The Ballad Of John And Yoko
Directors – The Beatles. Producer – Apple Films Ltd.
Filmed – Between January and April 1969.
As the title suggests, John’s song is purely autobiographical, a style that he would go on to develop when he began recording his solo albums during the early 1970s. It tells the eventful story of John’s marriage to Yoko Ono and was recorded by John and Paul: the former played lead and acoustic guitars; the latter was on bass, drums and piano. The track was completed in just one day at Abbey Road.
According to John, “I wrote that in Paris on our honeymoon. It’s a piece of journalism. It’s a folk song. That’s why I called it The Ballad Of.” John and Yoko had married on 20 March, in ‘Gibraltar, near Spain’. After the ceremony they flew to Paris on honeymoon and on 25 March 1969 they arrived at the Amsterdam Hilton for their week-long ‘bed-in’ for peace. The song also courted controversy with its references to ‘Christ’ and ‘crucify’. John was all too aware of the implications and took the precaution of writing a note to Apple’s Tony Bramwell: “Tony – No pre-publicity on ‘Ballad Of John And Yoko’ especially the ‘Christ’ bit – so don’t play it round too much or you’ll frighten people – get it pressed first. John.”
Ringo was filming The Magic Christian and George was away on holiday, so the late morning of Monday 14 April found John at Paul’s house, before they headed off to nearby Abbey Road. The recording session began at 2.30 pm and by 9 pm that evening the song was finished. It was then mixed in stereo: up to that point all The Beatles’ singles were in mono in the UK.
On 30 May, just six weeks after it was recorded and when ‘Get Back’ was still holding down the No.1 spot, ‘The Ballad Of John And Yoko’ was released. Two weeks later it topped the UK singles chart. In the US, the single was at No.8 for three weeks from the middle of July.
Apple Films created the promo film for the use of broadcasters worldwide to help them market the new single. It was built around outtakes from Let It Be with other private footage shot in Amsterdam, London, Paris and Vienna. In its matching of contemporary images to lyrics, this is another Beatles’ video that would inspire future pop-promo makers. Accompanying the lines, “Peter Brown called to say. You can make it OK. You can get married in Gibraltar, near Spain”, is a still of Brown and Lennon. Brown who had been Brian Epstein’s assistant until his boss’s death, also acted as best man at John and Yoko’s wedding.