Lennon’s time in New York City wasn’t hugely significant from a musical point of view. Prone to inertia and laziness he relied rather on the muse coming knocking. A lot of the time he lacked others to spark him into some real creativity and tended to fall back on the music of his youth.
Probably the period of most creativity was the time he spent away from the person he considered to be his creative muse, namely Yoko Ono. During his ‘lost weekend’ Lennon reconnected with people who had become his friends and his peers and became to be more inspired with making music again even finding time to Jam with Paul McCartney and write with David Bowie.
On Whatever Gets You Thru the Night Elton John was in the studio to add keyboards and vocals. Its not an exceptional song but it’s a great performance and it’s likely that having someone in the studio who (at the time) was more famous than Lennon created those sparks. Lyrically he took the inspiration from a TV evangelist musically it was the 70’s soul of George McCrea who was in the charts with ‘Rock Your Baby’.
It was, at least a step forward from Lennon’s 50’s infatuations. Also on board for the session was his old mate from HamburgKlaus Voorman who plays some great bass, but the star of the show is Bobby Keys who plays saxophone. It’s not quite a ‘Baker Street’ transformation’ but Key’s contributions here transform a good track into a great one. Like a lot of really creative people Lennon had trouble evaluating his own work. ‘Whatever Gets you Thru the Night’ wasn’t his first choice for a single. Elton John had no such limitations, he bet Lennon that this was a hit single and he was right of course, it was Lennon’s only No1 US single while he was alive. Elton John secured Lennon’s agreement to appear at one of his gigs. It was a typically lazy bit of jamming on Lennon’s part when it did happen but it was notable for him choosing to cover McCartney’s’ I saw her Standing There’ and for it being his last ever live appearance.
Lennon was back with Ono again and he wanted to devote some time to raising his son Sean. The likes of John and Bowie found their calls were not being returned. Lennon was going to stay at home for a while.
This single only got to No36 in the UK charts, were we mad? It does just demonstrate that the record buyers had largely lost interest by that time, the Beatles effect was wearing thin, even Ringo was more popular in the singles charts.
But its now a song for our times, its been a tough year…Whatever gets you through the night.
‘Don’t need a gun to blow your mind’