"John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band" - vote please!!

Backslapping time. Well done us. We are fantastic.

"John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band" - vote for your favourite track, please!!

1. Mother
16
16%
2. Hold On
1
1%
3. I Found Out
5
5%
4. Working Class Hero
24
24%
5. Isolation
13
13%
6. Remember
6
6%
7. Love
9
9%
8. Well, Well, Well
5
5%
9. Look At Me
0
No votes
10. God
21
21%
11. My Mummy's Dead
1
1%
 
Total votes: 101

The Modernist

Postby The Modernist » 19 Sep 2004, 12:06

neverknows wrote:
Mr. Jim wrote:But it does seem to say that what Lennon meant by "Working Class Hero" was that you're completely fucked from the day you are born, and that the only hope you have these days is to be a pop star. And we know what he thinks of that particular fate.

In other words, not that different from "Street Fighting Man". Another song of questionable veracity: was Jagger really a street fighting man? Does it matter?


Jagger was singing in a rock'n'roll band so at least his lyrics make sense.

I still don't get the 'something to be bit', the more I think of it.


Well I addressed this earlier. But I really don't think it's so mysterious. Whewn he sings a "working class hero is something to be" he's being sarcastic. The lyric details the way the working class are neutered and stripped of power. Individual success stories such a Lennon's only serve to distract the masses further thus inadvertantly, in his success, he is upholding the power structure (hence the absolute disdain and bitterness with which he sings the lyric). This idea of culture being used as a means of enslavement was a popular idea in leftist circles at the time, The Situationists built their philosophy around this and earlier writers such as Gramsci and The Frankfurt School were very popular because of the way they addressed such issues.

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Postby LeBaron » 19 Sep 2004, 15:20

TheModernist wrote:
neverknows wrote:
Mr. Jim wrote:But it does seem to say that what Lennon meant by "Working Class Hero" was that you're completely fucked from the day you are born, and that the only hope you have these days is to be a pop star. And we know what he thinks of that particular fate.

In other words, not that different from "Street Fighting Man". Another song of questionable veracity: was Jagger really a street fighting man? Does it matter?


Jagger was singing in a rock'n'roll band so at least his lyrics make sense.

I still don't get the 'something to be bit', the more I think of it.


Well I addressed this earlier. But I really don't think it's so mysterious. Whewn he sings a "working class hero is something to be" he's being sarcastic. The lyric details the way the working class are neutered and stripped of power. Individual success stories such a Lennon's only serve to distract the masses further thus inadvertantly, in his success, he is upholding the power structure (hence the absolute disdain and bitterness with which he sings the lyric). This idea of culture being used as a means of enslavement was a popular idea in leftist circles at the time, The Situationists built their philosophy around this and earlier writers such as Gramsci and The Frankfurt School were very popular because of the way they addressed such issues.


I could be reading him wrong, but I think neverknows is just asking for a translation of the English meaning of the phrase "something to be." At least that's what I was trying to offer earlier, not an interpretation of what Lennon meant when he said it, just what the phrase generally means. I have a feeling neverknows is familiar with the theory business.
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Postby abracadabra » 19 Sep 2004, 16:11

I hadnt been able to get onto the net for days so was surprised to see this debate still going on so a couple of things:
I think Abbey Road is essentially McCartney's album and for that reason people seem to split into two camps, namely those who had happy childhoods and are well adjusted and enjoy McCartney's stylistic delievery of story and emotion and those who have divorced or dead parents and connect to Lennon's gigantic chip on his shoulder, a sense of rage with the world that makes JL/POB a convincing experience... I think if you like the Beatles you fall into one of two camps and one or the others work seems forced or vaccuous, for me it is McCartney.... Lennon had no interest in Abbey Road, most of his songs were over a year old, a new song he offered, Cold Turkey, was rejected...
In the End McCartney says everything will work out all right and Lennon says were fucked but you can find (unhealthy) love... right?
And considering the concept of cultural enslavement remember that the only contemporary musician Lennon acknowledged was Frank Zappa.
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Postby LeBaron » 19 Sep 2004, 16:31

