The Story Of The Song ‘Whatever Gets You Thru the Night’ By John Lennon & Elton John

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During the 1970s, to be more exact in 1973, John Lennon temporarily separated from his wife Yoko Ono in what was called the Lost Weekend. For this, at the suggestion of his wife, Lennon took a lover named May Pang (who was their assistant) to the city of Los Angeles, in California and there he rented a house where he lived with personalities such as Keith Moon, Ringo Starr, and Harry Nilsson among others, perhaps it was in this period of freedom that Lennon had a good streak of creativity that permeated his albums as well as those of other artists with whom he collaborated such as David Bowie, Leon Russell, and Elton John.

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In the same decade, Elton John established himself as one of the artists who sold the most records in the world. Audiences in both England and the United States made the pianist’s albums a hit on the charts. By the end of June 1974, Elton John published his eighth work named Caribou, which was recorded in California, Colorado (at the Caribou Ranch, hence the full-length name) and London. The album reached first place on the Billboard 200 and the single Don´t Let The Sun Go Down On Me occupied the number two box on the Billboard 100 list, while the song The Bitch is Back was placed in the fourth position of the list. all this in the American Union.

In a different setting, John Lennon returned from Los Angeles to New York, settled in an apartment with his young lover and with several songs written he returned to the recording studio (Record Plant East) in July 1974 for the creation of the album Walls and Bridges. . During the sessions Elton John arrived at the place. Anthony Fawcett in his book One Day At a Time relates that Elton listened to the song Whatever Gets You Thru The Night and suggested some arrangements to Lennon. John played the piano, organ, and sang a duet with Lennon. Elton John saw potential in the song and bet with the former Beatle that the song would reach number one on the charts. If this happened Lennon would have to appear on a tour date that Elton would begin in the United States in September of that year.

But prior to the start of Elton John’s tour, in August 1974, John Lennon visited the musician at the Caribou Ranch studio in Colorado where he collaborated (under the pseudonym Dr. Winston O’Boogie) playing guitar in the songs Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (cover to The Beatles) and One Day At a Time (Lennon theme that originally appeared on the 1973 album Mind Games). Both melodies would be released as a single months later and would later be rescued in an edition on the compact disc of the album Captain Fantastic and The Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975) in the year 1996.

With the success of the album, Elton John embarked on one of his most important tours in the United States. For about 70 days, John and his group performed 45 concerts in 32 cities on North American soil. All shows were sold out every night and many people ran out of tickets to see the show due to the high demand they had. The start of the tour was held at the Convention Center in Dallas, Texas and the end was at The Spectrum in Philadelphia on December 3 of that year. The group that accompanied Elton John was made up of Davey Johnstone on guitars, Dee Murray on bass, Nigel Olson on drums, and Ray Cooper on percussions, they were also accompanied by the brass band The Muscle Shoals Horns who entered for the part where John played You’re So Static. The repertoire per night was 20 songs, which could vary in the number of songs.

In November Elton John arrived in New York City to offer a couple of concerts at Madison Square Garden, on the 28th and 29th. At that time he spoke with John Lennon to remind him of the bet made months ago. The song Whatever Gets You Thru The Night was published as a single on September 23, 1974, in the United States and reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, which surprised Lennon himself.

The former Beatle had to pay that bet and it was chosen on November 28 (Thanksgiving Day) for him to take the stage. 

During the rehearsal the pianist suggested to the ex-Beatle that he will play Imagine, which he refused, saying that he did not want to be like Dean Martin and play his classic hits.

The songs chosen for that night were the hit Whatever Gets You Thru The Night and the Beatles classic I Saw Her Standing There, which John Lennon had never sung as it is a Paul McCartney song. In the case of Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, it was a song that was already included from the beginning in the repertoire of the tour.

After the successful tour of the United States, Elton John closed the year 1974 with a series of concerts at the Hammersmith Odeon theater in London where on some dates he included I Saw Her Standing There, in the same way, this classic was present, as well as Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, on select dates on the Captain Fantastic and The Dirt Brown Cowboy tour.

Lennon’s performance with Elton John, as well as part of the Madison Square Garden concert on that date of November 28, 1974, was recorded on official records and bootlegs. For example the song I Saw Her Standing There came out as the B-side of Elton John’s single Philadelphia Freedom, there were also some official EPs that included the three songs of the duet. John originally published part of the concert on a double album called Here and There (1976), but the vinyl was the mix of two shows, the one in New York and one in London, but the Lennon songs were not included until one appeared. CD edition in 1996 where twelve songs from that concert are rescued including Lennon’s presentation. In John Lennon’s official discography we can find the three songs in the Boxset, with four compact discs, entitled Lennon that appeared in 1990, which is unfortunately discontinued.

The official story tells that when leaving the presentation with Elton John, John Lennon met Yoko Ono in the hallway of the building, he looked into her eyes and felt that great love for her, he apologized and with this ended his end of the lost week. But according to statements by May Pang, this did not happen that way. Indeed Lennon’s wife attended the concert at Madison Square Garden, Pang narrated in an interview that Ono called the apartment he shared with the former Beatle several times to complain about the places he had been assigned and asked to change them. Once the show ended John went with Pang to a party and the famous reconciliation with Yoko Ono would take a couple of months more and it was not very romantic as it is said.