‘This song’s about pain’: Watch John Lennon’s final UK gig, featuring Eric Clapton, George Harrison and Keith Moon

Plastic Ono Band
(Image credit: Andrew Maclear/Redferns)

On December 15, 1969 John Lennon made what would be his final appearance on a UK stage, when the Plastic Ono Band performed their only European show at a Unicef benefit Peace For Christmas concert at the The Lyceum in London. 

On the night, which also featured appearances by Desmond Dekker and The Aces, the Young Rascals and more, Lennon and Yoko Ono were backed by an all-star band including Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Keith Moon, keyboard players Billy Preston (The Beatles/The Rolling Stones) and Nicky Hopkins (Led Zeppelin/The Rolling Stones) and sax player Bobby Keyes (The Rolling Stones). The group played just two songs - a seven-minute version of Cold Turkey, Lennon’s dark depiction of heroin withdrawal, introduced by the singer with the words “This song’s about pain”, and a mammoth, intense, hard-riffing 40-minute version of Don’t Worry Kyoko, which, according to legend, caused half the Lyceum audience to walk out of the venue, much to Lennon’s amusement. 

The singer later described the performance of Don’t Worry Kyoko as “the most fantastic music I’ve ever heard… 20 years ahead of its time”.

“A lot of the audience walked out, but the ones that stayed, they were in a trance,” he said. “It was one of the first real heavy rock shows… It’s only to be expected that some people were disappointed in that we only did two long numbers, but we play 1984 music! I don’t know what they want. I’m trying to get it across that the Plastic Ono Band plays the unexpected… I don’t do variety anymore. I stopped that when I was with The Beatles.”

The full audio of the performance of Cold Turkey was released in 1972 on Some Time In New York City, a part studio/part live double album released by Lennon and Ono / the Plastic Ono Band with New York rock group Elephant’s Memory and Invisible Strings. A version of Don’t Worry Kyoko, edited down to a mere 16 minutes, was also released on the same album. 

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.