The Ballad Of John And Yoko single – United KingdomWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 14 April 1969
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Geoff Emerick

Released: 30 May 1969 (UK), 4 June 1969 (US)

John Lennon: vocals, lead guitar, acoustic guitar
Paul McCartney: harmony vocals, bass, drums, piano, maracas

Available on:
Past Masters
1

A snapshot of the events surrounding John Lennon’s marriage to Yoko Ono, The Ballad Of John And Yoko was recorded in a single day by just Lennon and Paul McCartney.

It was very romantic. It’s all in the song, The Ballad Of John And Yoko, if you want to know how it happened, it’s in there. Gibraltar was like a little sunny dream. I couldn’t find a white suit – I had sort if off-white corduroy trousers and a white jacket. Yoko had all white on.
John Lennon
Rolling Stone, 1970

The song was written in the days immediately following Lennon and Ono’s wedding.

Well, guess who wrote that? I wrote that in Paris on our honeymoon. It’s a piece of journalism. It’s a folk song. That’s why I called it The Ballad Of.
John Lennon
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

On 14 April 1969 Lennon arrived at McCartney’s London home to work on his unfinished song. After quickly completing the writing, the pair immediately took it to Abbey Road.

Although the recent Let It Be sessions had been mostly unhappy, with The Beatles steadily unravelling as a unit, The Ballad Of John And Yoko saw Lennon and McCartney collaborating as equals, showing a renewed enthusiasm for recording.

John was in an impatient mood so I was happy to help. It’s quite a good song; it has always surprised me how with just the two of us on it, it ended up sounding like The Beatles.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

Lennon’s controversial 1966 comments on Christianity (“We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first – rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity”) had damaged The Beatles’ career in an number of countries, particularly in south east Asia and the southern states of America.

The chorus to The Ballad Of John And Yoko contained the words “Christ, you know it ain’t easy, you know how hard it can be. The way things are going, they’re gonna crucify me.” Lennon, aware that the lines risked reopening old wounds, made efforts to keep the song under wraps prior to its release.

Tony – No pre-publicity on Ballad Of John & Yoko especially the ‘Christ’ bit – so don’t play it round too much or you’ll frighten people – get it pressed first.
John
Memo to Apple plugger Tony Bramwell, written by John Lennon

Nonetheless, the song was banned by a number of radio stations in the US and UK; others bleeped out the word ‘Christ’.

It’s like an old-time ballad. It’s just the story of us getting married, going to Paris, going to Amsterdam, all that. It’s Johnny B Paperback Writer!
John Lennon, 1969
Anthology

The Ballad Of John And Yoko was released as a single in May 1969, with George Harrison’s Old Brown Shoe on the b-side.

The bass line and closing guitar riff of Lennon’s song bear a strong resemblance to the 1957 song Lonesome Tears In My Eyes by The Rock And Roll Trio. The Beatles had covered the song in their earliest days, and in July 1963 recorded it for the radio show Pop Go The Beatles. It was released in 1994 on Live At The BBC.