As we eagerly await the release later this week of the Plastic Ono Band super deluxe editions it’s been interesting to listen to two rare John and Yoko interview discs recorded during the same era.
The two discs are John Lennon & Yoko Ono Special Interview (January 25, 1971, in Tokyo), and John Lennon & Yoko Ono Special Interview (September 2, 1971 in New York).
Both these were only made available recently, and only in Japan. The one place to purchase them was from the museum shop at the Double Fantasy – John & Yoko exhibition, held at the Sony Music Roppongi Museum in Tokyo in late 2020/early 2021. We were lucky as a family friend who lives there got both discs for us and sent them via snail mail to Australia. It took a while, but they eventually got here!
As the titles suggest, these recordings date back to 1971, and hearing John and Yoko talking about their then just-released Plastic Ono Band LPs (one from John, one from Yoko), and also about Lennon’s Imagine LP, adds to our understanding: what they were thinking and saying about the albums at the time.
As you can see, these have been lovingly created in the typical Japanese style. They both come in gatefold sleeves with Grapefruit OBI strips, and they’re both pressed on lovely 10″ clear vinyl.
Both album sleeves say “Printed in Japan”, and state that the vinyl is pressed in Czech Republic. However, inside the labels say “Made in USA”. Confusing.
Instead of Apple labels, these are on Grapfruit labels (just like the ones used for Yoko Ono’s album re-issue campaign with Secretly Canadian).
(Click on any images to see larger versions)
On the OBI strip and on the record labels there are Columbia Records logos (i.e. Sony Music), while on the covers there are Sony Music, Secretly Canadian and Chimera Music logos printed on the rear sleeves.
And of course being Japanese releases, these both have a paper sheet inserts printed on both sides with more detail and info (in Japanese!) about the EP and the Double Fantasy exhibition:
One of these interview discs at least (John Lennon & Yoko Ono Special Interview (September 2, 1971 in New York) has been previously released. This was back in 1971 in Japan – and it came out on the Apple label. This release was a fan-only, 7″ 45rpm EP. It has the same artwork throughout as this 2020 re-issue and came in a gatefold cover too. Apparently in Japan in 1971 the first 1,000 copies of of Imagine contained a postcard which the buyer could use to order the interview EP for free:
Seeing the original Japanese Apple labels from 1971 reminds us of the amazing attention to detail the Japanese go to when recreating re-issues. If you look closely you can see that even the lettering has been meticulously copied from the Apple original to the 2020 version on the Grapfruit label:
The interview on January 25, 1971 took place in Tokyo’s Teikoku or “Imperial” Hotel. It is conducted in English and Japanese – but mostly Japanese. The Lennon’s state that they are in the country to visit Yoko’s family and are trying to keep a low profile, so it is not an official visit as such. But they’ve obviously called a short press conference to talk briefly about what would have then been their latest releases, the two Plastic Ono Band LPs.
As you can see from the sleeve images above, the two are photographed holding these albums (and The Wedding Album) on the front, rear and gatefold covers.
Here’s a short extract from this disc to give you a feel for what it contains. John is asked about the direct nature of his lyrics on Plastic Ono Band. Is it something like Japanese Haiku poetry?
“This album is shibui!” he declares. Shibui refers to a particular aesthetic of simple, subtle, and unobtrusive beauty. Like other Japanese aesthetics terms, it can apply to a wide variety of subjects, not just art or fashion (see Wikipedia).
There is a small amount of original music on the January 25, 1971 interview disc. At one point Yoko is busy speaking in Japanese to the interviewer while John Lennon in the background has obviously picked up an acoustic guitar and gently finger picks the melodies of ‘Sun King’ and then ‘Dear Prudence’. And at the very end of the press conference there is a short live version of ‘Give Peace A Chance’.
The interview on the second 10″ clear EP takes place in New York on September 2, 1971. Here they talk a lot more about Imagine as it has just been released, but John compares it to Plastic Ono Band, the LP which precedes it. Lennon says the Imagine album is more relaxed compared to Plastic Ono Band. And ‘Imagine’ the song, he says, has almost the the same story as the song ‘Working Class Hero’ from Plastic Ono Band, only ‘Imagine’ is expressed in a more “child-like” way.
Sound-wise he says he wanted Plastic Ono Band to be very spare, but this time (on Imagine) he wanted strings and saxophone, and to work using more musicians. The other contrast between the two LPs he makes is along the lines of: “Last year [when I made Plastic Ono Band] I had long hair and a beard. Now I’ve got short hair and no beard. So it’s like shaving. It’s a bit cleaner looking, more acceptable to people”.
So, two interesting releases to have in the lead-up to the Plastic Ono Band The Ultimate Collection box sets and vinyl re-issues. These will sit alongside them quite nicely.