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.

Live recording

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.

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