abracadabra wrote:I think Abbey Road is essentially McCartney's album and for that reason people seem to split into two camps, namely those who had happy childhoods and are well adjusted and enjoy McCartney's stylistic delievery of story and emotion and those who have divorced or dead parents and connect to Lennon's gigantic chip on his shoulder, a sense of rage with the world that makes JL/POB a convincing experience... I think if you like the Beatles you fall into one of two camps and one or the others work seems forced or vaccuous, for me it is McCartney.... Lennon had no interest in Abbey Road, most of his songs were over a year old, a new song he offered, Cold Turkey, was rejected...
In the End McCartney says everything will work out all right and Lennon says were fucked but you can find (unhealthy) love... right?


I had a happy childhood, almost idyllic. Whether I'm well adjusted is up for debate since I enjoy arguing with people I"meet" on the internet. Still, I'm able to connect with both Sir Paul and John. But Sir Paul does tend towards the vacuous, doesn't he? Doesn't mean we can't enjoy it now and again. Whatever, I think I speak for many when I repeat that Plastic Ono Band is superlative, but I wouldn't be without "McCartney."
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Postby The Modernist » 19 Sep 2004, 16:45

abracadabra wrote:I hadnt been able to get onto the net for days so was surprised to see this debate still going on so a couple of things:
I think Abbey Road is essentially McCartney's album and for that reason people seem to split into two camps, namely those who had happy childhoods and are well adjusted and enjoy McCartney's stylistic delievery of story and emotion and those who have divorced or dead parents and connect to Lennon's gigantic chip on his shoulder, a sense of rage with the world that makes JL/POB a convincing experience... I think if you like the Beatles you fall into one of two camps and one or the others work seems forced or vaccuous, for me it is McCartney.... Lennon had no interest in Abbey Road, most of his songs were over a year old, a new song he offered, Cold Turkey, was rejected...
In the End McCartney says everything will work out all right and Lennon says were fucked but you can find (unhealthy) love... right?
And considering the concept of cultural enslavement remember that the only contemporary musician Lennon acknowledged was Frank Zappa.


It seems a bit sweeping to say McCartney appeals to "well adjusted people" while Lennon appeals to tormented souls. Still, it's an interesting theory! As for Zappa, I can't really imagine him as the kind of thing Lennon would be into. When did he speak of him?

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Postby abracadabra » 19 Sep 2004, 18:24

Baron Bleeding Heart wrote: But Sir Paul does tend towards the vacuous, doesn't he? Doesn't mean we can't enjoy it now and again. Whatever, I think I speak for many when I repeat that Plastic Ono Band is superlative, but I wouldn't be without "McCartney."


Well the problem with posting a messege like I did is that it makes me sound like I'm dismissing Macca, I'm not, I have a lot of his albums, they just seem... emotionally empty compared to Lennon, McCartney was essentially an entertainer and Lennon used the public space to express his personal/political/spiritual chaos... I suppose the point is you cant say one is better than another it is just what you connect to.
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Postby abracadabra » 19 Sep 2004, 18:32

TheModernist wrote: As for Zappa, I can't really imagine him as the kind of thing Lennon would be into. When did he speak of him?


Lennon appeared on a chat show in the early 70's (which I've forgotton the name of, when I was on holiday in New York a few years ago I went to the TV museum centre and looked up 'Lennon' on their database and found that appearence... Dick Cavett? I cant remember). He was asked what contemporary music he listened to and Lennon said something like the only person he could be bothered with was Zappa because he'd always known he was different and a genius since being a child!
That remark has always interested me though because Lennon is often discussed with Dylan or maybe Bowie etc but Zappa is NEVER mentioned yet he seems to be the only musician of his own generation that he acknowledged, he never said anything complementery about anybody else! He always reserved his praise for rock n roll generation, Chuck Berry etc.
Dont forget though that Lennon jammed with Zappa on 'Live Jam' and Ringo appeared in '200 Motels' God knows if Lennon actually followed Zappa's career through the 70's, I'd love to know!
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Postby Carl's Son » 19 Sep 2004, 19:15

