John Lennon and Yoko Ono perform in Cambridge

With tentative plans for The Beatles’ return to live performance put on indefinite hold, fans of the group lived in hope that they’d one day see their idols perform once again. On this day John Lennon gave the first concert performance any of The Beatles had given away from the group, with an appearance at Cambridge University.

Five hundred people watched the show, which took place at Lady Mitchell Hall. Named ‘Natural Music’, it was promoted by poet and percussionist Anthony Barnett.

Barnett had invited Yoko Ono to attend, and must have been delighted when she brought Lennon as her backing musician. However, unlike the carefully crafted pop of The Beatles, what audiences heard was a half-hour freeform duet featuring vocals and guitar.

Lennon remained towards the back of the stage, coaxing feedback and atonal noises from his Epiphone Casino guitar while Ono howled and shrieked into a microphone. Two other musicians also joined in halfway through the piece: John Stevens on percussion and piano, and saxophonist John Tchicai.

The piece was recorded in stereo and was released later in the year as ‘Cambridge 1969’, one side of Unfinished Music No 2: Life With The Lions. Mal Evans was credited with playing the “watch” on the recording, although he made no audible contribution.

Last updated: 2 June 2020
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