Following the breakup of The Beatles, the world’s curiosity was piqued to see what John Lennon would do with his newfound creative freedom. The result in Plastic Ono Band was legendary; an unprecedentedly intimate view into Lennon’s mind, from his childhood with a largely absent mother and father, to his relationship with Yoko Ono and other broader contemplations with tracks like “God” and “Working Class Heroes.” In honor of the album’s 50th anniversary, Yoko Ono Lennon and Capitol/UMe are releasing a massive library of content in the form of John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band—The Ultimate Collection.
Fully vetted by Yoko Ono Lennon, the box set is a deep dive into the production of Plastic Ono Band, with 11 hours of listening spread across eight discs, plus a hardcover book and poster to boot. The news arrives with a new “Ultimate Mix” of the album’s opening track “Mother,” which was revitalized by Paul Hicks at Abbey Road Studios.
Hicks said in a statement:
Yoko is very keen that in making The Ultimate Mixes Series, we achieve three things: remain faithful and respectful to the originals, ensure that the sound is generally sonically clearer overall, and increase the clarity of John’s vocals. “It’s about John,” she says. And she is right. His voice brings the biggest emotional impact to the album.
The Ultimate Mix Series is only one of many reimaginings of Plastic Ono Band found in the collection. The set will also include previously unreleased studio outtakes, home-recorded demo tapes, Yoko Ono’s companion LP, and jam sessions from Lennon and the Plastic Ono band recorded between takes. Hicks has additionally provided “Elements Mixes,” which focus on smaller details from the tracks that even keen listeners may have missed, like the extra vocals on “Hold On” and an alternative organ take for “Isolation.” The “Evolution Mixes” serve as mini-audio documentaries, chronicling each song from the demo tape to final mixdown.
The 132-page book will include the songs’ lyrics, the stories behind each track’s creation and interviews with those involved in the album’s making. Yoko Ono Lennon’s preface to the book is particularly illuminating to the couple’s motivations at the time:
With the Plastic Ono Band albums, John and I liked the idea of this really raw, basic, truthful reality that we were going to be giving to the world. We were influencing other artists, giving them courage, giving dignity to a certain style of vulnerability and strength that was not accepted in society at the time. It was a revolution for a Beatle to say, “Listen: I’m human, I’m real.” It took a lot of courage for him to do it.
Watch the unboxing video of John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band—The Ultimate Collection below, and listen to the Ultimate Mix of “Mother,” here. You can preorder the collection here.