Yoko Ono has had many detractors by Beatles lovers over the years, but quietly and fiercely her long time fans have stood by her. Her love affair with the late John Lennon is one of the most publicized marriages of the rock and roll world. Their collaborations began with their famous nude album cover ("Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins ") and was only cut short by Lennon's tragic death outside their NYC apartment building. Before meeting Lennon, Ono was known as an avante garde artist and revered by such contemporaries as John Cage, Phillip Glass and the neo-Dadaist art movement, Fluxus. The point of Fluxus was to suggest creative anarchy by using absurd or light-hearted aesthetics; punk in its sympathy with do-it-yourself art.
She published a book of short instruction pieces in 1964 called Grapefruit. That same year she gave concerts at Carnegie Hall. In 1965, "Sky Piece to Jesus Christ," was performed by the Fluxorchestra at the Carnegie Recital Hall, New York, in which the musicians were wrapped in gauze as they played. Eventually playing was impossible and all were quiet and bound together and had to exit the stage as one entity. "Cut Piece" in which Ono, wearing an expensive suit, sat on stage and invited members of the audience to come up and cut off her clothing. "Our imaginations embrace what we do not have or cannot be," Ono remarked. "The reason people get so enticed by the sky... is due to the restrictions surrounding their lives... the performers' difficulties in walking is so opposite to the freedom that the sky represents." In 2000, a CD compilation, Yes Yoko Ono was released. Next month, she kicks off a touring retrospective of her art with a concert in St. Paul, Minnesota.
At a pre-opening viewing of one of her shows, she met John Lennon. He climbed up an unsteady ladder to look through a small eyeglass where he found a single word: yes. That set the stage for their famous relationship that spawned much music, artwork and happenings such as the 1969 Bed-Ins for Peace and the billboard campaign, War Is Over, which Yoko revived in December of 1998.
"When John and I got together," Ono explains, "it seemed as though if we coughed they were going to write about it, I thought that it was sad that space in the newspaper should be used for something like that when we should be commenting on what's happening in the world. So I thought it was a great idea to do something. Bed In was a natural result of that."
The rest is history. John and Yoko married. The Beatles broke up. Sean Lennon was born. John Lennon was murdered. Through it all, Yoko has made wonderful music and contributed to world peace efforts throughout the world. The release of OnoBox from Rykodisk in 1992 brought her back into the public's eyes and clarified the influence that she had on groups such as the B-52s, PJ Harvey and early punk rock. Her and Sean's recent collaborations with Cibo Matto, Ween and IMA have brought her to younger audiences as well. She is also the subject of a theatrical piece, "The Yoko Ono Project" which opened in Toronto on Feb. 6th.
What happened at the first Annual Yoko Ono Birthday Tribute HootOwl performed "Cut Piece" where members of the audience were invited to cut pieces of clothes off to take home with them. Rog Wall prepared some of Yoko's instructional pieces to hand out to the audience and have them read them as they got them. Mine (Ky) was Map Piece: "Draw a map to get lost" She also had four volunteers read a piece drawn form the Lyric Accomapniment to Grapefruit in the World, each of them reading and seeing a line at a time.
Kale Kallach performed "Born In A Prison." Danny Dollinger performed "Goodbye Sadness" which Reckless Raunchy and the Amazons also covered later on. Two spontaneous participants performed 2 from Yoko's latest release, RISING, one being called "Warzone" and I don't remember the name of the other song. They introduced these a capella performances with saying something about the recent WTO protests in Seattle. The May Pangs (Kate Messner and friends) did "Move On Fast" and initiated a wild jam on "Don't Worry Kyoko." Jody Denberg performed "Beautiful Boys." We (Owl, Meaux Jeaux White, Danny , Cale and I) performed "We're All Water", "Don't Be Scared", "Men, Men, Men", "Lonliness", "I'm Your Angel", "Dogtown", "Mildred", "Silver Horse", and "Woman Power." These are all Yoko songs. In addition, These songs of John's were performed: "Cold Turkey", "Oh Yoko", "the Ballad of John and Yoko" and "Working Class Hero." We also had Objects for inspection including Yoko songbooks, xerox art of her face from the Onobox CD set and old record albums of her music. We had copies of Wedding Album, Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins, Double Fantasy, It's Alright and Milk and Honey and an 8-track version of Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions. We didn't want the records themselves to get messed up, so along with all the original covers, we included xeroxes of the actual records. We also xeroxed a record player in case anyone wanted to listen to them. They had to supply their own headphones though. We created a birthday card for Yoko that we're sending her in the mail. This was one of my 10 best gigs of all time for 2 reasons: I feel we really represented Yoko's works in many forms, from the feedback to the sublime, from the music to the silence. The other reason is because of the high audience participation and communal feeling in the room ("Cut Piece" in particular generated that to a higher degree then I would've imagined!). ... Ky Hote
As a public service, here are the Top Ten Reasons to have a Yoko Ono Tribute Hoot:
#10: Yoko is a pioneer in the realm of Performance Art.(A Grapefruit in the World of Park 1961 at the Village Gate, NYC)
#9: Yoko writes great melodies.(see “Let Me Count the Ways” from Milk and Honey 1984)
#8 Yoko Rocks!(see “Walking On Thin Ice” single released 1981)
#7 Lyrics, Lyrics, Lyrics(“Dogtown” 1974 from A Story)
#6 Primal Screaming: Good and good for you.(“Don’t Worry Kyoko” from Fly 1971)
#5 You never know when you’re going to see a naked bottom at one of these things.
#4 John Lennon songs are very approriate to play.
#3 Birthday Cake at Midnight
#2 You never know who’ll show up.and the number one reason to have a Yoko Ono Tribute Hoot:
#1 Gives Chris Riemenschneider something to complain about
Yoko Ono/John Lennon: Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins (1968)
John Lennon/Yoko Ono: Unfinished Music No. 2: Life With The Lions (1969)
John & Yoko: Wedding Album (1969)
John Lennon/Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band: Live Peace in Toronto 1969 (1969)
Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band: Plastic Ono Band (1970)
Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band: Fly (1971)
John & Yoko/Elephant's Memory: Sometime In New York City (1972)
Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band: Approximately Infinite Universe (1973)
Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band: Feeling The Space (1973)
Yoko Ono: A Story (recorded 1974; released 1992)
John & Yoko: Double Fantasy (1980)
Yoko Ono: Walking On Thin Ice (1981)
Yoko Ono: Season Of Glass (1981)
Yoko Ono: It's Alright (I See Rainbows) (1982)
Yoko & John: Heart Play -unfinished dialogue (1983)
Yoko & John: Milk and Honey (1984)
Yoko Ono: Starpeace (1985)
Yoko Ono: OnoBox (1992)
Yoko Ono/IMA: Rising (1996)
Yoko Ono: Yes Yoko Ono (2000)
Many of these albums have been reissued by Rykodisc