Lennon’s Jukebox

This week’s Great Performance series on PBS is an hour on John Lennon’s Jukebox . The segment focuses on a portable suitcase jukebox that held forty 45s that Lennon travelled with. The song list is here.

The hour is a splendid history of R&B in the early sixties showing the direct lineage from these 45s to the Beatles’ own records — lick for lick — and is the best showcase for how art builds upon pervious incarnations of itself. Vocal, guitar, harmonica and piano riffs are lifted directly from these records and (as Lennon himself says in interviews laced throughout the show) “shoved all over the place” into Beatles’ music.

Bobby Parker

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One of the most striking examples is Bobby Parker’s guitar riff from “Watch Your Step” that was used note-for-note in literally dozens of hits throughout the 60’s and 70’s including the Beatles’ “I Feel Fine.” If you play guitar you have played this riff.

Updated iinterviews with Delbert McClintock, the Isleys, Steve Cropper, Gary “US” Bonds, Fontana Barrett, Leiber and Stoller and even Parker are all presented with the actual jukebox and comment graciously and generously on their records and the influence on the Beatles.

This is a serious piece of music history, not celebrity, not show-biz, not rock-stars (except for Sting) — just real musicians talking about the vital creative process that today has been hijacked and criminalized by some of the most facist power-brokers this side of the Inquisition when they burned musicians at the stake for playing a tritone.