John Lennon / John Lennon & Yoko Ono / Yoko Ono

The Dick Cavett Show: John & Yoko Collection

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In September 1971 and May 1972, John Lennon and Yoko Ono appeared on three episodes of The Dick Cavett Show, talking about their music and lives. (To be technical, they only appeared on the program twice, but the 1971 interview was so long that it was used in two separate episodes.) This two-DVD, approximately three-and-a-half-hour set presents all three of the episodes in their entirety, even including Cavett's opening monologues and the other guests who appeared on the programs; nothing's missing, except the commercials. For Lennon fans, and for many general music and popular culture fans, these are unremittingly interesting, with Lennon and Ono discussing various aspects of their art, songs, records, experimental films (from which a few clips are shown), and social views. The Beatles are only touched upon at a few points, though John does make some general observations about the group and their breakup. While Cavett was not a rock music expert, he did set them at ease and draw out their chat in an informal manner that, certainly by the standards of talk show television, was intelligent and entertaining.

In the September 1971 segments, Lennon does far more talking than the much quieter Ono, coming across as a pretty likable, funny fellow who doesn't shoot as much venom here as he did at various other points of his solo career. Certainly the most interesting portion is the one in which the pair takes questions from the audience, with John delivering a very thorough, insightful answer as to how he wrote songs and how his composing method changed since the early days of the Beatles. As especially interesting points of trivia, he reveals regretting that he threw in a reference to Chairman Mao in "Revolution," worrying that it might prevent him from visiting China. He also names Frank Zappa and Dr. John as some of the musicians he was most enjoying listening to at the time, and expresses surprise that "Oh Yoko!" and "Imagine" are turning out to be the most popular tracks from his Imagine album.

Ono speaks more in the May 1972 segment, in part because much of that was devoted to her and Lennon explaining their search for Ono's daughter, Kyoko, in a custody battle with Yoko's ex-husband. This in turn was helping to lead to efforts to deport John from the U.S., which are also discussed (and which would turn into a battle lasting five years or so). In this episode (unlike the September 1971 programs, which were all talk), Lennon and Ono also perform, using Elephant's Memory as the backing band. John sings "Woman Is the Nigger of the World," whose controversial title required Cavett (under network pressure) to insert a small introduction aimed at mollifying any viewers who might be offended. Yoko sings "We're All Water," which like "Woman Is the Nigger of the World" was bound for the ill-fated Some Time in New York City album.

For the record, these episodes also contain interviews with other guests who appeared on the programs, those being comedian/commercial producer Stan Freberg; actress Shirley MacLaine; and, as a far less recognizable name, Robert Citron, then director of the Smithsonian Institute's Center for Short-Lived Phenomena. Though not related to Lennon and Ono's work, those segments are actually pretty entertaining (even the Citron one), and you might as well watch them as long as you have these discs in the player. Rounding off a first-rate package are introductions specially recorded for this DVD by Cavett, shortly before its 2005 release; a 20-minute interview with Cavett about the Lennon-Ono programs; and a booklet with historical liner notes.

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