The Plastic Ono Band’s live debut in Toronto began with a version of Carl Perkins’ 1955 rockabilly classic ‘Blue Suede Shoes’.
Perkins’ recording had been a huge hit for Sun Records, and was recorded the following year by Elvis Presley. The Beatles also performed a version of the song during the Let It Be sessions in January 1969, but they never seriously considered recording it.
The Plastic Ono Band had rehearsed a limited number of songs during the flight from England to Canada, prior to their appearance at the Toronto Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival festival. Lennon had insisted they play Perkins’ version of ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ rather than Presley’s.
I remember one conversation in particular, because he wanted to play the Carl Perkins version, not the [Presley], of ‘Blue Suede Shoes’, because it’s one beat shorter. ‘One for the money – da-da-da – two for the show…’ It was very funny because he was insistent that we stick to that version for the show.
On stage, Lennon introduced the song with the words “OK, we’re just gonna do numbers that we know, you know, because we’ve never played together before”. Towards the end of the song Yoko Ono opened a large white bag and climbed inside.
The recording was later released on Perkins’ 1996 album Go Cat Go! in order to have all four former Beatles contribute to his musical comeback.