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The lyrical descriptions of the thirty-six hours, rollin in pain and the self-made hell of rising fevers and bleak, nervous nihilism certainly make the literal point clear. When Lennons weary, moaning delivery of the simple lyrics are musically coupled with his and Eric Claptons jarring and rumbling guitar work, the song succeeds as an audio portrait of physical and mental anguish.

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Yet, as was not unusual with Lennon, the song goes beyond the literal meaning. Lennon later termed it a song about pain, and was surprised that it was largely banned from radio play in the United States on the grounds that it was about drugseven though it was antidrugs or at least, antiheroin addiction. In fact, the lyrics never mention drugs in general, or any drug in particular, and instead work on the metaphorical level of the pain of total or surprising loss.

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Something that, as Lennon said about the song in ,. As if the literal subject matter was not pushing the pop music boundaries enough, the five-minute piece ends with almost 1 minute and 45 seconds of Lennons screams and moans layered with similarly characterized guitar tones and feedback noises. Where Give Peace a Chance drew out its chanting chorus and ends in exultation, Cold Turkey draws out tortured moans and ends in exhaustion.

The song finishes abruptly with a short series of sounds that are eerily similar to Lennons groundbreaking work on The Beatles recordings Strawberry Fields and Revolution 9 as well as his experimental sound collages with Ono. Perhaps this was Lennons audio signature. This audio referencing of previous work further implies that Cold Turkey recognizes any type of abrupt loss. The flip side of Cold Turkey, Onos Dont Worry Kyoko, is just as intense, with Lennon and Clapton providing the lilting guitar groove for her vibrant vocalizing and was included as part of Onos album Fly and as such is discussed in that context.

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Characteristically, Lennon debuted this strange-sounding for the era , harsh, and alienating song before its release at a rock and roll festival highlighting s performers, chiding the audience when they did not respond as enthusiastically as he thought they should have. He facetiously added that he was also protesting the fact that Cold Turkey did not make it into the top It had peaked at number 14 in the United Kingdom and only made it to number 30 in the United States, the pains of drug withdrawal not exactly being acceptable pop music fodder at the time.

The expression of raw emotional pain and angst in Cold Turkey would soon be at the core of many of the songs that would make up Lennons Plastic Ono Band albumalthough that album is significantly more direct, having most of the poetic metaphor absent. In fact, fans and critics alike would soon see such expressions as an integral part of Lennons strengths as a singer-songwriter. Therefore, the importance of Cold Turkey in establishing Lennon as a solo artist and significant creative force separate from The Beatles should not be ignored. Live Peace in Toronto After the completion of the Abbey Road album in late summer , Lennon was basically finished with recording as a Beatle.

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Although the group would have other recording sessions as Phil Spector worked on the Get Back. McCartney reportedly stopped this, and the former did not see release until the Anthology 3 collection in , while the latter became the flip side of the Let It Be single in March The band had no real rehearsals but was able to get through passable if erratic versions of early rock classics such as Blue Suede Shoes, Money, and Dizzy Miss Lizzie.

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The Beatles, with Lennon performing the lead vocals, had covered the two latter songs. Lennons combined nervousness and pleasure are evident while the bands roughness is alternately a drawback when they slip out of tune and out of time, and a true joy when the performances of Lennon and Clapton mesh and feed off each other. Leaving the oldies behind, the band next performs Yer Blues, which Clapton at least had performed with Lennon before, albeit 10 months earlier. The next number was the debut of Lennons Cold Turkey.

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Although the studio single had been out and on the charts by the time the album of this live concert was released, the song had not yet been recorded when performed here. The performance moves along at a slightly quicker and more lilting pace and is not nearly as harsh as the single became or as it would be in future live performances. Give Peace a Chance follows, with Lennon extemporizing alternate but similar lyrics for the verses, retaining the same thrust and mixing the serious message and humor of the single recording.

Even though contemporary bands were also in performance in addition to the s icons, the event was advertised as a rock and roll revival.

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In what must have been equal doses of courage and arrogance, the band shifted to featuring Ono and her nonpop performances, expanding on the performance pattern employed for The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus almost a year previously. Most might consider this a long way in some respects from Jerry Lee Lewis, but Lennon and Ono saw it differently. Onos full-throttle vocals and Lennon and Claptons hard-core guitar sounds must have been startling to a crowd primed for rockabilly and doo-wop.

The finale of the set is an electrified version of Onos John John Lets Hope for Peace , an acoustic version of which would be included in the audio collage of Amsterdam from Wedding Album, as previously mentioned. Like Cold Turkey, at the time of the concert, a recorded version of the performance had not been released yet. However, it would be issued by.

