John Lennon: Walls And Bridges (1974)

I was 11 years old when I bought this album, the same age as Lennon when he drew the pictures that adorn Walls and Bridges. My Beatles fantasies in full blossom, every album from John, Paul, George and Ringo was a treasure box to be opened. Walls and Bridges, with its unique tri-strip album cover—this is still one of the best packaged albums I own, from the full-size picture booklet to the build-a-Lennon cover—promised much and didn’t disappoint: “Going Down on Love,” “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night,” “What You Got,” “#9 Dream,” “Surprise Surprise (Sweet Bird of Paradox).” As a boy, I didn’t have any inkling into the Lennons’ personal affairs and still have no interest today. When the books came out after John’s death, I couldn’t have cared less for them; the man was gone, the story was written. As I grew older, I let my appreciation for Walls be dimmed by dull critics who lumped this under Lennon’s Lost Weekend and docked it a star or two with a disapproving tongue cluck as an unremarkable album from a remarkable artist. Then came this lovely 2010 remaster, and my faith in Walls And Bridges was restored. While it’s one of his least philosophical albums, it’s also his most musical, with terrific accompaniment from old friends (Elton John, Harry Nilsson, Klaus Voormann, Jim Keltner, Arthur Jenkins, Nicky Hopkins, Ken Ascher) and new faces (Little Big Horns, Jesse Ed Davis, Eddie Mottau). It’s still a personal record, with love songs to Yoko (“Bless You”), confessionals (“Scared,” “What You Got,” “Going Down On Love”) and a caustic swipe at estranged manager Allen Klein (“Steel And Glass”). And yet it manages to be one of Lennon’s most fun records to listen to, aided in large part by upbeat arrangements. Although the tactile experience of the original elpee is one of my fondest memories in album collecting, I’d have to give the 2010 paper sleeve remaster the nod just for its vastly superior sound quality.

Original LP Version
A1. Going Down On Love (3:53)
A2. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (3:24)
A3. Old Dirt Road (music by John Lennon, lyrics by John Lennon/Harry Nilsson) (4:10)
A4. What You Got (3:06)
A5. Bless You (4:39)
A6. Scared (4:37)
B1. #9 Dream (4:44)
B2. Surprise, Surprise (Sweet Bird of Paradox) (2:33)
B3. Steel And Glass (4:35)
B4. Beef Jerky (3:25)
B5. Nobody Loves You (When You’re Down And Out) (5:07)
B6. Ya Ya (Morgan Robinson/Lee Dorsey/Clarence Lewis) (1:06)

All songs written and arranged by John Lennon unless noted.

CD reissue bonus tracks
13. Whatever Gets You Thru The Night (live)
14. Nobody Loves You (When You’re Down And Out) (alternate version)
15. John Interview

The Players
John Lennon (a/k/a Dr. Winston O’Boogie, Dr. Winston O’Ghurkin, Hon. John St. John Johnson, Rev. Thumbs Ghurkin, Kaptain Kundalini, Rev. Fred Ghurkin, Mel Torment, Dr. Dream, Dr. Winston O’Reggae, Dwarf McDougal) (vocals, guitar, piano, acoustic guitar), Ken Ascher  (electric piano, clavinet, mellotron, organ, orchestration and conducting), Jesse Ed Davis (guitar), Nicky Hopkins (piano, electric piano), Arthur Jenkins (percussion), Jim Keltner (drums), Little Big Horns: Ron Aprea, Howard Johnson, Bobby Keys, Steve Madaio, Frank Vicari; Eddie Mottau (acoustic guitar), Klaus Voormann (bass) with Lori Burton (background vocals), Joey Dambra (background vocals), Elton John (organ, piano, vocal harmony), Julian Lennon (drums on B6), Harry Nilsson (background vocals on A3), May Pang (background vocals). Produced by John Lennon; production coordinated by May Pang; engineered by Shelly “I Can’t Take The Pressure” Yakus; over-dub engineered by Jim “What It Is” Iovine; strings and re-mix engineered by Roy “I Only Like Singles” Cicala.

The Pictures
Photography by Bob Gruen. Illustrations by John Lennon. Art direction and design by Roy Kohara.

The Plastic
Released on elpee, 8-track and cassette on September 26, 1974 in the US (Apple, SW/8XW-3416), on October 4, 1974 in the UK, Australia and Malaysia (Apple, PCTC/TC-PCTC 253), and in 1974 in Brazil (Apple, SBTX 1031), Germany (Apple, 1C 064/244 05733), Italy (Apple, 3C 064 05733), Japan (Apple, EAS-80065) and Mexico (Apple, SLEM-544) with diecut cover, lyric booklet and picture innersleeve; reached #1 on the US charts (RIAA-certified gold record) and #6 on the UK charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1978 in the US (Capitol, SW-3416).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in 1987 in the UK (EMI, CDP 7 46768).
  3. Re-issued on compact disc in April 1988 in the US (Capitol, 46768) and in 1988 in Japan (EMI, CP32-5465).
  4. Re-issued on compact disc in Japan (EMI Toshiba, TOCP-65526).
  5. Re-issued on millenium edition elpee in 1999 (EMI, 499464).
  6. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc in 2005 in Europe (EMI, 3 40971 2) with 3 bonus tracks.
  7. Re-released on remastered compact disc on October 5, 2010 in the US (Capitol, 5099990650826).
  8. Re-released on super high material compact disc on December 3, 2014 in Japan (EMI, UICY-40105).

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