Celebrities, Music, Quick Lists — October 9, 2013 11:25 am

9 Surprising John Lennon Collaborations With Other Artists

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There’s no question that everyone has heard of The Beatles.  Many Beatles fans are just as familiar with John Lennon’s solo work.  In the shadows of such legendary work, his time spent with other musicians seems to have fallen into obscurity.  If you thought you had every record John Lennon performed on, take a look at the list below.

In honor of his 73rd birthday (and his favorite number), here are 9 surprising John Lennon collaborations with other artists.

9 – Frank Zappa


In 1971, Frank Zappa invited the Lennons to play with his band on stage at the legendary Fillmore East. The performance started off promising with Lennon taking lead vocals on “Baby Please Don’t Go”.  After that, the remainder of their appearance turned into a loose jam session.  Seemingly, this collaboration was later against Zappa’s better judgement, after he was left feeling bitter with how John and Yoko chose to release their share of the recordings from the gig.

8 – David Peel


When Lennon and Ono moved to New York, they hooked up with street musician musician David Peel.  After getting acquainted, they all appeared together on The David Frost Show to perform songs from each other’s repertoire.  From there, Lennon and Ono produced Peel’s album The Pope Smokes Dope.  While that bit of trivia is not completely lost to Beatles fans, most don’t realize that John and Yoko appear on the recording of “The Ballad of New York City”.  The album was allegedly banned in many countries, making for a very obscure track.

7 – The Dirty Mac


Somehow magic happens and the parties involved don’t even realize it.  That’s the case with The Dirty Mac, a one-day-only band comprised of John Lennon, Eric Clapton, Mitch Mitchell (Hendrix’s drummer), and Keith Richards.  Not exactly a run-of-the-mill supergroup, but most people missed this historic event in 1968.  The musicians got together as part of a Rolling Stones TV special that didn’t see the light of day until 1996.  The rockers ran through an intense version of Lennon’s “Yer Blues”, which immediately segued into a surprisingly incredible performance from Yoko Ono and violinist Ivry Gitlis.  The band is so tight that it is easy to feel disappointed they never performed together as a group again.

John Lennon did, however, invite Eric Clapton to play at a rare live gig the following year in Toronto.  The show was later released on video and LP, but is surprisingly hard to find on CD these days.  It’s worth tracking down a copy for a unique arrangement of “Cold Turkey”, supposedly the first time the song was ever performed.

6 – Mick Jagger


For years, supermarket tabloids have been trying to pull in readers with “Which song did The Beatles write for the Rolling Stones?” printed on the cover.  Well, I wouldn’t want to take away sales with a piece of trivia just about everyone already knows, so I’ll tell you about another Beatles/Stones connection.  In 1973, John Lennon produced Mick Jagger’s cover of “Too Many Cooks (Spoil The Soup)”.  Lennon’s influence on this track is apparent when compared to a few tunes off his Walls and Bridges album.  There is also great debate as to whether or not Lennon sat in on guitar for the session.  For whatever reason, the track went unreleased until finding a home on a 2007 Mick Jagger compilation.

5 – Chuck Berry


Two rock legends from different eras came together in 1972 on the Mike Douglas Show when John Lennon and Chuck Berry performed “Johnny B. Good” and “Memphis, Tennessee” together.  It’s a hoot to see how starstruck John Lennon is as he sings together into a single microphone with one of his musical heroes.  Even better is how Berry gets the jam going by pointing a finger at Lennon and demanding, “Johnny, let’s be good.”  Classic.

4 – Harry Nilsson

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Nilsson and Lennon had been acquainted in the ’60s, but re-connected a few years later.  Lennon was a big fan of Nilsson’s work and insisted on producing his album Pussy Cats.  That’s not exactly an offer to turn down, so Nilsson agreed.  Their fun together is evidenced by Lennon’s appearance on the album cover.

3 – Elton John


During his stay in California, Lennon asked Elton John to play on his new song “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night”.  After the session, Elton John asked Lennon to make an on-stage appearance if the song topped the charts.  Feeling sarcastic, Lennon agreed with the knowledge that he hadn’t had a #1 hit in his solo career.  Well, the song went straight to the top of the charts and Lennon kept his promise.  During what turned out to be his last concert appearance, he joined Elton in a three song run down to an overwhelmed crowd on Thanksgiving Day 1974.  I’m sure everyone in attendance was thankful they had purchased tickets to the show.  Audio of their performance together has been released on various albums, but it took nearly three decades for any video to surface.  Even though it’s 30 seconds of choppy 8mm footage, it still feels worth the wait to see the two legends on stage together.

Lennon also joined Elton John on two studio covers of his own material, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “One Day (At A Time)”.

2 – David Bowie


At some point in the ’70s, Lennon got chummy with David Bowie.  The two really hit it off and were hanging out in the studio when they decided they want to record a song.  On the spot, they co-wrote one of Bowie’s biggest hits, “Fame”.  Around the same time, they covered one of Lennon’s Beatles songs of which he had never been happy with the recording.  Hopefully, he enjoyed the opportunity to remake “Across the Universe” with David Bowie.

1 – Paul McCartney… and Stevie Wonder

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Lennon invited Ringo Starr and George Harrison to participate on a few of his solo albums, but Paul McCartney never made the cut.  While Lennon was in Los Angeles producing a Harry Nilsson album, Paul and Linda McCartney dropped by the studio to say hi.  It was the reunion everybody wanted, but only those who stay up all night reading Wikipedia know about.  An impromptu jam session formed, which also included Stevie Wonder.  Surprisingly, Paul McCartney opted to sit in on drums, which happened to be Ringo’s set.  Recordings of the session have leaked and prove that the event was unfortunately very unproductive.  The title of the bootleg album containing these tracks is fittingly titled A Toot and a Snore in ’74.  The end of an era and no one even knew.

See also:  Jimi Hendrix rumors

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Since the dial-up song swapping days, a cover of “Day Tripper” has been making the rounds incorrectly attributed as a collaboration between Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon.  The two never worked together, but The Jimi Hendrix Experience did indeed perform a wild take of the song during an appearance on BBC radio.  As mentioned earlier, Lennon did perform with Mitch Mitchell (drummer, pictured left above) as part of The Dirty Mac.

Did we miss some other surprising John Lennon collaborations?  Have an interesting Lennon-related story?  Let us know in the comments below!

2 Comments

  • Imagine an entire world living in peace… John saw the beauty and inherent good in humanity.  I tried to do his legacy justice and channel his world-embracing and loving energy this week with a tribute portrait inspired by his music and his passion for changing the world.  You can see this new work of art in memoriam on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/12/john-lennon-just-imagine.html along with some pictures showing how I created it.  See John holding the Universe in his hand and spreading his message.  When you stop by, let me know how his words and music have affected your life and creativity!

  • zappa and john lennon!!!! 

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