The Making of John Lennon’s "Hold On". Inside the Plastic Ono Band sessions by Patrick Cadogan
В начале сентября я получил emai от Патрика Кадогана, автора книги "Inside the Plastic Ono Band sessions". В письме Патрик спросил "I was wondering if you would be interested in posting a series of articles on the making of certain Lennon songs, based in part on the session tapes. I believe one of them is already posted on your forums. Let me know if you're interested". Естественно, я ответил, что это будет интересно не только мне, но и другим обитателям Битлз.ру. В ответ Патрик Кадоган прислал "раскладку" сессии записи песни "Hold On".
The Making of John Lennon’s “Hold On”
Inside the Plastic Ono Band sessions
by Patrick Cadogan
If one were to take “Revolution” and subtract the political subject matter, one would be left with the basis for “Hold On,” John Lennon’s song of positive projection into the future. When John was in Rishikesh, India in 1968, pondering the Vietnam War and talk of revolution in the United States, he had a feeling that things would work out for the better: “I still had this ‘God will save us’ feeling about it,” he said. “‘It’s going to be alright.’ But even now I’m saying, ‘Hold on, John, it’s going to be alright.’ Otherwise, I won’t hold on.”
While recording the song at EMI Studios during the Plastic Ono Band sessions (September 26 to October 9, 1970), John opted again for a straightforward rock trio lineup, featuring himself on lead guitar and vocals, Klaus Voormann on bass, and Ringo Starr on drums. Phil Spector, Yoko Ono, and EMI engineer Phil MacDonald sat in the control room.
“I don’t even know if I’m in tune,” John says of his guitar as the session starts. “Not with the piano, that doesn’t matter, really.” Ringo reminds him that being in concert pitch would allow him to other overdubs later. “Oh yeah,” John says, “I might want to put electric piano on.”
John, Klaus, and Ringo jam on a semi-serious take, where John adds lyrical variations (“You’re gonna make it fly”). When they reach the bridge, John lets it slip into an instrumental and does not sing as Ringo experiments with drumming styles and John comments into the mic, “I’m not going to fade out again, am I?” and sings, “Hold on! Hold on! Hold on, darling.”
Phil MacDonald calls take 2. Ringo wonders about the ending of the song. “No, we’ll go out fast,” says John, “‘cause it’s like a word of encouragement.” The two of them laugh.
“We’d like to change the mood somewhat,” John says, a variation on one of his favorite expressions while recording.
Ringo is reminded of a country album, and John initially thinks he is talking about Pete Seeger. Ringo reveals he is talking about Michael Nesmith, former band member of the Monkees. “Nesmith!” John laughs. Ringo then relays the ending of side 1 Nesmith’s Magnetic South LP, which contained the message: “Well, we’re gonna take a short intermission, my friend. We’ll be back right after you turn the record over.”
The group settles into a relaxed take. Ringo adds extra tom fills in the middle sections and uses a faster drumbeat until John comes back in with “Hold on, world.” They are unsure how to end the song, so at this point John is planning to fade it out. He stops the performance: “Okay, That’ll do. We don’t want to get berserk.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” John says. “Oh yeah, am I doing it all through it? I don’t know, you know.” John sings only part of the lyrics of this short start-and-stop take. John briefly runs through the bridge (“When you’re by yourself…”) and when he ends it, he explains to Ringo: “Yeah. That one is where you do your sizzle or whatever they call it,” referring to Ringo’s ride cymbal effect.
Another take as the group tries to work out the instrumentation, and John provides a guide vocal. Where the LP version ends abruptly, at this point they continue playing. “Let’s try and end it,” John remarks. “Sorry, I meant to try ending it.”
A slower take, with some guitar mistakes by John as they enter the last verse. Ringo still is not using the ride cymbal for the bridges, but the song ends for the first time after John’s final “so hold on.” “Let’s hear it,” John says, asking for a playback.
Klaus asks John to count the song in. “Count it in? Ninety-nine,” John responds to Klaus’ request. John then jokes, in mock disgust, about being told what to do by Klaus: “You’re talking to folk blues from the north of Liverpool, you know!...I mean, who does he think he is? Fuckin’ Manfred Mouse?” he says, referring to Klaus’ former band Manfred Mann, a group in which he had also played bass. John starts another take with his guitar intro. Throughout he sings more quietly as the group is not yet to deliver a master take. After the take finishes, they jam a bit as John offers a solo of sorts. “Something suddenly went incredibly strange,” he says.
