John Lennon and Paul McCartney
High Over Central Park – 1976
This recording was taped at John and Yoko’s Dakota Apartment in April of 1976. This night, the Saturday Night Live producers knew that both John and Paul were in town, and actually made a live, on-air offer of $3,000 dollars for the duo to come down to the studio and play 3 songs. According to the Saturday Night Live story, Lorne Michaels actually held out hope that they might accept the offer.
According to the liner notes, it was the Saturday Night Live show that prompted Lennon to “roll tape” on what was to be this, their final known recorded re-union. According to later interviews with Lennon, the two had actually considered hopping in a cab and showing up at the SNL studio that very night, but were too “tired.” In actuality, it seems that since they might’ve been in the midst enjoying the scenic portion of their own little “Magical Mystery Tour,” they decided to stay home and ride it out.
The initial plan was to deliver a video of this “jam session” to the show, but the plan was later scrapped due to the many legal hurdles they would have to deal with. It’s uncertain at this time whether the video portion of this will be released. I’d think it would be at some point in time, and who knows? There may be more. Paul, in particular, was notorious for filming most everything that he ever did in later years. I don’t think that the Beatles vein will never be totally mined out.
Most of this 43-minute recording is just humorous banter between the two, as well as a bunch of false starts and snatches of songs. It would appear that these two were really enjoying something beyond just one another’s company. It’s also an excellent document in a historical context, because it shows that these two were not the bitter ex-bandmates that they were generally made out to be. It also gives us some insight as to what their listening interests were at the time. The two trade licks and verses on a total of five complete songs, all of which are covers. John starts off with his version of the Rufus Thomas classic “Walkin’ the Dog.” Paul takes a couple of verses and bends them around a bit while John handles the scratching guitar part and woofs a silly backup vocal. Paul then goes into Wilber Harrison’s “Let’s Work Together.” John joins in with an impromptu harmonica part that stumbles a bit at first, but he is just flat-out blowin’ by the third verse. Paul follows with what in my mind is the highlight of this entire recording. He plows through Leslie Gore’s “It’s My Party,” like a man possessed. On this song he’s accompanied by an unidentified kitchen table drummer. Paul then goes into the New Orleans standard “Iko Iko,” with John handling all the “Hey Now”s. I won’t tell you what the final song is, but I will say that you’d NEVER imagine either of them covering this one.
It’s clear that these two, while they may have actually mined their best writing work out by this time, were still consummate musicians and performers who really loved their music. It’s also clear that Paul is the dominant personality of the duo. In hindsight, it’s kinda sad that their celebrity had grown to the point that they never had the option of doing some club dates together in later years. This type of stuff is apparently what they were best at, and what they loved to do the most.