Author Archives: Steve Matteo

Graded on a Curve:
John Lennon,
John Lennon/Plastic
Ono Band–The Ultimate Collection

The Plastic Ono Band album, released in 1970 by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, is a monumental album in the annals of rock history. It was the fourth album John and Yoko released, but it is often credited as Lennon’s solo debut.

There were so many facets to what made the album so iconic right from its initial release. First and foremost, it signaled Lennon’s complete break with The Beatles and the 1960s, spiritually and philosophically. It was a sharp severing of all the bonds that tied him to that earth-shattering decade as well as to his place in the band that defined the era. It was also his divorce from Paul McCartney, his songwriting partner and co-equal in The Beatles.

Emotionally and psychologically, the music was the result of Lennon’s time in primal scream therapy with American Dr. Arthur Janov, a psychologist and psychotherapist who developed the therapy in the early 1950s. It is this therapy that informs Lennon’s use of raw and sparse music backing as a foundation for his direct, unflinching and often wrenching lyrics. Lennon, unlike most rock stars (except for maybe Pete Townshend), sought to shatter the mythology and invincibility of the group he was in, especially after the breakup of The Beatles. George Harrison didn’t exactly seek to do that, but he felt the burden of being an ex-Beatle the heaviest.

The album has always worn well through the years and artists from punk to grunge and others, have claimed the album as an influence. Many listeners have viewed the album not merely as an artifact from the past, but as an album ahead of its time, with a depth and timelessness akin to those achieved by Neil Young and Leonard Cohen on a few occasions. U2 on its often-maligned album Rattle and Hum, from 1988, even had a song called “God Part II” that, not so much musically, but lyrically updated The Plastic Ono Band’s “God.” It was a worthy answer song from a band who equally felt the spirit of rock and its contradictions.

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