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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

John Lennon: Wedding Album


1) John & Yoko; 2) Amsterdam; 3*) Who Has Seen The Wind; 4*) Listen, The Snow Is Falling; 5*) Don't Worry Kyoko (Mummy's Only Looking For Her Hand In The Snow).

General verdict: OK, they showed the world all the love in their hearts. But did people start treating them better?

It might be ridiculous, I know, but I am seriously tempted to declare ʽJohn & Yokoʼ, the, uhm, «expressive vocal performance» that occupies all of Side A of John and Yoko's Wedding Album, the absolute pinnacle of their avantgarde research program. Unlike everything else they did, it at least makes a bit of symbolic sense. You could say, for instance, that by trying out every possible variation of "John" and "Yoko" — from lethargic mumble to erotic purr to angry reproach to hysterical screaming, etc. — they are encapsulating the entire spectrum of male-female relation­ships in one condensed 22-minute package. You could also say that, at the very least, with this performance they actually make a loving tribute to themselves: neither Two Virgins nor Life With The Lions really managed to convey the mad passion they must have obviously had for each other in those wild days. In any case, it hits some sort of mark, and if there really is some sort of objective invisible line that separates «fake avantgarde art» from «true avantgarde art», I'd make a wild guess that, just for once, they did cross it here.

Naturally, this does not make the track very listenable: there are only so many ways you can spell out two names over 22 minutes, which means the guys inevitably have to repeat themselves, and towards the end, rely on overtly silly moves, such as muttering the names while chewing on apples (or carrots, whatever they were having that day). I kind of wish the performance had more script to it, so that they could, for instance, actually play out a story of romance, family life, conflicts and make-ups through these calls-and-responses: a more meticulous approach might have turned this into an almost Steve Reichian experience. Instead, emphasis seems to be on improvising, and you'd need a hell of a lot of inspiration to mesmerize people by yawning, stut­tering, and munching on apples, among other things. But at least they finally display a sense of humor about it, which makes it easier to stomach all the narcissism. (In parentheses, it may be necessary to remind that the track's primary influence is Stan Freberg's comedic masterpiece ʽJohn And Marshaʼ from 1951 — which did nearly the same thing far more efficiently in about three minutes' time; but then, Freberg's piece was openly comedic, whereas the Onos go as far as to substitute cheesy-soapy strings for the amplified sound of their own heartbeats, making no mistake about the seriousness of their intentions).

Contrastively, the second side (ʽAmsterdamʼ) regurgitates the same old shit. Yoko wailing PEEEEEACE! at the top of her razor-sharp lungs, making me hate high front vowels for the rest of me life; John and Yoko spilling banalities and stupidities on the same subject before a con­fused Dutch journalist; John and Yoko spilling more stupidities in front of each other; John and Yoko ordering breakfast in bed; John and Yoko going out into the street and having more silly conversations with bewildered Dutchmen; finally, John and Yoko having fun with an acoustic guitar and singing whatever comes in their heads. Essentially, this is just a sequel to the chronicle begun on Life With The Lions, and since not a lot of different things occurred in the interim, other than the happy couple getting married, it already feels redundant.

Again, to reward you for your patience the CD issue includes three bonus tracks — all of them sung by Yoko, but they are actually harmless, because when Yoko actually tries to sing, she is not too bad, and both ʽWho Has Seen The Windʼ and ʽListen, The Snow Is Fallingʼ are decent ballads with an oddly Christmas-like spirit, while the early acoustic version of ʽDon't Worry Kyokoʼ (whose bluesy riff is a variation on the Everly Brothers' ʽWake Up Little Susieʼ) has a shade of creepy to it. At the time, these songs usually ended up as B-sides to John's A-sides (since the couple was business-savvy enough to understand that sacrificing John's songwriting talents would cost them way too much), and while they are thematically far more in line with Yoko-focused LPs, the decision to save them from complete oblivion by integrating them with the Unfinished Music series is understandable.

Amazingly, Wedding Album actually made the US charts, climbing as high as #178: I guess that many (presumably, male) fans were unable to resist the urge to reward John with a nice wedding present — alternately, some might have confused it with the White Album, for all we know. But despite this surprising endorsement, the record would become the last in the Unfinished Music series, for reasons unknown: while subsequent albums would still occasionally include avant­garde experiments, and Yoko would continue her solo career, John seems to have had his thirst for the bizarre mostly quenched once The Beatles were formally no more. It is understandable that throughout 1968–69, he still felt himself under the chivalrous obligation of saving his melodic side for the band — yet it is also interesting that, once free from all shackles, he re-em­braced that melodic side with such a vengeance that only reaffirmed the somewhat artificial and forced nature of all that avantgarde posturing. In the end, I guess he liked being perceived as a rebel and contrarian, but probably not as a freak; and I have little doubt that he sometimes des­pised these eccentric creations of his just as strongly as he openly despised his ʽI Am The Walrusʼ stage. Except he rarely, if ever, talked about it, because it's one thing to upset your ex, such as Paul McCartney, and quite another one to upset your current partner.


  1. It's depressing to think how many gullible souls bought this one due to glowing reviews from Rolling Stone. Though the melody maker review of it has to be the most absurd example of a critic finding meaning where there was none.

    "... Richard Williams, who reviewed [the wedding album] in the British weekly Melody Maker. Williams, the story goes, had apparently been sent a test pressing of the album consisting of two single-sided discs. Though there was nothing but the engineer's test signal on the flip-sides, the critic took these to be half of a double LP:

    "Sides Two and Four consist entirely of single tones maintained throughout, presumably produced electronically. This might sound arid, to say the least, but in fact constant listening reveals a curious point: the pitch of the tones alters frequently, but only by micro-tones or, at most, a semi-tone. This oscillation produces an almost subliminal, uneven 'beat,' which maintains interest."


    1. My word.... I'm never letting my children be anywhere near a metronome (or study wave physics for that matter) until they listen to ten albums with drums. I just don't want to believe this is possible.
      Seriously if I could appreciate sound the way Mr. Williams does I will never be bored again. Then again, I guess we have our fair share of Richard Williamses anyway these days.