An outtake recorded during the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album, ‘Long Lost John’ was a cover version of Lonnie Donegan’s 1956 single ‘Lost John’.
‘Lost John’ was a traditional folk song popularised by Donegan. He recorded it on 20 February 1956 with Dick Bishop, Chris Barber and Ron Bowden, along with its b-side, ‘Stewball’.
The song was Donegan’s third single, and reached number two in the UK charts. It became a staple of skiffle groups in the 1950s, and Lennon would likely have performed it with the Quarrymen in Liverpool. He also led The Beatles through a version of it during the January 1969 sessions for Let It Be.
When we were kids in Liverpool in the late ’50s we loved rock ‘n’ roll, and we loved American artists, but the man who really started the craze for the guitars as far as I am concerned was Lonnie Donegan. Me and my mates followed his gigs with interest.
Lonnie was the first person we heard of from England to get the coveted number one in the charts with ‘Rock Island Line’ and we studied his records avidly and even did a few of his numbers. We all bought guitars in order to be in a skiffle group and it was this craze which swept the country.
Lonnie’s great vocal style was, and still is, highly original, and his love of the blues and early folk music is something we all could relate to very easily.
‘Lost John’ inspired another of Lennon’s solo compositions, ‘Oh Yoko!’ on the 1971 album Imagine. He also sang a snippet of the song’s central refrain at the end of 1980’s ‘I’m Losing You’.
The studio version of ‘Lost John’, with Lennon on acoustic guitar and also featuring Plastic Ono Band members Ringo Starr and Klaus Voormann, was included on the John Lennon Anthology box set in 1998. It was presented with the title ‘Long Lost John’, and closed the ‘Ascot’ disc in the collection.
If a voice could bite! the other covers from these sessions are simply great, particularly “don’t be cruel”!