John Sinclair guy my damned self.
But worse yet, Lennon put almost no effort into most of these melodies. I'd be surprised if he spent more than five minutes apiece writing most of these generic tunes. They lack hooks, much less development. Hey, he's making important timely statements that people need to hear right NOW, and he doesn't have time to be bothered with writing a stinkin' melody.
The most striking thing about this record is the utterly reactionary nature of this supposedly radical, progressive statement. As a Beatle, he broke the pop music mold with truly progressive music like "A Day in the Life" and "Happiness Is a Warm Gun." By this point, he considered himself to be the avant garde. Yet this album is purely generic throwback 50s "rock and roll." Musically, Some Time in New York City operates on about the same level as the dreaded Sha Na Na.
In fairness though, that would be Sha Na Na backed by a world class band- and produced by Phil Spector. If there's one guy who could dress up these retro 50s things and make them sound good, it'd be Phil Spector. He did get a nice fat production sound, without going overboard on the Wall of Sound stuff. On repeated listenings, the saxophone work of Stan Bronstein of Elephant's Memory particularly stands out. Can't fault the producer or the band for the weak compositions.
Still, it's got at least a couple of good songs. "Woman Is The Nigger Of The World" is definitely the pick of the litter. For starters, he actually put some work into writing an actual T-U-N-E for this. It's stylistically very retro, but it's at least well done retro. It builds up some dynamics. The thing goes somewhere.
It also works as a real statement of human emotion, though that seems co-incidental in the album context. That is, it has a personal meaning embedded in it that seems to have arisen almost accidentally. He's carrying on with the political nonsense, but in this case it is informed by some deep personal regrets. The politics are boring, but this works as a big mea culpa of John's personal feelings of guilt over his own treatment of women. This outstanding song really belongs on an album with "Jealous Guy" instead of all this crappy agitprop.
In the album context though, this feminist statement really suffers badly by being surrounded by the insufferable Yoko Ono. If this evil dominatrix bitch is your example of a poor oppressed woman, then just shut up. If he really wanted to make good for his past mistreatment of women, perhaps he should have made the record with Cynthia.
Besides her basic lack of musical talent, Yoko's insistence on taking absolutely 100% full advantage of the foolish indulgence of her husband is several steps past ridiculous. Her caterwauling pretensions of artistic import here are utterly contemptible.
"We're born in a prison/ Raised in a prison/ Sent to a prison called school." These words would be an embarassment to a high school poet- and that's before she begins wailing "Born in a prison!" over and over again. Really, this song in particular is so precisely awful and ill-conceived that it would almost actually work- as a comedy record.
On a similar note, the sappy crap of "Angela" gets raised to an almost interesting level of awfulness with lyrics like "Angela, you're one of the millions of political prisoners in the world." Oh, holy crap. Besides being a ridiculously ill founded statement, let's just say that the Stones Angela Davis tribute "Sweet Black Angel" is a hundred times better song.
However, I have to give Lennon credit for "Luck of the Irish." This lamentful waltz actually works as a piece of music. Besides the more well known "Woman Is The Nigger Of The World," this is the other main song on the album that sounds like he actually bothered to try to write a real melody. Also, it has more real human emotion in it than most of this nonsense. Lyrically, it's all very broad generalizations about the poor oppressed Irish, but it actually comes out sounding like he's expressing some actual empathy for specific humans.
Also, it's not in a league with the U2 song of the same name, but "Sunday Bloody Sunday" is worth hearing. It's at least halfway catchy. Also, the particular clatter of Jim Keltner's drums has some fair appeal.
You could just lose the rest of the album though, and you wouldn't be missing much. There's just nothing to it. The original album came packaged with a live disc that Yoko has butchered up. The eight and a half minute live version of "Cold Turkey" is definitely worth hearing. That's a pretty fair public exorcism there.
Then there's some live jams with Frank Zappa from his June 1971 show at Fillmore East. For this new CD, Yoko cut out half an album of Zappa, including "Jam Rag," "Scumbag," and "Au." I don't quite remember them, and they certainly don't have any big reputation among either Lennon or Zappa fans, so it's probably not much of a loss.
