This isn't really a ballad - it's uptempo. John Lennon wrote the song about his marriage to Yoko and their run-ins with various international authorities. They married on March 20, 1969 in Gibraltar and honeymooned in Amsterdam. John and Yoko's decision to get married came very suddenly on March 14, 1969, just two days after Paul McCartney married Linda Eastman. On March 14, John and Yoko were being driven to Poole in Dorset to visit John's Aunt Mimi. John asked his chauffeur Les Anthony to go to Southampton and ask about the possibility of getting married at sea. After learning that this was not possible, Lennon decided to go to Paris, and called his office instructing his staff to arrange a quiet wedding there. Peter Brown discovered that getting married in Paris on such short notice was impossible, but that they could marry in Gibraltar, because it was a British protectorate, and Lennon was a British citizen.
The line "Christ, you know it ain't easy" caused a great deal of controversy and got the song banned by the BBC and most US radio stations.
After the wedding, John and Yoko flew to Amsterdam and invited the press to join them in their room. Some reporters thought they were being called in to witness the couple consummate their marriage (John and Yoko appeared nude on the cover of their 1968 Two Virgins album), but what they got instead was a "Bed-In," where John and Yoko protested the war from their bed - fully clothed.
The Spanish guitar part at the end of the song was lifted from "Lonesome Tears In My Eyes," a 1956 song by Johnny Burnette And The Rock N' Roll Trio. The Beatles played the song in their early years - their version can be found on the album Live At The BBC. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France, for above 2)
This was recorded and mixed in nine hours on the day it was written: April 14, 1969. John Lennon and Paul McCartney worked on this without the other Beatles because of the hastily called session. The B-side of the single was a song George Harrison wrote: "Old Brown Shoe."
This was the last true Lennon/McCartney compilation. They had been writing separately for the last few years.
This was the last Beatles song to be recorded specifically as a single. Here's a the cover photo
, which says a lot about the Beatles relationship at the time.
In the UK, this single was released while "Get Back
" was still at #1. It just missed (by one week) knocking "Get Back" off the top. "The Ballad Of John and Yoko" turned out to be the The Beatles 17th - and final - UK #1. (thanks, Martin - Ringmer, East Sussex, England)
Not long after this song was released, John Lennon explained: "When I get down to it, I'm only interested in Yoko and peace, so if I can sing about them again and again and again - its only like I'm going through my blue period as a painter. It's like he's gonna paint this cup for a year, you know, to get into that cup. So maybe I'm doing that."