The UNICEF event featured John and George’s first scheduled performance since The Beatles’ last concert in 1966, and John Lennon’s last UK live appearance.
A historic concert that, surprisingly, sometimes goes under the radar in the history of some British rock royalty took place at London’s Lyceum Theatre on 15 December 1969.
It was a charity event for UNICEF, the United Nations’ international fund, called Peace and Love for Christmas. The concert marked the live debut of the extended Plastic Ono Band, on this occasion featuring the incredible line-up of John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Eric Clapton and more with a brief appearance by Keith Moon. It came in the week of release of the Plastic Ono Band’s Live Peace In Toronto, the cover of which is pictured above.
The concert turned out to be Lennon’s last live appearance in his home country, and it’s also the answer to what could be a memorable trivia question, about the night Lennon and Harrison were on a bill that also featured Jimmy Cliff, Desmond Dekker, the Young Rascals and UK hitmakers Blue Mink. Tickets cost £1 each, and others joining the stellar cast included Klaus Voorman, Bobby Keys, Jim Price and Alan White, all regular collaborators to this extended family. BBC Radio1 DJ Emperor Rosko MCd the evening.
The Lyceum stage was adorned with a giant “War is over” message banner, previewing the sentiment of John and Yoko’s subsequent Christmas single.
This supergroup performed Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band’s then-current single ‘Cold Turkey’ and its b-side ‘Don’t Worry Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking For Her Hand In The Snow),’ both in extended versions. The recordings, mixed by Geoff Emerick, were included as the second disc, titled Live Jam, on the original release of the 1972 album credited to Lennon, Ono and Elephant’s Memory, Some Time In New York City. John introduces ‘Cold Turkey’ (which was in the UK chart at the time of the event, having peaked at No. 14) by saying “This is a song about pain.”
Lennon is quoted, by The Beatles Bible and elsewhere, expressing his enthusiasm for the night. “I thought it was fantastic,” he said. “I was really into it. 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 ‘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.’”