The punk band that reminded John Lennon of The Beatles

By the 1970s, most rock fans had made peace with the fact that The Beatles would never get back together. Even though it felt like the Fab Four could have continued for decades, the ongoing tension between the members began to eat away at their creativity, leading to all of them making smashes in their solo careers. Although John Lennon was content making his take on old-school rock and roll, he could still appreciate what the new school had to offer.

Ever since leaving the band, Lennon had begun dissecting the ins and outs of his personal life. After a string of experimental albums with Yoko Ono, Lennon began to look at his place in the world on albums like Plastic Ono Band, where he made peace with his parents and exposed the hypocrisy he saw in the world on tracks like ‘Working Class Hero’.

Aside from the intense subject matter, Lennon also pushed his voice to the limit across the album. On songs like ‘Well Well Well’, Lennon often sounded like he was trying to rip his vocal cords out of his throat, going past Little Richard-style screaming and sounding like he was in agony. Although Lennon couldn’t have known it then, but that type of singing would play a pivotal role for street-level bands.

Being sick of hearing artists like Lennon talk about the superficial elements of life, bands like The Clash and Ramones were picking up steam by stripping everything down to basics. As the first wave of punk began to pick up steam, the sound of Sex Pistols resonated with Lennon even from his posh Dakota apartment building.

When talking about hearing the group for the first time, Lennon grew nostalgic for the times that The Beatles were as unhinged, “I’ve only heard whatever they’ve done a video of. I thought, ‘Yeah, great’. To me, seeing the impact of all that, I thought, ‘That’s how we used to behave at the Cavern before Brian [Epstein told us] to stop throwing up and drinking onstage and swearing.”

While Johnny Rotten made a habit of tearing every posh rock star through the mud, the escapades that The Beatles engaged in in their early days were equally rowdy. Instead of spitting on the audience, the Fab Four’s time in Hamburg gave them an education in the less glamorous side of show business, having to play for six hours at a time for drunken patrons who didn’t have the patience for anything mellow.

Although Lennon was still content to make softer music after The Beatles ended, some precursors to the punk revolution were still in his delivery of the time. Listening to his solo material, songs like ‘Meat City’ and ‘What You Got’ have a few commonalities with the growing punk wave, with Lennon shouting at the top of his range on the latter just like Rotten could do on songs like ‘Pretty Vacant’.

Lennon would later incorporate that nasty attitude into his final album, Double Fantasy. Despite being an ode to his domestic life, songs like ‘Cleanup Time’ benefit from the ramshackle approach that punk bands thrived on, no doubt helped by including members of Cheap Trick on an earlier version of the tune. Whereas most classic rockers thought that the punk movement would spell the death of music, Lennon thought the next generation was telling it like it was, saying, “They didn’t have to put any shiner on it. I think it’s great.”

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