music | John Lennon’s damned album continues to rock the world 50 years later

On January 4, 2022, John Lennon fans woke up to the news that a special commemorative edition of John Lennon had been released The 50th anniversary album “Some Time in New York City” is perhaps the most controversial album ever recorded by the ex-Beatle. after dissolving the group. The announcement came through a specially created website with official endorsements from Lennon’s heirs: “Sometime in New York City. Best Mix (2022)”.

It wasn’t much of a surprise either. Released on June 12, 1972, “Some Time in New York City” is the third album in John Lennon’s solo career. The two previous versions, “Plastic Ono Band” (1970) and “Imagine” (1971), were re-released in special editions, with remixes, unreleased songs, and interview bits, when they turned 50, so it made sense. The world in which the “Ultimate Mixes” project will continue with the following albums. But June 12, 2022 passed without any new news about the announced launch. Not just that. Soon after, the site announced the imminent arrival of some time in New York City. The best combination He mysteriously disappeared from day to day. Entering January 2023, there is no trace of the album.

Universal Music Group, the record company responsible for marketing John Lennon’s recordings through its Calderstone Productions subsidiary label, has not yet given any explanation about the cancellation of a previously unannounced project, on the other hand. road. However, there is no doubt that the re-release with the additions of “Some Time in New York City” It was ready for publication and was shelved at one point and for some reason. Sean Lennon himself, the only son of John and Yoko Ono and the main guardian of his father’s artistic legacy, indirectly confirmed this by giving his approval to the various messages that appeared on social networks that claimed it. But why did the album release stop?

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Political correction

In the absence of an official version, various theories circulate. Some point to issuing rights to pieces Lennon and Ono recorded with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention which was originally included on the double LP. Others contend that the release’s questionable commercial prospects (“Some Time in New York City” is the author’s lowest-selling singles album) made it advisable to leave it. But the most consistent (and also the most surprising) explanation suggests that the whole problem stems from a question of political correctness.

This was revealed by the admins of Nothing Real, and is probably the most popular (also most recommended) of the many podcasts dedicated to informing about the Beatles. According to his version, Universal resisted giving the album the luxury treatment of its opening track, The feminist anthem “Negro Woman of the World,” which includes in its title the highly offensive word “nigger”, while the Lennon estate was radically opposed to any possible form of censorship. The disagreement between the two parties would eventually bring the project to a halt.

old argument

So it will be a continuation of the controversy that arose 50 years ago, when Lennon decided that the first and only “single” taken from the album would be, specifically, “The World’s Negro Woman”.. The musician then justified the existence of the “n-word”—a term loaded with racial connotations if the person using it is white—claiming that the song attempts to equate the oppression women experience on a daily basis with the oppression experienced by black people in the country. Southern United States in the days of slavery.

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His explanations didn’t stop many US radio stations from refusing to play the “song”, but the album was published without ever changing the title or lyrics. In fact, the inclusion on the album cover (which mimics a newspaper’s aesthetic) was more problematic. From a photo showing Richard Nixon and Mao Zedong dancing naked. Many copies of “Some Time in New York City” were sold with a label advertising it as a double album; In all cases, the poster has been strategically placed to cover the image of the two leaders.

The ugly duckling

Half a century after its publication, “Some Time in New York City” remains the ugly duckling of Lennon’s films. Recorded in the “John & Yoko/Plastic Ono Band”, the double album contains 10 songs recorded in the studio (three of which are compositions by Yoko Ono) and another six recorded live. With his defiant claims on issues like sexism, racism, colonialism, suppression of dissent, and prison politics, they are The most politically open album by its authorwhich adopted language and sound much harder than those he had used in previous ideological statements such as “Imagine” or “Merry Christmas (The War Is Over)”.

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The tone of the album’s pamphlets and the self-indulgence of the live recordings irked critics, who gave “Some Time in New York City” rather unforgiving reviews (Rolling Stone magazine called it “proto-artistic suicide”.). The audience did not respond better and sales were very disappointing (in the US, it did not go above number 48 on the charts). Dismayed by the failure, it took Lennon a year to get back into the studio.

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In the summer of 1973, the former Beatle began recording his fourth single, “Mind Games”, which was released on October 29 of that year. So the fiftieth anniversary is just around the corner. We will then see if the “Ultimate Mixes” project is permanently stopped Or if what happened with “Some Time in New York City” was just an exception that would cement its reputation as a damned record.

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