Lennon and Clapton end up setting their guitars by their amplifiers, thus letting the perpetual feedback end the set as the band left the stage. An edited version of the performance came out as a record album three months later in December , making it Lennon and Onos fourth album. Those four albums and the two Plastic Ono Band singles had been released in 13 months, in addition to Lennons other work, with and without The Beatles.

The concert was filmed, but when the documentary was eventually released, the Plastic Ono Band was not included. In , their segment, with a little bit of introductory footage of classic s stars, became its own documentary titled Sweet Toronto. As with The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus from the previous year, had the bands footage been released as part of the original film, it would have helped to solidify the publics understanding of the end of The Beatles as a living musical entity.

Furthermore, it would have highlighted Lennons distance from them as a separate performer in the publics mind, as well as help answer the perennial What does he see in Yoko? The group performed superb, hard-edged versions of Cold Turkey and Dont Worry Kyoko for an audience that, unlike the one in Toronto, at least might have known what to expect.

The vibrant performance was recorded and included in their Sometime in New York City double album and Frank Zappas Playground Psychotics almost 20 years later. Instant Karma! On January 27, , Lennon wrote and recorded the next Plastic Ono Band single, and it was released to the public in less than two weeks, becoming a top-five hit. Give Peace a Chance was a more or less an on-thespot recording, andalthough credited to Lennon-McCartney and later overdubbed by Starrby its nature, it was never considered to be a Beatles recording.

Cold Turkey initially became the second Plastic Ono Band single by default rather than by design when The Beatles rejected it and Lennon decided to record it anyway. The title Instant Karma! Instant karma would indeed be a surprise, and the exclamation point in the title emphasizes the clever nature of Lennons irony in forcing the listener to ponder just what instant karma might be. It also functions as advertising hyperbole, an aspect emphasized in the album artwork for the song in Lennons singles collection Shaved Fish.

The first verses have a sarcastic tone and berate the listener to get yourself together The tone reverses when Lennon seems to mock the listener for thinking he or she is a superstar but then he agrees, Well, right you are! This leads into the rousing anthem-like repeated chorus of We all shine on, like the moon and the stars and the sun.


Instant karma seems to be a system of positive retribution with everyone gonna get their share if they merely recognize their responsibilities to other humans. After implying what proper human behavior ought to be, Lennon then poses the question, Why in the world are we here, surely not to live in pain and fear? The answer that we are here to self-actualize through concern for humanity is strongly implied but never stated outright. Sonically the recording has similarities to Give Peace a Chance with its handclapping rhythm and Lennons chorus-leading vocals. And like Cold Turkey, it has a simple stripped-down feel despite the jangly rhythmic pianos and echoed mix.

There is no piano or guitar solo, but Lennon takes a brief vocal solo of grunts and moans in what may be a joking reference to the lengthy vocal moans and screams of Cold Turkey. Otherwise, his vocals bite through with a real urgency and sincerity to the performance, despite the s Sun Recordsstyle echo that serves to partly distance and disembody Lennons vocal presence.

The result is that Lennon manages to have it both ways: his voice seems otherworldly, yet tangible. Cold Turkey demonstrated Lennons penchant for taking something personal and expanding its message through metaphor. We All Shine On was Lennon providing a chiding though positive and proactive message for humanity.

The same artistic drive would be the bedrock of his post-Beatles career. Lennon had demonstrated his ability to have pop hits without The Beatles. By the time it was clear to the public that The Beatles were no longer a functioning unit, Lennon already had the Live Peace in Toronto album going gold, and three top hit singles, the most recent Instant Karma! Lennons actions had, to some degree, negatively colored his reputation with the public from his seemingly radical artistic and political endeavors with Ono to the well-publicized public break-up of The Beatles.

Its uncomplicated and direct sound, gritty frankness, painfully raw emotional content, and moral outrage would become the marker of artistic and personal integrity by which Lennon and other artists making serious pop music would be measured. The album stands as a document of Lennons mental and emotional purgation following the end of The Beatles. For his audience, it is a call to wake up from being narcotized by childhood trauma, parental authority, popular culture, consumer society, and all manner of social, political, and religious institutions.

The album version opens with four dirge-like bell peals not present on the single release, which also fades out sooner.


Lyrically the song is an exorcism of the pain of parental rejection, as Lennon mourns the mother who did not want him and chastises the father who left him, purging the pain by saying goodbye, goodbye. Percussion from Ringo Starr ticks like a clock, emphasizing the awareness of how the past impinges upon the present, while Lennons piano hits chords echoing the pealing bells that began the song.

After a third verse in which Lennon warns the next generation not to do what I have done a lyrical nod to the harrowing traditional ballad House of the Rising Sun , he begins a series of increasingly agonized laments, shouting repeatedly mama dont go and daddy come home as if reverting to the anguished, frightened child.