Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Plastic Ono Band—
Cold Turkey/Don't Worry Kyoko


Released 1969 on Apple
The Seth Man, April 2002ce
One of only many of Lennon’s merciless nails hammered into Beatledom’s coffin, both sides of this single blare out to drive not only all demons but neighbours, Paul McCartney and all of his fans as well out and into the far, far away.

The Plastic Ono Band’s second record was released three months after their initial “Give Peace A Chance”/“Remember Love” 45, and they were worlds apart in approach as they had already broken into territory as unwaveringly austere and harsh then as it still remains to the present day. “Cold Turkey” was where John Lennon really broke rank with The Beatles (as if “Two Virgins” or “Life With The Lions” hadn’t already signaled a major artistic shift and psychic sea change within Beatle John), exhibited prominently with his dropping of the “McCartney” suffix from his composing credits. Ha: he had already submitted “Cold Turkey” to The Beatles for inclusion on their next album only to have it rejected outright by McCartney and Harrison. Which made no artistic sense, as it was a complete sister in pain to Lennon’s own “Yer Blues” which had appeared on “The Beatles” just the year before. But “Cold Turkey” was a far more clamourous affair in its cry of unadulterated agony although it was ripped from the very same psychic fabric as “Yer Blues”: Lennon’s guitar sound is even more skeletal but just as aggravated, while the production is as claustrophobically close as the very withdrawal symptoms Lennon is singing, shouting and winds up screaming and pulling his hair and teeth out over. But for all the rattling distortion and volume of the guitar, its splintering fury that repicks a mountain of scabs is immediately stalled from resounding by that smothering mother of a production value which cuts off any and all reverberation or echo whatsoever quickly and cleanly at the knees. Everything feels to be contained from within by a calm berth of silence always hanging just behind and ready to invade with every roughly yanked guitar outburst. By track’s end, these bursts start to multiply beyond merely functioning as counterpunch to each vocal haiku by gaining ground and covering areas previously taken up by vocals with unrestrained irritability. With every return of the chorus, the extendedly sung title gets stretched not only by Lennon’s straining larynx but also by a frighteningly applied Leslie amplifier effect that makes it sound submerged and appearing more as a bubbling S.O.S. for oxygen while thrashing frantically and grabbing at any and all straws for help. Soon, Lennon breaks into a vocal free form writhing session of wailing, coming, crying, trying every trick in the book to put his body’s urge straddled on both sides of pleasure or pain (It’s hard to differentiate) behind him. The backing track fades, then the wailing and everything else zips into a momentary 1967-era backwards spin until ZIP -- it whisks off abruptly back into the immediate silence that’s been looming over the track from the moment the fractious guitar intro began it all.

“Don’t Worry, Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking For A Hand In The Snow)” is every bit a plunging of a soul-purging knife into the pit of horror and sorrow while twisting it all the way in. The unaccompanied female jack-hammering stutter of Yoko Ono’s uncompromising vocal agony twitters beyond mere scat or plainscream and it’s almost a welcome relief when the rotary thicket of guitars, bass and drums fade into and under Ono’s vocal convulsiveness ranging in speeds and rhythms from machine gunning to drawn out gyrating moans to noises that female humans issue forth only when confronted with the most lamentable circumstances of separation, death or pain. Meanwhile, the instrumental backing band comprised of John Lennon and Eric Clapton on guitars, Klaus Voormann on bass and Ringo Starr on drums create a circular crowding of twin slide guitars constantly ricocheting off themselves and the dense cross-hatching of the rhythm, causing severe aural turbulence and overall equilibrium-destabilising effects like a roiling sea tossing a ship from side to side like so many future matchsticks. Yoko starts riffing on the title, at one point carrying it into speech beyond words. And not in Japanese or English either, but boiling them down into aggravated, run on sentences that spew outward from the deepest of all maternal inner anguish.

“Don’t Worry Kyoko” later resurfaced on Yoko Ono’s 1971 album, “Fly.”