In response to Mr Jim's well-written post above:

I suppose it is a very subjective thing but I find I want You and Something to be sincere and honest love songs. But in particular when it comes to Abbey Rd I find Paul McCartney's stuff on the medly very emotionally true and honest. Suprisingly so when you consider that he was the one most keen on preserving the myth, keeping the group together and writing character songs. Yet here he is writing a song about the bands legal/financial difficulties and rows on You Never Give Me Your Money. The desire to escape and to revert to simpler times is palpable "...Oh that magic feeling, where did it go". This and the closing segment Golden Slumbers, Carry The Weight, The End manage to express his fears and anxietys, the knowledge that he will always be "Beatle Paul" and yet also, in the end, his pride to have been a part of it. Always it seems to me the music suits the mood and is in touch with the spirit of the lyrics. In fact the lyrics to Golden Slumbers were completley nicked from an old lullaby but, emotionally, to me they ring true.
There seems to be an idea that for something to be emotionally honest your lyrics must be painful and full of sadness. However, There are songs on McCartney that seem completely honest to me in their expression of love and in domestic happiness. These lyrics were no less honest. He just wasn't as angry with the world as Lennon was. Of course later he did slide into nonsense of vacuity a lot of the time. Take Silly Love Songs as an example.
There also seems to be an overvaluing of honesty in lyrics. For me this seems to directly stem from Lennon, even though some of his best songs were written before this fixation overtook him. Sometimes of course honesty can be revealing or refreshing but it is not, I dont think, an essential ingedient of all good music. The idea that it is essential excuses a whole bunch of American whine rockers and allows Robbie Williams to keep making albums about who rubbish it is to be a pop-star and sleep with supermodels.
After all this talk about "Honesty" I should make clear that I don't really have a problem with the lyrics on POB. Some of them are admirable. My biggest problem with the record is the fact that most of the music seems half-baked. Love and Mother seem to be the only tracks whose backing lives up to the lyrical content. As if, in another sop to honesty, Lennon was determined to make the record as hard to listen to as it was to feel such pain as he felt.
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Postby Bluebird » 20 Sep 2004, 18:25

Nice post Chris Chopping.

Mr. Jim asked how does one feel when listening to McCartney on side 2 of AR. As a Beatle fan since 1964, it makes me feel sad, resigned, and oddly relieved. There's no going home again. The Beatles gave all they could until there was nothing left to do but bid a grand farewell and move forward. The line 'step on the gas and wipe that tear away', or 'boy your going to carry that weight for a long time' still leaves a lump in my throat, and resonates in a deeper place for me, than anything John screams about on POB.

POB is a rock critics album. I can appreciate why it is highly valued by critics and fans but it's never impressed me that much except to wonder why John didn't fully complete his primal screem sessions. How admirable is this really? It was the beginning of a bitter and resentful public temper tantrum that would last most of the rest of his life. He was determined to destroy the Beatles myth and anything associated with his ex-partner or George Martin, only to cleverly turn around and create the myth of JohnandYoko and John Lennon as the truth teller.

I personally have rarely found McCartney less than open and honest about his feelings in his music--it's just that those feels are mostly positive---hope, love, zest for life, cheerful lust, etc. etc. But from Yesterday through to Hey Jude, The Long and Winding Road, The End and beyond he's expressed a complex mixture of strong emotions which are not always positive. Given the inherent rock bias that prefers its artists angry and tortured, I wonder if it is not more courageous to express love and the gentler emotions. And what is inherently wrong with a character or story song? I've never thought that novels or film scripts telling human truths via characters or third person story are less effective at evoking deep emotion than an autobiography-- and certainly not because Lennon said so.

