Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Is It Any Wonder?

The new year began with the end of an old era, when the London High Court officially cut the legal ties binding The Beatles and Company on January 9th, 1975. John Lennon was at a bit of a crossroads, having an oldies album wrapped and ready to go and already composing material for a new solo LP.

He spent much of January at the Record Plant in New York working with other artists. On the 13th, he co-produced a session with engineer Roy Cicala for Roy's wife Lori Burton. Lori had sung backup on a couple of John's albums, and was being backed by a group dubbed "BOMF" (Band of Mother Fuckers). On the 22nd, John & Roy co-produced a few songs by the band, now renamed Dog Soldier after the lyric from a Lennon/Cicala composition, "Incantation". This and two of the Burton numbers ("Answer Me, My Love" and "Let's Spend The Night Together") were eventually released on a CD included with the book Beatles Undercover in 1998. The rest of the sessions remain unheard.

Far more prominent was John's work with David Bowie a couple of weeks later. The two had become casual acquaintances during 1974, and Bowie was currently finishing up his LP Young Americans at New York's Electric Lady Studios. He invited John to join him in a new rendition of "Across The Universe", and having enjoyed his experience remaking "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" with Elton John (and not being satisfied with either Beatles release of the song), John readily agreed, playing rhythm guitar on the number:

During the session, a guitar riff improvised by Carlos Alomar developed into a jam which reminded John of the recent disco hit "Shame Shame Shame". He began to sing "Shame", morphing it into "Fame", which inspired Bowie to pen a set of lyrics on the topic of celebrity. With John providing backing vocals, the new song was recorded, and a surprising number one hit was born:

One person John came close to working with that winter was, even more surprisingly, Paul McCartney. He and Linda passed through New York en route to New Orleans, where they would arrive January 16th and continue recording Venus And Mars with Wings. An open invitation to join them (whether to record or just socialize) was offered via May Pang, and John tentatively agreed.

The iteration of Wings recording at Sea Saint Studios was now sans English drummer Geoff Britton, who was fired early in the sessions and replaced with American drummer Joe English (I know, right?). The band soaked up the local atmosphere during Mardi Gras week, and although little of it is present on the final album, they did cut a number for the occasion, "My Carnival", which would remain unreleased until 1985.

Local TV station WVUE was allowed to film the February 12th session for their News Scene Eight (broadcast on the 24th). A day later, Wings held a press conference aboard a steamboat chugging along the Mississippi.

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