Happy 50th birthday, Plastic Ono Band!

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Released 11 December 1970, Plastic Ono Band was John Lennon’s first proper solo album. While he’d done four prior solo albums, they were all collaborations with Yoko Ono, not 100% his own songs.

There were also two Plastic Ono Band albums released that day, with slightly different covers, though most people are only familiar with John’s album of that name. Yoko’s POB only reached #182 on the U.S. Billboard chart, and none of the six songs became singles.

John’s POB was the very first solo album by him I got, in January 2002. At the time, John was still my favorite Beatle, so it made sense to start my journey into the band’s solo work through him.

These songs are so raw and emotional, strongly influenced by the Primal Scream therapy John had recently undergone with Arthur Janov. He’s laying his heart, soul, and mind bare for the world to see, exposing these deep pains and traumas which had stalked him for so many years.

The first time I heard the opening track “Mother,” maybe two years before I got the album, I deeply sobbed through almost the entire song. That was one of the most emotional listening experiences I’ve ever had.

Penultimate track “God” is also one of the three songs which always gives me full-body goosebumps, getting stronger and stronger with each “I don’t believe in…” declaration. (The other two are The Monkees’ “Zor and Zam” and Simon and Garfunkel’s “Seven o’Clock News/Silent Night.”)

Track listing, with stars by the bonus tracks. (Though it just seems wrong for there to be any bonus tracks! The album was already perfect as-is.)

“Mother” (#3 in Switzerland, #9 in Austria, #10 in The Netherlands, #12 in Canada, #26 in West Germany, #30 in Japan, #43 in the U.S., #57 in Australia)
“Hold On” (includes John’s impression of Cookie Monster)
“I Found Out” (he so gives the finger to everyone in this song!)
“Working Class Hero”
“Isolation”
“Remember” (ends with a reference to Guy Fawkes Night and the sound of an explosion)
“Love”
“Well Well Well”
“Look at Me”
“God”
“My Mummy’s Dead” (only 49 seconds long)
“Power to the People”*
“Do the Oz”*

My favorite tracks are “God,” “Love,” “I Found Out,” “Mother,” and “Working Class Hero.”

The album reached #1 in Canada and The Netherlands, #3 in Australia, #4 in Norway, #5 in Japan, #6 in the U.S., #8 in the U.K. and Sweden, and #39 in West Germany.

POB is widely considered John’s greatest solo album by far, and it’s always been my personal favorite as well. Many of those incessant best-of lists rank it quite highly.

It goes without saying that I highly, highly, highly recommend this album!

Christmas Eve 1972

Sweet Saturday Samples won’t be running again till 12 January, but I’m going ahead and posting the excerpt I’d planned for this weekend anyway. I selected it in honor of John Lennon’s Jahrzeit (death anniversary), due to the mention of his music. I’m going back to Little Ragdoll (Adicia’s story), Chapter 56, “Finally a Real Thanksgiving and Christmas,” as the younger Troy sisters and the Ryan siblings are making a gingerbread house and other Christmas goodies on Christmas Eve 1972.

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“Can we have some music while we’re baking?” Aoife asks. “Anything but that godawful nonstop Christmas music on the radio.  You’d think the normal person woulda gone nuts and thrown the radio out the window ages ago.”

“They do go overboard,” Fiona says. “I like a lot of the Christmas songs, but not after I’ve heard ‘em fifty times in a week.  There’s only a couple of ‘em I don’t immediately turn the dial on.”

“Sure, I brought somea my records along,” Deirdre says.

“Just don’t play that one record you play all the time, the one you liked so much you put the lyrics up all over the walls,” Aoife says.

“You mean John’s Plastic Ono Band?  What’s wrong with it?  It’s a very honest record.”

“There’s too much screaming on it.  Why is he so mad in those songs?”

“It’s part of Primal Scream therapy.  I’d recommend it to you too, Adicia.  It helps you purge out lingering pain and resentment left over from a crummy childhood, gets it all outta your system and heals you.  I think my favorite song on that record is ‘I Found Out.’  He so gives the finger to everyone on that song!”

“So how does it work?” Adicia asks. “Do you go to a shrink and he tells you what to do?”

“You can do it on your own too, I suppose.  Just start screaming out all your pain, anger, and frustration.  Better to get it out peacefully through screaming than beating someone up or getting in verbal fights, right?”

“Please, not now!” Ernestine begs. “Christmas Eve isn’t the time or place for Primal Scream therapy!”

“Allen and Lenore might think something bad’s going on if they hear Adicia screaming like that,” Fiona agrees.

“And it’s probably not good for the baby if it hears loud scary noises like that,” Aoife says.

“Maybe you’re right,” Deirdre admits. “We’ll just play folk music.”

“No Dylan, please,” Adicia begs as Deirdre starts upstairs for her records. “I respect his talent and message, but his voice still isn’t my cup of tea, and I don’t think he’s the best soundtrack for Christmas baking.”

True to her word, Deirdre only brings down folk rock albums and her handful of classical records Ernestine picked up from the free bin at their old favorite record store in Greenwich Village.  While Justine roasts chestnuts with Aoife, and the other girls are baking cookies, bûche de Noël, jellyrolls, brownies, chocolate toffee bars, and peanut brittle, the soft sounds of Deirdre’s beloved people’s music waft through the house.  David steps into the kitchen from time to time to help with baking, but otherwise occupies himself with reading the latest issues of The People’s Weekly World and grumbling about the state of the world.

“I always liked this song,” Adicia says of “Seven o’Clock News/Silent Night” as they’re finally cleaning up and putting away the baked goods at the end of the night, before heading off to sleep. “When was this record made again?”

“The fall of ’66,” Ernestine says. “This album’s always been onea my favorites too.”

“Isn’t it a crying pity it’s just as eerily pertinent at the end of 1972 as it was back in ’66?” Deirdre asks as she dumps some dirty dishes in the sink. “Only difference is that now Nixon’s heading into his second term in office, and back then he was only a former vice president.”

“Peace will finally come when enough people decide they want peace more than war, and that they love life more than death,” Fiona says.

As Adicia heads off to bed with Justine, her greatest hope for the coming year is that the beautiful, peaceful message of “Silent Night” will very soon overwhelm the ugly, painful, hateful messages on the nightly 7:00 news.  It seems like a faraway dream, but she once thought having all the decent members of her family back together again and escaping from the black hole they grew up in was just an idle daydream too.  When enough people want something, they find a way to make it happen, even if it sometimes takes longer than anyone had anticipated.