The idea that the most successful songwriter EVER in popular music writes material that is mostly entertaining and emotionally shallow has always struck me as very odd. If we buy into Lennon's post 1969 notion of what a good and legitimate song must be (confessional, self-referential, or direct as a gorilla weilding a tire iron like 'How Do You Sleep' :roll: ) then a guess the bum rap that McCartney avoids truthful self-relevation's could make sence----except that it was not Lennon that the record buying public was listing to by the millions in the 70's. Whose Beatle songs have become world wide standards and will likely live on 200 years from now? Is rock and roll more about rebellion or about liberation?

I can't believe millions of people over a 40 year period can be that fooled or satisfied by brilliant songcraft, or a hummable tune---alone. We can't all be that wrong.

I voted for 'Love'. It's delicate and simply beautiful.

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Postby Snarfyguy » 20 Sep 2004, 18:56

abracadabra wrote:Zappa is NEVER mentioned yet he seems to be the only musician of his own generation that he acknowledged, he never said anything complementery about anybody else! He always reserved his praise for rock n roll generation, Chuck Berry etc.


Well he surely made known his admiration for Harry Nilsson, for whom he produced an album. And I'm sure Cheap Trick wouldn't have played on the Double Fantasy sessions if he hadn't indicated he liked them. Just off the top of my head.
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Postby natch » 20 Sep 2004, 18:57

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Postby Diamond Dog » 20 Sep 2004, 18:59

susan janet ballion wrote:Is this the album with "Imagine"? That's a beautiful song. Makes me wish I grew up in the 70s! :D


No, it isn't. The album with "Imagine" on is, oddly enough, called "Imagine".
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Postby natch » 20 Sep 2004, 19:01

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Postby Carl's Son » 20 Sep 2004, 19:02

snarfyguy wrote:
abracadabra wrote:Zappa is NEVER mentioned yet he seems to be the only musician of his own generation that he acknowledged, he never said anything complementery about anybody else! He always reserved his praise for rock n roll generation, Chuck Berry etc.


Well he surely made known his admiration for Harry Nilsson, for whom he produced an album. And I'm sure Cheap Trick wouldn't have played on the Double Fantasy sessions if he hadn't indicated he liked them. Just off the top of my head.

And he was big mates with Elton John for a while, co-writing a track with him and appearing live with him. Plus he did fame with Bowie.
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Postby Nonbeliever » 20 Sep 2004, 19:12

Diamonddog wrote:
susan janet ballion wrote:Is this the album with "Imagine"? That's a beautiful song. Makes me wish I grew up in the 70s! :D


No, it isn't. The album with "Imagine" on is, oddly enough, called "Imagine".


:lol: :lol:
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Postby Stirling Moss » 20 Sep 2004, 19:26

'McCartney' contains very personalised (by his standards) Beatles break-up statements: Man We Was Lonely & Every Night to name at least two. However, Macca could take these unnaturally candid dissolution statements but would embellish them with his natural, colourful melodies - hence 'sugarring the pill'.
Lennon tended to strip his more 'personal' statements right down to the bone - not only drastically economising on melody (e.g. the verses of Julia are 99% ONE note: A) but also - and this is where 'POB' is a shockingly bleak and uncompromising LP: the lyrical content. Compare the sparsity / repetition of words of Mother, Love and God - with the classic vivid Lennonisms on Abbey Road (Come Together, Sun King, etc).
Not surprised many found the album so difficult to accept in Autumn 1970.

PS I don't think I Want You would fit on the POB album -> the tempo changes and production (moog, bass-fills) would be far too extravagant.

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Postby The Modernist » 20 Sep 2004, 20:46

Just to tie up the semantic loose ends. "Working Class Hero" certainly means someone who has come from the working class, and by implication is a hero to the rest of the working class. I'm not sure as to the origination of this phrase though, anybody know?
"Something To be" does mean a good thing to become (although Lennon was clearly using this ironically).

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Postby Phenomenal Cat » 20 Sep 2004, 21:38

I always assumed that Lennon was being ironic with the title "Working Class Hero", using it as an oxymoron. Not to say he had an axe to grind with the working class, but that if you're working class, you became faceless and nameless. Certainly not "heroic".

