What is generally considered to be the last true Lennon-McCartney collaboration turned out to be…an account of the former’s adventures in getting married? Quite a strange chapter in the Beatles’ recorded history indeed. Lyrically, each verse of The Ballad of John and Yoko describes an event in the couple’s life, from their honeymoon in Paris, to the wedding in Gibraltar, the bed-in in Amsterdam, the bag-ism in Vienna, and finally the art exhibition in Coventry. The chorus ties them all together in a typically Lennon half-serious, half-mocking manner inviting comparisons with Jesus once again (“The way things are going / They’re gonna crucify me”).
Musically, this is quite literally a Lennon-McCartney song, with the two playing all the instruments between each other. The reason? Harrison was on holiday and Ringo busy with the filming of comedy film The Magic Christian, and apparently John couldn’t wait any longer to put his thoughts on tape. And while far from Beatles’ most complex composition, I think this is exactly where The Ballad of John and Yoko becomes a winner. It is just a fun pop-rocker, not overwrought or overarranged in the slightest – the bass is quite high in the mix, the guitar riffs pop up nicely, and hearing Paul and John harmonize together on the last verse is simply a joy.
I think this juxtaposition was an intentional one meant to take the edge off a bit. You can either care for John & Yoko’s complaints about how they’re not treated well by the press and the authorities or call them self-absorbed, indulgent rich people, but you can always groove along with that infectious melody and the catchy chorus. And for me, sometimes that’s all I need from my music. The Ballad of John and Yoko is no Strawberry Fields Forever, but the point is that it doesn’t try to be. It’s a fine song as it is. And “The newspaper said, she’s gone to his head / They look just like two gurus in drag” is just a great line.
(Unfortunately, the song cannot be found on YouTube)
Categories: Song Reviews