In late November 1969 Lennon had announced that a fourth collection of their “unfinished music” would be recorded. “One side is laughing,” he said, “the other is whispering.”
True to his word, on this day he recorded both pieces. The session lasted from 7pm to 1.40am and involved Lennon, Ono, and various friends and associates: Mal Evans, their driver Anthony Fawcett, studio staff Geoff Emerick, Phil McDonald, Malcolm Davies and Eddie Klein, and various others.
For the first recording, known as Item 1, Lennon arranged the group in a circle. Each person wore a red clown’s nose and proceeded to laugh uproariously and shout random thoughts. Percussion and chanting was then overdubbed, then Lennon created a rough mix while Ono passed sushi around the studio.
Item 2 was based on Ono’s Whispering Piece. Each person queued to whisper a phrase or thought into a microphone. Studio engineer Geoff Emerick caused hysterics when he whispered “Bill Livy’s head” – Livy was a bald member of EMI’s staff.
Lennon intended to add sound effects to Item 2, but the track – as well as the album – was later abandoned. Stereo mixes of both items were made towards the end of the session, and the session was filmed for the BBC documentary 24 Hours: The World Of John And Yoko.