The Beatles – The Ballad of John and Yoko (Song Review)

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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)

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Categories: Song Reviews

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42 replies

  1. I had no idea John and Paul played all the instruments on this! Great song — one of my favourites. Incidentally it is a great song for car singalongs.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Definitely one of my favorite Beatles songs. Not so much for any of the lyrics, but I love the bass line and guitar licks.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Beatles were brilliant. A great song.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m playing it on YouTube as I write. 🙂

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    • If you would have dug deeper, you would know that all Beatles songs are copyrighted and any attempt to upload them on YouTube by anybody who’s not their official channel gets removed. As is the case with Bob Dylan and others.

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      • All art is copyrighted. The legal theory is the minute you create it, it’s copy written. You file for protection so that if your copyright is violated, you can collect larger monetary damages. So what? It hasn’t stopped much theft which is mostly what makes up YouTube. In order to remove music from YouTube or anywhere else , Beatles representatives first have to know the music is there. Then, they file a DOMA notice. The music may or may not be removed. That said, there are a huge amount of Beatles songs on YouTube, some sanctioned, most not. Same with Dylan. Or, just about anyone else.

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        • There are really very few Dylan/Beatles/Prince/King Crimson songs on YouTube that are not uploaded by the “official” channel. They are deleted automatically once they are uploaded. This is common knowledge. A simple search will reveal that. Whereas songs by artists such say, Neil Young or Elton John can be uploaded by anybody in their original form without them getting deleted. This is not a matter of copyright in the broader sense, just within YouTube – of course all art is copyrighted, but that is not the discussion here. Try uploading The Ballad of John and Yoko and you’ll see for yourself. That’s why there are no versions. Whereas one could upload Neil’s Cowgirl in the Sand with no problem whatsoever – again, a simple search will reveal many results of the original song.

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        • Nonsense. YouTube is about making money. Not enforcing copyrights. They only do so when somebody asks them to. As far as uploading blocks got, it’s very likely that either the code or the video size was wrong if something didn’t upload. That said, WTF is “everybody? A bunch of fanboys spinning conspiracy theories from fan site from fan site? For the record, there must be at least ten BEATLE versions of”The Ballad off Joh and Yoko” on YouTube as we speak. There must be 40,000 or 50,o00 versions of BEATLES music on YouTube as well. Beatles music. Not covers. One more thing about Copyright that you should know. The music writer owns the copywrite and earns the royalties. Cover band or not, Lennon-McCartney (Estate or Sir Paul) make a little less than a penny on each video play. As Far as Neil goes, Lookout Management sees YouTube as a radio station. Elliot says there isn’t much earnings but people can hear the music as low quality as YouTube is. And, finally, I’ve been working in this industry for longer than you’ve been alive. I have a pretty good idea of how this REALLY WORKS. If you want to learn, apply for a job at one of the four majors. Unfortunately for you, even the young people working at the very bottom positions all have music management degrees. And, still the best place to work is in Los Angeles. That might be too much for you.

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        • Right, this will be the last reply I write. I don’t know why I continue to engage with you in your changing of the subject when it was clear from the beginning you’re nothing but a troll. There is no original version of the song on YouTube. Everything else you say is irrelevant because you can’t bring yourself to admit that, or at least prove me that I’m wrong by sharing the link with the song.

          Liked by 1 person

    • You keep throwing me resumes of your career and childish insults and I don’t know why. I uploaded pictures above to prove that my YouTube search doesn’t find any result of the original song. I asked you nicely for a link because I thought I might’ve missed it (even though I searched twice on YT, as well as Vimeo and Dailymotion) and wanted to modify the original post so that everybody can hear the song, even those who haven’t. It might be that the versions you found are not available in my country. Either way, I wanted the link so that everybody could see it in the post, even though I couldn’t. You refuse to share the link and go on to talk about copyright issues, the Bible, conspiracy theories and god knows what. I just dunno what to say anymore. This feels like a Lynch movie or something. Surreal.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Stop your whining. And stop crying because I tried to help you out. I see that you live in Romania. I also see that you’re 22 years old. Sonny. You have a long way to go and a lot to learn. The Bible? Well, somewhere along the line it says a person learns best if you teach and don’t do it for them. You want to be spoon fed like a little baby. Conspiracy? That’s all on you. No. You can’t see much in your country. Only about 1/3 of what’s available… it’s just as well since you don’t understand copyright at all. You’ll probably steal things that don’t belong to you. And, you have no idea of what you aren’t seeing. Now, leave the adults alone and go play in your sand box. I’ve wasted enough time on you.

