Yoko Ono

by Mike Huberty
February 2010

Plastic Ono Band

Plastic Ono Band

An artist resting comfortably at the fringes of every popular movement since the 1950’s (performance art, rock n’ roll, weird videos, peace activism), Yoko Ono has been freaking out the straights for over half a century, man. Universally reviled by millions for supposedly breaking up The Beatles and generally being an undeserving Mary Magdalene to John Lennon’s rock n’ roll Messiah, it’s refreshing to learn that at 76 years old (Yeah, Baby Boomers, I didn’t believe it either, but have you seen Paul lately?) Yoko Ono is the opposite of being the mad queen of batshit crazy band girlfriends and a sweet lady confident in herself and her creations. Her English is still broken and sometimes she’s a little too “aw-shucks, I’m just an artist that walked into this great fantastically wealthy luck and fame.” But she’s unfailingly nice and stubbornly prolific. She released her latest album in 2009 with THE PLASTIC ONO BAND spearheaded by her son, Sean Lennon, and the disc, Between My Head And The Sky, has garnered the best reviews in her career. She’s gearing up for a reunion performance in February with the band and there’s going to be appearances by people like Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, Scissor Sisters, Bette Midler, Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon, and Mark Ronson. So she must have not pissed too many greats off. I guess there’s hope for Courtney Love yet.

“I’m strange, okay.” she laughs in answering my question about what attracted her to to the avant-garde art world. “Mainstream is dead, it’s boring, see. I just wanted to do something fresh and new, I always felt that way. What amazes me is the fact that people listen to my music now. In those days they used to throw my record in a trash can, right?”

Family is always hard to work with. So I wonder if it was difficult to work with her son, Sean. “People warned me about that.”, Yoko notes. “First of all, I didn’t think very much if it when he said ‘why don’t we do it?’ I didn’t even question it. When I told my friends about it, they said, ‘Are you kidding, a Mother and Son is a bad combination!’ But my first instinct to just say yes was right. There was a lot of worry about hurting feelings. But Sean was very caring and very considerate and I’m sure he was thinking of something that he didn’t tell me, but I don’t know. But from my side too, I didn’t want to fight or anything. I was always ‘that’s okay’. Both of us were trying to come together musically.”

While the album, Between My Head And The Sky, is technically excellent, it’s still completely outside the realm of pop song structure and sound whose dominance that her deceased husband helped to create. It changes genres and slips into different styles more than Lady Gaga changes gender-neutral underthings. “It’s just my mood, ya know. I have so many different kinds of moods, they just come up like nothing. I’m very material, let’s put it that way. So this one, I did that one, let’s go into something else.”

So I asked her about what she’s created that she thinks turned out best and she replies, “i think every piece comes out right. Something like (her new-wave dance hit) ‘Walking on Thin Ice’ I didn’t expect that it would be kind of mainstream. I wouldn’t say commercial, but it’s pretty mainstream, but maybe it’s not. At the time I didn’t think it was mainstream because at the end I was just saying things. I was emphasizing words in the sentence that weren’t supposed to be emphasized and I thought it was pretty cool. And John was saying at the time, ‘From now on we’re just going to do this kind of thing.“ Put the emphasis in the wrong place!” But this avant-garde princess regards the mainstream success of one of her songs as one of her biggest achievements. Maybe Yoko doesn’t like to be hated? After all, she also said, “If there’s anyone else who’s misinterpreted like me, let me know.” She knows her reputation and still creates constantly anyway.

But one of her biggest accomplishments is being a rock n’ roll survivor. She’s still performing at pensioner age. “I don’t know what happened to me.” she says. “I feel more energetic than in the past. When you’re on drugs or something, you just wanna sleep. Now I’m not taking any drugs and it’s good. You have to let your mind control your body in a way and your mind has to think in a way everyday that you can survive with it… This isn’t the time to be a couch potato!”

Her final message is particularly simple for someone who worried about the world for so long. It might be cheesy, but in her voice, you can feel the sincerity. “I think that the most important thing”, she says, “is that all of us realize the importance of goodness. Up until now we thought it was hip to be bad but this is the time we need goodness in all people. ”

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Yoko Ono
CD: Between My Head And The Sky Record Label: Chimera Music
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