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The John Lennon LP George Harrison “wasn’t particularly into”

The John Lennon solo album George Harrison “wasn’t particularly into”

(Credits: Far Out / Alamy)


During the late 1960s, John Lennon and George Harrison managed to bond on a level that they hadn’t reached before. Although the pair were a number of years apart in age, their shared experiences with LSD proved to be a source of unity that connected them on a different level. The pair also shared a fascination with experimental music, with the two constructing Lennon’s ‘Revolution 9’ together during the sessions for The White Album.

But even Harrison had his limits. In 1968, Lennon released a collaborative avant-garde studio album with Yoko Ono called Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins. Recorded on the night that they consummated their affair, Lennon and Ono crafted an album of random noise, disturbing shrieks, and purposeful strangeness that Harrison was decidedly not down for. 

“I don’t think I actually heard all of Two Virgins; just bits of it,” Harrison admitted in the Anthology book. “I wasn’t particularly into that kind of thing. That was his and her affair, their trip. They got involved with each other and were obviously into each other to such a degree that they thought everything they said or did was of world importance, and so they made it into records and films.”

Harrison wasn’t the only Beatle who was a bit taken aback at Two Virgins. Ringo Starr was presented with his own copy of the album but couldn’t get past the graphic front cover photo featuring Lennon and Ono fully nude. 

“The cover was the mind-blower – I remember to this day the moment when they came in and showed me,” Starr recalled in Anthology. “I don’t really remember the music, I’d have to play it now. But he showed me the cover, and I pointed to the Times: ‘Oh, you’ve even got the Times in it…’ as if he didn’t have his dick hanging out.”

“When we got back from India, we were talking to each other on the phone. I called her over, it was the middle of the night, and Cyn was away, and I thought, ‘Well, now’s the time if I’m going to get to know her any more,’” Lennon told Jann Wenner about the album’s conception in 1970. “She came to the house, and I didn’t know what to do, so we went upstairs to my studio, and I played her all the tapes that I’d made, all this far-out stuff, some comedy stuff, and some electronic music. There were very few people I could play those tapes to. She was suitably impressed, and then she said, ‘Well, let’s make one ourselves,’ so we made Two Virgins. It was midnight when we finished, and then we made love at dawn. It was very beautiful.”

“Even before we made this record, I envisioned producing an album of hers, and I could see this album cover of her being naked because her work was so pure,” Lennon told David Sheff in 1980. “I couldn’t think of any other way of presenting her. It wasn’t a sensational idea or anything. After Yoko and I met, I didn’t realise I was in love with her. I was still thinking it was an artistic collaboration, as it were – producer and artist, right?” 

“We’d known each other for a couple of years. My ex-wife was away in Italy, and Yoko came to visit me, and we took some acid. I was always shy with her, and she was shy, so instead of making love, we went upstairs and made tapes,” Lennon added. “I had this room full of different tapes where I would write and make strange loops and things like that for the Beatles’ stuff. So we make a tape all night. She was doing her funny voices, and I was pushing all different buttons on my tape recorder and getting sound effects. And then, as the sun rose, we made love, and that was Two Virgins. That was the first time.”

The album’s front cover wound up being a sticking point for the LP’s release. A number of retailers in the US refused to stock the album, and some of those that did were subject to seizure thanks to obscenity laws. In the UK, the album was mostly sold in a brown paper bag obscuring the photograph, something that Lennon was unhappy about. 

“Two Virgins was a big fight. It was held up for nine months,” Lennon explained. “Joseph Lockwood was a nice, nice guy; but he sat down on a big table at the top of EMI with John and Yoko and told me he will do everything he can to help us, because we explained what it meant and why we were doing it. And he got me to sign him one – he’s got a signed edition of the very first one. Then, when we tried to put it out, he sent a personal note to everybody saying: ‘Don’t print it. Don’t put it out.’ So we couldn’t get the cover printed anywhere.”

Check out side one of Two Virgins down below.

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