The Ballad Of John & Yoko (Lennon/McCartney)
The Ballad Of John & Yoko was the Beatles’ first stereo single released in the UK. This session marked the return of recording engineer Geoff Emerick after he quit working with the group during the tense White Album sessions nine months earlier.
No George or Ringo
John plays acoustic guitar, lead guitar, and percussion. Paul plays drums, bass guitar, piano, and maracas. Recorded in a single 8 1/2 hour session in 11 takes (the released version being the tenth). George and Ringo are not present.
The ‘Christ’ Bit
In light of his comments about the status of Christianity in 1966 and the subsequent American outburst, John – knowing that the use of “Christ” in the lyrics would cause similar issues – sent a memo to Apple Records official Tony Bramwell: “Tony – No pre-publicity on Ballad Of John & Yoko especially the ‘Christ’ bit – so don’t play it round too much or you’ll frighten people – get it pressed first.” The song was banned by several American radio stations.
In New Zealand, radio stations played a special edited version of the single that omitted the word “Christ” in each chorus and the double snare played through instead.
In addition to the lyrical controversy in America, the song was the target of criticism from the government of Spain for the line, “You can get married in Gibraltar near Spain,” as the status of Gibraltar is a long-running subject of debate between Spain and the United Kingdom. Because of this, One After 909 replaced The Ballad Of John & Yoko on the Spanish edition of the 1973 double compilation LP 1967-1970.
“It was very romantic. It’s all in the song, The Ballad Of John And Yoko, if you want to know how it happened, it’s in there. Gibraltar was like a little sunny dream. I couldn’t find a white suit – I had sort if off-white corduroy trousers and a white jacket. Yoko had all white on.” – John Lennon
“It’s like a prayer. You know, ‘Jesus, you alone should know it ain’t easy.’ And it has the street language connotation too. But even when it’s used irreverently, it’s in effect a prayer too. It’s a gospel song. I’m a big Christ fan. The song is a prayer.” – John Lennon
“I didn’t mind not being on the record, because it was none of my business. If it had been ‘The Ballad of John, George and Yoko’, then I would have been on it.” – George Harrison, Anthology
- John Lennon – lead vocal, lead guitars, acoustic guitar, percussion
- Paul McCartney – harmony vocal, bass guitar, drums, piano, maracas
- The Ballad Of John And Yoko / Old Brown Shoe (single) (1969)
- 1967-1970 (1973)
- 20 Greatest Hits (1982)
- Past Masters (1988)
- 1 (2000)
- Abbey Road Anniversary Edition (2019) [take 7]
- #1, June 11-July 1 (3 weeks), Record Retailer (UK)
- Hootie & The Blowfish (from the “Let Her Cry” US single)