Saturday, February 19, 2011

"Walls and Bridges is an album by John Lennon, released in October 1974. Recorded and issued during his estrangement from Yoko Ono, the album caught Lennon in the middle of his infamous "lost weekend", a period that lasted some eighteen months. It was the last album that Lennon released without input from his wife. Apparently, it was originally intended to be an acoustic, downbeat album, in the style of Bob Dylan, but continued influence from friend Elton John inspired Lennon to add a decidedly more upbeat feel to many of the tracks (although some of the original feel is still prevalent in some songs).

In the fall of 1973, as Mind Games was being released, Lennon decamped with his assistant-turned-lover May Pang to Los Angeles to record a cover tunes album with Phil Spector. After the sessions fell into disarray with alcohol, Spector disappeared for some time with the session tapes, requiring Lennon to re-record the bulk of the album later in 1974, eventually titled Rock 'n' Roll upon its early 1975 release.

John Lennon spent most of the first months separated from Ono carousing with Pang and various old friends, Ringo Starr, Keith Moon and Harry Nilsson in particular. He contributed to Starr's Ringo and Goodnight Vienna albums (the latter recorded with Elton John) and also produced Nilsson's album Pussy Cats. But by the middle of 1974, Lennon began readying material for his own album, and headed to New York City that June to rehearse and record with his chosen musicians, including friends Jim Keltner on drums and Jesse Ed Davis on guitar.

Produced again on his own, Walls and Bridges has a decidedly more upbeat tone than Mind Games, although many of the lyrics make it clear that despite the enjoyment of his freedom, Lennon missed Ono. "Going Down On Love", "What You Got", "Bless You" and "Nobody Loves You (When You're Down And Out)" are a testament to Lennon's heartsickness during this period. "Steel And Glass" and "Scared" were the latest in Lennon confessionals, especially the latter where he prophetically sings: "Hatred and jealousy gonna be the death of me; I guess I knew it right from the start".

On the upside, some of Lennon's most uplifting songs, namely its two singles "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night" and "#9 Dream", appear on Walls and Bridges. The former, which features Elton John on piano and backing vocals, reached #1 in the US the same week that Walls and Bridges hit the top of the LP charts. Losing a wager he made with Elton about the single's commercial potential, Lennon appeared at John's Madison Square Garden show on 28 November, performing Lennon's current #1 hit together. In addition, The Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There" and "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds", Elton John's new single with Lennon on backing vocals, were also played to an uproarious audience, among whom sat, in a startling turn of events, Yoko Ono. While it proved to be John Lennon's last ever concert appearance, the backstage meeting with Yoko sowed the seeds of their imminent reunion.

During one of his sporadic visits from England to see his father, eleven-year-old Julian Lennon helped record a casual cover of "Ya Ya", which Lennon tacked onto the end of Walls and Bridges with the credit: "Starring Julian Lennon on drums and Dad on piano and vocals". May Pang recalled later the younger Lennon was disappointed when he heard the recording would make the album, telling his father "If I'd known, I would have played better".

Aside from its #1 gold-selling US success, Walls and Bridges was also a UK hit album, reaching #6 there. As with Mind Games, Walls and Bridges is not as highly regarded as John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band or Imagine, though it does indeed have its devout followers. One of them, Elton John himself, has gone on record declaring Walls and Bridges the best Beatles solo album. Also, despite the album being recorded during their separation, Yoko Ono has cited the album as her favourite of John's solo work.

Walls and Bridges was released in a remixed and remastered form in November 2005. The remastered version featured an alternate cover. This new cover retained Lennon's signature and hand-written title, but used one of the portraits Bob Gruen took for the album instead of Lennon's childhood drawing. The bonus tracks for the reissue include "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night" performed live with Elton John, a previously unreleased acoustic version of "Nobody Loves You (When You're Down And Out)" and a promotional interview with Lennon." -


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