As part of our Beatles celebration—go here to read our travelogue of Hamburg and an interview with biographer Larry Kane—we invited Yoko Ono to the party. She gracefully assented.
BY A.D. AMOROSI
On the occasion of her 80th birthday, Yoko Ono not only released the audacious, Take Me to the Land of Hell. She played a rare, dazzling show at NYC’s Bowery Ballroom with her son Sean leading her Plastic Ono Band. The next day, she may have been hoarse, but she was ready to talk.
BLURT: When I asked that question about Lennon and Hamburg, you mentioned John in connection to your musical roots.
ONO: I was just thinking about my advent of creating music. My first attempt at doing such didn’t come out of me, alone; it was helped by John, alone or through his group who were interested in our ideals. Now, it is helped by Sean and his group of musical allegiances.
Other than the time, and the players involved, how is it different, this Plastic Ono Band, and the one you and John put together?
The first one, ah, was sheer inspiration, and I only had John, really, to be excited about such things. His friends? Well, they were kind of far-out musicians to begin with, so they understood far out things. They didn’t have to do much, other than show up and express themselves, which was always new and always different. The reason they did this was to help us to communicate, but at the same time, I think they liked stretching out. This new band? They’re appreciative of what I do, and looking to break down their own barriers through me. They are very aware of what I do.
What was the spark that began this new album?
I’m always working on something, even if I just let it sit. Then Sean reminded me that I had really better do an album for my 80th birthday. I had some songs, he had some songs, then there’s the studio. When I’m in the studio, things just come to me.
There’s one song on the new album, “Watching the Dawn,” that seems to look back cynically at the ideals of the ‘60s, many of the universal love and peace messages that you and John espoused. That perhaps that time and those ideas weren’t all that they were cracked up to be. What say you?
It is not cynical. It is, however, emotional. I actually choked up when I sang it, because—then and now—I honestly do not believe that we were expecting this kind of society. We are always wanting society to become better and better. There were beautiful ideals and beautiful teachers, but somehow, things right now are not that beautiful. To change, we must have insurrection or new direction. We must go back to being us, the good us.