By Bill Kopp
John Lennon is rarely thought of as a session musician; nearly all of his work was within the context of The Beatles, with wife Yoko Ono and/or his own Plastic Ono Band. But between 1965 and his death in 1980, Lennon participated in several notable projects involving other artists.
The Silkie – “You've Got to Hide Your Love Away” – A rare outside project during the Beatles’ heyday, this 1965 recording by Hull University folk-pop vocal group featured Lennon as producer, plus Paul McCartney on guitar and George Harrison on tambourine. The song made the Top 40 in the U.K. and USA.
Elton John – “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” – John joined his friend Elton John for a cover of the Beatles classic; it was a return favor for Elton’s duet with Lennon on the hit single “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night.” Late that year John guested onstage at Madison Square Garden, performing the song with Elton’s band; it would be his last concert appearance.
David Bowie – “Fame” – John Lennon rarely co-wrote with anyone outside of Paul McCartney (and later Yoko Ono). This hit track off Bowie’s Young Americans LPs is a brilliant and notable exception. Lennon also sang and played acoustic guitar on the recording.
Harry Nilsson – “Rock Around the Clock” – Recorded during John’s infamous “lost weekend” in Los Angeles, this Brandy Alexander-fueled reading of the Bill Haley classic was produced and arranged by Lennon.
Cheap Trick – “I'm Losing You” – The sessions for Double Fantasy included some of music’s top session players. But on at least one occasion, Rick Nielsen and Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick joined Lennon in the studio to cut a searing version of this song. The recording was shelved in favor of another take, but finally appeared on 1998’s John Lennon Anthology.