Imagine... More Session Tapes

John Lennon
Imagine - CD cover Imagine - CD back
Imagine... More Session Tapes - Front Cover Imagine... More Session Tapes - Back Cover
Label Vigotone
Catalogue No. VT 185/186
Country of origin England
Release date December 1999
Total time C.D. 1 - 57:35
C.D. 2 - 61:53
(from the booklet)
Imagine... if More Session Tapes from 1971 surfaced - of course you'd expect them to be added to Vigotone's on-going series examining the recorded work of John Winston Ono Lennon, MBE (ret.). This latest offering is actually a companion to Vigotone's earlier critically acclaimed 3CD set "John Lennon: Imagine ... All The Outtakes" (VT118-120). There the listener will find an in-depth examination of the Imagine album, along with a broad range of alternate takes, rehearsals and demos. On this set we offer a narrower focus, examining a bit more closely the elements that go into making an album -- namely the rehearsals and overdubs that must be done as part of the working musicians world. Admittedly, the repetitive nature and start and stop elements don't always lend themselves to the casual listening for pleasure that one might want at times, but as a way of looking into the mind and sometimes the heart of the artists, they can be quite revealing.

After the searing personal anguish of Plastic Ono Band, Lennon returned to calmer, more conventional territory with Imagine. While the album had a softer surface, it still was only somewhat less confessional. John has stated that "The first record was too real for people, so nobody bought it. Imagine ... because it is sugar coated is accepted. Now I understand what you have to do."
If Imagine doesn't cut as deeply as POB, it is still a remarkable collection of songs that Lennon would never be able to better again.

Although some of these tracks have appeared before, they are offered here in more complete form and in correct sequential order from a newly acquired mono monitor source tape.

Disc One

How Do You Sleep ?   (Tracks 1-16.)
(rehearsals and filming session).
From the recording sessions at the Lennon's Tittenhurst home, John leads the musicians through several rehearsal run-throughs of his scathing ode to his former partner. As the rehearsals proceed, one can hear Lennon taking the band slowly through the various riff changes, chord progressions and nuances that he obviously felt this song required. At this stage, most of the work is geared toward the instrumental elements of the song; when he does add vocals they are obviously intended just to guide the players through the song and not as proper performances. On at least one occasion a slate number is called out for the film crew documenting the sessions for an accompanying film version of the album. Some of this footage was also utilized in the Imagine: John Lennon documentary.

(John Lennon: electric guitar and piano; George Harrison: slide guitar; Nicky Hopkins: electric piano; Klaus Voorman: bass; Alan White: drums; unknown: acoustic guitar; unknown: piano)
      JPGR Note : The "unknowns" are Andy Davis (of Stackridge) and Rod Lynton.

Imagine   (Track 17.)
This version of Imagine features the same backing as the released version but has an alternate vocal marked take 7. Although this is the same version that opens Lost Lennon Tapes Volume 33, this is its first appearance from a tape source.

(John Lennon: piano; Klaus Voorman: bass; Alan White: drums)

How   (Track 18.)
This track, like the previous, is the same version as that which appeared on the official Imagine album but with an alternate vocal. This tape source version supercedes its previous availability on Lost Lennon Tapes Volume 14 which was taken from a vinyl transcription disc.

(John Lennon: piano; John Barham; electric piano; Klaus Voorman: bass; Alan White: drums)

I'm The Greatest   (Track 19.)
This version of I'm The Greatest is different from the one that appeared on the earlier Vigotone set, but is from the same session. It has appeared previously on the scarce After The Remember CD, but is taken here from a superior tape source.

(John Lennon: piano; Klaus Voorman: bass; possibly Alan White: drums)

Disc Two

After the basic tracks for Imagine had been recorded at the Lennon's Tittenhurst Ascot Sound Studios, they were then subject to overdubbing sessions at Record Plant in New York City during July 1971. While some of the songs were just given string overdubs, Lennon desired some grittier horn sounds on two of his harder-sounding songs on the album, It's So Hard and I Don't Want To Be A Soldier. It was only natural that for some authentic R'n'B horn parts that Lennon should want a top-flight R'n'B artist, and it (wasn't) So Hard to find a good one in sax player King Curtis.

