Why is John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band on my best 1,000 albums ever list?
I heard something about my ma and my pa. They didn’t want me so they made me a star.
Some stats & info about John Lennon – Plastic Ono Band
- What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Rock Music, Album Rock, Singer Songwriter
- Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – #85
- All Music’s rating – 5 out of 5 stars
- When was Plastic Ono Band released?
- My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #647 out of 1,000
John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band on Spotify
What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?
Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.
But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.
What does John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band mean to me? What does it make me feel? Why is it exciting or compelling?
In the age-old debate about which Beatle is your “favorite,” I’ve always easily replied with “Paul McCartney,” and I still feel that way. There’s something about his personality and his musicianship that I’ve always been most drawn to among the quartet of remarkable people who made up one of the greatest bands of all time.
But it’s been only over the last three or four years that John Lennon has made a strong bid to take the “lead,” such that that’s worth, in my little nerdy personal competition for best-est Beatle of them all. Perhaps some of it has to do with watching Nowhere Boy (at the strong urging of my wife), a really well made biopic of Lennon’s teenage years, family life, and the initial formation of The Beatles.
And while I had always admired Lennon solo-era songs such as “Imagine” and “Watching the Wheels,” I more recently got heavily into the Imagine album, and I became somewhat obsessed with “Gimme Some Truth” in particular (spoiler: look for Imagine to make an appearance down the line as part of the best 1,000 albums ever).
Which brings us to Plastic Ono Band, Lennon’s very first post-Beatles solo album from 1970. I found it a more difficult album to find my way “into” versus Imagine, and I’m pretty confident that that’s by design. I’ve also found that it’s a rewarding album that gets better with subsequent listens.
Plastic Ono Band isn’t going for catchy hooks and feel good lyrics: there’s no “I Want to Hold Your Hand” here. This instead is an album from an artist seeking brutal honesty from himself, the world, and his art. And from that standpoint it’s a groundbreaking album. For me personally I find Plastic Ono Band to be uneven in some places, brilliant in others.
I did eventually find my way “in” on songs like “I Found Out,” a bluesy stripped down number with raw, even shocking lyrics – particularly for the era.
Now that I showed you what I been through
Don’t take nobody’s word what you can do
There ain’t no Jesus gonna come from the sky
Now that I found out I know I can cry
“Working Class Hero” is a scorching indictment of the class system Lennon grew up in, in post-World War II Liverpool, its rage contained in a restrained folk song structure with Lennon alone singing and playing guitar.
“Look At Me” is a gorgeous-sounding song that could have easily fit in as a late era Beatles track. I see this song as Lennon contending with his own identity and place in the world as an artist and person.
Pop culture that has something to do with John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band
There’s just… something about “Working Class Hero” that makes me think of Tenacious D’s epic (and epically hilarious) “Tribute.” At least music-wise. What, I’m crazy?