The Paul McCartney Project

The Ballad of John and Yoko

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Album This song officially appears on the The Ballad Of John And Yoko / Old Brown Shoe 7" Single.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1969
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

The Ballad of John and Yoko” is a song written by John Lennon, attributed to Lennon–McCartney as was the custom, and released by the Beatles as a single in May 1969. The song, chronicling the events surrounding Lennon’s marriage to Yoko Ono, was the Beatles’ 17th and final UK number one single.

Writing

Authored by Lennon while on his honeymoon in Paris, it tells of the events of his marriage, in March 1969, to Ono, and their publicly held honeymoon activities, including their “Bed-In” at the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel and their demonstration of “bagism“.

Lennon brought the song to McCartney’s home on 14 April 1969, before recording it that evening. “Paul knew that people were being nasty to John, and he just wanted to make it well for him,” said Ono. “Paul has a very brotherly side to him.

Recording

The song was recorded without George Harrison (who was on holiday) and Ringo Starr (who was filming The Magic Christian). In Barry Miles’ biography, McCartney recalls that Lennon had a sudden inspiration for the song and had suggested that the two of them should record it immediately, without waiting for the other Beatles to return. Reflecting this somewhat unusual situation, the session recordings include the following exchange:

Lennon (on guitar): “Go a bit faster, Ringo!”
McCartney (on drums): “OK, George!”

This session also marked the return of Geoff Emerick as recording engineer of a Beatle session after he quit working with the group during the tense White Album sessions nine months earlier.

Release

Backed with Harrison’s “Old Brown Shoe“, the single was released in the United Kingdom on 30 May 1969; Lennon and Ono were performing a second Bed-In at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal at the time. The United States release followed a few days later on 4 June.

In the UK and Europe, it was the first Beatles single to be released in stereo. It was therefore the first release not given a mono mix.

The song has been included on several compilation albums: Hey Jude (US, 1970), 1967–1970 (1973), 20 Greatest Hits (UK, 1982), Past Masters (1988) and 1 (2000).

An uncredited 20-second sample of the song is used in the title track of Timothy Leary’s 1970 album You Can Be Anyone This Time Around, with Leary’s words: “You can be anyone this time around; John and Yoko this time around” spoken over the sample.

Reception

Several US radio stations declined to broadcast the song because of what they saw as sacrilegious use of the words Christ and crucify in the chorus:

Christ, you know it ain’t easy,
You know how hard it can be,
The way things are going,
They’re gonna crucify me.

The Ballad of John and Yoko” never appeared on the surveys of WLS in Chicago or WABC in New York, two of the largest Top 40 stations in the U.S. […]

Paul McCartney in "Many Years From Now", by Barry Miles:

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.

From The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

  • [a] stereo 14 Apr 1969.
    UK: Apple R5786 single 1969, Apple PCSP 718 The Beatles 1967-1970 1973.
    US: Apple 2531 single 1969, Apple SW 385 Hey Jude 1970, Apple SKBO-3404 The Beatles 1967-1970 1973.
    CD: EMI CDP 7 90044 2 Past Masters 2 1988, EMI single 1989, EMI CDP 7 97039 2 The Beatles 1967-1970 1993.

The single release has a loud final drumbeat; it is faded on the other releases.

Last updated on December 1, 2016

Lyrics

Standing in the dock at Southampton
Trying to get to Holland or France
The man in the mac said
You've got to go back
You know they didn't even give us a chance

Christ you know it ain't easy
You know how hard it can be
The way things are going
They're going to crucify me

Finally made the plane into Paris
Honeymooning down by the Seine
Peter Brown call to say
You can make it O.K.
You can get married in Gibraltar near Spain

Christ you know it ain't easy
You know how hard it can be
The way things are going
They're going to crucify me

Drove from Paris to the Amsterdam Hilton
Talking in our beds for a week
The newspapers said
Say what're you doing in bed
I said we're only trying to get us some peace

Christ you know it ain't easy
You know how hard it can be
The way things are going
They're going to crucify me

Saving up your money for a rainy day
Giving all your clothes to charity
Last night the wife said
Oh boy when you're dead
You don't take nothing with you but your soul, think

Made a lightning trip to Vienna
Eating chocolate cake in a bag
The newspapers said
She's gone to his head
They look just like two gurus in drag

Christ you know it ain't easy
You know how hard it can be
The way things are going
They're going to crucify me

Caught the early plane back to London
Fifty acorns tied in a sack
The men from the press
Said we wish you success
It's good to have the both of you back

Christ you know it ain't easy
You know how hard it can be
The way things are going
They're going to crucify me
The way things are going
They're going to crucify me

Officially appears on


The Ballad Of John And Yoko / Old Brown Shoe

7" Single • Released in 1969

3:01 • Studio versionA • Stereo

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Drums, Harmony vocals, Maracas, Piano
John Lennon:
Acoustic guitar, Lead guitar, Vocals
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer

Session Recording & overdubs:
Apr 14, 1969
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Apr 14, 1969
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road


Hey Jude

Official album • Released in 1970

3:00 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Drums, Harmony vocals, Maracas, Piano
John Lennon:
Acoustic guitar, Lead guitar, Vocals
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer

Session Recording & overdubs:
Apr 14, 1969
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Apr 14, 1969
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road


Past Masters

Official album • Released in 1988

3:00 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Drums, Harmony vocals, Maracas, Piano
John Lennon:
Acoustic guitar, Lead guitar, Vocals
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer

Session Recording & overdubs:
Apr 14, 1969
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Apr 14, 1969
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road


1

Official album • Released in 2000

2:57 • Studio version

Bootlegs


Abbey Road Sessions

Unofficial album

2:19 • Outtake • The Ballad Of John and Yoko Take 10 Partial Mono


Abbey Road Sessions

Unofficial album

2:57 • Outtake • The Ballad Of John and Yoko Take 10 Apple Acetate Stereo


Abbey Road Sessions

Unofficial album

2:58 • Outtake • The Ballad Of John and Yoko Take 10 New Zealand Censored Mix Stereo


Abbey Road Sessions

Unofficial album

2:54 • Outtake • The Ballad Of John and Yoko Take 10 EMI Censored Video Version V1 Mono


Abbey Road Sessions

Unofficial album

2:59 • Outtake • The Ballad Of John and Yoko EMI Censored Video Version V2 Mono


Live performances

Paul McCartney has never played this song in concert.


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