08/10/2010 08/10/2010

YOKO ONO: THE BILLBOARD Q&A

YOKO ONO: THE BILLBOARD Q&A

It's not that they com plem ent each other. I w ould hav e felt guilty if I ignored John's work or did not do as m uch for John's work and concentrated on m y w ork. So I concentrated m y energy and effort m ore on John's work, and m ine w as m ore like, "If it happens, it happens." And it did happen, actually , but w ithou t m y plan, in a w ay .
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Prior t o his deat h, did y ou and he ever t alk about how y ou'd like each ot her t o handle y our indiv idual legacies?

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Well, no. We didn't think w e were going to die. We thought . . . Well, John said ov er and ov er again that one day w e'll be in our rocking chairs together, w atching the ocean or som ething, and w aiting for Sean's postcard to com e, that kind of thing. We w ere thinking of our old age.

YOKO ONO: THE BILLBOARD Q&A October 09, 2010
Tim e has been good to Yoko Ono. Once derided by fans as a div isiv e force in the Beatles univ erse, Ono is now the trusted guardian and quality control ov erseer of her late husband John Lennon's legacy —all while m aintaining her own career as a v ital m usical and v isual artist and peace activ ist. Ev er since she com pleted "Milk and Honey " in 1 9 84, Ono has presided ov er a continu ing series of reissues and repackagings from Lennon's v aults—including the "Lennon" boxed set in 1 9 90, the "Acoustic" com pilation album in 2 004, the lim ited-edition set of v iny l singles released in April to m ark Record Store Day and a rem astered edition of VH1 's "John Lennon: Behind the Music"—as w ell as such ongoing projects as the John Lennon Edu cational Tour Bu s and the John Lennon Songw riting Contest. Her m aster stroke, how ev er, com es with this m onth's "Gim m e Som e Tru th" cam paign to m ark the 7 0th anniv ersary of Lennon's birthday on Oct. 9, inv olv ing m u ltiple releases by EMI Music in North Am erica on Oct. 5 (and one day earlier in the rest of the w orld). The cam paign features eight rem astered Lennon solo albu m s and new titles including "Power to the People: The Hits," w hich w ill be av ailable in tw o different v ersions; "Gim m e Som e Truth," a four-CD boxed set w ith songs div ided them atically rather than chronologically ; the "John Lennon Signatu re Box," w ith the eight rem astered solo discs plus three discs of hom e tapes and Lennon's singles; and "Double Fantasy Stripped Down," w hich answ ers fans' long desire for a m ore raw representation of the com eback albu m that cam e ou t just three w eeks before Lennon w as shot to death on Dec. 8, 1 980, ou tside his hom e in New York. Ono was an activ e force in putting all of these together—sitting in EMI's Abbey Road stu dios to rem aster all 1 2 1 of Lennon's solo tracks, helping to group the com pilations, choosing Lennon's own artwork to accom pany the releases, ev en m ending an estranged relationship with "Double Fantasy " co-producer Jack Douglas to bring him into the "Stripped Dow n" project. It w as arduou s, exacting and em otional, she say s, but ultim ately a satisfy ing endeav or that gav e ev en Ono new insight into and respect for Lennon's m usic, which she's try ing to pass on to fans through these additions to his catalog. How do y ou view y our role wit h John's cat alog and legacy ? As a curat or? Curator doesn't sound right. Protector, m ay be. What was t he point of t ransit ion when y ou assumed that role? Was it immediat ely aft er his deat h? I w as alway s a protector, I think, but especially after John's passing. Before that, I w as putting all m y energy into the partnership we had and protecting John. John w as the one w ho needed protection. John w as the fam ous one ou t there. I was in the shadows, so I didn't need to hav e m uch protection. So I was doing that job, and w hen John left su ddenly , I thought, "What am I going to do? Where am I going to put this energy ?" Of course I hav e m y son [Sean], but that's a different story . There's a big, big, em pty space there. Then I thou ght, "OK, I can giv e m y energy to John's fans that I gav e John." So I announced that ev ery y ear I'm going to giv e y ou som ething, and I think I was thinking one thing ev ery y ear—but it turned out to be m ore than one thing, I think. I w as doing m y ow n thing as w ell, on the side, bu t w ith John's thing I think I'v e done qu ite a lot. Y ou do, in fact , have y our own career in music and visual art , among ot her t hings. How do y ou balance t hose wit h what y ou do wit h John's cat alog, or do they complement each ot her?

This all began wit h "Milk and Honey " in 1984. What was y our vision for t hat album?

Well, there was no v ision. When we w ere working on "Dou ble Fantasy ," that was the title that John coined, and I cam e up with "Milk and Honey " and say ing, "The next one should be 'Milk and Honey .' " And John said, "Yeah, y eah, let's do that."

We had all the songs ready for "Milk and Honey ," except that there w ere sev eral songs of m ine, like "You're the One," [that were] definitely created afterward. Bu t I m ade it into basically featuring John, John's songs that he w anted on "Milk and Honey " to m ake it still a conv ersation, a dialogue betw een a m an and a w om an.

