Whatever Gets You Thru The Night
by John Lennon (featuring Elton John)

Album: Walls And Bridges (1974)
Charted: 36 1
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  • Elton John sang backing vocals and also played piano on this track. He famously wagered Lennon that "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night" song would become a #1 hit. When it did, Lennon made good on the wager by making a guest appearance at an Elton John concert on Thanksgiving night 1974 at Madison Square Garden in New York City (Elton & John!). It turned out to be Lennon's last live concert performance.

    That night, the duo also sang The Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There," which Elton called, "One of the best songs ever written." Backstage, Yoko Ono reunited with Lennon, ending John's 18-month separation from her, known as his "Lost Weekend." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France and Joshua - La Crosse, WI
  • This very upbeat John Lennon song has a simple message: do what works for you. It was his first US #1 hit as a solo artist; he had another with "(Just Like) Starting Over," which topped the chart in 1980 after his death.
  • In December 2005, John and Yoko's personal assistant May Pang told Radio Times: "At night he (John Lennon) loved to channel-surf, and he would pick up phrases from all the shows. One time, he was watching Reverend Ike, a famous black evangelist, who was saying, "Let me tell you guys, it doesn't matter, it's whatever gets you through the night." John loved it and said, "I've got to write it down or I'll forget it." He always kept a pad and pen by the bed. That was the beginning of Whatever Gets You Thru The Night."
  • With this song, Lennon became the last of the Beatles to hit #1 US in their respective post-Beatles careers. By this time Paul McCartney had hit #1 three times, and George Harrison and Ringo Starr twice each.
  • Structurally, this is a rather unusual song: it's really all chorus, separated by blasts of saxophone. Lennon alters the lines a bit in the various sections though:

    Whatever gets you through the night
    Whatever gets you through your life
    Whatever gets you to the light

    Don't need a sword to cut through flowers
    Don't need a watch to waste your time
    Don't need a gun to blow you mind


    These little lyrical alterations keep the song from sounding repetitive, even without verses.
  • In 1975 Lennon helped out on Elton's John's #1 cover of "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds." Lennon played guitar on that track and was credited as "Dr. Winston O'Boogie."
  • What was it like recording the Walls And Bridges album? When we asked David Thoener, who was an engineer at the sessions, he told us: "It was amazing. Despite all of the personal pain John Lennon was in, (it was during his lost weekend) he was a consummate professional in the studio. Almost as if working kept him sane, through those difficult times. Working with him was quite an experience and something I am very glad to have been part of."
  • This hit the top of the US charts, but it fell fast. It spent just three weeks in the Top 10 before dropping from 2-16 in November 1974. In 2004 Fantasia broke this record when after two weeks in the Top 10, "I Believe" dropped from #6-18.
  • Bobby Keys, who appears on many Rolling Stones recordings, played the tenor saxophone on this track. Ken Ascher played the Clavinet.
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Comments: 17

  • Charles from Charlotte'Imagine' should have been a #1 for Lennon in 1971 but did not rise above #2. I believe(?) 'Theme from Shaft' by Isaac Hayes kept the song from the #1 spot.
  • Josh from Usare: Mike - Pittsburgh - It just sounds like tape being rewound. Maybe a mistake left in, maybe on purpose. We'll probably never know. Thanks for making me aware! Grrr. lol
  • Les from Joplin, MoMaybe it's just me, but the intro of this song always reminds me of the opening music of Saturday Night Live!
  • Mike from Pittsburgh, PaDoes anyone have any idea what that crazy sound is about 1 second into this song that sounds like a chipmunk asking a question in klingon? I have been looking for an explanation for that noise for awhile but I can't find anything. Good song by the way, wish the rest of that album was as good.
  • Nunzio from Darwin, AustraliaThis started out a lot slower (an early version appears on a bootleg LP) but it wasn't working,so
    like so many songs...it was sped up.
  • Richard from Talladega, AlProbably the single most rocking post-Beatles song Lennon recorded.
  • Eric from ValenciaIt's a pity that the signature sax is so flat. One of my least favourite of JWL's songs (and I'm a big fan).
  • Ivan from Dallas, TxWhen John returned the favor and joined Elton in recording Elton's version of "LSD", he also helped play guitar and was credited as "Dr. Winston O' Boogie", and John reportedly forgot some of the chords and needed Elton's guitarist Davey Johnston to help him. BTW, Davey is a great rock guitarist in his own right. Just listen to some of Elton's rock classics.
  • Ken from Louisville, KyThe sax was played by Tom Scott, leader of the famous jazz-rock group "The L.A. Express". Scott was the only person to have performed on solo songs by all four Beatles - he played sax on Ringo's "Photograph", several times for George (most notably in "This Song") and on Paul's "Listen To What The Man Said" (Billy Preston performed on songs by John, George and Ringo, but on none of Paul's).





  • Dennis from Anchorage, AkYes, John and Yoko broke up briefly in the seventies. It was a bit weird. John hooked up with May Pang, but it was actually Yoko's idea. She told May that John liked her. After a few months, she came back to John and he dropped May like a brick. Yoko always knew he would. She may have just wanted him to appreciate her more.
  • Johnny from Los Angeles, CaKen is probably right (my other comment was not actually from ME), and the sax is great. It sounds like an elton john song, but I am pretty suprised that Elton sang backup as he and John were very different. John broke up with Yoko?
  • Rob from Vancouver, CanadaLennon hated this song. He wrote this during his breakup with Yoko when he was doing a lot of boozing with nilson and alice cooper.
  • Johnny from Los Angeles, CaIn December, 2005, John and Yoko's personal assistant May Pang told Radio Times: "At night he (John Lennon) loved to channel-surf, and he would pick up phrases from all the shows. One time, he was watching Reverend Ike, a famous black evangelist, who was saying, "Let me tell you guys, it doesn't matter, it's whatever gets you through the night." John loved it and said, "I've got to write it down or I'll forget it." He always kept a pad and pen by the bed. That was the beginning of Whatever Gets You Thru The Night." (thanks, Edward Pearce - Ashford, Kent, England)(Thanks, other watevah gets ya through the night) sry about mispell.
  • Lee from Mobile, Alwho's playing that great sax?
  • Ken from Louisville, KyThe song was John's message to his fans that he was no longer going to preach how they should think or live.
  • Kalissa from New York City, NyGreat song,
    its kind of got that peppy McCartney sound to it (hmmm)
  • Ken from Louisville, KyElton John agreed to sing backu-up on this but with the following condition: if it went to #1, John would have to join Elton on stage at Madison Square Garden later that year. John never dreamed it would go to #1 - he wasn't crazy about the song to begin with - so he agreed. To John's surprise, it became his only #1 solo song in his lifetime ("Imagine" only made it to #2). John fulfiled his promise by joining Elton on stage (for just 3 songs) at Madison Square Garden on Thanksgiving night 1974. It was John's last public perfromance.
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