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Live Peace in Toronto

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Live Peace in Toronto

Live Peace in Toronto 1969
The Plastic Ono Band
Released 12 December 1969
Recorded 13 September 1969, at Varsity Stadium, Toronto, Canada
Genre Rock and roll[1]
Length 39:49
Label Apple
Producer John & Yoko (Bag Productions)[2]
The Plastic Ono Band chronology

Wedding Album
(John Lennon & Yoko Ono)
Live Peace in Toronto 1969
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
(John Lennon)

Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band
(Yoko Ono)

Live Peace in Toronto 1969 is a live album by the Plastic Ono Band, released on Apple in the UK and the US, in December 1969. Recorded at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival festival, it was the first live album released by any member of the Beatles separately or together. John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono received a phone call from the festival's promoters John Brower and Kenny Walker, and then quickly assembled a band in a very short space of time to play at the festival, which was due to start the following day. The group had brief rehearsals before appearing on the stage to perform several songs; one of which—"Cold Turkey"—was first performed live at said festival. Eventually returning home, Lennon mixed the album in a day.

The album peaked at number 10 on the Billboard 200 and has been certified a gold album by the RIAA,[3] and failed to chart in the UK. The original LP came with a thirteen-month 1970 calendar. A video of several performances, not just the Plastic Ono Band's set, was released on video. Since its first release, the album has been reissued a number of times.


Toronto rock promoters John Brower and Kenny Walker organised a festival held at Varsity Stadium on 13 September 1969, around the notion of a revival of rock and roll stars from the 1950s, booking Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, Bo Diddley, and Gene Vincent.[4][5] They also booked more modern acts such as Alice Cooper, Chicago, and The Doors,[5] and contacted Lennon to see if he would be willing to be the master of ceremonies.[6] Lennon responded that if he came over at all, it would be to play[6][7] "only if you let me bring my new band so we can play."[8] Lennon hastily assembled a band under the Plastic Ono Band moniker, consisting of Eric Clapton, Klaus Voormann, and drummer Alan White,[6][9] as well as their assistants, Anthony Fawcett, Terry Doran, and Jill and Dan Richter, to accompany himself and Ono.[5] White got a phone call from Lennon, and assumed it was a friend prank calling him, only realising it was actually Lennon after a second call.[10][11] White would later call the band line-up "very unique": "This voice on the phone said, 'Do you want to do a gig with me – it's John Lennon'. The Plastic Ono Band was John and Yoko, Klaus Voormann, Eric Clapton and myself. It was a unique band."[10] Lennon also asked George Harrison, but Harrison turned down the offer.[6]

On the morning of the scheduled flight, a day before the concert, on 12 September,[12] Lennon, Ono, and Clapton were not at the airport.[6] At this point, Clapton had not been aware of the concert, nor of Lennon contacting him.[6][8] Brower had managed to get through to Clapton and told him to contact Lennon and Ono,[13] who were still in bed.[6] Clapton said he got "a phone call on the day we were to leave and he said that someone had asked him to do that concert and it was that night! So I had to make the airport in an hour."[8] The group had two rehearsals:[14] one was during the transatlantic flight from London to Toronto,[nb 1][7][9] and the other shortly before appearing on stage at the actual festival.[14] Lennon said the group "didn't know what to play", as they had not previously performed together.[14] Also on the flight, Lennon gained the confidence, that when he got back to England, to leave the Beatles.[14] Lennon told this to Clapton, and shortly afterwards, to the Beatles' then-manager, Allen Klein.[5]


The group played eight songs to a crowd of 25,000 people.[5] Before the start of the Plastic Ono Band's performance, they were introduced by Kim Fowley,[5] and Lennon said to the crowd that the group were going to play only songs that they actually knew.[12] They performed the Beatles' "Yer Blues", because Clapton had performed it with Lennon for The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus,[5][15] and his two solo songs, "Give Peace a Chance" and "Cold Turkey", the latter of which had its premiere at the festival.[nb 2][15] "Cold Turkey", presented as "the newest song that John wrote" by Ono, had Lennon reading the lyrics off a clip-board.[5] Ono selected a song which had been the B-side of "Cold Turkey," "Don't Worry Kyoko (Mummy's Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow)", which also had its premiere at the festival.[12] Shortly before the band went into "Don't Worry Kyoko", Lennon announced that Ono was "gonna do her thing all over you".[5] The band closed with an electric version of the Wedding Album track[1] "John John (Let's Hope for Peace)",[12] an extended experimental number consisting of her screaming the title repeatedly to the feedback of the electric guitars.[12][17] The number, and the Plastic Ono Band's participation in the concert, ended with the guitars and the bass being put in front of the amplifiers to continue the feedback, after the band was gone, until Mal Evans turned off the amplifiers.[5][12] With their stage remarks, Lennon and Ono linked the appearance here to their ongoing campaign for peace.[7]

