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The Ballad of John and Yoko - the Beatles

This is the supreme example of the facts speaking more about the supposed fallings out within the Beatles than the volumes of speculation and opinionising in the press and subsequent biographies.

Lennon and Yoko were married on 20th March, 1969, on Gibraltar, because this was the only place they could find that would let them get married at short notice for various reasons, other countries requiring visa's or a certain length of residency and so on. The much publicised honeymoon at the Amsterdam Hilton and several other European cities later, Lennon rang McCartney early on April 14th, and said he'd just completed the song of the story of his marriage and wanted to get it recorded as soon as possible. Both other Beatles, Ringo Starr and George Harrison, were unavailable, with Starr making the feature film "The Magic Christian" with Peter Sellers, and Harrison abroad on holiday, so Paul told him to come on over to his place and they'd record it together. They worked out the details at Paul's house in St John's Wood and then popped round the corner to Abbey Road Studios later that day to record it, John and Paul playing all the instruments, John on guitars and Paul on bass, piano and drums.

Not only did the song feature controversial lyrics, specifically in the chorus:

"Christ you know it ain't easy

you know how hard it can be

they way things are going

they're gonna crucify me"

which risked the song being banned by most radio stations, Lennon's urge for a fast release meant that it came hard on the heels of their previous single - "Get Back" was still at the UK No 1 position when the new single was issued on May 30th - which would undoubtedly affect sales. Luckily, the BBC didn't ban it and the song hit the top spot, the last Beatle single to do so.

McCartney raised no objections to all this, joining in the controversial harmonies with enthusiasm and bite. The acute listener will even observe that Lennon has fun with his Harrisonesque fills on lead guitar, and McCartney enjoys producing the brisk but chugging beat characteristic of Ringo on uptempo numbers. So much for the exaggerated notion that it was the pair's falling out that caused the split of the Beatles, or the presence of Yoko Ono (see last post). This all happened AFTER the famed "Let it Be" / "The Beatles: Get Back" filming took place.

Here, the lyrics are a litany of the external pressures on each member of the band, not least "the men from the press", which chase the couple around Europe, which cause them to elect to have the cameras come into their bedroom for their honeymoon - they knew they'd all be just outside the door anyway - and make it an anti-war protest, neatly turning the notion of "only trying to get us some peace" from their own practical day-to-day problem, to the world's.

Only 12 days after the 41st anniversary of the murder of John Lennon, we can only ponder the prophetic nature of his lyrics.


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