Some Time In New York City

Cover artwork

Sometime In New York City (Remastered) - Elephant's Memory, John Lennon, The Invisible Strings, The Plastic Ono Band & Yoko Ono

Some Time In New York City was issued in a gatefold sleeve with printed inner sleeves, a postcard of the Statue of Liberty, and - in the US only - a petition against John Lennon's expulsion from the country. Early pressings had a message etched into the inner groove area of the vinyl: "John and Yoko forever, peace on earth and good will to men 72".

The cover concept continued Lennon's desire to present his music as a newspaper or diary. Inspired by the New York Times, the artwork printed the lyrics to the studio songs, along with photographs, montages and drawings, and the parody motto: "Ono news that's fit to print".

One of the images, to illustrate Yoko Ono's song We're All Water, featured Richard Nixon and Mao Zedong dancing naked together. The montage made many US retailers nervous, particularly in the wake of Lennon and Ono's 1968 album Unfinished Music No 1: Two Virgins.

You see how they banned the picture here. Yoko made this beautiful poster: Chairman Mao and Richard Nixon dancing naked together, you see? And the stupid retailers stuck a gold sticker over it that you can't even steam off. At least you could steam off that Beatles cover [Yesterday... And Today]. So you see the kind of pressure Yoko and I were getting, not only on a personal level, and the public level, and the court case, and the fucking government, and this, that, and the other, but every time we tried to express ourselves, they would ban it, would cover it up, would censor it.
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

The reception

Some Time In New York City was critically panned upon its release. Reviewers were disappointed by Lennon's abandonment of the pop music he had embraced on Imagine, and the mainstream press had little sympathy for Lennon's broad-brush sloganeering and simplistic treatment of political issues. The reaction of Rolling Stone magazine was typical:

Throughout their artistic careers, separately and together, the Lennons have been committed avant-gardists. Such commitment takes guts. It takes even more guts when you've made it so big that you don't need to take chances to stay on top: the Lennons should be commended for their daring. What is deplorable, however, is the egotistical laziness (and the sycophantic milieu in which it thrives) that allows artists of such proven stature, who claim to identify with the 'working class hero', to think they can patronise all whom they would call sisters and brothers.
Stephen Holden
Rolling Stone

The reception was a blow to Lennon, who subsequently suffered self-doubt about the quality of his songwriting. None of his later works had the vitality of his first two solo albums, and he increasingly followed musical fashions rather than creating his own standards.

Most other people express themselves by playing football at weekends or shouting. But here am I in New York and I hear about thirteen people shot dead in Ireland and I react immediately. And being what I am I react in four-to-the-bar with a guitar break in the middle. I don't say, 'My God, what's happening, we should do something.' I go: 'It was Sunday Bloody Sunday/And they shot the people down...' It's not like the Bible. It's all over now. It's gone. It's finished.
John Lennon, 1972
New Musical Express

Lennon later admitted the public reaction to Some Time In New York City had an adverse effect on his work.

It almost ruined it. It became journalism and not poetry. And I basically feel that I'm a poet. Then I began to take it seriously on another level, saying, 'Well, I am reflecting what is going on, right?'
John Lennon, 1975

Chastened by the reviews, Lennon began to adopt a lower profile. In the United Kingdom the single Happy Xmas (War Is Over) was finally released in November 1972, almost a year after it had been issued in America. Lennon and Ono moved into the Dakota building early in 1973, and he spent more than a year away from the recording studio before returning in 1973 with Mind Games.

The release

Some Time In New York City was issued in the United States in June 1972, and peaked at number 48. Three months later, following a copyright dispute over Yoko Ono's co-writing credits, it was released in the United Kingdom. Despite numerous imported copies having been sold, it reached number 11 in the UK charts.

Sales of the album were additionally affected by its high price. Although the Live Jam disc was intended as a free bonus album, it was given a separate catalogue number which pushed up the price of the package.

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2 Responses to “Some Time In New York City”

  1. Tweeze

    If you don't dwell too much on the politics, even if much of it had validity at the time, or get too bogged down on the really uncharacteristic-for-Lennon lame lyrics, the material here is quite good. "New York City" rocks with the best. What a great riff! "WITNOTW" is actaully quite awesome, especially the ending - 'We make her paint her face and dance'. A bit frightening actually. "Attica State" is sonically similar to "Gimme Some Truth" and at least as good musically. I found this to be a strong album actually but the political tide in the country then was geared to disparage John - as his paranoid rants were eventually proven to be true. Today, this album has no relevance and so most can't or won't give it a chance. John took a bold move issuing this and probably thought he'd be opening minds with this. Instead, they clamped shut basically because the Establishment told them to. After Kent State and Attica, people were quick to cow.

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  2. GK

    Following Imagine, John and Yoko had gone to live in New York City, any interviews/ comments in the uk music papers were exciting, as at the time, it felt as they were along way from home. This album was delayed in the UK, the reviews were awful, yet there was for me defining moments.
    New York City blasted as one of JL's finest rock moments, a diary of their time in NYC. "Woman is the Nigger of the World" incredibly brave, lyrics and singing superb! John Sinclair great slide guitar and singing.
    "The Luck of the Irish" was superb, lyrically biased, but after the shootings in Derry, someone (brave) had to say something. "Sunday Bloody Sunday", is not remembered in the same way as the U2 track, the lyrics are hard, but it does bite as a track.
    The "Live Jam" cd has the heaviest version of "Cold Turkey" you will ever hear plus the excellent " Well Baby Please Dont Go", with the opener "something I used to play at the Cavern !"
    So, what about the rest? Too much Yoko for popular opinion (although some of the songs are better than given credit for) too many slogans, sure. The package is of its time, the vinyl better than the modern cd, but interesting! Not for the casual fan, but if you want an album from 1972 that speaks (and sings) from the heart. try it!

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