John Lennon Played Last UK Gig Today in 1969

Watch Lennon perform "Cold Turkey" with the all-star Plastic Ono Band.
Publish date:
Updated on

On December 15, 1969, John Lennon played his final UK concert. The UNICEF "Peace for Christmas" benefit featuring Lennon with Clapton and Harrison, among others, became an incredible all-star jam.

"I went down there in my Mini and went on stage at the Lyceum," recalled Alan White. "Just prior to the Plastic Ono Band going on, Eric Clapton turns up with the whole Delaney & Bonnie band, so we had to hustle another couple of drum kits. Then, Keith Moon joins me on stage, playing my 16-inch tom-toms. It was a thing where somebody would hit one chord and it was a jam."

The full line-up, playing before a huge "War is over" backdrop, was: Lennon, Harrison, Clapton and Delaney Bramlett (guitars, with Clapton playing Rocky, Harrison's psychedelic Fender Stratocaster); Ono (vocals); Bonnie Bramlett (tamborine); Alan White and Jim Gordon (drums); Billy Preston (organ); Klaus Voormann (bass guitar); Bobby Keys (saxophone); Jim Price (trumpet). Keith Moon on White's floor tom tom.

Clapton arrived at London's Lyceum Ballroom with almost all of Delaney & Bonnie's touring band, which at the time included George Harrison. This was the first time Lennon and Harrison had performed at a scheduled concert since The Beatles' last show on August 29, 1966. It was also the Plastic Ono Band's only European concert.

"I thought it was fantastic. I was really into it," said Lennon. "We were doing the show and George and Bonnie and Delaney, Billy Preston and all that crowd turned up. They'd just come back from Sweden and George had been playing invisible man in Bonnie and Delaney's band, which Eric Clapton had been doing, to get the pressure off being the famous Eric and the famous George. They became the guitarists in this and they all turned up, and it was again like the concert in Toronto. I said, 'Will you come on?' They said, 'Well, what are you going to play?' I said, 'Listen, we're going to do probably a blues... or "Cold Turkey", which is three chords, and Eric knew that, and "And "Don't Worry Kyoko", which was Yoko's, which has three chords and a riff. I said, 'Once we get on to Yoko's riff, just keep hitting it.'"*

"Watch "Cold Turkey":

The Plastic Ono Band's performance was recorded on four-track tape by Geoff Emerick, with Peter Bown and John Kurlander engineering. It was mixed two days later, but remained unreleased until included on a bonus disc with the 1972 album Some Time In New York City.

*Thank you to the Beatles Bible for the quotes.