Some Time In New York City

John Lennon

Apple, 1972

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


John Lennon allegedly was prevented from writing and recording overtly political songs while he was with The Beatles; now that he was a solo artist, he could do whatever he damn well pleased. Some Time In New York City was that end result – and, had it been left as a single disc, it might have – repeat, might have – been semi-tolerable. But add in live performances with the torture of Yoko Ono's – well, you can't really call it singing, can you? - and this becomes extremely painful to listen to.

The disc opens surprisingly strong with “Woman Is The [racist expression removed] Of The World” - and, while I naturally take issue with the use of a certain epithet in the title and throughout the song, one can't say that Lennon and Ono are incorrect. (We're not a political or social commentary site, so I'll just leave that thought there for others to debate.) Musically, it's a bit muddied by a poor production job from Phil Spector – something which plagues the overall album – but it's still a decent track that, due to questionable word choice, will never get airplay.

For the bulk of Some Time In New York City's first disc, the songs are listenable yet unremarkable. Ono will never be recognized as a great singer – and I'm certainly not arguing for her getting that title, not by a long shot – but she doesn't do a terrible job on “Sisters, O Sisters” or “Born In A Prison”. Put it this way: I've been reviewing music on and off for over 30 years, and believe me, I've heard much worse. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

You want an example of worse? Go to the closing track of disc one, “We're All Water” - where we get the first taste of Ono's dog-in-pain warbling. You will pray for the end of this song to arrive – and when it does, you will wonder if your ears will ever recover. If you stay away from the second disc, then there's a chance you'll live to hear better music. (More on that in a minute.)

As for Lennon's contributions, like the others, most are simply not that memorable, but not unlistenable. “Attica State” and “New York City” aren't stand-out tracks in Lennon's discography, but they're also not the worst things ever recorded.

Had Lennon and Ono left well enough alone and ended Some Time In New York City after “We're All Water,” this would have been a forgettable disc, but not a terrible experience. (Hell, had “We're All Water” been cut, it would have improved the whole album overall.) But then, we get to the second disc, comprised of live tracks from 1969 and 1971.

That second disc… (((shudder)))

True story: When I was in high school, I had a teacher named Kenneth Hunter, who we all called “Buzz”. He and I shared a passion for music, and he used to make fun of Yoko Ono and the way she sang, especially a song called “Don't Worry, Kyoko”.

Well, Buzz, if you ever get the chance to read this… I finally listened to that song. Every… fucking… second of it. It is the worst sound I can imagine a human being can make. I would rather listen to the board tapes isolating Linda McCartney's vocals for the remainder of my life than ever listen to one more second of this fucking song again. Wikipedia notes that, near the end of the song, Ono broke down crying. Well, that makes at least two of us… though I was crying in pain well before the end of the song.

Yes, kids, it's that bad. In fact, the whole live disc is an absolute waste, except for the opening track “Cold Turkey”. For the remainder of the disc – four tracks of which were recorded with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention (and, according to Zappa, butchered in the mixing) – you find yourself absolutely dreading hearing that caterwauling of Ono… and, make no mistake, Lumpy, it's coming when you least expect it.

Simply put, the second disc makes this whole experience unbearable, even for the one or two tracks on disc one which rise above the cacophony. This disc makes me want to completely change my travel plans and head for somewhere more harmonious – like a bomb range. Avoid this one. Trust me… you'll thank me later.

Rating: D

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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