How did t he "Gimme Some Trut h" campaign t ake shape?

As y ou can im agine, this 7 0th birthday thing is really big. It w as planned by Capitol and EMI initially , but w hen they told m e this big plan, it's a kind of thing they 'v e nev er done before, or I don't think that any record com pany has done, just presenting the ultim ate John Lennon as a Renaissance m an, in a w ay . It's not ju st m usic; it's som e collages and things that hav e nev er been out there. I w as really im pressed that they w ere going to gam ble w ith som ething like that, so I wanted to drop ev ery thing and join them .

Does what 's coming out represent t he init ial vision for t he project or did y ou adjust some t hings in t he plan?

I didn't really tw eak it or any thing. I ju st w anted to m ake su re the quality was tops—that's w here I cam e in, I suppose, down to photos and ev ery thing. I wanted to m ake sure that I im prov ed it, im prov ed the choices. I w as interested in ev ery part of this project, actually , to the point where . . . I w ent to Abbey Road studios and rem astered all John's songs, 1 2 1 of them . What kind of experience was t hat ?

That was sort of a big job for m e, and it w as kind of try ing in a w ay , both phy sically and em otionally . I didn't think I w as going to feel any thing personally becau se I hav e been doing John's w ork for the past 3 0 y ears, so I thought I can just do it how I should do it—professionally .

But w hen I w as doing that, I suddenly realized this w as a new experience for m e in a sense that I su ddenly discov ered or started to discov er how good John w as as a professional m usician and as an artist, and that really got to m e.

I w ish John w as here so I could say , "Hey , y ou 're good." [laughs]

What was it y ou heard t hat gave y ou t hat enhanced perspect ive?

Well, it started to happen w hen I wou ld listen to the "Dou ble Fantasy " stu ff of John's. You know , in the '7 0s and '80s, around that tim e, the m u sic world had a way of rem ixing things so the instru m ents w ere extrem ely big, strong, pow erfu l, and they kind of buried the v oice. And I used to say , "Let's just pu sh u p John's v oice a little," and I couldn't do that as m u ch as I w anted do. So this tim e, because it's "Stripped Dow n," w e kind of dropped a few instrum ents and suddenly y ou hear John's v oice and how he's singing, and his ly rics are v ery clear.

I didn't know that John w as so good and uniqu e—not ju st u niqu e, but the classical diction. His diction was so perfect in a w ay that just that alone im presses y ou . It's alm ost like listening to a v ery professional actor doing Shakespeare. And of course y ou know the langu age is not Shakespeare, bu t I felt John w as the Shakespeare of our age.

In list ening t o all of his music, what kind of insight s did y ou get int o his dev elopment and growt h as an artist ?