Lennon personally went to Abbey Road Studios on 25 September 1969 to mix the album from their eight-track recordings.[18] While at the session, Lennon finished the stereo master for the album, although he did go back on 20 October to re-do the "Don't Worry Kyoko" stereo master, removing the majority of Ono's vocals from his songs and Clapton's backing vocals.[18] The album is technically a soundtrack recording,[18] being part of the audio portion of the documentary film being made of the festival by D.A. Pennebaker, later released as Sweet Toronto. Lennon and Ono made a deal with Pennebaker to license their portion of the show for record, in exchange for rights to include their appearance. According to the Beatles Monthly, due to the adverse reaction to Ono's performance, Pennebaker removed the segments with Lennon and Ono after limited screenings of the film, later re-edited as Keep on Rockin'.[19] Showtime ultimately presented the performance in 1989, and the full movie appeared later on home video and DVD.[7]

Release and aftermath

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3/5 stars[20]
Robert Christgau C[21]

The album, which was released on the same day in both the UK and US,[22] failed to chart in the UK,[nb 3] but peaked at number 10 in the US.[nb 4][6] It was released to quash any bootleg versions that Lennon was sure would leak onto the market. US editions of the album wrongly stated that the album was recorded in England.[18] The album came with a 13-month calendar,[18] which had photos, poems and songs in it,[12] from Lennon's In His Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works, and Ono's Grapefruit books.[5] In the US, Capitol were reluctant at first to issue the album, after the commercial failures of their three experimental albums.[18] Lennon recalled in an interview in December 1980 that he had to persuade Capitol to distribute the album: "They said 'This is garbage, we're not going to put it out with her screaming on one side and you doing this sort of live stuff.' And they refused to put it out. But we finally persuaded them that ... people might buy this."[18] In an interview with Rolling Stone, Lennon said that Capitol "were on the [Paul] McCartney bandwagon, which they were on, and they thought that I was just an idiot pissing about with a Japanese broad and the music we were making, like Toronto, they didn't want to put out, because they didn't like that."[23]

Criticism was directed at side two of the LP, the side consisting entirely of two Yoko Ono songs. Richard Ginell of Allmusic remarks:

Side two, alas, was devoted entirely to Ono's wailing, pitchless, brainless, banshee vocalizing on "Don't Worry Kyoko" and "John John (Let's Hope for Peace)" – the former backed with plodding rock rhythms and the latter with feedback. No wonder you see many used copies of the LP with worn A-sides and clean, unplayed B-sides – and Yoko's "art" is just as irritating today as it was in 1969. But in those days, if you wanted John you had to take the whole package.[20]

Lennon later said he "couldn't remember any of the words but it didn't matter—I just made them all up and we made a great wonderful noise."[24] Carl Perkins said to Lennon after the show that he was "so beautiful you made my cry."[24] A bootleg album of the concert appeared, under the title JL-YO-EC, thanks to an audience recording, which was released a few months after the official album.[5] After Lennon's death, the album, along with seven other Lennon albums, was reissued by EMI as part of a box set, which was released in the UK on 15 June 1981.[nb 5][25] The album was reissued in the US in 1982, on Capitol,[nb 6] and again in the same country on the same label, in 1986.[18] The album was originally scheduled to appear on CD for the first time in June 1989, but the plan was scrapped.[12] Ono, with the help of Rob Stevens from Quad Recording,[12] supervised a remixing of Live Peace in Toronto 1969 for its compact disc issue,[nb 7][27] released on 1 May 1995.[12] Two of the remixed tracks feature a variation in Ono's vocals: while "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" has additional backing vocals from Ono, "Money" has fewer backing vocals from Ono.[5] The CD booklet included a 1995 calendar, mimicking the original release.[12] The album is also available from the audiophile label Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab.[nb 8] The booklet for the 2006 Mobile Fidelity release also included a current calendar.

Track listing

Side one
  1. "Blue Suede Shoes" (Carl Perkins) – 3:50
  2. "Money (That's What I Want)" (Janie Bradford, Berry Gordy) – 3:25
  3. "Dizzy, Miss Lizzy" (Larry Williams) – 3:24
  4. "Yer Blues" (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) – 4:12
  5. "Cold Turkey" (Lennon) – 3:34
  6. "Give Peace a Chance" (Lennon, McCartney) – 3:41
Side two
  1. "Don't Worry Kyoko (Mummy's Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow)" (Yoko Ono) – 4:48
  2. "John John (Let's Hope for Peace)" (Ono) – 12:38



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