Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Last Dance

Yesterday, I mentioned that John Lennon's appearance with Elton John in 1974 was his last performance on the concert stage, but it wasn't Lennon's last public performance. That came the following April, when he did a couple of songs for a British TV tribute to Sir Lew Grade. He rips up a version of Little Richard's "Slippin' and Slidin," which had also appeared on Lennon's Rock 'n' Roll album, and sings "Imagine" while playing guitar rather than piano, which I found odd. The lyrics have been updated to: "Imagine no possessions/I wonder if we can," as opposed to the more strident "if you can." Lennon also chews gum throughout.

Here's the first number he did, "Slippin' and Slidin'." "Imagine" has had embedding disabled, but you can see him do it here. Or you can watch the whole performance, uninterrupted, here.

All of this brings up the question: Lew Grade? Lennon parceled out his solo performances pretty carefully, so why would he choose to do this one, in front of a decidedly upper-crusty, "rattle your jewelry" type crowd?

Grade was a TV mogul in Great Britain, the producer of such series as The Saint, The Prisoner and Thunderbirds. His primary relationship with John Lennon seemed to be as a business adversary: Grade bought a huge chunk of Northern Songs, Lennon and McCartney's publishing vehicle, from its owner Dick James in 1969. This gave Grade roughly a third of the company, and the Beatles roughly a third; after a semi-public battle, Grade managed to acquire enough from other shareholders to give him more than half of the company, and control of Northern Songs.

The result was that the Beatles at that point owned 31 percent of their own songs. Knowing they had lost authority over the catalogue, and that they were about to break up anyway, Lennon and McCartney agreed to sell their shares of Northern Songs to Grade's company, ATV. Some sources report that they received a million and a half pounds apiece, although they may have also gotten some shares of ATV as well.

At any case, by 1975, Lennon apparently saw Grade as more of a colleague than a rival - although neither of the songs he did at Grade's tribute was controlled by Northern. I doubt that was coincidental.

1 comment:

  1. What was up with the Lennon chewing gum thing? He seems to be chewing gum in pretty much every bit of footage I've ever seen of him singing.