When John Lennon needed a regular bass player behind him to replace the cute Beatle from Liverpool, his choice was Gary Van Scyoc. Gary joined John and Yoko with his Elephant’s Memory, newly christened as Plastic Ono Elephant’s Memory Band. The street-wise political group were no corner buskers, and had a Gold Record to their credit for their contributions to the Midnight Cowboy soundtrack. They would back John and Yoko on records, concerts, and television programs. Gary Van Scyoc called upon his elephant’s memory to have a look back at these wild times with the first couple of rock and roll.
Beatles Magazine: The Mike Douglas week was certainly a barn-burner, especially with Chuck Berry there. What was that like for you?
Gary Van Scyoc: An amazing experience to be there when John met Chuck (his Idol) for the very first time. Chuck was barely through the door and after the usual pleasantries like shaking hands and embracing, Chuck blurts out to John “where are all my royalties from the covers your band did?” It turns out chuck in 1972 had not yet become a millionaire. I was impressed by how John handled himself and it wasn’t too long before the tension was gone and it was party on! Again!
Beatles Magazine: Any memories of playing with John live, or in the studio that stand out?
Gary Van Scyoc: John and I had a moment during the final take of “Woman is the ****** of the World. That special eye contact during a magical moment that musicians share. A treasure for me.
Beatles Magazine: John was limited in his ability to work in the USA due to his citizenship problems, how did that hamper things in working with you?
Gary VanScyoc: Well I would be a whole lot better off financially if we would have actually went out on the world tour that he dropped over a $100,000 in gear and road cases in preparation for. He really wanted to go out and thought of the MSG concert as a rehearsal. He even says that during the show. John could only do benefits and TV shows. Mike Douglas, Dick Cavett and the Jerry Lewis Telethon to name a few. A couple years later we parted ways when he got kicked out of the house and went to LA. He was great about it as far as the Elephants were concerned. I received a wonderful letter from John and we kept all the gear.
Beatles Magazine: Can you tell us about some work you had done with Yoko in the studio?
Gary Van Scyoc: Yoko’s “Approximately Infinite Universe” is my favorite from any work I have ever done with any other artist! Period. My favorite playing is on it personally and Elephants wise our best work. I played trumpet on the LP which was a personal triumph.
Beatles Magazine: Did you have any occasion to see if John and Paul were still quite close, or was the split ugly from your vantage point?
Gary Van Scyoc: No I have several recollections of Paul calling the Record Plant while we were recording SomeTime in NYC. Feb 1972 and they would talk for hours when we were on break. Sounded like a family conversation to me. But what do I know? Wait..I was there.
Beatles Magazine: POEM was quite political, as was John at that time. How pressured was he for speaking up against the war? Did any of that spill over onto you all?
Gary Van Scyoc: The other way around. We were the political band in NYC at that time. And in the Country. We performed at May Day demonstration in Washington that year. John came to us because of similar affiliations musically and politically. No one pressured John Lennon about ANYTHING!
Beatles Magazine: John and Yoko came to your studio, and you were jamming as they waited. Can you describe John’s white suit, and other happenings that evening?
Gary Van Scyoc: Looked like the suit from Abbey Road to me and my jaw dropped. We kept them waiting outside our studio for quite a while before bring them in. I think they felt like they were the ones auditioning.
Beatles Magazine: The Elephants were well known on their own,and had established themselves quite solidly. What stands out in your mind in regards to that?
Gary Van Scyoc: We have a gold album for the soundtrack to the movie Midnight Cowboy a few year prior. You are correct Sir!
Beatles Magazine: Some equate the group with David Peel, who was a wonderful character. As far as being players, that would be quite a mistake. Can you describe the level of musicianship you played at to the fans?
Gary Van Scyoc: David Peel was a wonderful guy. I actually spoke to him by phone before he passed and we were able to reminisce a little. But we were on another planet musically. Were were not a street band. Every one of our band members were with other famous band/artists around this same time myself with Neil Sedaka and Howard Tate, Tex Gabriel with Mitch Rider, Adam Ippolito with the Allessi Bros and Stan Bronstein with Tito Puente and sax for Aerosmith.
Beatles Magazine: Can you describe Plastic Ono Elephants Memory to us, and what they were doing prior to meeting John & Yoko Ono?
Gary Van Scyoc: We were playing mostly political benefits trying to get the voting age to 18 at NYU and Columbia University
Also promoting our singles on Metromedia records at that time. Before we signed with Apple.
by Bob Wilson
Gary Van Scyoc will be performing one show, a really special gig on June 2nd, 2018. For more details, visit Here
and visit: Gary Van Scyoc’s Official Website