Music Consumption in the MP3 Era
Music Consumption in the MP3 Era

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Name: uao
Location: California

uao is also a contributor to Blogcritics.org, Rhapsody Radish. and FIQL.com.

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Feel free to dig through the Deep Freeze for more, but stuff dated before mid-March 2005 is still formative and impressionistic, and not really worth the effort.

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I grew up reading Robert Christgau, Village Voice, and Lester Bangs, Creem, Punk, various others.

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Note: the copyrighted audio material on this site is for listening only, and is not downloadable. It is provided as illustrations to the articles, and to interest people in the legal purchase of these artists' material. Any copyright holder who would like their material removed should contact me, and I'll remove it.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005
 

OK Yoko: Sticking Up for Yoko Ono

Yoko turns 73 in February


Just a quick de-brief on the Top Women in Rock #1-#25 and #26-50 posts.

I knew when I included Yoko Ono on the list, I'd get some argument.

From the Blogcritics.org discussion thread following the posting of the first article:

Reply #44: Iron Maiden contributed the dual axe attack---
Yoko Ono...BROKE UP THE FUCKING BEATLES.
Yeah, I'm the one with horrible taste.


Reply #54: Oh, yeah, and Yoko Ono?
Yoko's vocals and music are like a cross between nails on a blackboard and a screwdriver driven into the brain.
Remember, John met her after he saw her on stage tied up inside a sack. At least she couldn't be heard in there.


Since I had been expecting this, I had my reply prepared. I share it here, because some of you out there might be harboring similar thoughts...

John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1975


John did not meet Yoko tied up in a bag on a stage.

He met her at John Dunbar's Indica Gallery, where she was having a fairly prestigious (beautiful people like the Beatles came) exhibition of her own art, on November 9, 1966.
Yoko Ono: Ceiling Painting [installment] (1966)
Lennon found her exhibition, which was minimalist in an intellectual avant-garde sense, intelligent and inspiring. He was particularly moved by her "Ceiling Painting" installment ("yes" is painted on the ceiling, viewable only through a magnifying glass you had to climb the ladder to use) He frequently recounted the tale in interviews.

Musically, you have to understand what she's doing. Which means forgetting all the hype of decades about breaking up Beatles, being unlistenable, bags, et. al.
Yoko Ono: Fly (1971)
It's performance art in one sense, and the albums were accompanied by films that were in the tradition of Andy Warhol's early 60's films. "Fly" is a 40-minute movie of a fly crawling on a naked woman's body. (Warhol's "The Shadow of an Airplane Climbs The Empire State Building" was several hours of the title event)

Musically, Ono's voice was used as a 5th instrument, an abstract. She never tried to be a "singer" until years later.
Yoko Ono: Fly (1971)
In this sense, she was freed from all convention that shackles all singers. It left her to explore all manner of expression. "Don't Worry Kyoko" really is anguished, as she's singing to her estranged daughter. "Mind Train" really is sinister and frightening. "Aos", which features Ornette Coleman and is free-jazz in the purest sense is brilliant; Ono turns an uncharacteristically sex-kitteny vocal into a sudden, freaky nightmare, as does Coleman on his sax. "Mind Holes" is a lush, echoed, mysterious acoustic number with Eric Clapton's strangest playing while Yoko's voice is quite un-abrasive and gentle, yet there's an unsettling edge to it too. From 1969-1971 the musicans who turned up most frequently with her were Lennon, Klaus Voorman, and Ringo Starr (Plastic Ono Band) plus, on Live Peace In Toronto (1969), Plastic Ono Band (1970), and Fly (1971), good old Eric Clapton, who gets to experiment in ways he never could with other bands.

The B52's "Rock Lobster" is based on a Yoko Ono-like construction, and the B52's have frequently championed her. Stereolab is another act that owes something to Yoko, as does almost any woman who has sung punk. Surely Sinead O'Connor has heard a couple of Yoko albums somewhere in her life, at an impressionable age.

Many trip-hop and electronica songs have directly sampled her or adopted elements of her vocals, a remix "Walking On Thin Ice" was a surprise #1 Dance/Club hit in 2003, over two decades after it came out. In 2004, her Everyman...Everywoman reached #1 on the Billboard Dance/Club Play chart. Two #1's for a woman past 70 is historic in and of itself.

She was the recipient of a lot of hate mail and overt racist attacks (a portrayal of her as a monkey in an editorial cartoon inspired Lennon's "Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except for Me and My Monkey" on the White Album). She handled herself with class, even though she had every right to be angry as hell; she was an artist, after all.

As a woman and a person, I'll just say that Lennon loved her and that's good enough for me. She's given much to charity, she's an interesting interview, she's never done me any harm.

She's often at odds with the Beatle estates over various issues (as is Courtney Love with Nirvana), but that's just hard-ball business. Men don't like it when women are good at it. If it turned out that Ringo was the hard-assed negotiator of the Beatles, we'd probably never even hear of it.

John & Yoko Bed-In (1969)

As for Breaking Up the Beatles, I say the following:

a) they broke up (and two of them have died) get over it
b) What about Linda? And Harrison's wife was getting cozy with Clapton at that time. And didn't Ringo get a divorce? Let's just blame women for Breaking Up the Beatles. But that wouldn't be chivilrous in a piece dedicated to women. Plus it's wrong.
c) The Beatles broke up the Beatles!! Lennon was the only one who didn't walk; Ringo quietly quit for a week, Harrison walked out one stormy day, and McCartney announced it with his first solo album. The main reason was they wanted to do their own music, and didn't much agree with each other about what that music should be.

Her influence as a woman in rock on purely musical terms? Big.

All her albums are very patchy, but the best stuff is good. You just have to understand it.

But like I said in the piece, Yoko Ono is one of the most misunderstood women in history.

Avant-garde, new wave, trip hop, punk, feminist, experimental, strange, and fascinating. I can think of others who are a whole lot less.

Listen to Yoko Ono: Mind Train (1971)




     

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