John Lennon’s version of the blues classic ‘Hound Dog’ was recorded in 1972, during his final live performances.
‘Hound Dog’ was written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, and was originally recorded by Willie Mae ‘Big Mama’ Thornton in 1952. Although recorded by a number of performers, the best-known is the 1956 smash hit released by Elvis Presley.
Although The Beatles never recorded Presley’s songs in the studio, other than ragged rehearsals during the Let It Be sessions in January 1969, they performed a number of them during radio appearances earlier in the 1960s. A number of his songs were staples of their live sets during the Cavern Club and Hamburg era.
The Plastic Ono Elephant’s Memory Band performed ‘Hound Dog’ on 30 August 1972 at Madison Square Gardens, New York City. Two concerts, in the afternoon and evening, took place on that day. They were known as the One To One concerts, and were in aid of handicapped children from the city.
‘Hound Dog’ was the penultimate song of both concerts, before the finale of ‘Give Peace A Chance’. A recording from the second show was included on the 1986 album Live In New York City, preceded by the introduction from the afternoon performance.
The album version was produced by Yoko Ono, who wisely had her own vocals mixed out. They can be heard on the video footage from the concert.
Lennon’s version of ‘Hound Dog’ was one of the highlights of the One To One recording. He clearly enjoyed performing a song popularised by his hero Elvis Presley – at one point he shouted out “Elvis, I love ya!” in one of the verses. The rowdy rendition featured one of Lennon’s best vocal performances of the show, proving that the rock ‘n’ roll spirit had never left him.
The recording also featured on the four-CD box set Lennon, where it was crossfaded with a version of The Beatles’ ‘Come Together’ from the same concert.
Plastic Ono Elephant’s Memory Band had recorded ‘Hound Dog’ earlier in the year during the sessions for Some Time In New York City. During a late night/early morning jam session the group performed a selection of 1950s rockers, including a medley of ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ and ‘Hound Dog’ featuring Ono on vocals. Other songs performed during the session included ‘Roll Over Beethoven’, ‘Honey Don’t’, and ‘Ain’t That A Shame’.