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Music

Revisiting the Mick Jagger song produced by John Lennon

@josephtaysom

After John Lennon and Yoko Ono split in 1973, The Beatle’s life descended into a seemingly unmanageable mess for two years. Lennon, whose personal issues were spiralling out of control, found himself stuck in his infamous ‘Lost Weekend’ with no resolution in sight. Creatively and professionally, however, it was a prolific time for Lennon, who used his work to escape from the newfangled life.

Mick Jagger was one of many interesting names – alongside Elton John and David Bowie – who Lennon welcomed into the studio over this tumultuous period. However, the recording would never see the light of day until it appeared on a compilation album in 2007. Lennon recruited some of his favourite musicians, such as the likes of Jim Keltner, Jack Bruce, Jesse Ed Davis, Bobby Keys, and of course, his partner in crime, Harry Nilsson, to assist on the track.

It has to be said that Lennon’s closest associates, who added their own contributions to the material, also facilitated his hedonistic behaviour. It was an overindulgent period of which Jagger was invited to witness first hand. However, the relationship between the duo was complex, and although they frequently drank together during the early days of their respective bands, bad blood had since come between them.

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In 1971, Lennon called Jagger an “imitator” during an interview with Rolling Stone, doubling down and claiming that the singer hadn’t earned the right to criticise The Beatles. “I was always very respectful about Mick and the Stones, but he said a lot of sort of tarty things about The Beatles, which I am hurt by, because you know, I can knock the Beatles, but don’t let Mick Jagger knock them,” Lennon said, before adding: “I would like to just list what we did and what the Stones did two months after on every fuckin’ album. Every fuckin’ thing we did, Mick does exactly the same – he imitates us”.

However, behind closed doors, Jagger and Lennon were closer than they allowed the public to believe. Furthermore, Lennon was genuinely proud of their collaboration, later telling Dennis Elsas in 1974: “We made a good track. I was so-called ‘producing’ it, meaning sitting behind the desk”.

Lennon orchestrated the cover of Willie Dixon song ‘Too Many Cooks’ which, inexplicably, was never released during his lifetime. The ensemble cast he put together worked as a funkadelic foil for Jagger, with Keys’ majestic role on the sax stealing the show. 

The careers of Lennon and Jagger always seemed to intertwine to some degree, whether it was The Beatles handing The Stones their first hit or the quasi-rivalry which still rumbles on to this day. However, the cover of ‘Too Many Cooks’ is further evidence that they had far more in common than the issues that appeared to divide them.

Jagger, of course, even had the honour of inducting the Fab Four into the Rock and Roll Holl of Fame. During his speech, he reflected: “We had a lot of rivalry in those early years, and a little bit of friction, but we always ended up friends. I like to think we still are, ’cause they were some of the greatest times of our lives, and I’m really proud to be the one that leads them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame”.

While exactly how much “production” work Lennon actually carried out on this recording is unknown, if you put Jack Bruce and Bobby Keys in the studio, the result will seldom disappoint.

Stream the song, below.