The tape turns on, but Phil Spector is not ready, so the tape cuts out. When it is turned back on, John jokes with the control room: “Yes…sick of listening the fuckin’…got better things to do than fuckin’ listen to it all. Alright. ‘Hold On, Jock,’ take fat.” The group delivers another take with a short introduction. John tries more guitar fills in between the verses and leaves out certain words as they fill another rehearsal take. John wonders if they should go to the control room to listen to their work so far: “Okay. Should we come and hear it? You alright Klaus?”
John stops singing early on and thinks about perhaps recording it instrumentally first and overdubbing vocals later: “Sorry. If I can do it without singing, it would be better.” He plays some more on the guitar. “Just a bit out of tune I think,” he explains.
John tries leading the band through an instrumental version, singing only a little. John hits some wrong notes on the guitar, but Ringo has now figured out the drumming pattern to use on the song, which includes hitting his stick on the edge of the snare drum.
An unremarkable take as John tries to nail down an instrumental version, adding some guide vocal to keep track.
A false start, which John apologizes for.
Another instrumental attempt that results in a decent complete take. “How was that all?” asks John.
The band jams on “Look At Me” briefly, with John singing some alternate lyrics (“What do you see?”). The band stops as John wants to continue with “Hold On.”
“That’s another day,” John says of recording “Look At Me.”
“There’s a great chord in that,” John says as he briefly plays some of the chords of “Look At Me.”
The band attempts another take of “Hold On,” but John loses his place without the vocal. “Oh yeah, sorry, I thought I wasn’t there,” he says. “I was in Rock Ferry.”
They quickly start again, but John messes up: “Oh, I fucked it. Thought I’d make benefit of that.” He also is unable to hear properly in his headphones: “I can’t hear anything in the ears.” “You’re in the cans,” Ringo remarks.
“The guitar isn’t,” John replies. “Is it?”
Ringo replies in the affirmative.
“It’s very strange though,” John says. “Did I turn off? Oh, I did,” he says as he realizes the problem.
Another brief take stops as John does not like the sound.
An instrumental take. In focusing on the guitar, John is able to turn in a better take.
John holds back on some of the guitar tremolo effect on this complete take.
The tape cuts in partway through as John begins singing again during the takes. John instructs the group and control room: “Ringo and Klaus play. Can you turn the voice down a bit, it’s overpowering all the rest of it.” After some adjustments, he is satisfied with the levels. “Do you think we’re going too slow, Yoko?” he asks. “Is it? Okay. Ask Mal if he’s got a joint.”
“Can we start now?” John asks as he starts and stops another take. “What? I thought I heard something,” he says.
An up-tempo led by a galloping guitar riff, with John giving a different vocal performance to fit the style. This take was later released on Lennon Anthology.
The group launches into a completely different and bouncy arrangement. Ringo is unable to decide what style of drums to play and switches between several before the take breaks down.
“It’s getting a bit cramped around the wrist, Mother,” John says to Yoko in the control room. “What? Oh, I’m just complaining.” John begins the tremolo guitar intro as on the LP, but Ringo comes in early. “Oh now, come on,” John says. “You keep jumping in.”
“Is that where I come in?” Ringo asks.
“No, you’re doing one ahead of time. It’s ‘cause I’m going…” John demonstrates the guitar slide down before Ringo’s intro.
John tries the intro again and stops. “Oh I see,” he says, “what’s happening?”
“I’m losing it now, that’s what happening,” Ringo jokes.
“Oh, was he?” John says to someone in the control room. “He must be because I’ve always been thinking to come in there you see. Okay, let’s do it like that.”
The take begins fine, but John is not singing. “What was that?” he says. They continue playing the song instrumentally all the way through to the conclusion. John starts the intro again and Ringo again comes in early. “Was that a funny one?” John asks. “What? How was that last one?”
The master take, with John singing the main vocal live while playing the lead electric guitar. John laughs after the first verse and says “Cookie!” in the voice of the Sesame Street character Cookie Monster (Ringo refers to John’s fondness for this character in his song “Early 1970”). In doing the second vocal overdub, John double-tracks himself and adds a second “cookie” interjection.
* * *
John created a rough remix of the song later that night to take home and listen to in order to decide what additional work on it there was to be done. In keeping with his relaxed attitude towards recording during this period, he decided to keep the rough remix as the final remix. The only problem was that it had been put on tape at a speed of 7 Ѕ inches per second instead of 15, resulting in more tape hiss on the final recording. “I found out it’s better that, with ‘Instant Karma’ and other things, you remix it right away that night,” John explained two months later. “I’d known that before, but never followed through.” With the recording complete, John placed the song to sit in the number two spot on his Plastic Ono Band LP.
Patrick Cadogan is the author of The Revolutionary Artist: John Lennon’s Radical Years.