It was 53 years ago today (March 2nd, 1969) that John Lennon and Yoko Ono made their first live public concert performance. Although the couple had first played together the previous December for the Rolling Stones‘ Rock And Roll Circus TV special, Lennon’s appearance at Ono’s concert at Cambridge University’s Lady Mitchell Hall marked the first time the couple performed to the open public.
Lennon and Ono, along with saxophonist John Tchicai and percussionist John Stevens, performed the cacophonous experimental piece “Cambridge 1969,” which featured a bearded, denim-clad Lennon creating a wall of feedback guitar under Ono’s avant-garde singing. The song was eventually released later that year, and made up the entire second side of the couple’s second album, Unfinished Music No. 2: Life With The Lions.
Yoko Ono told us that she has mixed emotions about her and Lennon’s performance that day: [“It was an iconic moment, because when I did that in Cambridge with John, I was, like, thinking, ‘This is it!’ I really sent a message to the world, saying ‘This is the thing!’ But then, when that was on lacquer, people attacked it so much. And John was the only one who was in love with it. John would say — in the car when we were going somewhere, cross country or something — he would say, “Okay, let’s play ‘Cambridge 1969’ I said, ‘Please don’t do that John (laughs),’ because by then it was attacked so much that I was like, ‘Ugh, I don’t want to hear it.'”] SOUNDCUE (:27 OC: . . . to hear it)
Yoko Ono believes — both then and now — trying to pin down what John Lennon meant to the world is impossible: [“John was an artist and musician — and a poet, as well. And also, he was a songwriter, singer, rocker. So, he was a very complex character.”] SOUNDCUE (:09 OC: . . . very complex character)
A remixed and revamped version of Lennon and Ono’s “Cambridge 1969” was featured on Ono’s album, titled Yes, I’m A Witch. The critically acclaimed set features modern rockers the Flaming Lips‘ updated take on the track, which is re-titled “Cambridge 1969/2007.”