By Damian Fanelli
It was a week filled with unusual guests, including Ralph Nader, Jerry Rubin and Surgeon General Dr. Jesse Steinfeld. Douglas called it “probably the most memorable week I did in all my 20-something years on air.”
The musical highlight of the week, however, was an appearance by one of Lennon’s biggest heroes, Chuck Berry. Berry and Lennon even performed Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” and “Memphis, Tennessee” with Lennon’s average-in-every-possible-way 1972 backing band, Elephant’s Memory. You can watch both performances below.
As we’ve seen in two similar one-off Lennon performances from 1969 (with Eric Clapton) and 1971 (with Frank Zappa), Yoko Ono likes to scream into the microphone for no good reason, usually ruining otherwise-decent performances. Her appearance with Berry was no exception. Check out Berry’s facial expression at the 1:21 mark during “Memphis, Tennessee” (middle video) when Ono starts making her silly noises.
It’s priceless … and eternally frustrating. Maybe she didn’t think Berry’s original lyrics were good enough.
“[Berry] was writing good lyrics and intelligent lyrics in the 1950s when people were singing ‘Oh baby, I love you so,’” Lennon said during the show. “It was people like him that influenced our generation to try and make sense out of the songs rather than just sing ‘do wah diddy.’”
Here’s the Beatles’ version of “Memphis, Tennessee,” with Lennon on vocals. It’s available on Live at the BBC.
Damian Fanelli is the online managing editor at Guitar World and Guitar Aficionado. His New York-based band, the Blue Meanies, has toured the world and elsewhere. Fanelli, a former member of Brooklyn jump-blues/swing/rockabilly band the Gas House Gorillas and New York City instrumental surf-rock band Mister Neutron, also composes and records film soundtracks. He writes GuitarWorld.com’s The Next Bend column, which is dedicated to B-bender guitars and guitarists. His latest liner notes can be found in Sony/Legacy’s Stevie Ray Vaughan: The Complete Epic Recordings Collection. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram.