Well Well Well

John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album artworkWritten by: Lennon
Recorded: 26 September - 23 October 1970
Producers: John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Phil Spector

Released: 11 December 1970

John Lennon: vocals, electric guitar
Klaus Voormann: bass guitar
Ringo Starr: drums

Available on:
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
Live In New York City

The longest track on John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, Well Well Well featuring a blistering guitar part, screaming vocals and a brutal, pounding backing track.

Well Well Well - Plastic Ono Band (Remastered)

Having dealt with family, politics, drugs, religion and paranoia elsewhere on the album, on Well Well Well Lennon turned his attention to sexual politics. The verses, with references to revolutions, women's liberation, guilt and "liberals in the sun", were among the most humorous on the album, and in the simple chorus of "well well well, oh well" Lennon gave up looking for a meaning or message.

Lennon recorded a solo guitar demo of Well Well Well in the summer of 1970, in a Bel Air house he rented while undergoing Primal Therapy with Dr Arthur Janov. One of the couplets in the recording, later rejected, was "Because she's looking so much thinner/She looked so beautiful I could wee".

In the studio, however, the song took on another guise. Ringo Starr claimed in a 1973 interview that Lennon had played Lee Dorsey's 1969 single Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky (From Now On) "a hundred times" to get the spirit he wanted.

Lennon's two guitar parts were raw and distorted, and the backing by Starr and Klaus Voormann was dense and stifling. The levity of the words was furthermore lost amid the savage screaming that Lennon's vocals descended into.

In his lengthy 1970 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Lennon denied that the screams in Well Well Well were connected with Janov's therapy.

Listen to Twist And Shout. I couldn't sing the damn thing, I was just screaming. Listen to 'A-wop-bop-a-loo-wop-a-wop-bam-boom'. Don't get the therapy confused with the music.
John Lennon, 1970
Lennon Remembers, Jann S Wenner

A rough studio jam containing a snippet of Well Well Well can be heard on Something More Abstract, a bonus track on the compact disc edition of Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band.

Well Well Well was mixed by Phil Spector in mono, with plenty of echo on the vocals, bass guitar and drums. John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band was largely kept dry of effects, and Spector's involvement was in fact minimal, but on Well Well Well he was given free rein on the mixing desk.

Lennon performed Well Well Well live on just two occasions: at the matinee and evening One To One concerts in 1972. The first of these was released on the Live In New York City album.

4 responses on “Well Well Well

  1. andy fitzharry

    I’ve always wondered whether Lennon would have written ‘sun’ as ‘Sun’, referring to the newspaper rather than the actual sun we all need to live. It seems to fit the bill better, the endless chatter that leads to nothing, liberals talking about change but never daring to initiate any seems to suit the role of a newspaper.

  2. lawrence strauss

    Hi. Thanks, Joe for all the info. I was listening to the Ringo/Brian Matthew interview (I guess it’s the same source, as above), and they seem to ascribe “Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky” as an influence on “the first album … I think it was the single” and “Cold Turkey”. Why is it here written about as an influence on “Well Well Well”? Thanks.

    1. Joe Post author

      The info came from Chip Madinger and Mark Easter’s Eight Arms To Hold You, but I don’t have my copy to hand right now to check whether it’s the Brian Matthew interview. If I can find more details I’ll add them to the article.

  3. Lukey Boy

    I first heard this when I watched The Departed. Given Martin Scorsese’s love of The Rolling Stones, I thought it was them! Amazed to find out it was Lennon!

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