Sep 6, 2012

Remembering John Lennon Live at Madison Square Garden - The "One to One" Benefit Concert 40 Years Later

In 1972 John Lennon & Yoko Ono were two highly publicized figures. The ex- Beatle was constantly in the news, on the front lines of the peace movement or helping support other activist causes. Some good, others not so much. Lennon was very accessible in those days, living in a small apartment on Bank Street in the West Village.

John wanted to make New York his home, but the U.S. government was trying to deport him. The Nixon administration were afraid that Lennon's popularity would destroy any chance for re-election. They came up with a plan, saying he was ineligible for admission to the U.S. due to a cannabis possession misdemeanor, he had received in London in 1968. The FBI tapped the Lennon's phones and followed him & anyone associated with him on every move. Many public figures (including New York's Mayor John Lindsay, Bob Dylan, Fred Aistare & Jack Lemmon to name a few) all supported him, as did the fans with letters & petitions. John went through deportation hearings for three years, but by then Tricky Dick, resigned was after his Watergate crisis. In the American bicentennial year of 1976, Lennon was given his green card.

In the midst of all this in 1972, there were the Beatles legal battles, John's latest single had been banned & his new album Sometime In New York City wasn't selling. The double album was filled with current political issues & lots of Yoko songs which the fans weren't too thrilled with. The album never cracked the top forty.

At the time, a young New York reporter named Geraldo Rivera was following the Lennon deportation hearings very closely on the local news. He would get interviews when Lennon left court & they soon became friends. Rivera did a news story on the horrible conditions & abuse to the patients at a Staten Island Facility, called Willowbrook, which was a home for the mentally challenged. The Project became known as "One to One". 

The Lennon's saw the story & wanted to help. Yoko Ono contacted Rivera, saying John offered to headline a benefit concert to raise money for the project. This was just one year after George Harrison's benefit Bangla Desh concert, certainly an inspiration.


The concert was to be held at Madison Square Garden on August 30th 1972. Lennon would be backed by a Greenwich Village band called The Elephant's Memory. It was the first full concert for Lennon in the United States, since the Beatles played Candlestick Park, San Francisco in 1966. As fate would have it, it would be the only full concerts of his solo career.

Originally it was thought that these shows would be a warm up for a Lennon Plastic Ono / Elephants Memory Band World Tour. But John wanted the Deportation issues settled first & then some mixed reviews of the concert may have also molded his decision. The fans lined up for tickets to see the ex-Beatle, tickets sold out very quickly. Lennon responded by adding a second show, a matinee afternoon performance. Also on the bill, were Stevie Wonder, Roberta Flack & Sha Na Na.

John, Yoko & the Elephant's Memory Band rehearsed for just three days within a week before the show. My research showed that Paul McCartney was invited to perform as well, but due to the Beatles legal battles & the presence of layer Allen Klein, he declined. Ticket prices were $5 - $7.50 & $10. Lennon himself bought $59,000 worth of tickets & gave them away to fans. Overall $1.5 million dollars was raised for the cause.

At show time, Lennon was a bit nervous and flubbed a few lines, especially during the colder, less lively first show. He even told the audience "Welcome to the rehearsal". The band pushed John to do some Beatles material & although he did not want to go back in time, he settled on Come Together. In his words "We'll go back in the past, once". The rest of the set list was mainly from his post Beatles albums to date, Plastic Ono Band, Imagine & his current album of that summer: Sometime In New York City.

He surprised everyone in the band when he began playing one of his personal favorites- Elvis' Houndog, especially since they had never rehearsed it. The show ended with a funky (or as Lennon kept saying- "reggae baby") version of Give Peace A Chance.

Concert highlights included a fantastic version of Imagine, a rocking version of New York City & Instant Karma, as well as a haunting version of Mother. After the concert, all the performers had a party in Central Park at Tavern On The Green.

A video recording of the concert was filmed & first aired on ABC television later that year. It featured the better performance, the evenings show. In 1986, John Lennon-Live In New York City, CD & video were released by Ono. The Elephants Memory band members criticized her for releasing the weaker, matinee performance. As of 2012 a DVD has not yet been issued but some of the evening performance songs were included on the 1998 Lennon Anthology Box set.




1972 John Lennon One To One Concert Set List

Matinee:
Power to the People
New York City
It's So Hard
Move On Fast (Yoko)
Woman Is The Niger of the World
Sisters O' Sisters (Yoko)
Well Well Well
Born In A Prison (Yoko)
Instant Karma
Mother
We're All Water (Yoko)
Come Together
Imagine
Open Your Box (Yoko)
Cold Turkey
Don't Worry Kyoko (Mummys only Looking For Her Hand In The Snow) Hound Dog

 
 
Evening Performance:
Power to the People
New York City
It's So Hard
Woman Is The Niger of the World
Sisters O' Sisters (Yoko)
Well Well Well
Instant Karma
Mother
We're All Water (Yoko)
Come Together
Imagine
Cold Turkey
Hound Dog
Give Peace A Chance




http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpLSN-D05Z8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RH3447vQips

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hound Dog was actually played by Lennon in rehearsals, as I have a recording where he plays it out of Don't Be Cruel. Wonder if a deluxe DVD or CD will ever be released - warts and all, it's an amazing document of how vital John was.