“John Lennon – Plastic Ono Band” is the featured album that
was given the “Classic Albums” treatment in this 2008 release
from Eagle Rock Entertainment. When John Lennon recorded it,
his first solo effort after leaving The Beatles in 1970, he utilized
a “pared down” approach in the studio. This point was made
very clear by EMI recording engineers, Phil McDonald and
Richard Lush. Other contributing thoughts that are featured on
this DVD are from journalist Richard Williams, bassist Klaus
Voormann, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono, and others. All of these
interviewees clearly emphasized that the “Plastic Ono Band” album
was great due to the sheer honesty of John Lennon’s efforts while
recording it. Gone were the fancy production techniques that
were used while he was recording with The Beatles.
Yoko Ono’s role in John Lennon’s post-Beatles life was clearly
critical and pivotal. Her input on this DVD provided insight about
the workings of John’s mind, and she and others discuss her
involvement in these recording sessions as a vocalist.
When various songs from the album, such as “Working Class Hero”
and “God” are dissected and reassembled in the “Classic Albums”
style, the overall production is raw and simple. According to
Ringo Starr, producer Phil Spector was allegedly involved in this
process, but rarely if ever seen. The performing musicians were
basically John Lennon (1940-1980), Ringo Starr (1940 – ) and
Klaus Voorman (1938 – ), with vocal “contributions” from
Yoko Ono (1933 – ).
The main film had a running time of about 52 minutes, which
made it the longest disc of any of the ones that I’ve seen in
this series, as the standard running time of these Classic
Albums discs has almost invariably been 48 to 49 minutes.
“John Lennon – Plastic Ono Band” also had an additional 36
minutes of bonus selections, and actual concert footage was
included in both the film and bonus features. I’m particularly
glad that the footage from the Plastic Ono Band’s first live 1969
appearance in Toronto was included, featuring Eric Clapton
(1945 – ) on guitar. It obviously predates the recording sessions
for this album. I have fortunately seen the entire set from that
concert, which is available on DVD elsewhere.
This installment in the Classic Albums series provides admittedly
outstanding footage regarding the creation of this “important”
album, and also has topical footage of surrounding events.
However, in all honesty, I can’t say that most of this music is
“great” or even “good.” It may be heartfelt and utterly honest,
but I believe that for great music making and song writing to
take place, other elements need to be present. To me, a lot
of this album comes across as a type of “therapy session,”
which according to many of those interviewed, apparently
wasn’t far from the truth. The often raw and screaming vocal
delivery from both John Lennon and Yoko Ono was actually
admired by some of those interviewed (!), which lends credence
to my viewpoint.
Nevertheless, I’m glad that I watched this Classic Albums
installment. What better way to truly attempt to understand
an album? Obviously, I recommend “John Lennon – Plastic Ono
Band” to die-hard Lennon fans, along with fans of this album
release. However, upon reappraising this disc in all honesty,
I cannot count myself among them.