Disc one, Ascot, contained nine songs from the eight-track sessions for John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, Lennon‘s début solo album from 1970, which was recorded at EMI Studios, Abbey Road. I Found Out was a home recording from the same period.
A rehearsal of Give Peace A Chance, recorded prior to the final version, was included, as was “Fortunately”, featuring dialogue from a BBC documentary, 24 Hours: The World Of John And Yoko, also made in 1969.
Six songs were from the Imagine sessions, recorded at Lennon’s home studio, Ascot Sound Studios, at his Tittenhurst Park mansion. These included a taut cover of The Olympics’ 1958 song Well (Baby Please Don’t Go), reportedly recorded for Yoko Ono‘s 38th birthday on 19 February 1971.
New York City
The earliest tracks on disc two were home demos of Mind Games, recorded in 1970, which shows how the song developed before being recorded in the studio in 1973.
Lennon and Ono moved to New York in September 1971, shortly after completing work on Imagine. They quickly threw themselves into city life, garnering experiences which inevitably found their way into Lennon’s songwriting.
Two live songs, The Luck Of The Irish and John Sinclair, were recorded at a benefit concert for Sinclair at the Crysler Arena in Ann Arbor, Michigan on 10 December 1971. Another two, Attica State and Imagine, were taken from a fundraiser for the dependants of people killed during the Attica State prison riots which took place seven days later at Harlem’s famous Apollo Theater.
A rough mix of Happy Xmas (War Is Over) also dated from 1971, as did a brief interview from the David Frost Show. Versions of New York City and Woman Is The Nigger Of The World were home demos from 1972.
Another performance of Woman Is The Nigger Of The World, along with It’s So Hard and Come Together, were from the evening One To One concert from 30 August 1972, recorded at Madison Square Garden. Geraldo Rivera’s introduction was also included.
I Know (I Know) was a home demo recorded prior to Mind Games in 1973. Three other songs – Bring On The Lucie (Freeda Peeple), One Day At A Time and the closing You Are Here were outtakes from the studio sessions for the album.
Two songs on disc two were given to Ringo Starr. I’m The Greatest was written by Lennon in 1970, but recorded with Starr on drums for the Ringo album in 1973. The following year, during the sessions for the Lennon-produced Harry Nilsson album Pussy Cats, he led the session musicians through Goodnight Vienna, which was recorded by Starr for the album of the same name.
Two tracks were not from the early 1970s. “A Kiss Is Just A Kiss” is a spoken vignette recorded at Lennon and Ono’s home in 1976, and Real Love, later issued with overdubbed vocals and instrumentation by The Beatles, was a 1980 piano demo.
The Lost Weekend
Mostly recorded during Lennon’s separation from Ono in 1973 and 1974, The Lost Weekend disc also contained a home recording from 1980.
The five earliest tracks were from the Phil Spector-produced sessions for Rock ‘N’ Roll. Phil And John 1, 2 and 3 featured speech, including banter, arguments and discussions on how to treat the recordings of Just Because and Angel Baby, providing an insight into the often volatile atmosphere in the studio.
While interesting from a historical perspective, none offers much in the way of repeated listening. The same goes for “When In Doubt, Fuck It”, an 11-second statement summing up the nature of the sessions. More successful, however, is Be My Baby, an outtake featuring some of Lennon’s most impassioned vocals of the 1970s.
Rock ‘N’ Roll was completed without Spector in 1974, after the original sessions broke down, and following the completion of Walls And Bridges. Five outtakes from these sessions were included in the box set: Be-Bop-A-Lula, Rip It Up/Ready Teddy, Slippin’ And Slidin’, Peggy Sue and Bring It On Home To Me/Send Me Some Lovin’.
From the Walls And Bridges sessions came a brief parody of Yesterday, as did outtakes of Nobody Loves You (When You’re Down And Out), Whatever Gets You Thru The Night, Scared, Steel And Glass, Surprise Surprise (Sweet Bird Of Paradox), Bless You, Going Down On Love, Move Over Ms L and Old Dirt Road.
From the same era, although recorded at Lennon’s home, were demos of What You Got and Whatever Gets You Thru The Night.
The biggest anomaly on The Lost Weekend is Stranger’s Room, an early version of I’m Losing You recorded at the Dakota in 1980. Why this was included on the third disc remains unknown, although its feeling of despondency does chime well with the mood of the other selections.