Listen, I’m not one of those misogynist Yoko haters who blame her for breaking up the Beatles. As much as I grew up loving—and still love—the band, I think they broke up at the right time. By 1974, it would have stunk to have seen them go through their worst solo phases collectively. Imagine if they’d done like the Stones and survived into the ’80s and beyond? No thank you! There are enough 50-year-old fanboys still trying to pull off a variation of the moptop to carry on their would-be sagging legacy.
I’ll go one step further in making it clear that I’m not a Yoko hater: I think that, next to dropping acid, Yoko is the best thing that happened to John. It was cool seeing John grow up and become a somewhat peaceful family man. It gave me some hope during tough times. She seemed like a great match for John, and a cool person in her own right.
What I am is a music fan who is completely sick of Yoko’s attempts at making music—or perhaps I should say our attempts at liking it. I like Yoko’s first Plastic Ono Band album. It’s a great “F-U!” album, with John and that raw, minimalist band cranking out a racket behind Yoko’s screeching. She did some other screeching recordings in that format in the early ’70s that I also enjoy. Then she got the bright idea that she should sing actual lyrics with something resembling a melody. Beside her lone vocal line in “Bungalow Bill” and her chorus vocals on “Happy X-Mas (War Is Over)” I have felt that Yoko has no business going anywhere near actual lyrics and anything resembling a melody.
I mourned for the widowed Yoko as much as the next Beatles fan when John was murdered at the release of their Double Fantasy album, but I gladly skipped every one of Yoko’s songs. As a singer, she’s well beneath “rank amateur.” The likes of the B-52s could rave all they wanted about the influence Yoko had on them. They had a chance of getting a dinner invitation. What did I have to gain by pretending to like that shit? Julian wasn’t her kid, and I was way too old to have a play date with Sean.
Yoko’s still at it, and my Facebook feed is ablaze with people raving over her performance on the Late Show With David Letterman, backed by the so-cool-I-can’t-believe-I’m-worthy-of-living-in-the-same-world-with-them Flaming Lips (and Sean). If she’s not already, I bet Yoko will be trending today. Have you seen this yet? Check it out:
If you disagree with me, please explain why this isn’t terrible and insufferable? If she were a 20-year-old former Disney star writhing around in a flesh-colored body stocking, putting my dick between conflicted feelings of guilt; disgust; and creepy, self-loathing excitement, I wouldn’t hesitate to say it is terrible. She can’t sing. The song’s lyrics and music are trite. Look at Wayne Coyne! He is clearly still licking a top chef-prepared dinner at Yoko’s place off his beard as he fiddles around with a bullhorn. It’s clear what’s in it for them, but what’s in it for my friends who are helping Yoko to trend on this glorious October day?
Is this like 903-year-old Betty White telling an off-color joke at her age? Is this all about a billionaire grandma getting up onstage and “rocking out?” If so, I can understand those feelings. If Yoko had resisted from repeatedly flashing Ringo’s peace signs I may have enjoyed this a little bit, in that Betty White Tells an Off-Color Joke way. However, watching it as a fan of music (not to mention a rank amateur musician), I think, Give me a break! If people who like Yoko’s attempts at making conventional records really like this stuff, wouldn’t they like the music made but other sub-rank amateurs? Oh wait, it’s 2013. What am I saying…
The power of being Touched By a Beatle cannot be overlooked. Think of all the people who have managed to keep in the public eye thanks to even casual groping by a Beatles. John’s blessing must have been the most powerful of blessings among Beatles. Even in death being touched by John enables all manner of mediocre musicians to carry on.
Being touched by George probably is the next most powerful blessing, even before George’s blessing took on added weight with his death.
Being touched by Paul may be a bad thing. Beside Badfinger, has anyone’s profile been raised in a positive light by playing music with, screwing, or even partying with the Cute One?
Ringo had his brief reign of touching lesser musicians, but his All-Star Traveling Band (or whatever that is called) seems to be nothing more than a fun, down-to-earth venture that promises no healing or other special mojo powers.
Mr. Mod, I’m with you all the way – except for the part about appreciating early ’70 Yoko. I didn’t like it then, I don’t like it now, and there’s wasn’t any point in-between that I liked it. If there was ever a case of the emperor’s clothes, Yoko is it.
And speaking of being touched by a Beatle, I know we commented last week on Jackie Lomax’s passing. It’s not surprising that his death gets mentioned here (although as I said last week, his significance for me is not the Beatle connection but his being mentioned in Wild Man Fischer’s first waxing). But I noted that his death was cited in Entertainment Weekly’s Monitor column and, get this, in TIme magazine’s Milestones column.
I remember being a young kid, reading Time, and thinking “Wow, I hope some day I’m famous enough to have some key event in my life – even it’s end – noted in Milestones.” I guess there is hope…
That’s exactly how I feel about Yoko. Never cared for her and probably never will. To top this off, I don’t think The Flaming Lips do anything interesting, either. What’s with the guitar player on the left? Is he playing a double neck that he broke and it only has one neck now? I didn’t understand that guitar at all. I can’t play one, but I like guitars, and I didn’t like that one at all.
