The John Lennon Estate and Song Exploder have teamed up for a special, first-of-its kind episode about John Lennon’s classic song, “God,” from his transformational and influential masterpiece, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, Lennon’s first post-Beatles solo album, released in 1970. “God” was recorded on Lennon’s 30th birthday, October 9, 1970, 51 years ago this week.
“I’m a big fan of Song Exploder and the way Hrishi analyzes songwriting and recording using the multitracks and sessions and the creator's voice,” Sean Ono Lennon said. “The shows are always intelligent, well-researched and beautifully edited, so we felt comfortable and confident opening up the archive to them to tell the story of this important song’s creation. They’ve done an amazing job and I’m excited for everyone to hear this special episode.”
Song Exploder was given unprecedented access to the John Lennon Estate’s extensive archive of interviews as well as the master recording, multitracks, original demo, outtakes, studio chatter and more to explore the creation and evolution of “God.” The podcast, which typically features host and creator Hrishikesh Hirway asking an artist to take apart their song and tell the story of its creation as they put it back together piece by piece, was accomplished through a mix of archival interviews with John Lennon (vocals/guitar), Ringo Starr (drums) and Billy Preston (piano), and a newly recorded interview with Klaus Voormann (bass), bringing together everyone who played on the song. Much of Lennon’s interview is taken from his legendary Rolling Stone interview with Jann Wenner conducted on December 8, 1970, just days before John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band was released. The episode also includes an archival interview clip from psychologist Arthur Janov, the founder of Primal Scream therapy, the intense and emotional psychotherapy that John Lennon and Yoko Ono practiced for months and which informs the artistic exorcism found on the album.
“I'm so grateful to Yoko Ono, Sean Ono Lennon and the John Lennon Estate for inviting me to make this episode,” Hrishikesh Hirway said. “I'd never made a posthumous episode, but if there were ever a reason to try, John Lennon is it. It was a unique challenge to craft something that felt like the podcast, but the estate shared archival interview footage, and all the raw recordings from John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. They had every take, every track, and the banter between takes – it was an incredible treasure trove to draw from. Most artists I talk to about songs they just made don't have that level of detail and organization.”
When released in 1970 following the dissolution of The Beatles, Lennon caused quite a bit of controversy, not only for the opening line of “God is a concept by which we measure our pain” but for his rebuke of his old band when he sang “I don’t believe in Beatles/I just believe in me/Yoko and me.” It was revolutionary for a Beatle to say that that about The Beatles and to be so honest. He sent a shock around the world when he famously declared, “the dream is over,” signaling the end of the cultural revolution and his desire to move on from being in the most famous band on earth: “I was the dream weaver/But now I'm reborn/I was the Walrus/But now I'm John/And so dear friends/You just have to carry on/The dream is over.”
Much of the material used for the episode comes from the acclaimed John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band – The Ultimate Collection box set, released earlier this year in honor of the album’s 50th anniversary. The eight-disc super deluxe box set is an immersive, deep listening experience and in-depth exploration of what Lennon described as “the best thing I’ve ever done.” Fully authorized by Yoko Ono Lennon, who oversaw the production and creative direction, and from the same audio team that worked on 2018’s critically acclaimed Imagine – The Ultimate Collection, including triple GRAMMY®-Award winning engineer Paul Hicks and mixers/engineers Rob Stevens and Sam Gannon, the Ultimate Collection puts listeners in the center of the studio and explores the album’s 1970 recording sessions at EMI Studios 2 & 3, Abbey Road along with John’s post-Beatles singles, “Give Peace A Chance,” “Cold Turkey” and “Instant Karma! (We All Shine On).” From inception to the final master, the sessions are explored through scores of unreleased and rare demos, rehearsals, outtakes, jams and studio conversations, revealing how these beloved songs came to be. Everything in this expansive box set has been newly mixed from scratch from brand new 192kHz/24bit hi-res transfers. In addition to the various new mixes, the set boasts 87 never-before-heard recordings.
Similar to the previous Ultimate Collection, the set offers a variety of listening experiences that are at once immersive and intimate, ranging from the brand new Ultimate Mixes of the timeless album, which put John’s vocals front and center and sonically upgrade the sound, to the Elements Mixes, which isolate and bring forth certain elements from the multitrack recordings to reveal even deeper levels of detail and clarity, and the Raw Studio Mixes, which allows listeners to experience the moment John and the Plastic Ono Band recorded each song, mixed raw and live without effects, tape delays or reverbs. The Evolutionary Documentary is a unique track-by-track audio montage that details the evolution of each song from demo to master recording via instructions, rehearsals, recordings, multitrack exploration and studio chatter. The Blu-rays present an array of listening options including high-definition, studio quality 192kHz/24bit audio in stereo and enveloping 5.1 Surround and Dolby Atmos mixes.