Tuesday, December 7, 2010

John Lennon's Jukebox

Questions starting 'where were you when'? for me anyway, are usually answered 'in bed actually'. I'd just woken up when mum broke the news of John Lennon's murder. A very grim start to the usual school shuffle and shunt. Even 'Hairy Cornflake' DLT had the good sense to drop the wackery for one morning, and the Not Not the Nine O'Clock News tribute of a non-comedy ending: fade to black and In My Life soundtracking the credits was pitch perfect.

Say what you like about his Legend - and we have done here - but if Lennon's Jukebox is any sort of indicator of his record collection, it appears to sort of haul that would get the knowing nods from music snobs and pop purists alike. This portable jukebox (a Swiss KB Discomatic) was originally loaded with 40 of Lennon's favourite singles for taking on tour with The Beatles and later updated with newer tunes. Peeping at the playlist (with track titles scribbled in Lennon's hand writing) of mod, soul, Motown,  pop and rock n roll - all the inspirations, influences and building blocks of The Beatles fall into place.

Click to zoom in for full details

Rhythm, riffs and top line melody seem to be the unifying themes, which makes sense given Lennon's role as the Fab's rhythm guitarist and vocalist. Like many writers in rock's aristocracy (Bowie, Dylan, Macca, Roger waters, Keef) Lennon was a non-virtuoso. Musically he plays a mid-field position where the shape of the song is more important than the solos.

How do you rate yourself as a guitarist? 
Well, it depends on what kind of guitarist. I'm okay; I'm not technically good, but I can make it fucking howl and move. I was rhythm guitarist. It's an important job. I can make a band drive. Rolling Stone interview 1971

But, getting back to the jukebox, most of the Lennon's hand-picked singles were collected and compiled for a (deleted now, and selling for silly money prices) double CD in 2004 and the subject of a South Bank Show special. Scanning the panel above reveals a tune or two missed from the CD: one being a new-to-me Booker T stomper, which isn't a million miles from this Lennon riff

Booker T. & the M.G.'s  - Boot-Leg

Stepping Out appears on the CD as Paul Revere, but my guess would be given the JM and C scribbled notes, that it's the John Mayall and Clapton tear up (available here)as Clapton's thick fuggy Beano tone also seems to be the source for Lennon's guitar sound on Abbey Road

Another unknown-to-me Northern stomper is....

The Contours - First I Look At The Purse

So tomorrow I will be tipping my hat and a raising a glass to the memory of  John Winston Ono Lennon, who thirty years on from his  tragic and senseless death is still tuning me into new music. And as a footnote, looking at the tracklist of 'bankers' on the CD, I'll bet he would have made a rocking DJ ..

From The South Bank Show: Bobby Parker's Watch Your Step, with Lennon expanding on how The Fabs recycled the song for several Beatles bits.

PS - if you've got  half a mill' to spare why not punt in a bid on Mark Chapman's Lennon signed copy of Double Fantasy. Hopefully though Yoko will bag it, and keep the bloody thing out of the public domain once and for all


Furtheron said...

Now there is an interesting list.

Mondo said...

Great fistful of winners isn't - the link in the post (for the Jukebox model) gives a great breakdown on Beatles uses and influences spottable from the singles. I was almost tempted to punt this in too The Miracles, Shop Around as the band crop up 5 times on the CD, and the song is written around a descending bass line - a key Lennon technique

Matthew Rudd said...

Short Fat Fannie?

Five-Centres said...

I remember hearing on radio coming from my mum and dad's room, and hearing their cries of shock. I wasn't overly aware of who he was at the time, but I knew he was a former Beatle. I was certainly no fan.

Spookily, i put my ipod on shuffle this morning and the first song to come up was Whatever Gets You Through The Night. Out of 20,000 songs that's quite creepy.

Mondo said...

SFF it's a Larry Williams tune - nothing to do with his Hamburg habits. You can catch a Billy Preston versh here, but The Fabs also jammed on it during the Let It Be sessions..

I'd been a Fabs fan on and off since the mid-seventies FC. Seeing Help and Yellow Submarine did it. Then spending record tokens on the Red album and Help hooked it once for all. So bit of grim wake up call. Lend an ear to this Lennon's home demo of Whatever. It's only a short clip, but listen for the end where he drops into another tune and you'll see which other song it was recycled from..

John Medd said...

'I can make a band drive.' Talk about an understatement! It's probably due to the fact that he wasn't 'technically good' that millions (billions?) of budding guitar players picked the instrument up in the first place.

EXPO67 said...

Total respect for thinking about John Lennon at this time. I can't believe it's 30 years since his murder.

During the Evening on the day of his death the BBC or ITV showed a Beatles film out of respect. I can't remember which one though?

Mondo said...

Exactly JM check out (and I'm sure you have the Shea Stadium footage}. For my Fab pounds, Lennon's scatter~gun guitar on The End's solo~cycles is the best of the bunch, although Macca's light fingered runs are a bit special too..

Check this Expo, could fit the mood of the moment tomorrow

Piley said...

nice work Mond. Much the same as you, I remember being given the news when I got up for school that morning. Even though we were kids, who at that age don't really appreciate how precious life is, it's like we all knew how huge and how tragic this was. The whole of school seemed subdued. Remember how it felt that day really clearly.

Mondo said...

Yeah me too P, even though our generation grew up without The Beatles I was still aware of the impact, upset and shock (same with Elvis). I can't imagine how it felt for those that were there during the 60s