Woman Is The Nigger Of The World

Woman Is the N****r of the World - Sometime In New York City (Remastered)




Between 14 and 28 January 1972, John Lennon and Yoko Ono co-hosted The Mike Douglas Show in the US; their appearances were broadcast from 14-18 February. During their stint they invited a number of political figures and musical heroes on as guests, and also débuted several songs that they were planning to record.

Their backing group on the show and the album was Elephant's Memory, a New York group which had previously performed on the Midnight Cowboy soundtrack. The group turned in a forceful version of Woman Is The Nigger Of The World, doubtless affirming Lennon's hopes that it could be a hit single.

Some Time In New York City was recorded between 13 February and 8 March 1972, with Phil Spector co-producing the sessions. Woman Is The Nigger Of The World was selected as the album's lead song and the only single to be issued from the collection.

On 5 May the Plastic Ono Elephant's Memory Band appeared on The Dick Cavett Show on US TV. They performed Woman Is The Nigger Of The World and another Some Time In New York City song, We're All Water. Cavett was forced by the ABC network to apologise in advance of the performance of Woman Is The Nigger Of The World, in case it caused offence. The edition of the show was broadcast on 11 May 1972.

Woman Is The Nigger Of The World was issued as a single in the United States, with Sisters, O Sisters on the b-side. It was released on 24 April 1972 as Apple 1848, and peaked at number 57 on the Billboard Hot 100.

A major contributory factor to its poor chart placing was the refusal of radio stations to play it, as the word 'nigger' was judged to be a step too far. Furthermore, Apple's US promotions manager Pete Bennett hated the song and refused to promote it.

I told him that I wouldn't promote it. So John says to me, 'Well, you're our promotions man, you have to listen to us, we pay you... I'm the president of Apple.' I said, 'John, I don't care what the story is, I don't want the record - I'm not going to promote it. If I don't like it I won't promote it.' So John says, 'I'll tell you what - I'll promote it, and if I make this record number one, that means you're not the number one promotions man in the business.' I said, 'John, you got a deal... but if the record doesn't happen [in the charts] I want you to kiss my butt and double my salary and expenses.' So he says, 'You got a deal... but I'm gonna make it number one.'

Without John knowing I checked out all the radio stations and they said they weren't going to play it. So John called all of the stations himself and he tried to do a promo job. He was so happy and he came back to me and said, 'We still got that bet?' I said, 'John, God bless you, we still have that bet and you better kiss my butt if you lose, and if you win, you can tell me, Peter, you're shit, and if you don't want me to work with you any more, that's it.' 'Well, you're gonna lose,' he told me, because he had called Chicago, he called San Francisco, and he talked to the program directors, and they were so nice to him, they took interviews with him. The thing was, the stations put him on tape, and while they played the record in the studio, they never put it on the air. What happened was that a few idiots played it on FM - but at that time FM was nothing, it couldn't sell two records - and all the top stations wouldn't play it. Apple sent out 30,000 records and about 15,000 came back.

Pete Bennett

A single was also planned in the UK, to be issued on 5 December 1972, but was cancelled. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) had been released the previous month, and it is likely that Apple didn't want sales to be hurt by a second release. The fact that it had peaked at number 57 in the US may have also been a factor.

Woman Is The Nigger Of The World was performed at the One To One concerts on 30 August 1972 at Madison Square Garden, New York City. The afternoon performance was included on the Live In New York City album in 1986, and the evening version was released on the John Lennon Anthology box set in 1998.

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