The Strangest Radio Show You Will Ever Hear – John Lennon (1971)

The album Some Time in NYC also featured a recording of Lennon and Ono performing with Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention at the Fillmore East on 6 June 1971, which they performed with after the persistence of Andy Warhol.[2] The performance was documented after Ono had arranged for someone to film it.[2] Klaus Voormann overdubbed his bass at a later date.[2]

Throughout January, until the 21st, Lennon personally mixed the live album, at Record Plant.[2] Lennon also mixed the recordings of the John Sinclair rally, the Apollo Theatre and Lyceum Ballroom performances, for possible release as EPs; however, only the Lyceum performance ended up being released.[2] Lennon and Ono, with the assistance of studio drummer Jim Keltner, hired Elephant’s Memory, a local band known for their hard partying and anti-establishment musical style, to back them for a series of albums and live performances. Lennon once again brought in Phil Spector to co-produce the new studio album, which was completed on 20 March 1972.[2] Around this time, Lennon and Ono were producing Elephant’s Memory’s self-titled album.[2] Several jams were recorded featuring Lennon and Elephant’s Memory, all of which remained unreleased: “Don’t Be Cruel”, “Hound Dog”, “Send Me Some Lovin'”, “Roll Over Beethoven”, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”, “It’ll Be Me”, “Not Fade Away”, “Ain’t That a Shame” and “Caribbean”.[2]

Fillmore East – June 1971 is a live concept-like album. It portrays a peek-behind-the-curtain of the life of a rock band on the road as narrated by Frank Zappa, and contains many thematic elements that, because of time and budget constraints, couldn’t be included in the similar movie 200 Motels. The most famous part of the album is “The Mud Shark”, a telling of a story told to Mother Don Preston by some members of Vanilla Fudge about a hotel, Seattle’s Edgewater Inn, where guests could fish from their rooms. In the tale, a mud shark is caught by one of the members of Vanilla Fudge or its crew and, when combined with a groupie and a movie camera, depravity ensues. Although not stated in “The Mud Shark,” this 1969 incident, now referred to as “the Shark episode,” also involved Led Zeppelin’s drummer John Bonham and road manager Richard Cole, with Vanilla Fudge’s singer/keyboardist Mark Stein operating the movie camera.

Frank and the Mothers then portray stereotypically egotistical members of a rock band “negotiating” with a groupie and her girlfriends for a quick “roll in the hay.” The girls are insulted that the band thinks they are groupies and that they would sleep with the band just because they are musicians. They have standards; they will only have sex with a guy in a group with a “big, hit single in the charts – with a bullet!” and a “dick that’s a monster.” In “Bwana Dik”, singer Howard Kaylan assures the girls that he is endowed beyond their “wildest Clearasil-spattered fantasies.” And, not to be put off by the standards of these groupies, the band sings the girls the Turtles (of which Kaylan, Volman, and Pons had been members) hit “Happy Together”, to give them their “bullet”. The album ends with an encore excerpt including both Zappa’s familiar “Peaches en Regalia” and what was possibly his most successful early-rock and roll pastiche, “Tears Began to Fall” (also issued as a single).

When this album was first reissued on compact disc by Rykodisc, “Willie the Pimp, Pt. 2” was omitted from the track line-up. It was finally released on CD on the 2012 reissue of the album.[4] Also, in the CD edition, the last minute of “Latex Solar Beef” was placed at the beginning of “Willie the Pimp Part One”, making it longer. It is unclear if this was intentional or not.[5]

As an encore on one of the two nights of this Fillmore East appearance John Lennon and Yoko Ono emerged from the wings to play a half hour set with the band. This part of the show was released under Lennon’s name on a disc called Live Jam, which was included as a bonus disc with Lennon’s album Some Time in New York City. It can also be heard on Zappa’s 1992 release Playground Psychotics.

Lennon used a copy of the cover of the Zappa album (adding his own red-inked credits to the album’s black-ink handwritten ones) to provide liner notes for Live Jam.


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