By Damian Fanelli
This week in 1969—September 13, 1969, to be exact—John Lennon performed at Varsity Stadium in Toronto, Canada, with a hastily assembled backing band.
The band, which performed under the “Plastic Ono Band” moniker, included Eric Clapton on lead guitar, Klaus Voorman on bass and future Yes member Alan White on drums. Oh, right; Yoko Ono was there too …
The band rehearsed twice—once during the flight from London to Toronto and once shortly before their performance.
Their eight-song set consisted of Carl Perkins’ “Blue Suede Shoes” followed by two vintage tunes the Beatles had covered in 1964 and ’65, respectively—”Money (That’s What I Want)” and “Dizzy Miss Lizzy.” Then they launched into a true screamer from the Beatles’ White Album, “Yer Blues,” which Clapton had performed with Lennon in 1968 at the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus; followed by Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance” and “Cold Turkey” (the latter of which features Clapton on the studio recording).
Oh, right; they also performed two Yoko Ono songs.
Below, you can check out “Yer Blues,” which is arguably the highlight of the short-lived band’s short-lived set. That said, you’ll probably notice two irritating things about the video:
1. The camera crew almost NEVER shows Clapton; it’s as if they’re doing their best to completely ignore him, even during his guitar solo. What’s up with that? Maybe they didn’t know who Clapton was?
2. Yoko screams—very loudly—during the entire otherwise-decent performance. Someday I’ll vent about how terrible and depressing this is, but I suppose this isn’t the time or the place for such a rant.
The entire performance was released later that year as Live Peace in Toronto 1969.
If you’re intrigued by the thought of Lennon and Clapton performing “Yer Blues” WITHOUT the pointless screaming of Yoko Ono, be sure to check out the bottom video (below), which shows the aforementioned 1968 performance from the Rock and Roll Circus. As a bonus, it features the Stones’ Keith Richards on bass and the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Mitch Mitchell on drums.
Again, Yoko Ono does not perform in the bottom video.
In both clips, Lennon is playing his 1965 Epiphone Casino, the same Casino he used on the Beatles’ final tour in 1966.
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.