John Lennon recorded a cover of The Olympics’ 1958 song ‘Well (Baby Please Don’t Go)’ during the Imagine sessions in February 1971, and performed it onstage with Frank Zappa later that year.
The studio version of ‘Well (Baby Please Don’t Go)’ was reportedly recorded for Yoko Ono’s 38th birthday on 19 February 1971. A tight R&B performance featuring chugging rhythm guitar, King Curtis-style sax solo and rasping vocals by Lennon, it was one of the sessions’ strongest recordings.
In the studio
John Lennon recorded two studio versions of ‘Well (Baby Please Don’t Go)’, on 11 and 16 February 1971 at Ascot Sound Studios, Tittenhurst Park.
In the first session he recorded three takes. The eight-track tape had Jim Gordon’s drums across tracks 2 and 3; Klaus Voormann’s bass guitar on 4; Lennon’s electric guitar on 5; and his vocals on 6. Tracks 1, 7, and 8 were left empty.
The song was re-recorded on 16 February in 11 takes, the sixth of which was selected as best.
Track 1 had Voormann’s bass guitar, and 2 had overhead mics above Gordon’s drumkit.
Track 3 contained Lennon’s electric guitar, and 4 had Bobby Keys’ saxophone.
Gordon’s bass drum was taped to track 5, and his tomtoms to 6 along with Jim Keltner’s percussion.
Track 7 was an echo track, and 8 contained Lennon’s vocals.
The live recording of ‘Well (Baby Please Don’t Go)’ was included on a bonus disc with the Some Time In New York City album. One side consisted of a performance a Unicef charity concert which took place at the Lyceum in London on 15 December 1969, and the second half was from the Fillmore East in New York City on 6 June 1971.
The Fillmore East show had Lennon and Ono appearing onstage with Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention. They performed four songs: ‘Well (Baby Please Don’t Go)’, ‘Jamrag’, ‘Scumbag’, and ‘Aü’. ‘Jamrag’ was actually an uncredited Zappa song, ‘King Kong’, from his 1969 album Uncle Meat.
The appearance was the encore for a Mothers Of Invention concert. It kicked off with ‘Well (Baby Please Don’t Go)’, a cover of the b-side to The Olympics’ 1958 single ‘Western Movies’. The band was evidently unsure of how to end the song, and it dissolved into a melange of screams by Yoko Ono and members of The Mothers Of Invention. This was cleaned up when it appeared on Some Time In New York City. The entire set was also released by Zappa on a 1992 compilation, Playground Psychotics.
Lennon introduced the song with the words: “This is a song I used to sing when I was in the Cavern in Liverpool. I haven’t done it since, so…” This was despite having recorded it on two occasions earlier in the year.
I think John was refering to playing the song live when he was describing it. It’s always been one of my favorites by John. Very simple and easy to play. He used that more bare bones approach in his later Beatle songs “Don’t Let Me Down” and “I Want You(She’s So Heavy). And of course the entire first Plastic Ono Band release in 1970. Your site is fantastic!
One question about this song and the studio version. You say this song was recorded at EMI studio in February 1971.
On the John Lennon complete lost tape, Elliot Mintz, said it was recorded at Tittenhurt Park, during the Imagine sessions in summer 1971 (as for “I don’t want to be a soldier”…. I suppose you’re in the truth, but would like you to confirm
Many thanks !
Did the Beatles ever perform this song in their earliest days. There are so many questions I have for McCartney and this is at top of my list
I would love to hear McCartney talk about this song as what his memory is on it. Lennon gives great version of this song. Hidden gem
Two songs that should have received polished recording efforts during let it be are
Well baby please don’t go
In spite of all the danger
Mailman bring me nomore blues
This band had so much more to give and after the white album Lennon totally lost interest.
George Harrison had become completely fed up with McCartney using him as a session player.
What could have been amazing to think it 49 years later.