Monday, February 18, 2013

Happy birthday, Yoko Ono

The Japanese avant-gardeist (Grapefruit, Wish Tree and so much more) was born on 18 February 1933, which makes her 80 today. Golly. 

So here she is with her then husband John Lennon in June 1971 performing the old R&B song “Well”. It’s a remarkable performance – the band don’t know the song and Lennon hadn’t played it for years, not since the Cavern. They kick off with Zappa announcing the song: “For those of you in the band who have no idea what’s about to happen, this is in A minor and it’s not standard blues changes – but it’s close”. Certainly it isn’t when Yoko starts singing. Lennon plays great rhythm guitar, there’s a terrific Zappa solo, and you just have to admire the musicianship of the band. Ian Underwood and Bob Harris on keyboards, Aynsley Dunbar on drums, plus Jim Pons (bass) and Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan (vocals) from the Turtles. Yes, the Turtles. (Volman and Kaylan  did the backing vocals on T Rex’s Electric Warrior. Has there ever been a better pop album?)

Yoko is, as always, interesting.

Trainspotter alert: these performances appear on Lennon’s album Sometime in New York City  and Zappa’s Playground Psychotics though the mixes are different. Fancy that. Some of the titles of the improvisations are different too. “A Small Eternity with Yoko Ono” appears on one but not the other. Can you guess which? 

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