Lennon recorded a home demo of the song towards the end of 1970, when he was writing songs for the follow-up to John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. Performed on a piano at Tittenhurst Park, the demo showed how the song was originally intended to be a celebration of the 1950s music Lennon always loved.
The song was evidently considered unsuitable for Imagine, Lennon’s next solo album. It remained ignored until mid-1973, when Lennon recorded a number of new demos, of songs which mostly found their way onto Mind Games and Walls And Bridges.
This time ‘Rock And Roll People’ was performed on a guitar, played with a slight Bo Diddley rhythm, and featured some improvised percussive noises seemingly performed by Lennon slapping his knees.
It was finally brought to the studio during the Mind Games sessions. The band of session musicians attempted it a number of times on 1 and 4 August, but the workmanlike performance and uninspired lyrics made this far from a vintage Lennon recording.
Shelly Yakus, who engineered Mind Games, suggested that Johnny Winter record ‘Rock And Roll People’ for his 1974 album John Dawson Winter. Lennon granted permission for its release, although he did not contribute. This was the first commercial appearance of the song.
Menlove Ave was released in 1986, six years after Lennon’s death, and contained a number of studio outtakes from 1973 and 1974. The version of ‘Rock And Roll People’ was a composite edit of takes six and seven, recorded on 4 August 1973.
On the sleeve of Menlove Ave the song was titled ‘Rock And Roll People’, but a facsimile of Lennon’s handwritten lyrics included with the original vinyl album had it as ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll People’.
A promotional single of ‘Rock And Roll People’ was issued in support of Menlove Ave, but failed to generate much interest for the album.