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40 Years Ago Today…Elton
and John Lennon In Concert
On this day in 1974 John Ono Lennon made his very last concert appearance, on stage at Madison Square Garden.
This was not a Lennon concert. It was an Elton John show and Lennon was a surprise guest. He was there to fulfill a bet he and Elton made after recording “Whatever Gets You Through the Night.” According to Ultimate Classic Rock:
It began with the bet. Elton John sang and played piano on both “Surprise Surprise (Sweet Bird of Paradox)” and “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night” for Lennon’s 1974 album Walls and Bridges. To that point, Lennon had been the only former Beatle who’d never achieved a solo No. 1 single — a streak Elton suggested would be snapped by “Whatever.” So confident was Elton, in fact, that he suggested a little wager.
“He sang harmony on it and he really did a damn good job,” Lennon told David Sheff in 1980. “So, I sort of halfheartedly promised that if ‘Whatever Gets You Thru the Night’ became No. 1, which I had no reason to expect, I’d do Madison Square Garden with him. So one day Elton called and said, ‘Remember when you promised…’”
Despite Lennon’s pessimism, “Whatever Gets You Through the Night” blew past Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” to reach the toppermost of the poppermost, to steal a phrase. Lennon had little choice in the matter. unless he wanted to be known as a welsher
There is almost no footage of the event:
Lennon would subsequently reconcile with Yoko Ono, following what’s been termed his Lost Weekend, although it lasted far longer than a weekend: 18 months, in fact. After he and Yoko reunited is when he began his househusband phase, a 5-year period in which he stayed away from the recording studio. Then he and Yoko recorded and released “Double Fantasy.” Just as it was rising in the charts — as no one needs reminding — he was murdered returning home from the studio on the evening of December 8, 1980.
This date is also known for several other Beatles-related stories. According to The Music History Calendar on this date in:
1966: The Beatles [recorded] Strawberry Fields Forever
1967: The Beatles [recorded] The Beatles’ Fifth Christmas Record
1968: John Lennon and Yoko Ono appear at the Marylebone Magistrates’ Court, London, to answer charges of cannabis resin posession. Lennon pleads guilty and is fined 150 pounds and 20 guineas.
Incidentally, earlier in the year John Lennon and former-band mate Paul McCartney reunited after the Beatles breakup to record together for the very last time. Bootleggers have long shared this mess and named it “A Toot and a Snore in ’74” for obvious reasons.