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Music

Watch John Lennon and Frank Zappa perform a blues classic together

John Lennon is the most iconic musicians of all time. Forming one half of the world’s most successful songwriting partnership with Paul McCartney, the list of classics that John Lennon gave us is truly mind-blowing. He spearheaded The Beatles’ rise to fame in the early 1960s and also guided them through their many stylistic changes that occurred across the rest of the decade. 

Without his songwriting prowess and sharp wit, The Beatles would have been without that star power that they needed to take them right to the very top, and it is this that has powered their endurance all these years. It’s indicative of Lennon’s skill and character that the ‘Fab Four’ remain one of the best selling artists to this day, over 60 years since they first shot to fame. 

It wasn’t just The Beatles that Lennon shone in either. He continued to enjoy creative and commercial success after the band’s demise in 1970. The ‘70s would see him mature as a human being and a songwriter, and he’d give us some incredibly pertinent moments of the years, not to mention the hit ‘Imagine’.

The ‘70s also saw him get up to no end of hijinx now that he was free from the confines of the band. Whether it be the ‘Lost Weekend’ period or writing the hit single ‘Fame’ with David Bowie, Lennon flourished during this particular period.

Another brilliant moment came in 1971, right in the wake of The Beatles’ split. One night, together with his wife, Yoko Ono, he joined one of the most lauded creative forces of the era on stage, Frank Zappa. Together, they and Zappa’s band performed four songs, including ‘Scumbag’, ‘King Kong’ and ‘Jam Rag’. However, the highlight has to be the cover of Walter Ward’s blues classic  ‘Well (Baby Please Don’t Go)’.

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Zappa hushes the overly excited crowd, and says: “Sit down and cool it for a minute so we can hear what we’re going to do… and for those of you in the band who have no idea what’s about to happen, this is in A-minor and it’s not standard blues changes, but it’s close.”

Lennon then takes centre stage, grinning as he introduces the song, saying: “This is a song I used to sing while I was in the Cavern in Liverpool. I haven’t done it since.” 

What ensues is a raucous cover of Ward’s song, that is augmented or diminished, depending on personal preference, by Yoko Ono’s slightly unhinged wails, that cut pierce through the mix. Whilst this may have been enough to put anybody off, you just cannot ignore the infectious energy of the performance. Halfway through, Lennon shouts “Zappa”, before the former Mothers of Invention leader delivers one of his incredible, effects laden guitar solos. 

A stellar performance, involving three of the most iconic musicians of all time, this is one of the most honest reflections of Lennon’s charisma. He had the power to command a room of thousands, all by virtue of his presence. This gives you the precise measure of the former Beatles leader. 

Watch the stellar cover of  ‘Well (Baby Please Don’t Go)’ below.