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        • How am I supposed to learn how to find the song if it isn’t available in my country? Were you a nice and decent enough of a person you would’ve sent me the link so I can put it in my original post for the others to hear. In the words of Pete Townshend, “I hope I die before I get old” if getting old means becoming a bitter old man who gives patronizing and sarcastic answers instead of actual help when help is needed. You talked down on me man, right from the beginning, when I was just being nice and sharing my musical opinions. You started this, and age and copyright knowledge have nothing to do with it. But I’ll be the bigger man and let it go.

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        • By saying “I’m watching it as I write, ” I was talking down to you? You poor thing.

          Bitter and old? I enjoy my life. Never make assumptions.

          And, always try to learn. One day you’ll regret being an asshole to me.

          Go away.

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        • Deleted my comments. I’m done with this.

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        • Cool. Never both me again.

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  5. Great review. This song’s lyrics are indeed inspired, completely narcissistic yet funny, honest and self-deprecating as well. I spoke to Tommy Smothers once, and he told me a great anecdote about recording “Give Peace A Chance” with Lennon – check it out if you want:

    https://johnrieber.com/2016/05/18/john-lennon-beds-tommy-smothers-incredible-give-peace-a-chance-story-the-beatles-get-political/

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I never liked Yoko Ono, but the song is good

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You’re are so right about this song, including the fact that it’s underrated. Plus, remember, at that time, public perception about these two is that they were nothing but a pair of quarreling bitc*es, trying publicly and desperately get divorced from each other. It it’s clear now, by Ballad and other late collaborations, that they still managed to enjoy each other’s company at least in the studio. And produce good music in the process.
    As for the lyrics, for the longest time people accused John of being melodramatic and self-centered, a charge that became almost strident when he later said that he was being followed by the Nixon police, in New York City. Well, all this long, unforgiven, bitter time after, how sorry we all feel for he was not just right about the Edgar Hoover FBI’s file on him, but that ‘they’ literally did crucify him on a cold December night on 72nd St?
    Speaking of underrated gems, what about the one they mostly recorded on their own (with a little help from Brian Jones) and remains their sole half-joking nightclub jazz tune, You Know My Name, a truly undervalued pearl? Thanks for this, TUIM.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This songs brings back memories every time I hear it. It summarizes the life of John and Yoko during an interesting period of time. My favorite line is “I’m only trying to get me some peace,” which references the two’s bed in for peace.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I just finished the recently released book “Beatles ’66.” Lennon was castigated that year for his quotes about the Beatles vs. Jesus. So what does he do? Comes back with a lyric like “Christ, YOU know it ain’t easy…they’re gonna crucify me.” What an amazing guy.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Nicely done!

    I was gonna say hey, wasn’t that bed-in done in Montreal not Amsterdam? But Montreal was their second bed-in. So there ya go.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Nice post, dude. Having never been much of a Beatles fan, I’m not familiar with this one at all. My brother has a fair few albums of theirs and I keep threatening to nab a loan of them, so I may do that.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Love this song. The “Christ, you know it ain’t easy” line was nowhere near as innocuous as it sounds today. A lot of people thought it was blasphemous..Even though the band had by now been around for several years, recall they started out marketed as squeaky clean. I don’t think they had even yet admitted to their drug use. Trivia note: Lennon’s brief solo lick near the end is a modified version from a song they used to do called “Lonesome Tears In My Eyes.”

    https://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=Hzl_2OlOoKU

    Liked by 1 person

  13. FWIW, I don’t see any uploads of The Ballad of John and Yoko on YouTube, either. But it is on Spotfy along with all the other Beatles songs. Here’s a link: https://open.spotify.com/track/69zeDbyVmHDSH4GKZD1fv5

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  14. I too love its stark, under engineered sound. It’s funny that with the animosity that was growing between the Lennon & McCartney, who is the person John rushed to get it recorded with…why Paul of course. Paul was unsure about the lyrics particularly the references to Christ, but by this stage John couldn’t care less.

    Liked by 1 person

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