John Lennon Said This Classic Album ‘Irritated’ Him

John Lennon repeatedly made it clear he was self-aware. For example, he knew when the critics didn’t like his work, saying one of his albums “really upset everyone” — and he had issues with it as well. This raises an interesting question: Did the public react to this album the way the critics did?

John Lennon in front of squares
John Lennon | Ron Howard/Redferns

John Lennon felt this album was flawed

In John’s final interview with Rolling Stone, he discussed everything from Elvis Presley’s cultural legacy to Bruce Springsteen’s career arc. In the interview, Rolling Stone reporter Jonathan Cott mentioned how John’s more recent work had garnered a mixed reception. He singled out the political album Some Time in New York City as facing particularly poor reviews.

“Yeah, that was the one that really upset everyone. Yoko [Ono] calls it ‘Bertolt Brecht [after the political playwright of the same name] but, as usual, I didn’t know who he was until she took me to see Richard Foreman’s production of The Threepenny Opera four years ago, and then I saw the album in that light. I was always irritated by the rushness of sound on it, but I was consciously doing it like a newspaper where you get the misprints, the times and the facts aren’t quite right, and there’s that you’ve-got-to-get-it-out-by-Friday attitude.” John’s intentions for the album were reflected in its cover, which is designed to look like a newspaper. While John felt Some Time in New York City had its flaws, he identified its poor reception as part of a larger pattern of critical attacks on his work that went back to the beginning of his career.

“Cold Turkey”

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John Lennon vs. the critics

For example, John recalled how the magazine NME described the Fab Four’s track “From Me to You” as a subpar Beatles song. John said the song may have been inferior to “Please Please Me,” but it wasn’t subpar. He said he’d never forget that review. In addition, John noted the press wasn’t just hostile to Some Time in New York City, but to the Plastic Ono Band’s albums in general.

“And you know how bad the reviews were of our Plastic Ono albums?” John asked. “They shredded us! “‘elf-indulgent, simplistic whining’ – that was the main gist. Because those albums were about ourselves, you see, and not about [David Bowie’s] Ziggy Stardust or [The Who’s] Tommy. . . .  And Mind Games, they hated it.” John felt critics hated Some Time in New York City and other Plastic Ono Band albums — but did the public?

“From Me to You”

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How the public reacted to the Plastic Ono Band

Some Time in New York City merely reached No. 48 on the Billboard Hot 100. Unlike some of John’s other post-Beatles albums, it produced no hits. It certainly wasn’t one of John’s crowning commercial achievements.

However, other albums by the Plastic Ono Band fared far better. For example, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band reached No. 6 on the Billboard 200. The public appreciated some of the Plastic Ono band’s work — even if contemporary critics did not.