John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band

John Lennon

Capitol, 1970

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


This release and Paul McCartney's first solo disc confirmed what fans had thought about the legendary pair; Lennon wrote the confessional, agitated music of the Beatles and Paul wrote the catchy, cute, throwaway numbers. That is so false as to be laughable, of course, but it was interesting to see which direction the men took with their first releases post-Beatles.

McCartney presented a songwriter returning to his basic roots, espousing a simple acoustic guitar-based philosophy. Surprisingly, so did John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. A confessional, mostly-acoustic album, it finds John exploring the depths of his soul in a way he had not done since, well, Revolver. It sounds like the album he had wanted to make for some time, once he got the Two Virgins and "Glass Onion" nonsense out of the way.


Yoko Ono is nowhere to be found here; it's just John and his guitar, with some Ringo drums and a little bass to back things up. It's stripped-down rock, the kind Lennon always espoused yet got away from as the Beatles wore on. Plus, how many singer-songwriters have the balls to open an album with the line "Mother, you had me / But I didn't have you?" 

"Mother" is a bitter, from-the-heart confessional, with lines like "I wanted you / but you didn't want me" and "Father / you left me / but I never left you." The music is too simple to be truly effective, but the blunt lyrics make the track difficult to listen to, especially from a songwriter as willfully obscure as Lennon had been the previous few years (witness "I Am the Walrus").

Lennon exorcises his pain through his music, whether it's the pain of lost parents in "Mother," the hypocrisy of religion in "God," hate of the political system in "Working Class Hero" or the feeling of loneliness in "Isolation."

When he's not baring his soul on these songs, Lennon rocks out on the gritty "I Found Out," the jaunty "Remember" and "Well Well Well," a six-minute acid rocker inspired by the scream therapy Lennon underwent prior to recording this (wouldn't you have loved to stay in that hotel that weekend, on your honeymoon?).

Some of the tunes recall The White Album in sound and feel, such as "Look At Me" (nearly a dead ringer for "Julia") and "Love," both fine songs that feel like slight retreads of better songs. But the disc ends strongly with the upbeat "Power To The People" and the truly strange "Do The Oz," but it wouldn't be Lennon without a touch of the odd.

Plastic Ono Band has little of the Beatles spirit, the light McCartney touch or the missteps that a debut solo album would be expected to have. But it is miles away from the cheerful homespun pop of McCartney, which also came out in 1970 (as did the last Beatle gasp Let It Be). This is one of the best singer-songwriters of all time confessing his thoughts and feelings to the world; it may be a little too insular, and a bit monotonous in spots, but it's still an astonishing solo debut from an artist who still had a lot to say.

Rating: B+

User Rating: A


I was 15 when this album was released, my friends and I thought it was terrible, nothing close to the happy Beatle albums we loved so much. Several years later I picked up a copy in a used bin for next to nothing. The album knocked Me Cold, it was and is too good, Lennon bared his Soul in a stripped down production, giving beauty, anger, love and a tough Rock'n'Roll album.

© 2006 Benjamin Ray and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capitol, and is used for informational purposes only.