Released in 1986, Menlove Ave is a collection of outtakes from the early 1970s recorded by John Lennon.
It was the second posthumous long player of Lennon’s unfinished recordings, following Milk And Honey two years earlier. The release of Menlove Ave was supervised by Yoko Ono, although she played no part in its recording. The couple had split during the creation of Mind Games in 1973, and these songs were made in the midst of Lennon’s infamous Lost Weekend.
The music was divided in two halves. The first featured unused recordings from the Phil Spector-produced sessions for Rock ‘N’ Roll, taped in Los Angeles in 1973, as well as one song, ‘Rock And Roll People’, produced by Lennon during the Mind Games sessions earlier that year.
The opening song, ‘Here We Go Again’, is the only published work credited to both Lennon and Spector. As an original composition it would not have been intended for Rock ‘N’ Roll, so its purpose remains a mystery. The pair also cut a version of Spector’s first hit, ‘To Know Him Is To Love Him’, slowed down and sang by Lennon as a plea to Ono.
Another song, ‘Since My Baby Left Me’, had a ‘pending’ songwriter credit. It was actually a cover version of Arthur Crudup’s 1940s song ‘My Baby Left Me’, popularised by Elvis Presley in 1956.
The second half of the album contained rehearsals recorded in July 1974 in New York’s Record Plant East, for Walls And Bridges. The stripped-back recordings and melancholy moods often stand in stark contrast to the final versions on that album, revealing the inner darkness that often enveloped Lennon during the Lost Weekend.
The cover of Menlove Ave featured illustrations of Lennon by Andy Warhol, created just months before Lennon’s death. Lennon admired Warhol’s methods, noting wryly: “Andy’s way is rather nice. He doesn’t do anything – just signs it.”
Menlove Ave was named after the street in which Lennon grew up. Mendips, the home at 251 Menlove Avenue which he shared with his aunt Mimi and uncle George, is today a tourist attraction owned by the National Trust. In the sleeve notes for the album, Ono explained why she chose it as a title.
As a child, John was brought up by Aunt Mimi and Uncle George in their home on Menlove Avenue in Liverpool. In 1956 when John was 16, Elvis Presley happened as a world-wide phenomenon. It changed John’s life. John’s American rock roots, Elvis, Fats Domino, and Phil Spector are evident in these tracks. But what I hear in John’s voice are the other roots of the boy who grew up in Liverpool, listening to Greensleeves, BBC Radio and Tessie O’Shea.
‘Rock And Roll People’ was issued as a promotional single to coincide with the release, but was given little airplay. It was perhaps an ill-fitting choice; ‘Angel Baby’ or ‘Here We Go Again’ might have garnered more attention. No commercial singles were released from the album, however.
Released in time for the Christmas 1986 market, Menlove Ave fared poorly. Given little promotion, it failed to chart in the United Kingdom, and peaked at 127 in the United States. This made it Lennon’s least successful album at the time.