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Music / Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins

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Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins is the debut studio album by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, released in 1968. At the time he was the first Beatle after George Harrison to release a non-soundtrack solo album note , which happened only a week after the release of Harrison's Wonderwall Music.

Two Virgins caused enormous controversy for depicting John and Yoko in full frontal nudity. The scandal has overshadowed the actual content of the album, which is basically a recording of John and Yoko experimenting with all kinds of sounds and noises, while Yoko feels the urge to wail a lot from time to time. It only sold well because of the scandal and because it was Lennon's first solo record, but is generally only interesting for Avant Garde Music fans and/or Lennon biographers. It is safe to say that its album cover is more famous than the content.

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Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins is a companion piece to Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions from 1969 and forms together with Wedding Album from 1969 a trilogy of experimental albums, recorded by John and Yoko.


Tracklist:

Side One

  1. "Two Virgins Side One" (14:14)

Side Two

  1. "Two Virgins Side Two" (15:13)


Bonus Track (1997 Reissue):

  1. "Remember Love" (4:05)


Virginal Tropes:

  • Album Filler: This is a recording of two people experimenting with feedback, delay, instrumentals and screaming and yelling from time to time. One half hour long.
  • Answer Song: Actress Sissy Spacek recorded a novelty song called "John, You Went Too Far This Time", referencing this album.
  • As the Good Book Says...: A brown bag was used to wrap the album cover up for stores who didn't want to offend other clients. To provide a Take That! to their prudishness Lennon made sure the text had the following Bible quote printed on it, from Genesis Chapter 2, verses 21 to 25. The final line was highlighted in black lettering.
    And the Lord God caused a deep
    sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept
    and he took one of his ribs, and closed
    up the flesh instead thereof
    And the rib, which the Lord God
    had taken from the man, made he a woman
    and brought her unto the man
    And Adam said, This is now bone
    of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she
    shall be called Woman, because she was
    taken out of man
    Therefore shall a man leave his
    father and his mother, and shall cleave
    unto his wife: and they shall be one
    flesh.
    And they were both naked, the
    man and his wife, and were not
    ashamed.
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  • Avant Garde Music: Most of the material on this album consists of tape loops, playing while Lennon experiments with piano, organ, drums and sound effects (reverb, delay, distortion). The rest is him chatting with Yoko, who improvises to the lyrics.
  • Careful with That Axe: John and Yoko scream and wail from time to time.
  • Celebrity Cameo: Paul McCartney wrote a quote in the album sleeve: "When two great Saints meet, it is a humbling experience. The long battles to prove he was a Saint."
  • Contemptible Cover: The front and back of the album cover shows Lennon and Yoko posing in the nude.note  This caused a lot of controversy and as a result many stores sold it in a brown bag with a small hole that showed only their faces, not their nude bodies. To provide a Take That! to prudish people quotes from Genesis chapter 2 were placed on the back of the brown bag.
    John: "It just seemed natural to use. We're all naked really."
  • Covers Always Lie: From looking at the album cover you'd expect this to be a genuine rock album or perhaps a pornographic tape. It is neither. Also: neither John Or Yoko were virgins at that point.
  • Continuity Nod: The album is a companion piece to Lennon's second solo album Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions (1969).
  • Cover Version: John quotes from the 1928 song "Together" and the nursery rhyme "Hushabye Hushabye" at some points.
  • Cut Short: After 14 minutes of making noise John suddenly says: "Excuse me?!", whereupon he stops playing and replies: "Thank you." This ends side 1 of the original LP.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The album cover is in black-and-white.
  • Epic Rocking: Both sides of the original LP are just one continuous recording.
  • Face on the Cover: John and Yoko, posing in a full frontal nudity pose.
  • Fan Disservice: Lennon claimed that much of the controversy about the album cover had more to do with the fact that he and Yoko were rather unattractive in the nude and the photo unflattering. Apart from that the content itself was also huge disservice to fans of John Lennon and The Beatles, who'd rather wanted actual rock music.
  • Harsh Noise: This album in a nutshell.
  • Improv, Leave the Camera Running, and Live Album: John and Yoko basically just pushed the record button and started experimenting with instruments, sound effects, singing and talking. All of it was improvised directly on record, making this something of a live album. As John explained himself:
    My ex-wife was away ... and Yoko came to visit me. ... instead of making love, we went upstairs and made tapes. I had this room full of different tapes where I would write and make strange loops and things like that for the Beatles' stuff. So we made a tape all night. She was doing her funny voices and I was pushing all different buttons on my tape recorder and getting sound effects. And then as the sun rose we made love and that was "Two Virgins".
  • Lampshade Hanging: Around the 26:30 mark John says: "Are you ready? Like we've done before", whereupon even more noise and wailing continues.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: John on the album cover.
  • Nature Adores a Virgin: The title alludes to the fact that John and Yoko were so in love that they felt like virgins.
  • New Sound Album: For a debut album by a major rock artist this was certainly an unprecedented record.
  • Noise Rock: Together with "European Son" from The Velvet Underground & Nico in 1967, one of the earliest examples.
  • Non-Appearing Title: The title doesn't appear on the tracks themselves.
  • One-Woman Wail: About 4 minutes in, Yoko and John start screaming. Luckily not throughout the whole album, but they do do it again occasionally.
  • The Parody: Around the 28:00 mark John seems to parody a religious sermon on the piano, as he concludes with the word: "A-meeeeen!"
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis: The album cover has become infamous thanks to the image of John Lennon and Yoko Ono posing in the nude. It is also frequently shown in documentaries about Lennon, Yoko Ono and The Beatles, pops up in lists of controversial album covers and has been spoofed and parodied countless times. But the younger generations who may recognize the image from may not even be aware it's not just a photograph, but an actual album. Needless to say that even those who know this have hardly ever listened to it, left alone more than once.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Regardless of what you think about the content and the packaging there's something quite audacious to release your first solo album full with uninterrupted experimental noise, while showing yourself and your loved one completely nude on the cover. And Lennon's next two albums were again audience alienating experimental recordings!
  • Sensory Abuse: It's not an easy listening record to say the least.
  • Sexy Packaging: John and Yoko fully frontal nude on the album cover.
  • Solo Side Project: This was Lennon's first solo album released while still being a member of the Beatles.
  • Spiritual Successor: Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions and Wedding Album.
  • Stock Sound Effects: Bird whistling is heard throughout the first minutes of the album.
  • Take That, Critics!: The Bible quote about Adam and Eve's nudity, used on the brown bag that censored the nudity of the album cover.
  • Work Info Title: The title describes the album as "Unfinished Music".
  • Your Cheating Heart: The entire album was recorded while John's wedded wife Cynthia was out and Yoko and John were messing about with this noise in her house.

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