PEACE AND LOVE FOR CHRISTMAS, Lyceum Ballroom, London, 15 Dec 1969
John & Yoko and the Plastic Ono Supergroup secretly headline the UNICEF fundraising Xmas concert at Lyceum Strand, 15 Dec 1969.
PEACE AND LOVE FOR CHRISTMAS / LYCEUM BALLROOM, LONDON
John: I announced ‘Cold Turkey’ at the Lyceum saying, ‘This song’s about pain.’ So pain and screaming was before Janov.
I came home from holiday and read I was performing at the Lyceum Ballroom – they said we were coming. Whether or not someone in the office gave them a hint or something, we never said anything. It’s a good UNICEF gig, but that’s what they’d done.
Alan White: I got a call from Mal Evans and he said, ‘Alan put your drum kit in the car; John is going to do a show tonight and he wants you to play at it. Meet us at the Lyceum Ballroom.’ So I drove down there with my drum kit, loaded it in, put it on stage and then went to the dressing room and there was John & Yoko and Klaus. I said, ‘Well what are we going to play?’ And John said, ‘Well, I’ve got this lick and we’ll just do that and keep playing it.’ We were just about to go onstage and in walks George Harrison and Eric Clapton and they said, ‘We’ve got the whole band outside in the car!’
John: George had been playing invisible man in Delaney and Bonnie’s band with Eric – to get the pressure off being the famous Eric and the famous George. They all turned up, and it was like the concert in Toronto. I said, ‘Will you come on?’ They said, ‘Well, what are you going to play?’ I said, ‘Listen, we’re going to do probably a blues’, or whatever was current, ‘Cold Turkey’, which is three chords, and Eric knew that. And ‘Don’t Worry, Kyoko’, which was Yoko’s, which was three chords, a riff. I said, ‘Once we get onto Yoko’s riff, just keep hitting it’.
Alan White: They had Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett, Jim Gordon on drums, Carl Randall on bass, a horn section with Bobby Keys and Jim Price, and also Keith Moon and Billy Preston – they just walked in and said, ‘We’ll do it!’ So we stalled the show for about forty-five minutes and they brought all the equipment in. We had to hustle another couple of drum kits, set it all up, got everything where it needed to go and then we walked onstage, this whole troupe of players. John started playing this riff over and over and over with a billion solos from the horn players. It was a jam forever.
John: As soon as we started, the whole room lifted. The whole ballroom just took off. We really got somewhere new that night. It was a fantastic show. Half the audience walked out, but the ones that stayed, they were in a trance, man. They just all came to the front, because it was one of the first real heavy rock shows, where we had a good, good band and that John & Yoko did together.
John: And I always think that some of those kids formed those freaky bands later, because there were about 200 kids at the front there, somewhere about thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, who were looking at Yoko and looking at us the way we were playing that ‘Don’t Worry Kyoko’, and it really reached a peak. It really went out there that night. And I often think ‘I wonder if…’ you know, I hear touches of our early stuff in a lot of the punk new wave stuff. I could hear licks and flicks coming out. And it pleases me; it pleases both of us. I’d love to know, were they in the audience? And did somebody go and form a group in London because it sure as hell sounds like it!
John: That was some show, I’m telling you. It was a small dance hall of maybe 1,000, 2,000. We blew them away. I don’t care what the pop press said, we were sky high – it was an amazing high. A seventeen-piece band. It’s great with four musicians grooving, but when you’ve got seventeen it’s something else. Plastic Ono Band plays the unexpected – it could be ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ or it could be Beethoven’s Ninth. With Plastic Ono, anything goes. The day we go on and the audience is the rhythm section, then we’re really grooving – that’s what I want. So it wouldn’t matter whether I was on the stage, or if I got fed up and went down in the audience for a bit. Let’s take it in turns to be superstar.
Yoko: The best trend is that everybody does their own thing. To realize that they count. That what they do and think is going to change the world. And it really does. Even if you have nasty thoughts in the corner of the room, that vibration is going to really affect the whole world. And so if everybody starts to think that they’re the hope of the world, then that’s when something will start to happen.
Alan White: Something I remember about that show is that one song went on for about forty minutes and I realized nobody really knew how to finish it. We were all looking at each other, going, ‘How are we going to get out of this, we’re gonna explode!’ So I just started speeding up and they all looked round at me like ‘Alan’s speeding up!’ By that time Keith Moon was on the stage beating the crap out of my sixteen-inch tom tom with these crazy eyes looking at me going, ‘boom’ and I was going, ‘This is getting out of hand!’ So I sped up and I sped and I sped up until it was so fast nobody could play the lick any more and it was just one note going. I did a drum break and looked like I was going to finish and that’s how we got out of it.
Excerpted from the book JOHN & YOKO/PLASTIC ONO BAND – Available here.