Out today (April 23rd) is the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band – The Ultimate Collection deluxe box set. The collection features Lennon’s 1970 mainstream solo debut completely remixed from the original multi-tracks. The set features 159 new mixes on six CD’s and two Blu-Ray discs in Stereo, 5.1 & Dolby Atmos — plus a 132-page book, along with a poster and postcards.
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band was originally released on December 11th, 1970 and peaked at Number Six on the Billboard 200 albums chart, spending only four weeks in the Top 10. The album fared better on the Cashbox chart, hitting Number Four — and peaking at Number Two in Record World.
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band is considered among the most harrowing and personal albums in rock, and marked Lennon’s first album of original songs since the Beatles‘ split earlier that year.
The collection included such classics as “Working Class Hero,” “Love,” “Mother,” “Isolation,” and “God.” Aside from Lennon’s guitar and piano work, the album featured Ringo Starr on drums, Klaus Voormann on bass — with occasional keyboards by Billy Preston, as well as piano by co-producer Phil Spector.
According to the press release:
The collection features John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Ringo Starr, Klaus Voormann, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, Alan White, and Phil Spector, and contains Ultimate Mixes, Out-Takes, Elements, Raw Studio and Evolution Mixes; Demos, Jams and Yoko Ono Live Sessions.
Produced and Supervised by Yoko Ono Lennon using the same team that mixed and engineered Imagine (The Ultimate Collection) including triple Grammy Award winner Paul Hicks, Rob Stevens, and Sam Gannon.
During his groundbreaking December 1970 interview with Rolling Stone, John Lennon was unsure how the public at large would accept the Plastic Ono Band album: “I don’t really know where it’ll sink in, where it’ll lie, y’know, in the spectrum of rock n’ roll, and the generation and all the rest of it. In one way, it’s terribly uncommercial. Y’know, it’s so miserable in a way and heavy, y’know? But it’s reality. And I’m not going to veer away from it for anything.”
Yoko Ono is still awed by the power of the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album: “Listening to John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band — which is a brilliant, brilliant work; it affected the world almost — well, not almost — it affected the music world very much. And not just the music world — per se.”
Back in 2008, Ringo Starr appeared on the VH1 Classic Albums episode for John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and spoke candidly about his bandmate and friend: “I mean, he was always brave. He would put it out there and the consequences were sometimes very harsh — but he would always put it out there. That’s why you could not not love him. Y’know, I wouldn’t like to be interviewed on a lot of records (laughs) — but this, I don’t mind, because it’s a beautiful record.”
Klaus Voormann told us that in the fall of 1970 Lennon entered the studio a changed man: “And then they came into the studio after the primal scream (therapy), and it was amazing how they were completely open. It was like an open wound, so to speak. They were hugging each other, they were crying, they were laughing — it was amazing. And out of this feeling, came those songs he was doing. It was definitely a positive experience in every way. And I was so happy that he asked Ringo to come along — and I didn’t know who else was going to be there and suddenly it was just the (laughs) three of us, which was quite a surprise to me.”
John Lennon said that getting the mix locked shortly after recording was the key to the Plastic Ono Band tracks: “Like ‘Instant Karma,’ and other things, if you remix it right away that night — I mean, I’d known that before, but never followed it through, there’s nothing like that. It worked on every one that I did like that. I just remixed them the same night; ‘Hold On, John,’ and ‘Isolation,’ and — oh, ‘I Found Out.’”
Klaus Voormann recalled that John Lennon never made apologies for his emotions: “John writes always about himself and it doesn’t mean that he means that the rest of his life — like talking about Paul (McCartney) in that song — he felt like this at this particular moment. He uses the words, it’s so strong, and it’s always something he did himself. Something out of himself. He’s very egotistical, you could say. Well, why not?”