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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

John Lennon - Plastic Ono Band (Apple)

This sounds odd to read now, but I was 16 years old when this album came out. It was a Christmas gift from my parents.  It was clearly the end.  I pretty much grew up with The Beatles from one album to the other - then they broke up.  Which doesn't sound like a big deal in the 21st century, but I was depressed and at lost when I learned or read about the breakup of The Beatles.  When Paul announced that he was leaving it was in a sense like a divorce of one's parents.  It was quite painful.  What made the pain more realistic was John Lennon's first solo album "Plastic One Band." Minimal.  To the point. And it took no prisoners. And that's the horrible beauty of this album.

It wasn't intellectual, or profound sounding - it was John Lennon in December 1970.  Not only that, but it was the last album from a Beatle - even an ex-Beatle.  At least to me.  When I heard that album in 1970, it was the end.  Not only in Lennon's statement, but also the brutal sound of the album. It was not only the end of an era, but even more important, the end of John Lennon.

Yes, he had or made other albums, and yes, they were hits.  But "Plastic Ono Band" was the last Lennon album of great importance, and therefore the last great Beatle album.   There is not even a reason for Lennon to record another album.  That is how I felt when I heard this album, and I still feel that way when I hear it now. "Imagine" has it points, but a work of art, it's nothing compared to this album. Lennon was on a roll in the late 60s.  He really didn't write or perform a bad song- in fact they were all brilliant.  "Instant Karma" and "Cold Turkey" were fantastic 45 rpm singles.

The beauty of this album is that it was and is, total destruction.   The minimal Phil Spector/Lennon production is perfect.  Minimalism fits the Lennon aesthetic as it was the perfect crime weapon of the last eight years of Beatle era.  Because this album was a goodbye to that, and clearly it is about the end.  And in a sense it is the end, because Lennon never made another masterpiece. The moment, the time, and he and Yoko and Phil - it was the perfect storm.  Oddly enough, Spector also recorded the Harrison "All Things Must Pass" album, and that, although it had great moments, is really nothing compared to the Lennon album.   Spector's piano work on "Love" is superb.  Even that has a time-frame that this won't last forever.  "Plastic One Band" closed the Lennon world.  He became a public figure, but as an artist he never again reached this peak.  "Plastic One Band" like Bowie's "Blackstar" is his ultimate goodbye album.  As No. 6 would say "I'll be seeing you."