In November 1968, the Beatles released their classic, eponymous titled double album--the one noted for its entirely white cover. Would that John Lennon and his then paramour Yoko Ono had opted for a similarly stark design for their own effort, Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins, which was unleashed on an unsuspecting public the very same month. That way, the only horror would have been the relentless sounds of Yoko screeching over John's experimental instrumentation. But the couple went for an album cover they considered as avant-garde as their "music": a shudder-inducing, full frontal nude photograph of themselves, with another shot on the flip side featuring their saggy rear ends.
John Lennon said the album was recorded in one night, just before the adulterous couple first went to bed together (although given Yoko's yelping vocal spasms, it sounds like it could have just as easily been recorded during). "She was doing her funny voices and I was pushing all different buttons on my tape recorder and getting sound effects," he recalled. "And then as the sun rose we made love and that was Two Virgins."
EMI, the Beatles' record label, refused to have anything to do with the finished product, which was released independently. ("Why don't you use Paul (McCartney) instead?" EMI chairman Joseph Lockwood reportedly commented on the nudie cover. "He's much better looking.") Meanwhile, police in numerous jurisdictions did the public a huge favor by seizing album shipments, deeming the cover pornographic. For those who did get their hands on Two Virgins, whatever message John and Yoko were trying to convey was lost in the noise. "Dilettante garbage, simply," Lester Bangs wrote in Rolling Stone. Still, the couple was successful in one aspect:
"What we did purposely is not have a pretty photographer," Lennon said later, "not have it lighted so as we looked sexy or good...We used the straightest, most unflattering picture just to show we were human."
Bad Days in History, pg 428
The Beatles' single "Hey Jude" hits the top of the American music charts on this day in 1968. Over seven mintuets long, it was the longest song ever to reach No. 1, a record it holds to this day. Paul McCartney wrote the song about the same time that John Lennon was divorcing his wife Cynthia. McCartney once claimed the song started out as "Hey Jules," and was meant to console John and Cynthia's son, Julian. Some listeners hear the song as a prophetic lament for the approaching end of the English rock group themselves, who split up in early 1970.
Here's the deal, John and Yoko did their own thing and were blasted by the liberal public for doing so. Yoko was a strong, independent woman, and we liberals hated her for it.
No where can this be seen more than in their performance of the song "Instant Karma." Note how Yoko is keeping her mouth shut, her eyes covered, and knitting like a good woman. Can it be any clearer who John is singing about when he says, "Instant Karma's going to get you...going to knock you off your feet...."