However, the one Zappa jam that she included here works pretty well. "Baby Please Don't Go" gets introduced as an oldie that John used to play back at the Cavern Club, and they get up a pretty good blues jam. Plus, she pretty much had to include it, since "When John started singing 'Baby Please Don't Go' at the Fillmore East show it was his cry from the heart to the two heavily avant-garde artists - Frank Zappa and myself - with whom he was sharing a stage."
She cut out a bunch of Zappa, but of course had plenty of room for the 15+ minutes of her tunelessly screeching "Don't Worry Kyoko." If they piped this into Saddam Hussein's prison cell, it would likely be considered a major violation of the Geneva Convention. She also had time for her unrelated non-album song "Listen the Snow Is Falling" and one more pimping of "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)."
All in all, serious John Lennon fans probably should hear this record just on general principles. But for more casual fans, if you just got "Woman Is The Nigger Of The World" and "Luck Of The Irish" and skipped the rest, you really wouldn't be missing much.
BEATLES PICTURE COLLECTION - 100 pages PAGE 1 PAGE 2 PAGE 3 PAGE 4 PAGE 5 PAGE 6 PAGE 7 PAGE 8 PAGE 9 PAGE 10 PAGE 11 PAGE 12 PAGE 13 PAGE 14 PAGE 15 PAGE 16 PAGE 17 PAGE 18 PAGE 19 PAGE 20 PAGE 21 PAGE 22 PAGE 23 PAGE 24 PAGE 25 PAGE 26 PAGE 27 PAGE 28 PAGE 29 PAGE 30 PAGE 31 PAGE 32 PAGE 33 PAGE 34 PAGE 35 PAGE 36 PAGE 37 PAGE 38 PAGE 39 PAGE 40 PAGE 41 PAGE 42 PAGE 43 PAGE 44 PAGE 45 PAGE 46 PAGE 47 PAGE 48 PAGE 49 PAGE 50 PAGE 51 PAGE 52 PAGE 53 PAGE 54 PAGE 55 PAGE 56 PAGE 57 PAGE 58 PAGE 59 PAGE 60 PAGE 61 PAGE 62 PAGE 63 PAGE 64 PAGE 65 PAGE 66 PAGE 67 PAGE 68 PAGE 69 PAGE 70 PAGE 71 PAGE 72 PAGE 73 PAGE 74 PAGE 75 PAGE 76 PAGE 77 PAGE 78 PAGE 79 PAGE 80 PAGE 81 PAGE 82 PAGE 83 PAGE 84 PAGE 85 PAGE 86 PAGE 87 PAGE 88 PAGE 89 PAGE 90 PAGE 91 PAGE 92 PAGE 93 PAGE 94 PAGE 95 PAGE 96 PAGE 97 PAGE 98 PAGE 99 PAGE 100
The Beatles Are Masters of the Universe
Music Sustains the Soul
Culpepper Log [updated frequently]
alcasts morethings master photo gallery index boutique MP3 new album releases sammy davis shirley temple photos little richard photos buddy holly pictures fats domino images chuck berry pictures Jesus pictures leann rimes lucille ball images clint eastwood pictures beach boys janis joplin images team america pictures robert mitchum photos bruce springsteen pictures bugs bunny pictures ann coulter photos loretta lynn pictures adrian monk beatles pictures white stripes pictures andy griffith pictures kill bill pictures beverly hillbillies pictures michael jackson frank zappa pictures jerry lee lewis pictures richard pryor photos june carter johnny cash pictures u2 photos four seasons images james cagney images pulp fiction pics snoop dogg lying shysters elvis presley pictures dolly parton pictures olsen twins photos cheech&chong tori amos pictures David Bowie photos roger rabbit reese witherspoon pictures rolling stones photos adrian monk kim novak images ray charles photos marx brothers pictures prince rogers nelson pictures blazing saddles images steve martin eddie murphy photos aretha franklin photos south park pictures homer simpson images bob dylan pictures elizabeth taylor photos alice in wonderland pictures madonna images saturday night live pictures willie nelson images lynyrd skynyrd hee haw pictures james brown images albert barger pictures pete townshend photos tina turner pictures dixie chicks photos bill murray pictures elton john images emmylou harris images guns n roses pictures jodie foster photos eminem frank sinatra photos van halen images satan blondie photos merle haggard images rocky horror pictures monty python martin luther king watchmen pictures sarah palin