The album John Lennon claimed had a “jinx” on it

1975 wasn’t exactly the most stable time in the life of John Lennon. The former Beatle was riding high on his first American number one hit, ‘Whatever Gets You Thru The Night’, which he recorded with close friend Elton John the year prior. Even better, John had taken Lennon’s ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds’ to number one early in 1975, setting Lennon up for a potential blockbuster of a year.

But while his solo success was hitting a new high, Lennon’s personal life was in a constant state of flux. Having separated from Yoko Ono and moved to Los Angeles with his assistant and new partner May Pang, Lennon was boozing his way around California with fellow ne’er-do-well Harry Nilsson. When the pair weren’t drinking or getting high, they were making albums that almost shredded Nilsson and his astounding vocal range for good. Lennon himself wasn’t feeling terribly creative, and a pending lawsuit caused him to focus on recording an album of old-school rock songs rather than his own original material.

Back in 1969, Lennon borrowed a few lyrical and melodic elements from Chuck Berry’s ‘You Can’t Catch Me’ on The Beatles’ Abbey Road track ‘Come Together’. Lennon was subsequently sued by Berry’s publisher Morris Levy for copyright infringement. Lennon settled the case with the understanding that he would cover three songs owned by Morris on his 1974 album Walls and Bridges, including ‘You Can’t Catch Me’.

Lennon brought in longtime collaborator Phil Spector to help him get the classic “Wall of Sound”, but the sessions devolved quickly. Numerous incidents, many of them alcohol-fuelled, caused the recording to stall. Spector fired a gun into the ceiling of A&M Studios, causing Lennon temporary hearing damage, and some whiskey spilt on the studio’s console caused the pair to get kicked out permanently. Spector disappeared with the master tapes and later suffered a car accident that put him in a coma, furthering the cursed nature of the sessions.

Lennon decided to return to New York and record Walls and Bridges with original material instead. He did end up including one song owned by Levy, a cover of Lee Dorsey’s ‘Ya-Ya’ featuring Lennon’s 11-year-old son Julian on drums, on the album. When Levy found out that Lennon did not fulfil his end of the deal, he threatened to re-file his initial lawsuit. Lennon managed to explain the situation and promised that a full covers album would be completed next.

With Spector still missing in action, Lennon produced most of what became Rock ‘n’ Roll on his own at The Record Plant in New York. To assure Levy that progress was being made, Lennon sent him a rough mix of the album. Levy then took the material and pressed his own record, Roots: John Lennon Sings the Great Rock & Roll Hits, and sued Lennon for breach of contract. Lennon eventually won the lawsuit and even obtained the masters from his original sessions from Spector, but by the time Rock ‘n’ Roll was officially released in 1975, he was exhausted from the whole experience.

“It started in ’73 with Phil and fell apart,” Lennon explained to Rolling Stone in 1975. “I ended up as part of mad, drunk scenes in Los Angeles and I finally finished it off on my own. And there was still problems with it up to the minute it came out. I can’t begin to say, it’s just barmy, there’s a jinx on that album.”

Check out ‘Stand By Me’ from Rock ‘n’ Roll down below.

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