In 1974 Lennon produced Harry Nilsson’s album Pussy Cats in Los Angeles. With Nilsson’s gift for gorgeous melodies and his peerless voice, there was speculation that he could be a new McCartney for Lennon; probably Nilsson hoped so himself.
But McCartney had been a fan of Nilsson’s for years, as well, so he and Linda dropped by the Pussy Cats sessions at Burbank Studios the same night Stevie Wonder was there. Wonder was currently in the midst of a streak of chart-topping classics following his 1972 tour with the Rolling Stones.
One could have heard a pin drop when McCartney walked in, as the Beatles’ break up had been famously acrimonious. Finally, Lennon said, “Valiant Paul McCartney, I presume?”
McCartney replied, “Sir Jasper Lennon, I presume?” referring to the roles they performed in a 1963 Christmas stage show. They shook hands and soon started jamming.
Lennon sang lead and played guitar, McCartney drummed and sang harmony, Wonder sang and played electric piano, Linda played the organ, Lennon’s girlfriend May Pang the tambourine, Nilsson sang, Jesse Ed Davis played guitar, producer Ed Freeman played bass and Bobby Keys played sax. They jammed some blues, then covered “Lucille,” “Sleep Walk,” “Stand By Me,” “Cupid,” “Chain Gang” and “Take This Hammer.”
It should have been a classic moment, but it was past midnight and everyone was coked out. On the famous bootleg, A Toot and a Snore, Lennon says to Wonder, “You wanna snort, Steve? A toot? It’s goin’ round.” A couple tunes later Lennon is looking for some more coke while repeatedly complaining about the technical difficulties he’s having with his mike and headphones.
On one hand it’s sad that the last known recording of McCartney and Lennon should be so lackluster. But on the other hand, it’s nice to hear that they were friendly again. The “Lucille” cover is almost passable, on par with some of the more coherent “Get Back” outtakes.