What strikes me as odd is that it's in second person; Lennon is addressing "you" (who, me?). But then in the end, he says "If you want to be a hero just follow ME", switching to first person. Whom shall I follow, then? Lennon? An unnamed "working class" narrator?

Seeing as that it's primarily an album about J.L., I feel I'm safe in assuming that the "ME" is Lennon. I wish he had ditched this line.
Now, I’m liberal, but to a degree
I want everybody to be free
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Move in next door and marry my son
You must think I’m crazy!

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Postby Quaco » 21 Sep 2004, 00:10

Phenomenal Cat wrote:What strikes me as odd is that it's in second person; Lennon is addressing "you" (who, me?). But then in the end, he says "If you want to be a hero just follow ME", switching to first person. Whom shall I follow, then? Lennon? An unnamed "working class" narrator?

Seeing as that it's primarily an album about J.L., I feel I'm safe in assuming that the "ME" is Lennon. I wish he had ditched this line.

For me, he is questioning his role as the leader so many people had made him to be. The song would have worked without his personalizing it, but I don't think it ruined it to make it autobiographical like the rest of the album.

To me, the clearest way of thinking of it is what TheModernist said:

TheModernist wrote:When he sings a "working class hero is something to be" he's being sarcastic. The lyric details the way the working class are neutered and stripped of power. Individual success stories such as Lennon's only serve to distract the masses further thus inadvertantly, in his success, he is upholding the power structure (hence the absolute disdain and bitterness with which he sings the lyric).


So, like "God", it's more specific than perhaps it needed to be. But using his case as an example, he addresses some issues about societey as well.

Lennon's case is, I think, unique in rock. Many rockers have discussed their own lives; fewer have discussed their own fame; in Lennon's case only is his discussing endlessly his position actually more relevant than pure narcissism. During the Sixties, he actually was the coolest motherfucker in the world, and his fame and reputation was such that for him to dismantle his image on this album really was a sociological statement. As honest as Townshend was at discussing himself, as eloquent as Davies was at reflecting changing and decaying times, only Lennon was able to combine them. What happened to him was inseparable from what happened to the generation. The Beatles were the focus of the Sixties pop and counterculture, and Lennon was the only member who was truly willing to put himself on the line and dissect it. We can look at him psychologically and discuss his narcissism (increased tenfold by trading in Paul for Yoko), the narrowness of his views, and his messiah complex, but at the time, the bravery it took to consistently try to bring people to reality was admirable.
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Postby take5_d_shorterer » 21 Sep 2004, 00:45

Q: What of Plastic Ono Band, then?

A: Janov's Primal Scream therapy always gets brought up as an influence, but I prefer to try to think of POB in another context from that time period.

It seems to me that from about 1968 to maybe 1971, lots of rock musicians were trying to grapple with and incorporate elements of gospel music into their playing. Procol Harum's big hit is one example. ``Hey Jude,'' ``The Weight,'' ``Bell-Bottom Blues,'' ``Maybe I'm Amazed,'' ``Seems Like a Long Time'' are other examples.

Of these,``God'' and ``Mother'' are the most eccentric, unusual examples I can think of.

Anyone can listen to ``The Weight'' and see how that's cut from the same cloth as a lot of stuff by Aretha Franklin. You can't quite say that about ``God.''

Now when I listen to it, I think I mostly gloss over the lyrics per se, and hear it as a very personal, idiosyncratic take on gospel music in the same way that I also sort of think of Sly and the Family Stone's ``Thank You For Talkin' to Me, Africa''* as being a weird, strange version of modern blues, especially the guitar lines.

That's, I think, what's special about these two songs, the fact that it does cover somewhat familiar territory (i.e., gospel music), but does it in a way no one other that Lennon would have done.



*Funny that no one has mentioned that album in talking about POB. There are similar in many ways, for example, in the ways they are unlike almost all other records in how they attack the audience.