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Walls and Bridges
Studio album by John Lennon
Released 4 October 1974
Recorded June – July 1974
Genre Rock, pop rock
Length 46:02
Label Apple/EMI
Producer John Lennon
Professional reviews
John Lennon chronology
Mind Games
Walls and Bridges
Rock 'n' Roll
Alternate cover
Walls and Bridges re-issue (2005)

Walls and Bridges is the fifth official album by English rock musician John Lennon, released in October 1974. Recorded and issued during his separation from Yoko Ono, the album captures Lennon in the midst of his infamous "lost weekend", a period that lasted eighteen months. It was a #1 hit album and featured Lennon's only #1 single as a solo artist during his lifetime, "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night".



In the fall of 1973, as Mind Games was being released, Lennon left for Los Angeles with his assistant May Pang and planned to record an album of rock 'n' roll oldies with producer Phil Spector. After these sessions broke down due to an alcohol-fueled party atmosphere, Lennon and Pang returned to New York and Spector disappeared with the session tapes. Still in the mood to make music, Lennon decided to record a new album of original material.

Recording sessions for Walls and Bridges began in June, 1974 at Record Plant East. Musicians included friends Jim Keltner on drums, Klaus Voormann on bass, Jesse Ed Davis on guitar, and Arthur Jenkins on percussion.

Walls and Bridges has a variety of musical stylings and many of the lyrics make it clear that Lennon both enjoyed his new-found freedom and also missed Ono. "Going Down On Love", "What You Got", "Bless You" address his feelings toward Ono. "Steel and Glass" included a sinister riff borrowed from "How Do You Sleep", Lennon's audio argument with Paul McCartney from the Imagine album, though the digs this time were directed at former Beatles manager Allen Klein. "Scared" is a haunting track exploring Lennon's fear of ageing, loneliness and the emptiness of success. It also included the somewhat prophetic lyric: "Hatred and jealousy gonna be the death of me."

The album also includes some of Lennon's most uplifting songs, namely its two singles "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night" (which features Elton John on piano and backing vocals) and "#9 Dream". "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night" reached #1 in the US the same week that Walls and Bridges hit the top of the LP charts. Losing a wager he made with Elton about the single's commercial potential, Lennon appeared at John's Madison Square Garden show on 28 November, performing Lennon's current #1 hit together. In addition, The Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There" and "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds", Elton John's new single with Lennon on backing vocals, were also played to an uproarious audience. This was Lennon's last major live performance.

Other notable tracks include "Nobody Loves You (When You're Down and Out)" which, though believed to be a reference to his unhappiness during this period, was actually penned in Las Vegas for Frank Sinatra (and included all the schmaltzy show-biz horns and down-trodden lyrics), "Beef Jerky", a Stax-inspired instrumental (the only instrumental to appear on a Lennon solo album), and the first track written for the record, "Surprise Surprise (Sweet Bird of Paradox)" written for Pang.

During one of his frequent visits from England to see his father during this period, eleven-year-old Julian Lennon attended recording sessions and together they recorded a casual cover of the oldie "Ya Ya", which Lennon tacked onto the end of Walls and Bridges with the credit: "Starring Julian Lennon on drums and Dad on piano and vocals". Lennon also sends a message to publisher Morris Levy who was expecting this Lennon release to be the oldies album (see Rock 'n' Roll) at the beginning of the track: "Let's do sitting in the lala and get rid of that!" which infuriated Levy. Pang recalled later the younger Lennon was disappointed when he heard the recording would make the album, telling his father "If I'd known, I would have played better".

In addition to reestablishing a relationship with Julian, Lennon mended fences with the other Beatles during this period. Walls and Bridges is filled with musical nods to the group. In the opening track, Lennon sings "somebody please, please help me". On "Surprise Surprise", Lennon utilises the coda of "Drive My Car" substituting the "beep beep yeahs" with "sweet sweet love". In response to McCartney's "Lennon" track, Let Me Roll It on the Band on the Run album, Lennon took the guitar riff note for note and incorporated it into "Beef Jerky".

Interestingly, cut from the album at the last minute was a track called "Move Over Ms. L" -- one of Lennon's harder rockers which would eventually appear as the B-side to the single "Stand By Me" the following year.

The album's elaborate jacket featured childhood drawings done by Lennon and a series of interchangeable faces. Walls and Bridges also had a popular ad campaign created by Lennon called "Listen To This..." (button, photo, sticker, ad, poster, t-shirt and, in New York City, bus (a huge poster plastered on the rear of 2,000 city buses).

A television commercial featuring a voiceover from Ringo Starr depicted the album jacket in its many 'photo flap' faces. Lennon would return the favor and do the voiceover for the commercial for Starr's Goodnight Vienna album.


Aside from its #1 gold-selling US success, Walls and Bridges was also a UK hit album, reaching #6. As with Mind Games, Walls and Bridges is not as highly regarded as John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band or Imagine, though it does indeed have its devout followers. One of them, Elton John himself, has gone on record declaring Walls and Bridges "the best Beatles solo album". Also, despite the album being recorded during their separation, Yoko Ono has cited the album as her favourite of John's solo work.

Shortly after its release, Lennon personally mixed a true quadrophonic version of the album ("for the 20 people who buy quad," he joked at the time). These mixes highlight many of the percussive and orchestrative textures that were not as prominent on the stereo version.

Walls and Bridges was released in a remixed and remastered form in November 2005. The remastered version featured an alternate cover. This new cover retained Lennon's signature and hand-written title, but used one of the portraits Bob Gruen took for the album instead of Lennon's childhood drawing. The bonus tracks for the reissue include "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night" performed live with Elton John, a previously unreleased acoustic version of "Nobody Loves You (When You're Down And Out)" and a promotional interview with Lennon.

Track listing

All songs written and composed by John Lennon, except "Old Dirt Road", by John Lennon and Harry Nilsson and "Ya Ya", by Lee Dorsey/Morris Levy/Clarence Lewis/Morgan Robinson

  1. "Going Down on Love" – 3:54
  2. "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night" – 3:28
  3. "Old Dirt Road" – 4:11
  4. "What You Got" – 3:09
  5. "Bless You" – 4:38
  6. "Scared" – 4:36
  7. "#9 Dream" – 4:47
  8. "Surprise, Surprise (Sweet Bird of Paradox)" – 2:55
  9. "Steel and Glass" – 4:37
  10. "Beef Jerky" – 3:26
  11. "Nobody Loves You (When You're Down and Out)" – 5:08
  12. "Ya Ya" – 1:06

2005 reissue bonus tracks

  1. "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night" - 4:23
    • Live with the Elton John band
  2. "Nobody Loves You (When You're Down and Out)" – 5:07
    • Alternative version
  3. "John Interview (by Bob Mercer)" - 3:47

Credits and personnel

Arranged and produced by John Lennon.

Performed by:


  • Strings and brass musicians from the New York Philharmonic Orchestrange: arranged and conducted by Ken Ascher.
  • Little Big Horns: brass section, arranged and conducted by Bobby Keys.

Special guest:

  • Julian Lennon: drums on "Ya-ya"
  • Elton John: piano and harmony vocals on "Whatever Gets you Thru the Night" and hammond organ and background vocals on "Surprise, Surprise (Sweet Bird of Paradox)".
  • Joey Dambra, Lori Burton and May Pang: background vocals on "9 Dream".

Chart positions

Year Chart Position
1974 Billboard 200 1
Preceded by
Wrap Around Joy by Carole King
Billboard 200 number-one album
November 16 - November 22, 1974
Succeeded by
It's Only Rock 'n' Roll by The Rolling Stones


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