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The Ballad of John and Yoko by The Beatles

Album: Past Masters, Vol. 2Released: 1969Charted:
8
1
  • 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 2 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 9 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)
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Comments: 63

I don't care much for Yoko Ono in any capacity, and while I love John as a musician, I found him to be arrogant and sanctimonious, with a tendency to pontificate in his songs about how much better he was than the rest of the world, especially after he connected with Yoko. To me, this speaks volumes about his feelings of inadequacy and his attempts to cover them up.
That said, I was not that crazy about this song one way or another for many years, but I've listened to it a lot more recently and the subject matter notwithstanding, I love it. I think it's a fun rocking song to listen to, and I enjoy hearing it whenever I can. I love the piano parts especially.
Susan - Atlanta, Georgia
John and Paul were running very hot and cold during this period. But John was appreciative of Paul's help on this song. Fast forward two months to June, 1969. John has just written "Give Peace a Chance" and is releasing it on the "Plastic Ono Band" monicker. Yet he give's Paul a co-writing credit. This is huge! EVERY song John has ever written since he was a teenager has had Paul's name on it as well, whether Paul contributed or not. John has said he "felt guilty" about not giving Paul credit on the song, but I have read that he did it as a thank you for Paul's help on "Ballad of John and Yoko. Now flash forward to September, 1969. John has just written Cold Turkey and proposes that it be the next Beatles single. Supposedly all the other Beatles rejected this and John made the decision to release it solo...and for the 1st time ever....with only a solo John Lennon songwriting credit. If you want to put an exact time of death on The Beatles as a group, that would be the moment.Oscar - Boston, Nh
F Pat, "fifty acorns tied in a sack" was a project John and Yoko did for the cause of peace. You know the saying "great oaks from little acorns grow", they felt that world peace could eventually come about (even if it took centuries) if people would start by considering the idea that it was possible. In 1968 they sent pairs of acorns to world leaders asking them to plant and care for them in this spirit. They planted two themselves at Coventry Cathedral in England. Many of the acorns were probably dug up by fans and preserved as memorabilia. Yoko revived the acorn project in 2009, sending pairs of acorns to 123 world leaders.Ekristheh - Halath, United States
Good Song! :DGrayson - New Orleans, La
Lennon always turned me off when he was in his "in-your-face" mode and this song was one example.Esskayess - Dallas, Tx
The Beatles (John Lennon).........Was bigger than Jesus................And still are..............No religion...........Believe in your~self................!Lyn - Breda, Netherlands
The term ballad refers to a song that tells a story, whether it's in 12 bar blues format, rapcore or whatever.Percy - Melbourne, Australia
No kidding is this not a ballad - it's a form of blues (not 12-bar - don't look astonished, many blues are not 12-bar) with a predictable pattern I-I7-IV-I-V-I. It fails as a ballad for several reasons. Firstly, a rock ballad has a specific tempo and 6/8 meter. This is a straight 4/4. A folk ballad is narrative, as someone says below, but usually has a refrain that is the same melody as the verses. This is narrative, but so is a blues; also, this song goes to the refrain on the turnaround, and that refrain has its own melody. Actually, if it resembles anything, it sounds like folk country blues as performed by Carl Perkins.Thegripester - Wellington, New Zealand
F Pat, amongst the many acts that John & Yoko performed at the time to promote peace, they mailed acorns to world leaders, asking them to plant the acorns for peace. They must have started with a sack of 50 acorns.Guy - Woodinville, Wa
I really want to know what the hell "50 acorns tied in a sack" means?F Pat - Boston, Ma
I really love the part when John says "The news people said say what you're doing in bed,I said we're only trying to get us some peace" because it's really catchy and awesome,just like the whole song!Jema - South Portland, Me
The interviews are out there -- pay attention to what John says -- why he was attracted to Yoko, how she inspired him, what she meant to him. Take his word for it and stop whining about how she broke up the Beatles. If you love John, you should at least respect Yoko.Ekristheh - Halath, United States
Great song. I love the fact that you get a story out of this song.Breanna - Henderson, Nv
A ballad is a story. This song is fast, but it's still a story, therefore it must still be a ballad.K - Nowhere, On
