Listen to ‘Isolation’, the sparse fifth track on ‘Plastic Ono Band’ (John Lennon’s first post-Beatles record), a meditative piano ballad on which he laments the fact that “the world may not have many years”, and you may find it difficult to believe that the album turns 50 this year. Featuring both the brittle, paranoid ‘Working Class Hero’ and the unabashedly romantic ‘Love’, it’s a timeless collection that truly encompasses the complex singer-songwriter’s duality.
It would have been John Lennon’s 80th birthday earlier this month. To celebrate both this and the album’s anniversary, publisher Thames & Hudson has released John & Yoko / Plastic Ono Band, a lush coffee table book that gathers together interviews new and old, hand-written song lyrics and previously unseen photos – from Lennon’s childhood snaps to candid studio pics – that tell the story of this singular musician and magnificent record.
It’s all here, beginning with his feelings about the last days of Beatlemania. “The music wasn’t being heard,” he says in one excerpt, “it was just sort of a freak show. The Beatles were the show and the music had nothing to do with it. And as we were musicians, we felt there was no enjoyment in it.” Later, Ringo Starr, who played drums on ‘Plastic Ono Band’, reflects on the disparity between the hoopla and the sense of calm that permeates this album: “I hadn’t played this one in a long time. I just went back to it because of this interview and it’s so incredible, the emotion on this record. It is just mind-blowing. The sparseness of the band, the force of John. That’s why he’s one of the greats.”
And this beautiful tome is a fine tribute to the man who offered the soundtrack to the age of isolation 50 years before anyone had ever heard the phrase ‘social distancing’. Below is a small selection of images from John & Yoko / Plastic Ono Band – the final two previously unseen – labelled as they are in the book, as per the publisher’s request.
If you’re looking for something to help while away your own period of recalibration, look no further than this fascinating new collection.
1‘Give Peace a Chance’ shoot
3Young John family shots
6Young John family shots
JOHN & YOKO/PLASTIC ONO BAND by John Lennon and Yoko Ono published by Thames & Hudson on October 29 at £40