John and Yoko at the Fillmore



Frank Zappa tells an interesting story about John and Yoko and their guest appearance at Zappa’s 1971 live album concert at the Fillmore East.

After briefly meeting them through a reporter, Zappa invited John and Yoko to come to the Fillmore that evening to jam with the band.  Nervous but buoyed by cocaine, The Lennons played with the Mothers for nearly an hour and performed four songs, including a 5-minute jam.  According to Zappa,

“we played for about 40 minutes I guess, and it just so happens that we had made arrangements to record that night…and the whole thing got laid down on tape. And John and I had an agreement that we were going to jointly mix the tape and decide how we were going to put it out because they’re big contract [inaudible] involved in getting the thing out. So it sat around for awhile, I guess about a year, and there was nothing done about releasing it.  Finally I got word that John was going to release it, and that some negotiation was going to be worked out.  The negotiation never occurred; as a matter of fact, we went in..I sent him a safety copy, 16-track masters, and I guess he went in with Phil Spector and mixed the thing with this ridiculous tape delay echo on it; he turned off Mark [Volman] and Howard [Kaylan]’s voices on the section called Scumbag, and they were the only ones really singing on it. You can’t hear them on their version of the thing.  I have a mix of the thing too–you wouldn’t even recognize the two events.

And they did weird things like put in certain applause where it didn’t really occur. They changed the thing around and then the ultimate insult was to take the tune “King Kong” which was  obviously an ensemble performance where everybody in the Mothers knew what they were playing, they were playing the melody, it was obviously a song…if it had been a situation where I was mixing the thing I would say ‘that’s obviously a song, what’s the name of that song; who has the writing and publishing on that?’  Well it didn’t occur in their case.  They retitled [the song King Kong] ‘Jam Rag’, took the publishing and writing credit and put that on the album [Sometime in New York City] that way. Consequently there were a number of very irate phone calls between our office and Allen Klein…anyway that’s the story of the Filmore album.”

For reasons that aren’t clear, Zappa was unable to release his version of the jam until 1992 (and in this version, Volman and Kaylan make a reappearance).  I’ve not found any information about this event from the Lennono perspective, however; is there anyone out there in Hey Dullblog land who can fill in the gaps?



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  1. Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

    I sent him a safety copy, 16-track masters, and I guess he went in with Phil Spector and mixed the thing with this ridiculous tape delay echo on it…
    Ugh. I’m not a big fan of what Phil Spector did for John and George and the Beatles.
    And I’ve said this before about Yoko and Tony Cox, but were John&Yoko the Chanticleer and Partlet of Rock? Even Zappa got burned!
    Maybe I didn’t have an expensive enough sound system in the 70s, but Spector’s reverb always sounded like mud to me. Probably sounded fine on his speakers. Not on mine.
    I remember an old story about Elvis. He had just made a record and was listening to it, pre-release. But he was using a cheap little portable turntable with built-in speakers. Someone expressed astonishment: “Why are you playing it on that piece of crap??” Elvis replied “I want to hear it the way my fans will hear it.”
    I had a decent turntable and marantz speakers in the ’70s. Good, crisp, warm sound. But Phil’s production sounds like it was recorded in a shark tank. With Klein swimming circles in it.

  2. Avatar Dan wrote:

    “and it just so happens that we had made arrangements to record that night…”

    Yeah, a totally fortuitous circumstance Frank…

  3. Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

    As I understand it, the concert at the Fillmore was intended to be a live album, which is why arrangements were made to record the concert in its entirety.

  4. Avatar Craig wrote:

    Just another example of John acting shady while with (or- under the influence of) Yoko. It seems she just never gave a shit about offending anyone and with her charging on ahead I can just see John going along with it all. I was just doing some reading about Sometime in NYC and one critic called it the worst album ever by a big-time artist. Has anyone ever actually listened to SiNYC? I have not, even though I own it and paid for it in some box set. Doh!

    • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

      I actually liked Sometime In New York City (the A-side at least). I bought it as a teen when it was first released, but I haven’t played it since. Maybe my taste has evolved. 🙂 I doubt, though, that Yoko was responsible for the recording rights snafu. I suspect John misunderstood/took liberties with the verbal agreement he made with Zappa.

      • Avatar Hologram Sam wrote:

        From what I understand, something similar happened during the Double Fantasy sessions in 1980. The producer brought in Cheap Trick. They recorded some tracks with John, and Cheap Trick invented some guitar parts. Then Yoko came around and said “Who the fuck is Cheap Trick? They’re just using us! Get rid of them!”

        So they didn’t make it onto the song, but the guitar parts they invented were kept by John and recreated by the Yoko-approved session men.

        • Yeah. This kind of behavior may explain why a lot of the people you’d think would be friends and supporters of Yoko Ono — Bob Dylan and Andy Warhol to name two — seemed not to like her very much. As George famously told his unappreciative bandmate, her rep in New York art circles was not good.

          Was some of this sexism? For sure. But every time I read about her not respecting the rights of other artists, I think that would explain a lot. Unfortunately, the business has turned more towards her point of view — the famous person owns everything, and you work to burnish their image, in the hopes of getting a crumb or two.

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