A collection of songs featuring some of John Lennon’s unplugged performances, Acoustic was first issued in Japan in September 2004.
Aside from three live recordings, the songs were mostly demos recorded as an aide-mémoir, or to instruct musicians in the studio on how Lennon wished the songs to sound. One song, ‘My Mummy’s Dead’, was an alternative version to the one released on the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album.
Acoustic was released in conjunction with a Lennon tribute concert, and had originally been planned as a Japan-only compilation. However, Capitol contacted Yoko Ono and asked if it might be granted a worldwide release.
At the time, Acoustic was criticised for including nine songs which had already been issued on the 1998 box set John Lennon Anthology. The remaining seven – ‘Well Well Well’, ‘God’, ‘My Mummy’s Dead’, ‘Cold Turkey’, ‘What You Got’, ‘Dear Yoko’, and ‘Real Love’ – had been widely available on bootlegs for some years previously.
The song selection is puzzling, as there are known to be many more unheard recordings in the vaults, particularly from Lennon’s househusband years of the late 1970s. Since the collection contained little that was truly new, and was too rough in parts to appeal to casual fans, Acoustic had only a limited appeal.
The tracks were cleaned up in the studio, with noise reduction and reverb applied to make the sound more palatable to listeners. However, a number of the recordings had been made with mono tape machines, and Lennon had never intended for them to be released. They were mostly performed on an acoustic guitar, although a dobro and an unplugged electric guitar were also used.
With the acoustic songs, first he would play them to me, then he would say, ‘Yoko, let’s record this. And he would set up the microphone in such a way that his voice and his guitar sound was very balanced. At first I wanted to collect some acoustic stuff on guitar and piano, but the piano tracks were not in good enough condition to put out. When he was banging the piano, he would put the microphone on top of the piano, so that you’d hear the piano much more than his voice. The balance was not good at all, so I could not rescue those songs. But with the guitar, he did a beautiful job of balancing the sound.
The performances of ‘The Luck Of The Irish’ and ‘John Sinclair’ were recorded live at Ann Arbor, Michigan, at the Free John Now Rally benefit for the imprisoned Sinclair, and feature Lennon and Ono on vocals. The version of ‘Imagine’, meanwhile, was recorded at the Apollo in New York City, at a fundraiser for the dependents of those killed in the Attica State prison riots.
The album was issued with a 16-page booklet, containing lyrics and guitar chord symbols, transcribed spoken asides, and several rare photographs of Lennon. The compact disc was also adorned with one of his drawings.
Acoustic failed to chart in the United Kingdom, but reached number 28 in the United States. That made it Lennon’s best-charting posthumous US release since the soundtrack of the Imagine: John Lennon film.