Follow TV Tropes


Music / Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions

Go To

Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions is the second studio album and debut live album by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, released in 1969 as the first of only two releases from Zapple Records, an incredibly short-lived offshoot of The Beatles' Apple Records dedicated to spoken-word and experimental material. The other album, for reference, was George Harrison's Electronic Sound. Less famous than their first album, Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins from 1968, it once again consists of Avant-Garde Music.

The first side of the original LP is devoted to a registration of a concert of John and Yoko at Cambridge University, with Yoko singing to Lennon's guitar feedback; at the end saxophonist John Tchicai and drummer John Stevens join in. The second side was recorded on a cassette tape in John and Yoko's suite at Queen Charlotte's Hospital in London and is mostly background noise, two minutes of silence and some improvisation.

Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions is a companion piece to Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins from 1968 and together with Wedding Album from 1969 a trilogy of experimental albums John and Yoko recorded together.


Side One
  1. "Cambridge 1969" (26:31)

Side Two

  1. "No Bed for Beatle John" (4:41)
  2. "Baby's Heartbeat" (5:10)
  3. "Two Minutes Silence" (2:00)
  4. "Radio Play" (12:35)

Bonus Tracks (CD Reissue):

  1. "Song For John" (1:29)
  2. "Mulberry" (8:47)

No Bed For Beatle John (but there are a lot of tropes!):

  • A Cappella: Side 2 begins with John and Yoko singing newspaper articles about themselves, in a monastic chat style.
  • Album Filler: Side 1 is basically Yoko screaming with John's guitar feedback in the background, recorded live at Cambridge University in front of an audience. Side 2 was recorded in the hospital where Yoko went to have their first child born, but it ended in a miscarriage. The first part has them reading newspaper articles about themselves while singing them, then follows a series of heartbeat recordings of their unborn child, followed by literally two minutes of silence. The album concludes with radio sounds, with brief moments of John and Yoko talking and John calling someone by phone in the background.
  • Alliterative Title: "No Bed For Beatle John".
  • Annual Title: "Cambridge 1969", recorded at Cambridge University in 1969.
  • Avant-Garde Music: Side 1 is music, though mostly textural noise bordering on Sensory Abuse. Side 2 has some music in the beginning, which consists of John and Yoko singing newspaper articles. The rest is background noise in the hospital - with Yoko toying around with a radio - and silence.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: "Baby's Heartbeat" is a heartbeat monitor.
  • Call-Back and Continuity Nod: The album is a companion piece to John and Yoko's first album Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins (1968).
  • Covers Always Lie: From judging the album cover you'd expect some music on it, unless you've already been exposed to Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins and have some idea that this record may be Avant-Garde Music again. And indeed, it is. This album feels more like a Yoko Ono record, as John's voice is only heard faintly in the background throughout the record, and he only plays guitar on the first side. ... Well, we say "plays" guitar. What he actually does is hold it in front of the amp with the volume turned up to the max.note 
  • Epic Rocking: "Cambridge 1969" is one continuous recording stretching to 26:31 minutes. "Radio Play" takes 12:35 minutes.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The tracks "Baby's Heartbeat", "Two Minutes Silence" and "Radio Play" are effectively what their titles describe.
  • Face on the Cover: John and Yoko in the hospital. Yoko lying in bed, John sitting on the ground because the hospital required his bed for a patient in need and John didn't want to leave Yoko by herself.
  • Grief Song: It's difficult to decide whether "Two Minutes Silence" is dedicated to the child they lost in their miscarriage, but it does follow "Baby's Heartbeat". Neither Ono or Lennon ever explained it.
  • Harsh Vocals: Side 1 has Yoko screaming her head off for almost half an hour.
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack: "Baby's Heartbeat" is a heartbeat monitor recording of their unborn child, who died in miscarriage.
  • Improv: All tracks were improvised.
  • Incredibly Long Note: Yoko's opening wail takes a damn long time!note 
  • Jump Scare: Yoko's announcement: "Uh... this is a piece called—um—Cambridge 1969". Then she starts screaming/wailing.
  • Leave The Recorder Running: All tracks.
  • Live Album: The first side was recorded live at Cambridge University, before a live audience.
  • New Sound Album: This was once again an unprecedented album in rock history.
  • Noise Rock: "Cambridge 1969". That's Lennon sticking his Epiphone Casino up against a big ol' Fender stack for over twenty minutes. At no point in the performance does he play any conventional notes, although he does bash the strings occasionally.
  • Non-Appearing Title: The title doesn't appear on the tracks themselves.
  • Non-Indicative Title: ...zigzagged depending on your impression. "Radio Play" is not a play being broadcast over radio, but rather Yoko playing with a radio.
  • One-Woman Wail: Yoko during "Cambridge 1969".
  • Pun-Based Title: The album title is a pun on the BBC show Life with the Lyons, a sitcom broadcast on radio (1950-1961), as well as TV (1955-1960). The spelling changes refers to the paparazzi, reporters and fans that would hound them, as shown on the back cover.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: "No Bed for Beatle John" consists of John and Yoko reading the text of press clippings about themselves by singing them. The articles are about the hospital not giving John a bed to stay in during Ono's miscarriagenote  and EMI's refusal to distribute Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins because of its controversial sleeve. The back cover is a news photo of Lennon and Yoko leaving the police station in 1968, after being arrested for hashish possession.
  • Sensory Abuse: Yoko's wailing and John's guitar feedback during "Cambridge 1969".
  • Shout-Out: "Two Minutes Silence" has been considered a shout-out to John Cage's "4'33".
  • Singer Name Drop: "No Bed for Beatle John" consists of newspaper articles about John and Yoko.
  • Solo Side Project: This was Lennon's second solo album released while still being a member of the Beatles, and the last one released while he was a member of the band.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Perhaps the most bizarre and morbid example of this trope. "Baby's Heartbeat" is a recording of the heartbeats of their unborn child, who would later die in miscarriage.
  • Stock Sound Effects: A heartbeat monitor during "Baby's Heartbeat" and a radio during "Radio Play".
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: "No Bed for Beatle John". It must be admitted: when Yoko actually makes an effort to sing and not to scream she actually has a very sweet voice. And even though this track is nothing but them two singing newspaper articles, it still sounds far more accessible than all the other tracks.
  • Work Info Title: The title describes the album as "Unfinished Music".