Shortly before the Beatles disbanded, John Lennon collaborated with his newfound companion Yoko Ono on the experimental album Two Virgins. With the release of Paul McCartney's solo album McCartney, the Beatles were officially disbanded, and Lennon began work on his own solo projects.
His first solo album, Plastic Ono Band, was meant as an exercise in personal therapy. Lennon poured his personal feelings and troubles into a series of songs that he considered "primal scream" therapy; this is reflected in a number of songs on the album in which Lennon literally screams. The result of his work was an album considered by many to be one of the predecessors of modern-day "grunge" and punk rock, as Lennon lashed out at the world and exorcised his inner demons.
The album was highly controversial because Lennon chose to include profanities in two songs: "I Found Out" and "Working Class Hero." The record label refused to print the actual lyrics containing these expletives. Even more upsetting to fans was the song "God," in which Lennon shuts himself away from the Beatles with the lyric "I don't believe in Beatles."
The song "Mother" is a dirge[?] starting with a knell and covering Lennon's relationship with his family: from what Lennon perceived as his mother's abandonment of him and his continuing grief over the loss; to his father's abandonment of him and his indifference towards John's need; to an entreaty to Lennon's son Julian not to act like his father. The song closes with the repeatedly screamed lines "Mama don't go; Daddy come home."
"I Found Out" covers Lennon's disgust with "freaks on the phone" bothering him as well as his disillusionment with Christianity ("There ain't no Jesus going to come from the sky") and the International Society for Krishna Consciousness ("Ole Hare Krishna got nothing on you // just keeps you crazy with nothing to do") and his anger over his relationship with his mother and father, as well as a perhaps ironic encouragement to avoid drugs and "feel your own pain."
"Working Class Hero" is about Lennon's disaffection with what he perceives as exploitation of the working class : "They keep you doped with religion and sex and TV // And you think you're so clever and classless free // But you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see."
"Isolation" is a piano ballad about John and Yoko, their efforts towards social change, and the criticism they received because of it. Part of it serves as a recrimination of their critics, though tempered with sympathy: "I don't expect you to understand // After you caused so much pain // But then again you're not to blame," etc.
"Remember" is a song about many of the themes covered in the other songs on the album: worker exploitation, escape to a better place, Lennon's mother and father. It ends, perhaps cryptically, with a reference to the Gunpowder Plot.
In "God," Lennon refers to God as "a concept by which we may judge our pain," and follows that description with a list of thing he does not believe in, including Tarot cards, Jesus, the I Ching, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, and Adolf Hitler (the last one a reference to Lennon's wish to have Hitler appear on the cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band--an idea that was scuttled after controversy erupted over Lennon's "bigger than Jesus" comment). Lennon concludes that what he believes in is himself and Yoko Ono, and that his fans will have to carry on after The Beatles' breakup.
"My Mummy's Dead" is a muted acoustic guitar song about the Lennon's mother. The song lasts 59 seconds.
A remastered 2001 re-release of the album on CD also included the tracks "Power To The People" and "Do The Oz."