When John wanted to record this, Ringo was filming "Magic Christian" with Peter Sellers and George was in America, either touring with Delaney And Bonnie or hanging out with Bob Dylan in upstate New York (he was doing both that Spring). John proposed to Paul that they knock off the song, just the two of them. Paul was hoping to talk John into doing one more Beatle album (which was to be Abbey Road) so he agreed. George Martin was there because he signed an agreement with EMI to be availabe to the Beatles at their request, so he showed up for the session, but didn't do much. John and Paul arraigned this themselves as they were recording it.Ken - Louisville, Ky
This is a great song. One of the best bass lines on any song.John - Cincinnati, Oh
i dont care what you people say- i love this song, including the lyrics. they really express what he was feeling at that time- everybody judging him because of who he loved and what he did and saying he was going crazy. i go to a catholic school, *ack* and now whenever they talk about the killing of jesus, i always sing this under my breath. haha.Chloe - St. Louis, Mo
I read in the book GROWING UP WITH THE BEATLES by Ron Schaumburg that because of the controversy of John's "The Beatles are more popular than Jesus," statement from a few years before this song was realeased, some radio stations turned the "Christ" around backwards when they played this song, so that John was actually heard to sing "tsirhC, you know it ain't easy." Schaumburg said the result sounded like someone had bumped into the stereo.Susan - Toronto, Canada
I agree with Craig that the song is narcissistic--though it's still a very good song.N.i. - Baltimore, Md
"This isn't really a ballad - it's uptempo." Whoever wrote that sentence needs a little education on the original meaning of "ballad."N.i. - Baltimore, Md
I must protest all this negativity about this wonderful song. It is a sparkling collaboration between two of the most brilliant musicians in history. I never tire of listening to this! John is so excited to record it, he can?t even wait for George and Ringo, dragging Paul into the studio with him to work it out between them. Paul must have torn feelings, as the song is about John?s new post-Beatles life, but he loyally applies himself and the two of them rock out! This is one tight recording. Everything about it is perfect. Paul?s harmonizing perfectly accents John?s passionate litany of his current life. The beat and the melody are simple and direct. The song is just John and Paul rocking together for the last time. The Ballad of John and Yoko is a unique gem in the musical world!Guy - Woodinville, Wa
Ozzy if John n ever listen to her than there is a good chance he wouldn't have been the peaceful guy that he was. Yoko really changed John in so many ways. Yoko was not as bad as people thought she was. Yeah she is not my favortie but I don't hate her.Krissy - Boston, Ma
man i hate this song and i hate yoko more. why did john ever listen to her? ]=Ozzy - Fresno, Ca
I am start to like Yoko but I still don't like this song. Paul did play drums on this and Back In The USSR. Actually all The Beatles knew how to play drums. Ringo of course but Paul, John, and George all knew how to play them.Krissy - Boston, Ma
Kevin, great catch on the Donkey Kong bass, somewhere in Japan a programmer is smiling.Blake - San Francisco, United States
A:I really liked this song B:They said they were bigger than jesus because the were more popular nothing else thats the only reason C:I bet paul is better at drumming htan most of you( i say most cuz we all like to jam)so back off unless you can do betterCody - Tooele, Ut
I love John Lennon and Paul McCartney but I don't like this song. I don't like Yoko Ono either. Sorry.Krissy - Boston, Ma
I haven't heard anyone else make this observation, but "Ballad of John and Yoko" has always struck me as having a folk-rock influence. I could almost imagine Bob Dylan having written it. Folk-rock is one of the few genres that the Beatles left untouched, which is curious considering that they started out as a folk group.N.i. - Baltimore, Md
I wasn't too impressed with the drums on this. I feel Ringo could have done this better. I'm not too keen on Paul's drum playing anyway.Tiffany - San Diego, Ca
Back in 1969, the ABC television network had a new show on its fall line-up called "The Top 10" or something like that. It promised to feature videos ( some stitched together by them) of that week's top 10 singles. Imagine their embarassment when the first week of the season, this song was the #2 song.
There was an accompaning video provided by the Beatles and ABC bleeped out the word "Christ". The show only lasted a few weeks into the season probably because it was a 45 minute show which was followed by another 45 minute show- a teen oriented action adventure called "The New People" or something like that. The whole concept failed probably because of the bizarre time structure.
"The Ballad of John & Yoko" was banned in Phoenix- neither of the Top 40 stations- KRUX or KRIZ would play it. I happened to be visiting my grandparent in Fla, where I heard it.
