It was 40 years ago November 28, 1974, on Thanksgiving Day; a unique musical occurrence took place. After losing a bet John Lennon made a rare appearance to join Elton John on stage for a three-song set at New York’s famed Madison Square Garden. The last time Lennon performed live was in 1972 for his One to One concert (also at the Garden). Little did anyone know at the time it would be Lennon’s last live concert in any form.
While Lennon was in L.A. he recorded a single titled “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night” with Elton for his upcoming “Walls and Bridges” album. Elton was so confident this would be a number one single upon release he wagered a bet with Lennon. When it gets to the top of the charts you must perform it live when I’m on tour, according to Elton. Lennon wasn’t too worried since he never had a number one song on the charts as a solo artist.
That was about to change on November 16, 1974 “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night” was #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100. During Elton’s stop in New York City he introduced John Lennon to an uproarious crowd at Madison Square Garden that lasted for 10 minutes. This was at a time well before the internet, so keeping something like this under wraps was a lot easier then (now it’s next to impossible).
There is footage of this moment captured on film from a concertgoer on YouTube. Unfortunately there is no sound. Lennon comes out at the 3:40 mark. The good news is there’s an audio recording of their duet together for Lennon’s number one hit. The second song performed was “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” Elton John covered this song too. His 1974 release reached number one on the U.S. chart.
Closing out the mini-set was Lennon singing a McCartney composition “I Saw Her Standing There.” He told the audience “we thought we’d do a number of an old, estranged fiancé of mine, called Paul. It’s an old Beatle number.”