What It Means to Be a Beatle: John Lennon and Elephant's Memory
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What It Means to Be a Beatle: John Lennon and Elephant's Memory

Even before 1970, John had enlisted the best of the best for his solo projects including the multi-talented guitarist/bassist Klaus Voormann, session pianist Nicky Hopkins, and veteran guitarist Hugh McCracken for the Wedding Album in 1969; Clapton, Voormann, and future Yes drummer Alan White on Live Peace in Toronto in late 1969; and Voormann, Ringo, Phil Spector, and Billy Preston for the debut of the self-titled album of his conceptual super-group The John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, in 1970. But never in the history of Rock music had anyone done what John did next. He usurped as his back-up band the New York-based, ElephantÂ’s Memory.

When the Beatles announced their disbandment in 1970, John Lennon and Paul McCartney were arguably the most powerful musicians on the planet.  And although Eric Clapton had performed on the White Album and Billy Preston on Let It Be, aside from the orchestral scoring and special-effects wizardry provided by producer George Martin, the vast majority of the Beatles’ sound had been created by the Fab Four themselves.  They’d had countless offers--of course--but John and Paul had always intended to keep their sound "Beatle."  But with John, Paul, George, and Ringo now moving full-steam into their own, individual projects, outsiders would have to be brought into the fold.

Even before 1970, John had enlisted the best of the best for his solo projects including the multi-talented guitarist/bassist Klaus Voormann, session pianist Nicky Hopkins, and veteran guitarist Hugh McCracken for the Wedding Album in 1969; Clapton, Voormann, and future Yes drummer Alan White had played on Live Peace in Toronto in late 1969; and Voormann, Ringo, Phil Spector, and Billy Preston had been brought in for the debut of the self-titled album of his conceptual super-group The John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, in 1970.  But never in the history of Rock music had anyone done what John did next.  Instead of borrowing individual players to work on his upcoming projects, he simply usurped an entire band.  He essentially commondeered the New York-based, Elephant’s Memory to be his back-up band.

Formed between 1967 and 1968 by Stan Bronstein (sax/clarinet/vocals) and Rick Frank Jr. (drums), Elephant's Memory had a fair-size hit single in 1969 with "Mongoose" on Metromedia Records, with John Ward on bass, Chester Ayers on guitar, Myron Yules on bass/trombone, R. Sussmann on keyboards, Michal Shapiro on vocals, Guy Peritore on guitar/vocals, and David Cohen on guitar/keyboards/vocals.

By the time Lennon appropriated the band as his on-again, off-again tour band and occasional Plastic Ono Band members, the lineup included Chris Robison on guitar and Davey “Crabsticks” Trotter on mellotron.

Known around Greenwich Village as a politically-active street band, Elephant’s Memory played back-up for John and Yoko from late-1971 to early 1973 (some of the time billed as The Plastic Ono/Elephant's Memory Band.

Throughout 1972, they performed behind John and Yoko on various TV shows, albums, and concerts.

And then from March 1 to March 20, 1972, they helped create the Lennon/Ono album Sometime In New York City (released in June 1972).

In ‘72, they also played a handful of TV and live appearances.

John and Elephant’s Memory also performed at the famous One To One Concert, organized by Geraldo Rivera, a benefit show for the Willowbrook School for handicapped children.  (The concert was filmed and recorded and subsequently released in February 1986 as the John Lennon Live In New York City album and on VHS.)  One week later, on September 6, 1972, they played live again with John and Yoko for the Jerry Lewis Telethon on TV, playing "Imagine," "Now Or Never," and "Give Peace A Chance."

In April and May 1972, Elephant's Memory recorded an album produced by John and released on the Beatles' Apple Records label which includes various Lennon contributions on guitar and vocals.  (This album has never been released on CD and is a true collector‘s rarity.)

References:

Rock: A History of Change, T. C. Carr

NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd, Tobler, John

http://imaginepeace.com/?tag=yoko-ono-plastic-ono-band

Thumb via: http://goodcleannovels.com/Novels/Forever/rock-n-roll.jpg  with my appreciation

Visit JAMES R COFFEY WRITING SERVICES AND RESOURCE CENTER for more information

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Comments (7)

good information, I had not heard of Elephants memory before

Thanks very much Sir for bringing back pleasant memories by listening to the 1970s music. Great work

I hadn't heard Lennon singing "Hound Dog" before. I bet he had fun with that one! Will have to come back with a vote.

Ranked #1 in Music

Thank you one and all for your comments.

Pleasant memories indeed, I was among those screaming girls and listening to their music today still gives me good bumps, great works James...voted

Very interesting. I never knew the Elephants Memory Band was a band before John Lennon joined them

Ranked #17 in Music

I'm familiar with the Elephant's Memory album as a collectible. Wish I had one. 

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