King Curtis (born Curtis Ousley) was the last of the great R'n'B tenor sax greats. He came to prominence in the mid-50's as a session musician in New York, recording at one time or another for most of the East Coast R'n'B labels. A long association with Atlantic/Atco began in 1958 and his playing is heard on hit recordings by the Coasters among many others. He recorded singles under his own name for many small labels in the 1950's -- his own Acto sessions ('58/'59), then Prestige/New Jazz and Prestige/TruSound for jazz and R'n'B albums in 1960 and 1961. In 1962 Curtis also enjoyed a #1 R'n'B hit with Soul Twist on Enjoy Records. He also contributed the sax solo on Buddy Holly's Reminiscing, a song covered by the Beatles in their Hamburg days.
He was signed by Capitol for two years (1963-64) where he may have come into early contact with the Beatles through common label connections. He certainly made their acquaintance during the Beatles 1965 U.S. tour, appearing with them at their famed Shea Stadium concert. He later led Aretha Franklin's backing band and took an active studio role at Atlantic Records, contracting sessions and producing. He was murdered a month after doing overdub work for the Imagine album, stabbed to death during a punch-up in front of his apartment. It was Friday the 13th, August 1971.

It's So Hard   (Tracks 1-13.)

As evident from this offline session tape, Lennon is in a relaxed, reflective mood as he greets King with remembrances of their last meeting from the Shea Stadium appearance. He's also in a productive mood as work begins right away on the overdubs for It's So Hard. John clearly knows what he wants although, as George Martin once pointed out, he is not as technically expressive as Paul could be. Hence, his instructions to King come in the form of a lot of "ooh-oohs" and "ah-ahs" as he tries to vocalize the parts he wants for the song.
Fortunately King picks up on it rather effortlessly, soon nailing the opening sax bit, and riffing throughout the next couple of playbacks with an excited John calling out delighted encouragement ("..some great stuff on the solo !") Certainly a good working atomosphere is evident this day.

I Don't Want To Be A Soldier   (Tracks 14-23.)

Next up comes a farily straight-forward stab at everybody's favourite track on the album (not mine said "JPGR"), after further reminiscing by John. This time it's about the scare the Beatles had on stage in the Bible Belt during the last 1966 tour, with fireworks being thrown at the stage, and each of the Fabs looking about to see who had been shot. John seems amused as he remembers thinking that Ringo had got it ! Again the tape shows work was done very efficiently for what would prove to be one of the last recording sessions for King Curtis. He delivers what John calls for during numerous playbacks... a true professional to the end.

In all, a brief, but interesting fly-on-the-wall listening experience that can only make one appreciate even more one of the best post-Beatle albums by any of the Fab Four. What more could anyone want?

Queenie Epstein
November 1999.

C.D. 1

No Tracklisting Time
     How Do You Sleep ?
1 First Rehearsal 4:52
2 Riffing 3:52
3 Another Pass 2:35
4 Tuning Jam 0:49
5 Slow Rehearsal 2:06
6 A Bit of Reggae 5:04
7 "Slate 12" Low Vocal False Start 1:17
8 Low Vocal False Start 2 0:35
9 Low Vocal Rehearsal 5:30
10 Piano Solo False Start 0:22
11 Piano Solo 0:41
12 Piano Solo Rehearsal 2:28
13 Eight-Track Take One 8:12
14 Phil's Rhythm Instructions 3:06
15 Eight-Track Take Two 3:02
16 From George's Solo 0:34
    Miscellaneous Tracks
17 Imagine 3:08
18 How 3:43
19 I'm The Greatest 1:54
20 "Beatle" Conversation 3:37

C.D. 2

No Tracklisting Time
    It's So Hard
1 John Starts Tape 1:38
2 King Curtis Arrives 1:55
3 Intro Playback 4:11
4 John Demonstrates On Acoustic 2:18
5 King Curtis Riffs 5:31
6 First Pass and More Riffing 1:10
7 Second Pass 3:46
8 King Curtis Asks John a Question 4:01
9 Third Pass 2:28
10 John Gives King Curtis Feedback 0:56
11 Another Pass at the Intro 0:31
12 Another Pass at the Intro #2 0:35
13 Last Pass 1:45
    I Don't Want To Be A Soldier
14 John Discusses the 1966 Tour 1:31
15 First Playback 4:00
16 Playback Continued - the First "Hit It" 1:01
17 Playback Continued - the Second "Hit It" 2:38
18 John and King Curtis Talk 7:30
19 First Pass 5:47
20 John Instructs King Curtis 2:29
21 Second Pass 1:16
22 Third Pass 2:24
23 Last Pass 2:17

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