When released in 1970, “Mother,” the stark and startling album opener of John Lennon’s first post-Beatles solo album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, signalled a change in John’s songwriting, away from third-person narratives and towards a more autobiographical, confessional style.
Inspired by the primal scream psychotherapy he and wife Yoko Ono had been practising with Dr. Arthur Janov, John, joined by the minimalist Plastic Ono Band – Ringo Starr on drums and Klaus Voormann on bass, and producer Phil Spector – addressed his parents abandoning him in his most honest and personal song to date. The legendary songwriter’s anguish was on full display for the first time.
On what would have been John’s mother Julia’s 107th birthday today, and ahead of Mother’s Day in the UK, the John Lennon Estate has released a newly updated video for “Mother” which has been completely reconstructed from the original photographs, beautifully remastered in 4K and upgraded with the stunning new “Ultimate Mix.” Through the use of John’s personal photos, the video explores layers in the meaning of the lyrics and performance of the song – telling the story of John’s relationships with his mother and father figures, including fractured memories from his childhood and important moments in his life. We see parental figures gone too soon and desperately missed: his mother Julia, father Alfred, his Aunt Mimi and Uncle George Smith who raised and housed him for most of his childhood and teens, and manager Brian Epstein. We see John with his wife Yoko Ono Lennon (who he nicknamed “Mother” in 1980, five years after they had become parents with Sean), we consider John as a father, with sons Julian Lennon and Sean Ono Lennon, and then explore themes of John himself as absent and gone too soon, missed sorely by his wife, sons, extended family and the world. Produced by Yoko Ono Lennon, directed and edited by Simon Hilton with 3D compositing by David Frearson, the video was first created in 2003 for the DVD release, “Lennon Legend: The Very Best of John Lennon,” and includes photographs by Bob Gruen, Stanley Parkes, Geoff Rhind, Robert Freeman, Jack Mitchell, Iain Macmillan, Paul Goresh, Joyce Ravid and many others.
“Mother” is the first track to be released from the forthcoming John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band-The Ultimate Collection, due April 16 via Capitol/UMC to celebrate 50 years of John’s transformational and influential masterpiece. The eight-disc super deluxe box set is an immersive, deep listening experience and in-depth exploration of what John described as “the best thing I’ve ever done.” Fully authorized by Yoko Ono Lennon, who oversaw the production and creative direction, and from the same audio team that worked on 2018’s critically acclaimed Imagine – The Ultimate Collection, including triple GRAMMY®-Award winning engineer Paul Hicks and mixers/engineers Rob Stevens and Sam Gannon, the Ultimate Collection puts listeners in the centre of the studio and explores the album’s 1970 recording sessions at EMI Studios 2 & 3, Abbey Road along with John’s post-Beatles singles, “Give Peace A Chance,” “Cold Turkey” and “Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)” from inception to the final master through scores of unreleased and rare demos, rehearsals, outtakes, jams and studio conversations, revealing how these beloved songs came to be. Everything in this expansive box set has been newly mixed from scratch from brand new 192kHz/24bit hi-res transfers. In addition to the various new mixes, the set boasts 87 never-before-heard recordings.
This historical, remixed and remastered collection features 159 tracks across six CDs and two Blu-ray audio discs for more than 11 engrossing hours of music and includes two postcards (“Who Are The Plastic Ono Band?” and “You Are The Plastic Ono Band”) a “War Is Over!” poster and a comprehensive 132-page hardback book with lyrics, rare photos, tape box images, memorabilia and extensive notes. Designed and edited by Simon Hilton, the Compilation Producer and Production Manager of the Ultimate Collection series, the book tells the story behind each of the songs and the making of the album in John & Yoko’s words and the words of those who worked alongside them, through archival and brand new interviews.
Yoko writes in the preface of the book: “With the Plastic Ono Band albums, John and I liked the idea of this really raw, basic, truthful reality that we were going to be giving to the world. We were influencing other artists, giving them courage, giving dignity to a certain style of vulnerability and strength that was not accepted in society at the time. It was a revolution for a Beatle to say, ‘Listen: I’m human, I’m real.’ It took a lot of courage for him to do it.”
This truly unique expanded edition includes the lively improvised jams John and the band would play between takes, belying the intense subject matter of the album, and the full live recording session of Yoko’s companion LP, Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band, which for the first time presents the songs in their full, unedited lengths and speed, and includes three unreleased improvisations.
Similar to the previous Ultimate Collection, the set offers a variety of new listening experiences that are at once immersive and intimate, ranging from the brand new Ultimate Mixes of the timeless album, which put John’s vocals front and centre and sonically upgrade the sound, to the Elements Mixes, which isolate and bring forth certain elements from the multitrack recordings to reveal even deeper levels of detail and clarity, and the Raw Studio Mixes, which allows listeners to experience the moment John and the Plastic Ono Band recorded each song, mixed raw and live without effects, tape delays or reverbs. The Evolutionary Documentary is a unique track-by-track audio montage that details the evolution of each song from demo to master recording via instructions, rehearsals, recordings, multitrack exploration and studio chatter. The Blu-rays present an array of listening options including high-definition, studio-quality 192kHz/24bit audio in stereo and enveloping 5.1 Surround and Dolby Atmos mixes.
Plastic Ono Band will also be released in concurrent multiple physical and digital configurations, including as a 1CD that includes the Ultimate Mixes of the original album and the three non-album singles and as an expanded 2CD or 2LP version that adds a disc of outtakes of each song.