Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Yoko - Opinion


We put a lot of emphasis on Yoko, the woman who broke up the Beatles, who howled instead of sang, the cause of the escalation in the Vietnam War, global cooling and cyclamates.  

In reality, Yoko Ono was a major figure in the 60s art scene, whose work contributed to conceptualism, Fluxus and op art.  Some will maintain she was also a musical pioneer in punk, riot grrl feminism, lo-fi, art rock, and noise pop (eh, IDK). 

Whatever your assessment – continue to hate as you please – but isn't it time that we put aside the inherent racism and admit that Yoko was the love of John's life and therefore the impetus behind both Plastic Ono Band and Imagine. There is certainly that argument to be made. By now, you'd think we'd be over it.

I think we're all still enamored, for instance, when the Beatles in Help! each went into a different door that connected the same flat. Funny, charming, a part of our eternal fantasy with the Beatles. I love that scene, but honestly, Yoko didn’t break up the Beatles, the Beatles just plain grew up - and that was, indeed, a fantasy.

One of my favorite rock vignettes comes from 1966 when John met Yoko at the Indica Art Gallery in London. The American art scene had eclipsed that in London, despite the work of Peter Blake and Richard Hamilton, David Hockney. The focus of pop art was clearly in New York with Warhol and the Factory, with Lichtenstein and Rauschenberg. Art in London still wore a three-piece suit. But not at the Indica, and on November 9, 1966, John entered the gallery.

John Lennon: There was a sort of underground clique in London; John Dunbar, who was married to Marianne Faithfull, had an art gallery in London called Indica, and I'd been going around to galleries a bit on me off days in between records, also to a few exhibitions in different galleries that showed sort of unknown artists or underground artists.

I got the word that this amazing woman was putting on a show the next week, something about people in bags, in black bags, and it was going to be a bit of a happening and all that. So, I went to a preview the night before it opened. I went in - she didn't know who I was or anything - and I was wandering around. There were a couple of artsy-type students who had been helping, lying around there in the gallery, and I was looking at it and was astounded. There was an apple on sale there for two hundred quid; I thought it was fantastic - I got the humor in her work immediately. I didn't have to have much knowledge about avant-garde or underground art, the humor got me straight away. It was two hundred quid to watch the fresh apple decompose.

But it was another piece that really decided me for or against the artist: a ladder that led to a painting, which was hung on the ceiling. It looked like a white canvas with a chain with a spyglass hanging on the end of it. I climbed the ladder, looked through the spyglass, and in tiny little letters it said, YES.

So, it was positive. I felt relieved. It's a great relief when you get up the ladder and you look through the spyglass and it doesn't say NO or FUCK YOU or something.

The point is that 50 years ago the couple married at Gibraltar, the events of the day captured in the Beatles' hit single "The Ballad of John and Yoko," on which only John and Paul performed. George was away on holiday and Ringo was filming The Magic Christian with Peter Sellars. As a bit of a gag, within the song you can hear Lennon say, "Go a bit faster, Ringo," and Paul shout, "OK, George." The Beatles hadn't lost their sense of humor. Maybe we should try and find ours. How many bands have an unblemished 11 LP streak (think what may have happened)? Where would we be today without Imagine or "Live and Let Die"? Time we get over it, eh?

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