November 7, 2016

50 years ago today: John Lennon met Yoko Ono.

As John told it:
I got the word that this amazing woman was putting on a show the next week, something about people in bags, in black bags, and it was going to be a bit of a happening and all that. So I went to a preview the night before it opened. I went in - she didn't know who I was or anything - and I was wandering around. There were a couple of artsy-type students who had been helping, lying around there in the gallery, and I was looking at it and was astounded. There was an apple on sale there for two hundred quid; I thought it was fantastic - I got the humor in her work immediately. I didn't have to have much knowledge about avant-garde or underground art, the humor got me straightaway. There was a fresh apple on a stand - this was before Apple - and it was two hundred quid to watch the apple decompose. But there was another piece that really decided me for-or-against the artist: a ladder which led to a painting which was hung on the ceiling. It looked like a black canvas with a chain with a spyglass hanging on the end of it. This was near the door when you went in. I climbed the ladder, you look through the spyglass and in tiny little letters it says 'yes'. So it was positive. I felt relieved. It's a great relief when you get up the ladder and you look through the spyglass and it doesn't say 'no' or 'fuck you' or something, it said 'yes'.

I was very impressed and [Marianne Faithfull's husband] John Dunbar introduced us - neither of us knew who the hell we were, she didn't know who I was, she'd only heard of Ringo, I think, it means apple in Japanese. And Dunbar had sort of been hustling her, saying, 'That's a good patron, you must go and talk to him or do something.' John Dunbar insisted she say hello to the millionaire. And she came up and handed me a card which said 'breathe' on it, one of her instructions, so I just went [pant]. This was our meeting.

34 comments:

traditionalguy said...

Intimacy at first sight. She grabbed him by the Mind.

Unknown said...

I love that story, it has affected my outlook on life. Whenever I can, I try to climb that ladder and say yes.

A typical response to someone is, "yes, now what was the question?"

Paddy O said...

Like toddlers, sometimes fabulously wealthy people need more help saying "no."

Paddy O said...

Every fabulously famous person needs a "no-man" around them.

robother said...

Yes, I'm sure that Yoko Ono had no idea who John Lennon or the Beatles were in late 1966. Performance art was surely performed that night.

Ann Althouse said...

"Every fabulously famous person needs a "no-man" around them."

Nowhere man, please listen...

coupe said...
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SukieTawdry said...

The day the music died.

madAsHell said...

and it was two hundred quid to watch the apple decompose.

The Beatles paid more than 200 quid to watch their Apple decompose.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Personally I liked the Powerpuff Girls version of their meeting the best.

The Vault Dweller said...

He was before my time, but didn't John Lennon beat the women he was involved with?

The Vault Dweller said...

Also I believe there is video of John Lennon mocking people with disabilities. It is an interesting contrast with the video of Trump, that some claim was evidence of him mocking the disabled.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQVWkHOiW-A

Howard said...

I still don't get Yoko, but she broke up the band and then we all got to see how shallow and derivative Paul the pretty one was. Also, Lennon and the Beatles did their best (except let it be and yellow submarine) work after John met Yoko.

He loved and respected her... that's all that matters, the rest is yenta vomit.

tcrosse said...

Radio Dinner got it right.

Alex said...

Howard, actually John met Yoko in November 1966 AFTER 'Revolver' was already out(June 1966). So no, The Beatles did NOT need Yoko around to create their BEST album!

tim maguire said...

About 20 years ago, the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame did a Beatles retrospective. I came away from it feeling much more strongly that yes, Yoko did break up the band. Which was surprising because she was heavily involved in the show and donated a lot of material. Did she know? Did she not care? Was this an elaborate joke?

Ben Calvin said...

I came away from it feeling much more strongly that yes, Yoko did break up the band.

You say that like it was a bad thing.

Bob R said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hI1tdvH2L4U

BN said...

So this guy Dunbar was mostly known for being married to Marriane Faithful, who was mostly known for screwing actually famous dudes?

200 quid for an apple seems fair to me.

tcrosse said...

The view from 1971.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVDpPX37fkU

BN said...

Simpler times. No art gallery would dream of letting multi-millionaire tripped out hippies go around climbing ladders today. You could buy a lot of apples for the cost of that liability insurance.

Howard said...

Alex: great point. Tomorrow Never Knows is probably their second best song and Eleanor Rigby their most mature song to date, the rest was pretty much forgettable bubblegum. With my limited budget then, I bought Aftermath by the Stones in '66. Sgt. Peppers was the best IMO with a Day in the Life being their best song ever. The White Album, IMO, is better than Revolver as an album.

Revolver is an excellant point against yoko influence on Lennon because they really did have a couple timeless songs that I would never change the channel on.

Lawrence Person said...

1. The heroin came later.
2. McCartney's Band on the Run kicks the ass of just about the entirety of John Lennon's post-Beatles career.
3. Yoko Ono was responsible for the worst song in the world.

rcocean said...

Yeah, she broke up the band and so what? Like most Rock and Rollers the Beatles did almost all their best work as young men. Compare Lennon's songs of the 60s with the ones of the 70s. Its pathetic.

From what I've read of them, Lennon is my least favorite of the Beatles. He was always trying to be snarky, "profound" and "cool" in a lame hipster way. And he was a skinny little runt, so you can't say that Ono wasn't good looking enough for him.

Sam L. said...

Soooo, ANOTHER reason to rue this day.

Terry said...

What makes anyone think Lennon knew anything about art?
He failed art school. He wasn't good at art. His poetry was terrible, his drawing worse.
There is this need by boomers to make the people they admire or identify with into poet/troubador/revolutionaries. They confuse art and craft.

rhhardin said...

Imus's Bernard McGuirk's theory was that Birkowitz meant to shoot Yoko Ono but John bent over to pick something up ("Here, let me get that for you") and took the bullet by mistake.

Alex said...

Terry - John Lennon wrote some of the greatest pop songs of the 20th century and was a great rhythm guitar player. Also on those early Beatles records a great rock & roll singer.

Terry said...

I agree re: Lennon, Alex.
But we wouldn't expect to see Elvis Presley appreciating modern art. Why do we want Lennon to be a person who appreciates the fine arts, to be an 'artsy' person?
I'm still burned up about the Dylan thing. Why a Dylan Nobel, but not an A.P. Carter Nobel? Boomer vanity. Their pop stars are artistes (I was born in '59, so I am a boomer myself).

Kirk Parker said...

Yeah, I'm still with The Barenaked Ladies on the subject of Yoko.

Kirk Parker said...
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Darrell said...

Like, Wow, man.

Robert Cook said...
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Robert Cook said...

Yoko hardly broke up the Beatles. They were growing up and apart, developing their own separate lives as men and musicians. It happens with every band. Also, there were ego conflicts, competition to get their songs on the records, etc.

Yoko is from a wealthy family in Japan. Her father was a banker. She spent some time at Sarah Lawrence college before coming to NYC and getting involved in the downtown avant garde arts scene. Her music, thought to be "the worst in the world" by many--as per Lawrence Person above--is actually very much in the tradition of modern avant garde and "free" music. I was deeply immersed in this world of music for about 15 years--as a listener and fan, not a participant--and there is much music out there that is equally or more abrasive. Once one acclimates to it--as with abstract expressionist paintings--much of it becomes beautiful and compelling.