Pros:informative, great video quality, widescreen
Cons:only stereo; would have been nice to hear song snippets in 5.1 surround.
The Bottom Line: A great treat for Beatles fans, but probably not so much for those who aren’t.
"I think it's the best thing I've ever done..."
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Musicians, journalists and others recall the genesis, the atmosphere and situations around the making of John Lennon's first proper solo album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, after the break-up of The Beatles in 1970.
Like all of the featured bands in the Classic Album series, the story doesn't begin and end with the featured album. John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band was released at the end of 1970, and so this story started at the break-up of Lennon's former band The Beatles. Most of the narration was thankfully done by Lennon himself, from what I am assuming are audiotapes because we never see Lennon talking, we only hear him. John Lennon despite being depressed, high on whatever drug or just high on life owns such a natural public speaking voice. His distinct tone draws you into the story and gets you instantly engaged in what he's saying.
This quickly glosses over the three avant-garde albums he and Yoko Ono made, but they linger on two previous releases, a single Cold Turkey and the album Live Peace in Toronto 1969. These two releases started the process of piecing together a band for Lennon to record and play live. With Live Peace he enlisted Klaus Voorman, a German dude he met from way back in 1961 while in Hamburg. Klaus plays bass with at least Ringo and Lennon post during their solo careers, plus he is the artist who created a few Beatles albums like Revolver, and the Anthology series. Also for Live Peace, he asked Eric Clapton to play guitar for his band. On the drums he had Yes' Alan White. They were the first version of the Plastic Ono Band, and Lennon liked the idea that he could have whomever he wished fill these roles. When he began recording his first solo album, the band still had himself, Yoko and Klaus, but he also asked former bandmate Ringo Starr to play drums. Ringo also played drums on Cold Turkey over a year before as well.
As a Beatle fan, I was always interested in Klaus Voorman, but I had never really seen what he looked like, and it was awesome to have him featured here as one of the people interviewed and reminiscing about the making of this album, and playing live and rehearsing. He had some really good stories to share, which added to my interest in the album and this short period in the career. Yoko Ono herself was one of the main storytellers as well, and her input was appreciated and seemed genuine as well. Her broken English was both surprising and humorous, for example "I'm sure that John had the same kind of hestations, we had baggages." Speaking of Yoko, there was a lot of archive footage used that has nothing to do with the album. They had the footage of John and Yoko naked on the bed in the Dakota in 1980 which one of the photos were used as the Rolling Stone covers. There was also footage of Yoko and Lennon naked in a bathtub where we can surprisingly see Yoko's nude breasts floating atop of the water. What is happening here? There was also footage of the couple clothed on South Beach in Staten Island, NY. I loved seeing all of this old footage, as there was stuff I had never seen before. And although it had nothing to do with the story of this record, it somehow helped the story along.
They played most of the songs from the record, and it would have been awesome if they were presented in 5.1 surround, but the stereo sounded great. There was some footage and explanation of what John and Yoko's primal therapy was and where it was located. This old video footage added to my understanding of what this sort mental health therapy was about. They even had co-founder Dr. Arthur Janov interviewed here to shed some light on his brand of therapy.
Others that had been interviewed here include Jan Wagner who is a co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine, and there is another journalist as well named Richard Williams. Mark Lewisohn, a renowned Beatles author and historian had some input and there was also the engineer from EMI who worked on the record Phil McDonald. This relatively short documentary about one of the more important rock albums was a fun watch. The strong language and the nudity were surprising and should be noted in case a younger one wanders in while this is on. As a Beatles fan I really liked it, but I don't believe it would go over as interesting for the folks who don't consider themselves as enthusiasts of the band.
Classic Albums: The Plastic Ono Band
Directed by: Matthew Longfellow (Queen: Making of A Night at the Opera)
Written by: none
Starring: Yoko Ono (Beatles Anthology), Klaus Voorman, Ringo Starr (The Kids Are Alright), John Lennon (Lennon Legend)
Length: 58 minutes
Rated: NR (strong language, nudity)
Rating: 3½ stars