Dave - Scottsdale, Az
why is that, like, every single good song the beatles make gets banned from the bbc? i mean, seriously, does some guy at the bbc have something against the beatles, and finds the most obscure way to get them banned?Izzy - Buffalo, Ny
Lennon and Yoko made no secret of the fact that good chocolate cake was one of their favorite snacks; the day after John was killed and Yoko's staff asked her how they could help her, she asked for chocolate cake.Ekristheh - Halath, United States
This was one of the songs mentioned, with righteous acidulousness, by Dr. David Noebel in "The Beatles - A Study in Drugs, Sex, And Revolution". His assessment of it gives the impression that it is a filthy piece of pornographic blasphemy, apparently based solely on the fact that Lennon addresses Christ in the refrain. I was somewhat surprised when I actually heard the song. Perhaps he mistook the "chocolate cake" line for something naughty.Ekristheh - Halath, United States
Well I think John would hate this site. Considering Lennon hated people trying to figure out his lyrics.Jeremy - Downingtown, Pa
Deffinately one of my least favorate Beatles songs...but you gotta give Paul props for playing drums, bass, piano, and a few guitar chords in this song....in his latest album, "chaos and creation in the backyard" he plays at least 8 different instruments that I know of...probly more....the guys a musical genius.Matt - Dallas, Tx
Ringo said that Paul McCartney played "good drums" after hearing this. He sometimes played drums in Hamburg when they needed him to.Mark - Barrow-in-furness, England
I think Chet meant that Paul had nothing to do with 'Give Peace a Chance'.Andrea - Singapore
I'd have to say that about half the "facts" here are inaccurate, incomplete or wacky. For example, Chet from NY says "Paul McCartney had nothing to do with the song" - maybe so, other than providing one of the most gorgeous back-up harmony parts in the history of rock, perfect drumming, a driving bass and a lovely jangly piano, and other than providing John with an absolutely honest and sympathetic sounding board.Bob - San Francisco, Ca
The series of eighteen intervals (like a chord but with just two notes) is identical to the intro of "Lonesome Tears in my Eyes", which the Beatles played live on the radio almost a decade before this song was recorded. I thought it was an interesting connection.John - Red Hook, Ny
It is a ballad. A ballad is a story-song.Yoske - Jerusalem, Israel
Maybe its the era I live in, but to ban this song solely based on the word 'Christ' is pretty stupid. BBC should lighten upNathan - Defiance, Oh
Nessie, you're so right. And I also agree with Kevin, the bass line ndoes sound a little like the game Donkey Kong.Takashi - Tokyo, Japan
Paul Hated this song. He only sang backup because he did not want to dissapoint him.Takashi - Tokyo, Japan
I always thought all the random lines referred to interesting events in John and Yoko's relationship, and how the media treated them. Does it matter what the exact definition of a ballad is? It's just a love song/story and i think it's really good too.Fifi - Cambridge, England
This was a phase when John wanted to do "newspaper" records. When something interesting happened to him, he wanted to run into a studio, record a song about it and release it within days. He called it a "newspaper of his life."Ken - Louisville, Ky
Actually, "eating chocolate cake in a bag" was an actual incident. John and Yoko had called a press conference to announce thir new company "Bag Productions" (also mentioned in "Come Together"). During that press conference, John and Yoko were in a big canvas bag, answering questions while eating chocolate cake.Ken - Louisville, Ky
The only Beatle song to mention anyone of their associates ("Peter Brown called to say....")Ken - Louisville, Ky
When singing backup, Paul refuses to sing the word "Christ"...he joins in on "you known it ain't easy."Ken - Louisville, Ky
The bass line reminds me of Donkey KongKevin - Toronto, Canada
I just want to say that Paul is the only one i heard singing the background vocals. I recognize his voice.Stefanie Magura - Rock Hill, Sc
"Recorded and mixed in 9 hours on the day it was written." And it sounds like it. John's done much better.Nessie - Sapporo, Japan
I thought that the part about "chocolate cake in a bag" was a veiled reference to marijuana.Beverly - Westerville, Oh
The references to Jesus Christ, and Gibraltar caused this song to be censored in Spain... In those days, Gibraltar was the thorn in Spain's side; it was not pleasing to hear "Gibraltar, near Spain". Now...yeah, it's diferent
- Antonio Jesús, Sevilla, España.
Antonio - Brugge, Belgium
Paul did the backing vocals on this. Yoko did not sing on the recording.Mike - New Point, Va
Yoko Ono did the background lyrics with John. I recognized her voice. She sucked because she couldn't even keep up with John.Jade - Chippewa Falls, Wi
In the "Made a lightning trip to Vienna, eating chocolate cake in a bag." line, the "chocolate cake in a bag", most likely refers to a famous viennese cake called "sachar torte". The cake is famous for its creation in 1832, by chef Franz Sacher, a 16-year old apprentice chef, who created the cake with left over ingredients and quickly for Prince Clemens Lothar Wensel Metternich, this could be a metaphor for the marriage of John and Yoko, as a quick thrown together thing for the crowds, as the cake was for Prince Clemens Lothar Wensel Metternich.Dan - Morristown, Nj
John Lennon said the Beatles were bigger than Jesus...Dominic - Pittsburgh, Pa
The line "They're gonna crucify me" was actually based upon a comment someone made about the Beatles, "They're bigger than Jesus" and they decided to play on it.Sam - Adelaide, Australia
M-W Dictionary defines a ballad as:
1 a : a narrative composition in rhythmic verse suitable for singing b : an art song accompanying a traditional ballad
2 : a simple song : AIR
3 : a popular song; especially : a slow romantic or sentimental song

I think this song was titled with the 1b definition in mind.
Paulo - New York, Ny
April 14th. 1969 Paul played bass, drums and piano with John on guitars, it was also The Beatles first stereo single.Mike - Mountlake Terrace, Washington
John would have recorded this whole song by himself but he couldn't play the drums. Paul happened to be at the studio so he plays drums on the track. All other instruments were played by John.Brian - St. Louis, Mo
The 'Peter Brown' mentioned in the song was The Beatles business manager. In 1983 he wrote a bestselling tell-all that revealed much about The Beatles private lives during their glory days.Charles - Charlotte, Nc
This song was actually recorded by just John Lennon and Paul McCartney. John Lennon thanked Paul McCartney by giving him credit for the song "Give Peace A Chance". Paul McCartney had nothing to do with the song.Chet - Saratoga Springs, Ny