You could probably argue that Denny Laine’s profile was given a boost by playing with Paul. It seems to me he’d be nothing but a footnote in rock ‘n’ roll history for his time with the Moody Blues, but he got to have fame and fortune as a member of Wings. Has he done anything since ending his association with Paul?
Good point about the boost, but I don’t think Laine has done anything with his Beatles blessing since. He hasn’t written a book or toured with Ringo, has he?
I will say this for Yoko, it’s hard to believe she’s 80 years old.
October 9 would have been John’s 73rd birthday. What would a 73 year old Lennon be like? Dyed hair and face lifts and playing to stadiums like Macca?
I should think this goes without saying, but one need not be a misogynist to find Yoko’s musical stylings to be incredibly annoying, whether screeching or “singing.” I make allowances for “Walking on Thin Ice” which I find pretty great; and “Don’t Worry Kyoko” always makes me laugh, at least, which counts for something.
I was thinking about her last week as she took out one of her occasional full-page ads in the NY Times. Usually they are minimalist messages in the spirit of “War Is Over” and I think they are quite ok and I tip my hat to her for staying “on message” all these years in that respect. This one was a poem by Yoko. Alas.
Has anyone seen this yet? Looks interesting:
I’ve never really liked Yoko – her screaming gets on my nerves. I’ve always considered her a performance artist, not a singer per se.
I’ve always thought that this song, “Birthday Cake” by Cibo Matto was Miho Hatori channeling Yoko. After all, the lyrics (those you can make out in this version) seem to refer to Sean and his then girlfriend, Yuka Honda (playing the keyboards), and mention “food nouveau” and peace/love/war. Notice Sean jumping around playing the bass. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MFpy-yw9G0
“Walking on Thin Ice” is pretty cool. And I think her screeching on Rolling Stones Rock ‘N’ Roll Circus isn’t bad enough to cancel out a pretty good grove by the Dirty Mac. Other than that, I can’t stand her. The Letterman performance definitely sucks.
The only practical application I have ever experienced of Yoko’s music is the dance “Dogtown” choreographed by Mark Morris years ago (I believe the premiere was 1983). I had the good fortune of seeing it performed live twice and it is truly hilarious while at the same time making biting social commentary. Imagery of dogs is at once clever and chuckle-producing with dancers on their hands and knees, lifting their legs as if to pee and shaking like a small, overstimulated terrier. Is it distasteful? You bet, in the best way possible. Hey, don’t be a prude–American modern dance is based in and all about rebellion and pushing the boundaries, and part of that is the prerogative–no, imperative–to see anything and everything as potential movement for dance. So dogs sniffing oneanother’s butts is fodder for a movement vocabulary that ultimately makes us laugh at the foibles of modern people trying to have modern relationships. And let’s not ignore the “Animal Farm” reference or the book’s last line: “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.” This seems to be the ultimate point of both and dance and song. Not to give dogs a bad name…hey, dogs are better companions than the characters presented here! And all this is centered around Yoko’s music:
“No, No, No”
“Give Me Something”
While I wouldn’t want to sit down and chill with this as my sound-scape, (the proverbial fingernails on a chalkboard might be more relaxing), I must admit that it worked perfectly for this
dance. When Yoko sings “Give me something that’s not hard…c’mon, c’mon, c’mon” or “Let me take my pants off…no, no, no” it perfectly fits the 80’s dynamic of sex no longer being quite so free and modern relationships lacking any real intimacy, all while making you laugh…and THINK. And maybe relate a little more than you would like. Then laugh some more at the absurdity.
But really, that’s about it–no other uses for Yoko’s music really work, in my opinion, John Lennon’s thumbs up notwithstanding.
I do think it’s appropriate to note that while many of us didn’t “get” the attraction our favorite Beatle felt regarding Ms. Ono, he loved her. So while I won’t be buying any of her music (though I do own Double Fantasy on vinyl) I can at least respect that something about her (was it the way she moved? OOPS. Wrong Beatle. SORRY…couldn’t resist) rocked John’s world. So that has to be good enough,right? Though it would be truly gratifying if she’d promise to NEVER “SING” ON LETTERMAN AGAIN. And I REALLY don’t want to see an octogenarian shake her booty!
One last thought: I read somewhere that John’s initial attraction to Yoko began when he went to see an installation of her work at a gallery in London. In one part of the room was a ladder and when you climbed it you found a spyglass dangling from a chain connected to a canvas on the ceiling. When you looked through it, you saw a tiny word: “YES!” And he found that to be quite wonderful. So perhaps we can all forgive her for not being our personal ideal of a great musician if we just remember that she was an avant-garde artist first, and that, (when they first locked eyes), “She got it and I got it and that was it.”
Above all, a lot of her work is humorous, an humor is healing. I think I can live with her music as long as she doesn’t take herself too seriously. And let’s face it–that would be inordinately hard if the love of your life was murdered.
Great stuff, Paola! Thanks for joining us, and thanks for sharing your personal, well-balanced perspective. Don’t be a stranger.