"The Ballad Of John And Yoko" is the true-life tale of the world's most (in)famous newly-weds: their denial of maritime passage, the marriage on Gibraltar, the Amsterdam Honeymoon Bed-In, the peace-pranks in Vienna and London.
It was recorded solely by John and Paul, working together in response to Lennon's inspiration flash. For this stint in the studio, at least, they managed to set aside their virtually habitual antagonism as they built the track between them. It was rush-released at the end of May '69, little more than a month after "Get Back"
, so as not to let its contemporary relevance cool.
The Montreal Bed-In mantra "Give Peace A Chance" was introduced into the public's consciousness the following month, credited to the Plastic Ono Band as performers but — still sticking to the old deal — listing Lennon/McCartney as composers. J+Y's Wedding Album
, a lavishly packaged mish-mash of ambient sound and electronic noise, was issued in November, after Abbey Road
; also marking the first involvement of one Phil Spector on a Beatle-related project.
For "The Ballad", George was 'on holiday', taking a breather from the cauldron and dodging the press following his bust, so Lennon leapt at the chance to layer-on two lead guitar parts. George, being George, 'didn't mind...' Getting his "Old Brown Shoe"
on the B-side kinda compensated, anyway.
Ringo had likewise escaped, with the excuse of filming The Magic Christian
, giving McCartney his drumming debut on 45, having previously wielded the sticks on certain tracks of The White
. 'Good drums, too', conceded our Ritchie.
When you consider the rhythm and bass guitar, the piano and percussion which also help to swing this busy little funky blues thing along, you start to get some idea of what a feat of production construction it must have been; yet it still somehow managed to capture the spontaneity of the brief reconciliation that spawned it.
The "Christ" lyric inevitably stirred up the American WASP nest, which had never entirely forgiven Lennon for his 'bigger than Jesus' comments, circulated out of context back in '66, leading to the 'Beatle Burnings', Klan marches and such like. Many radio stations vetoed "The Ballad" and Lennon himself stated that there were US copies pressed with the 'blasphemy' erased by reversing it. I have no other evidence for this than the composer's often less-than-lucid recollections and would love to know if it's true. Anyone out there have a spare copy?!!