John Lennon Said This Song Would Hit No. 1 But It Didn’t
John Lennon had a prominent career, however, he didn’t get to do everything he wanted. For example, he wanted to do the B side for a song but he didn’t. Interestingly, John thought the A side was going to be a No. 1 hit. Here’s a look at the story of the song.
John Lennon worked on a song that was intentionally ‘distorted’
Yoko Ono and John were not just romantically involved — they often collaborated artistically. They released several collaborative albums, including Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins and Double Fantasy. In addition, Yoko contributed to John’s solo work and vice versa. One of the notable songs they both worked on was “Walking on Thin Ice.”
According to Salon, Yoko wanted the song to have an interesting soundscape after writing its lyrics. “I wanted to push it a little further, experimentally,” she recalled. “So I was thinking about Alban Berg, in one of his operas, you know, where a drunk is going ‘ahaahaahaa.’ Just sort of saying things, but in such a way that the emphasis is all wrong, distorted.” Notably, “Walking on Thin Ice” has a surreal set of lyrics that could be described as her “just saying things.”
After finishing the track, John said “I think you just cut your first number one, Yoko.” This comment was a reference to the time George Martin said “Gentlemen, you’ve just made your first No. 1 record” after The Beatles recorded “Please Please Me.”
Why John Lennon wanted to perform the B side for a Yoko Ono song
John was particularly fond of “Walking on Thin Ice.” During an interview with Rolling Stone, he said “We were thinking that this song is so damn good that she should put her own single out, with me on the B side. I’d love to be on the B side of a hit record after all these years. I’d love to be the guitarist – I’m playing backwards guitar on this song…. Yoko deserves it, it’s been a long haul. I wouldn’t fight about it at all.”
The B side of the single wasn’t a song by John. Instead, it was a song called “It Happened.” According to The New York Times, Yoko recorded “It Happened” years before she recorded “Walking on Thin Ice” but forgot about the song for some time.
While John had high hopes for the song’s commercial performance, it wasn’t a huge hit. It reached No. 58 on the Billboard Hot 100, remaining on the chart for 10 weeks. While “Walking on Thin Ice” didn’t reach No. 1, it became the highest-charting hit of Yoko’s solo career. Her only other charting song was a collaboration with John: the Christmas classic “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).” While “Walking on Thin Ice” didn’t dominate the charts, John was very proud of it.