The final song on John Lennon’s 1975 album Rock ‘N’ Roll was a cover version of Lloyd Price’s 1957 song ‘Just Because’.
Price wrote the song, and sang and played piano on the original recording, which he also produced. It was initially released on his own Kent label, but was reissued by ABC-Paramount and reached number 27 in the US charts.
‘Just Because’ was not a single in the United Kingdom, and Lennon was unfamiliar with the recording when he made Rock ‘N’ Roll.
‘Just Because’ I did because Phil Spector talked me into it.
Lennon’s unfamiliarity with the song accounted for his bemused spoken introduction: “Ah, remember this? Why, I must have been 13 when this came out. Or was it 14? Or was it 22? I could have been 12 actually.”
This wasn’t, in fact, the original introduction he recorded for the song. Rock ‘N’ Roll was taped in two discrete stages, in Los Angeles in 1973 and New York in 1974. Phil Spector produced the LA recordings, but the sessions came to an end amid the drunken mayhem of the Lost Weekend.
Lennon was more intoxicated than usual while recording ‘Just Because’ with Spector. On Sunday 21 December 2008 a cassette tape from the session sold for $30,000 at Bonhams and Butterfields auction house in Los Angeles. During the opening of the six-minute recording Lennon was heard to leer at the singers, whose contributions were not used in the final mix, saying: “I wanna take all them new singers, Carol and the other one with the nipples, I wanna take ’em and hold ’em tight.”
During the spoken-word section at the end he admitted: “I need some excuse for doing this. I need some relief from my obligations. A little cocaine will set me on my feet.” He then sang a slurred version of ‘Yes Sir, That’s My Baby’, the 1925 song by Walter Donaldson and Gus Kahn, before the session was brought to a close.
Lennon eventually realised that the Lost Weekend was proving a personal and professional disaster, and he left Los Angeles for New York City to record Walls And Bridges. Afterwards, in October 1974, he set about salvaging the Rock ‘N’ Roll project, this time without Spector.
Stripped of his original vocals, the backing track was still usable. Lennon’s relocation to the East Coast was referenced in the new spoken section.
It’s too late darling, you just gotta say goodbye.
Why, the last time I saw you, you were wearing man’s clothes.
Not that I’m prejudiced, but you know…
But who am I to hassle you like this? I’m just gonna have to let you go.
There’s two basses in this, and I hope you appreciate it.
This is Dr Winston O’Boogie saying goodnight from Record Plant East, New York.
We hope you had a swell time.
Everybody here says hi. Goodbye.
Lennon later said he was subconsciously saying farewell to the music industry. He had been considering a follow-up album to Rock ‘N’ Roll, but instead temporarily retired after Yoko Ono became pregnant with Sean Lennon.
The last album I did before Double Fantasy was Rock ‘N’ Roll, with a cover picture of me in Hamburg in a leather jacket. At the end of making that record, I was finishing up a track that Phil Spector had made me sing called ‘Just Because’, which I really didn’t know – all the rest I’d done as a teenager, so I knew them backward – and I couldn’t get the hang of it. At the end of that record – I was mixing it just next door to this very studio – I started spieling and saying, ‘And so we say farewell from the Record Plant,’ and a little thing in the back of my mind said, ‘Are you really saying farewell?’ I hadn’t thought of it then. I was still separated from Yoko and still hadn’t had the baby, but somewhere in the back was a voice that was saying, ‘Are you saying farewell to the whole game?’
It just flashed by like that – like a premonition. I didn’t think of it until a few years later, when I realized that I had actually stopped recording.
The 2004 remastered version of Rock ‘N’ Roll included a bonus reprise of ‘Just Because’, in which Lennon ad-libbed a spoken tribute to his former bandmates in The Beatles. This was originally part of the main song, but was faded out on the original album.
It’s all down to ‘Goodnight Vienna’.
I’d like to say hi to Ringo, Paul and George. How are you?
Everybody back home, in England, what’s cooking?
Darlin’, I would beg on my bended knees.
Baby, you’re so smart, I want permission please.
All the mothers don’t know what they’re doing.
Little by little by little by little,
I need your love so bad it hurts me.
I made a version of this with the reprise intact.