Rewinding the Charts: 40 Years Ago a Solo John Lennon Hit No. 1

Elton John knew a No. 1 hit when he heard one. In the summer of 1974, the 27-year-old piano man had recorded "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night" with his friend John Lennon, 33, for the former Beatle's solo album Walls and Bridges.

John, who provided piano, organ and backing vocals on the saxophone-powered cut, was convinced the song had chart-topping potential. Lennon wasn't as confident, so "we made a deal," the "Rocket Man" singer told the United Kingdom's Channel 4 in 2005. "If it got to No. 1, he'd come and play live with me."

On Nov. 16, 1974, the song topped the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Lennon's only solo No. 1 during his lifetime, and he made good on the bet. Despite a case of nerves, he joined John on Thanksgiving night (Nov. 28) at New York's Madison Square Garden.

Lennon had barely performed live in eight years, and backstage, "he was shaking," John recalled. But when he walked onstage mid-concert, the astonished audience gave him a "10-minute standing ovation," John said. The duo then performed the song and The Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" and "I Saw Her Standing There." "It was a big night for him," John said, "and it was a big night for everybody who saw him there, because they never saw him onstage again." The gig was Lennon's last live concert appearance before he was murdered on Dec. 8, 1980 at the age of 40.


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