Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Yoko, bright and dark

The New Yorker recently published an article about Yoko Ono, focusing on her art, and it seems to present more evidence for my belief about Yoko's relationship with the three non-John Beatles. I wrote:
Hess compares Ono's behavior to a performance piece, but there's a more likely, if prosaic explanation: Ono was from a family of wealthy Japanese aristocrats. The Beatles were working-class musicians. In the world that Yoko came from, you didn't worry about the feelings of the people you outranked. Why should she care if she was irritating the fuck out of everybody? 
The New Yorker piece is written by Louis Menand, who wrote my favorite review of all time of the work of Steven Pinker, also in the New Yorker, 20 years ago.

This new piece, Yoko Ono's Art of Defiance is generally very positive about Ono and refers to her "Cut Piece" as a work of genius.

But it does say this:
...when she graduated she was admitted to Gakushuin University as its first female student in philosophy.

She left after two semesters. She said the university made her feel “like a domesticated animal being fed information.” This proved to be a lifelong allergy to anything organized or institutional. “I don’t believe in collectivism in art nor in having one direction in anything,” she later wrote. A classmate offered a different perspective: “She never felt happy unless she was treated like a queen.”

And the article points out that Ono, unlike the Beatles, was very well-educated (Ringo never even finished high school) and could read music. More evidence that the real issue in the Get Back recording sessions was that Ono felt she outranked the Beatles. And since they were used to being treated like gods by that point, you could see why they would resent that.

Recently I discovered The Making of 'The Beatles First US Visit', and it's great. The original film was made by the Maysles brothers, and Albert, the surviving brother (he died in 2015) discusses various outtakes from the film. 

There are two highlights for me. The first, at minute 15:00, shows Paul trying to help the Maysles get into the Ed Sullivan Theater. Such a nice man! And the second highlight, at minute 30:05, shows the Beatles being very interested in the relatively cutting-edge technology the Maysles were using.

So the Maysles made "The Beatles First US Visit" in 1964. In 1965, they filmed Yoko Ono's "Cut Piece." That was a year before Yoko met the Beatles. The entire Maysle movie does not appear to be available online, but here is a long excerpt.

In spite of my criticisms of Yoko Ono, I do appreciate some of her work. She was a pioneer in conceptual art and some of her ideas were very interesting. And recently I read something by her that I thought was very inspiring and comforting, and you can't ask for more than that from a conceptual artist. I can't find where I saw it, dammit, but it went something like this:
Don't feel alone. Having time to yourself is a blessing. Think of all the great books that could never have been written except for all that lonelines.
Thank you Yoko.