Artist: John Lennon
Title: Walls And Bridges
Release Date: 1974
Quality: High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 24bit/96kHz
Label: EMI Records
“Walls And Bridges? That was beautiful, one of the best albums he made. It’s one of the masterpieces of classic rock.” Yoko Ono, 2010
By the summer of 1974, John had been living apart from Yoko for nearly a year. Quartered in Los Angeles as he entered a boisterous spell tagged “Lennon’s Lost Weekend”. He had mislaid his creative focus, too. There were chaotic attempts to record an album of rock’n’roll oldies with Phil Spector, party to forestall a lawsuit from one Morris Levy.
The Spector sessions collapsed, and the legendarily eccentric producer withdrew, taking the tapes with him. This “oldies” project quietly shelved, John consoled himself in the company of famous friends and a lover, May Pang, an assistant to the Lennons in New York. He arranged to produce an album for the great singer Harry Nilsson, called Pussy Cats. And slowly, amidst the turmoil, John regained his musical purpose.
One aspect of this recovery was a return to New York, the city that still connoted, for John, serious work and responsibility, unlike the rootless hedonism that beguiled him in LA. The Record Plant East was booked and work began on the fresh material John was amassing. Like its predecessor Mind Games, the new album would be self-produced. As to the musicians, among familiar names like Jim Keltner, Klaus Voormann and Nicky Hopkins was a host of Lennonesque pseudonyms (Dr. Winston O’Reggae, Rev. Fred Ghurkin, Booker Table & The Maitre D’s, etc.) and a couple of luminary guests that included Nilsson and the hottest rock star of the moment, Elton John.
It was Elton who spotted the chart-topping potential of “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night”, a storming track to which he contributes. Indeed, he won his friendly bet that this song would be Lennon’s first solo Number 1 — for which his “price” would be a guest appearance by John at Elton’s Madison Square Garden show. The album’s second highlight is the mesmerising “#9 Dream”, which is both a nod to John’s abiding affinitywith that number and a brilliant evocation of the lucid state between sleep and awaking. Its untranslatable “Ah! Bowakawa pouss, pouss” is, in fact, a mysterious fragment from such a dream.
Those songs already nudge Walls And Bridges towards greatness but they are only two of many. There is the charming diversion “Surprise Surprise (Sweet Bird Of Paradox)”, and that rarest of rarities, a Lennon instrumental, this one called “Beef Jerky”. A fascinating curio is “Steel And Glass”, so reminiscent of Imagine’s “How Do You Sleep?”, and plausibly assumed to be about John’s estranged manager Allen Klein.
By far the biggest part of the album, though, is occupied by music of loss and loneliness. It is impossible not to characterise Walls And Bridges as “the Lost Weekend album”. We are pointed to the thought that such unhappiness did, at least, give John a musical shot in the arm. Be that as it may, Walls And Bridges really is the great overlooked record of John Lennon’s solo years.
This digital remaster of Walls And Bridges was transferred from Protools 192 kHz (Prism AD8) into an analogue EMI TG12410 desk, into Sadie at 96kHz/24bit.
Walls and Bridges was recorded during John Lennon’s infamous “lost weekend,” as he exiled himself in California during a separation from Yoko Ono. Lennon’s personal life was scattered, so it isn’t surprising that Walls and Bridges is a mess itself, containing equal amounts of brilliance and nonsense. Falling between the two extremes was the bouncy Elton John duet “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night,” which was Lennon’s first solo number one hit. Its bright, sunny surface was replicated throughout the record, particularly on middling rockers like “What You Got” but also on enjoyable pop songs like “Old Dirt Road.” However, the best moments on Walls and Bridges come when Lennon is more open with his emotions, like on “Going Down on Love,” “Steel and Glass,” and the beautiful, soaring “No. 9 Dream.” Even with such fine moments, the album is decidedly uneven, containing too much mediocre material like “Beef Jerky” and “Ya Ya,” which are weighed down by weak melodies and heavy over-production. It wasn’t a particularly graceful way to enter retirement. –Stephen Thomas Erlewine
- Going Down On Love – 3:56
- Whatever Gets You Thru The Night – 3:28
- Old Dirt Road – 4:13
- What You Got – 3:09
- Bless You – 4:37
- Scared – 4:41
- #9 Dream – 4:47
- Surprise Surprise (Sweet Bird Of Paradox) – 2:57
- Steel And Glass – 4:40
- Beef Jerky – 3:31
- Nobody Loves You (When You’re Down And Out) – 5:13
- Ya Ya – 1:08