A TOOT AND A SNORE IN '74 (2023): Supersession, but what a bore

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A TOOT AND A SNORE IN '74 (2023): Supersession, but what a bore

Never intended as a serious session much less an album, A Toot And a Snore in '74 exists as a bootleg of merely historical, not musical, interest.

That's because it was when John Lennon and Paul McCartney – mostly estranged in the previous five years – got together in a Los Angeles studio with Lennon's fellow drinkers Harry Nilsson, Jesse Ed Davis and Bobby Keys (and a more focused Stevie Wonder) to knock about a bit.

This was during Lennon's much self-mythologised “lost weekend” away from Yoko and when he got himself into boozy trouble and coke-fuelled bad behaviour.

At least that is part of what happened.

The inconvenient truth – away from the headlines and that famous photo of him about to throw a punch – was that he was also extremely productive during that 18 month separation.

tumblr_mudn1ruFEy1rl2u51o1_540He recorded three albums (Mind Games, the often overlooked Walls and Bridges and the Rock'n'Roll covers album) and produced Harry Nilsson's Pussy Cats, all the while staring down lawsuits, the US government which was angling to deport him and rebuilding his relationship with his son Julian (who bashed drums on Ya-Ya which appeared on Walls and Bridges).

None of that – and the tentative rapprochement with the McCartneys – would have been possible if not for his companion and lover during this time May Pang, with whom he planned to buy a house in Montauk, New York.

Pang organised the album sessions, booked the studios and musicians, made the phone calls to Cynthia Lennon and the McCartneys and . . . was then abandoned when Lennon returned to Ono.

lennonpangIt was an extraordinary 18 months and not always boozed-up or coke-addled.

But on the day of the studio recording released as A Toot and Snore he – and presumably many of the others – certainly wear the worse for it.

With McCartney on a few vocals and drums (fellow debauching Beatle Ringo unusually absent), Lennon and his studio pals gathered to start recording Nilsson's Pussy Cats – a surprisingly good if flawed album considering the circumstances under which it was made – and staggered through various songs and bits.

The result on the bootleg – the title referring to a snort of the ubiquitous cocaine of the period – is mostly like the chatting between song bits in the Get Back/Let It Be sessions, except more coked-out with Lennon talking and singing bits'n'pieces about his immigration issues and such, corralling the crew into some oldies (Little Richards' Lucille and some ragged versions of Stand By Me) and generally wasting time.

Screen_Shot_2023_04_23_at_11.06.51_AMAlthough a splendid time seemed guaranteed because there was no game-plan or serious recording on offer.

It opens with Lennon offering Wonder a toot “it's going round” and then improvising some words while the others noodle away: “I just gotta say it, Brooklyn Bridge, San Francisco Boot, Elementary Canal, Boston Strangler ... its so wonderful to be waiting for my Green Card with thee ... I would never doubt it, but I have to shout it, 'Chicago, Chicago, its a hell of a town, solo, play it man!!! ... I'd like to change the tempo a little now ... don't play it here, don't play it here, don't play it here, Harry ... OK OK OK now ...”

After some more faffing about and Lennon asking if anyone knows a song they all know (“it's gotta be something done around Fifties, or no later than '63, or we ain't gonna know it”) Wonder lays down a backdrop of Lucille in a slow bluesy manner and the others pick up on it, Lennon screaming the words accompanied by McCartney.

It's pretty awful, just like boys crashing about in a garage . . . with a great organ player. It gets marginally better.

article_2382537_1B1EE44E000005DC_258_634x490And so it goes: “where's all that drink they always have in this place?”, a snatch of a Shadows tune and Santo and Johnny's Sleep Walk off mike, “anybody who gets bored with me, take over” then it's into Stand By Me with Lennon becoming more serious but his mike cutting off leaving just McCartney singing a response . . .

The second half of the 30 minute bootleg is more of the same, Lennon frustrated, Wonder singing and playing Cupid, Wonder and Nilsson on Working For the Chain Gang, a medley . . .

A document valuable for the historic moment but – like Lennon and Dylan in the back of that car in '66 – nothing much happened beyond the fact that it happened.

Sad to note of the eight people credited on the back cover, five of them – Lennon, Davis, Nilsson, saxophonist Bobby Keys and Mal Evans (tambourine) – are no longer with us.

You can hear this album on You Tube here

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