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that was pretty good. w e're u sually in the sam e boat. Just by being m e and being him . At the tim e there w as a lot of difficu lty for him in L. and I m ainly try to protect John's end in the Beatles. He could not control him self. He knew that. any body who wants political songs. He alw ay s said. Is it a relat iv ely smoot h relat ionship t hese day s? Well. really . w hich in its ow n w ay is fascinatingly brilliant. "Walls and Bridges" and "Rock 'N' Roll. they 're v ery intelligent gu y s. from the beginning. The "Gimme Some Trut h" boxed set is very int erest ing. So I w as like. Actu ally . Let's do it. in it s grouping of songs by t heme. So it w as v ery difficu lt for him .08/10/2010 It w as v ery interesting. I think he w as an inspired artist. t oo." the film . But I think that at least on a m u sic lev el I want to m ake sure that w e do som ething for them . What have y ou t urned down t hrough t he y ears? Not m uch. it's incredible. and he w as probably too daring for his own good.. how did y ou feed off of and push each ot her? I don't know —ju st by being u s. actually . [Ono begins to choke u p] It really was. Bu t he m anaged to create tw o beautiful album s. Any body w ho w ants rom ance. and I was v ery im pressed w ith Jack for his sensitiv ity . too." And then "Rock 'N' Roll" [in 1 97 5]. becau se we w ant y ou to know —w hen w e're ready to tell y ou. I was rem astering and I w as listening to ev ery note." Did y ou have any apprehension about bringing Jack Douglas int o t he project ? I w as a little nerv ous because of the y ears that w e hav e not com m u nicated and I thought it w as going to be hard. Cirque du Soleil [which created a Beatles show in Las Vegas and the related "Lov e" album ] is som ething that George and Oliv ia brought. As musical collaborat ors as well as a couple. but what 's next ? Wow [lau ghs]. We w ere on the sam e page and w e just did it v ery qu ickly . He w as an inspired artist. I think it's im portant that we think of helping the next generation rather than putting them in a v ery difficult position. or did he reach a t ransit ion point as an art ist t o be more daring? He w as dy ing to be daring when he w as with the Beatles. It rem inded m e how good he was. That kind of show ed his roots. And then "Mind Gam es" [in 1 97 3 ]. "OK. he w ould.printthis. Did y ou come away wit h t he impression t hat he was a fearless art ist ? Definitely . Why was it import ant t o hav e "Double Fant asy St ripped Down" be part of t his campaign? Well. and. "Gim m e Som e Truth" is what he was thinking. Oliv ia [Harrison] is doing that for George. too. which w as not accepted too w ell at the tim e—in fact. I think that the future is going to be beautiful because this planet is going to be a planet of m usic. We becam e kind of m atu re enough to know that it's so w asteful to argue so m uch and to be in opposition to each other. if the w orld can do the sam e thing we hav e done. I think. I knew that he knew he was play ing a dangerous gam e." So I started to hav e new respect for him . But I felt good about that decision because a lot of w ater passed u nder the bridge. too?" I'm one of those people—and John was. w hich I think is exactly as good as "John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. being him self. such as t he songwriting cont est and t he t our bus. that w as an earlier tim e. he was free and. if he wanted to. and y ou can go from that to "Im agine" and w hatev er else he did and see it too. He w as m eant to do it. but this is obv iously better. bu t y ou 're going to know any w ay . How does working wit h John's cat alog jibe wit h and differ from y our role wit h Beat les project s? Well. he ju st dished out all the things he was inspired to dish ou t. This cam e out better. now y ou hav e it. part of it is I hear about all these "stripped down" things and lots of people were doing it. He had the roots and the training and the lov e for that m usic. m u sically . And it's such a pleasure and it's good for our health. fit int o t he overall philosophy of preserving John's legacy ? I really like to prom ote things that are positiv e. I think "The Beatles Anthology . And the "Rock Band" [v ideogam e] is som ething [George Harrison's son] Dhani thought of. it w orked so w ell. He did not want to do som ething that w ould be hu rtful for others or be hurtful for the reputation of the Beatles as a band. but also children are so quick to take to it. his m usical roots. brilliant m an w hose w ork actu ally changed the world—or it changed the m ap of y our brain. What happened was listening from "John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band" [in January 1 97 1 ]. and ev ery body was talking abou t that. so he w as pu shing that to the point that it m ight hav e been dangerous. I did m y best back then. too. He YOKO ONO: THE BILLBOARD Q&A 08/10/2010 YOKO ONO: THE BILLBOARD Q&A w as v ery nice about it. y eah. bu t w hen y ou go through it. He did m anage to do som e things that were not particularly good for the band. so I don't know w hat w e can do next y ear—bu t already there's things w e're planning. "John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. and he was in certain way s. But also. they 're John's songs in the Beatles. And when he becam e an indiv idual.printthis. "Why don't we do that. I find throu gh m y experience that it's alm ost easier to m ake m usic now .clickability." that w as a pretty daring album . and he sang so well. and that w as good. We worked v ery w ell together. too. and the experience helps. and I really w ent for it. v ery dangerou s. it w ould be a v ery peaceful w orld. or will it have t o be a surprise? Exactly . That w as a v ery good one. I su ppose—"bigger than Jesu s" or w hatev er—and he knew that. Why ? Becau se this is w hat John did originally . EMI cam e up w ith th e idea. Where do t he ongoing project s. he was aw are it w as v ery .com/pt/cpt?… 4/5 . The "Gimme Some Trut h" campaign is a mot her lode. We all share and I hav e m y opinion as representing John. just the fact w e were together. so m ore people should m ake m usic as they get older. It 's int erest ing that y ou chose t he original mixes for t he remast ering t he eight solo albums rat her t han those y ou y ourself supervised when t he albums were first reissued in 2005. he didn't hav e to do it tw ice. How did t hat come about ? I didn't com e up with the idea. intelligent w om an. "That's a good idea. The Lennon cam p's v ision of the w hole thing was slightly different from the other three at that point. www. And it w as hard for m e. too. Was t hat his intent while he was making t his music? Well.clickability. I don't know . The m usic is so exciting.com/pt/cpt?… 3/5 www. which w e are doing politically . but also in the partnership. I don't know how to describe it. Do y ou hear much of t he music t hat get s submit t ed t o t he songwrit ing cont est ? Oh. and that's probably becau se I did it from the original [m ixes]. What are t he Beat les project s y ou'v e been part icularly happy wit h? Well. Som e people like to not listen to the activ ist kind of songs and they ju st skip it. So I thou ght. too—we're ju st open to any interesting possibilities that are presented to us for creativ e work. He w as really try ing not to do any thing that w ould be too controv ersial w hen he w as a Beatle. So unless there's som ething really w rong. and that w as v ery hard for m e to start to respect him again in that way instead of ju st in abstract. And then y ou go to "Walls and Bridges" [in 1 9 7 4]. "It's a little bit m uch. Paul [McCartney ] and Ringo [Starr].A. and I respect her v ery m uch and m ost of the things she com es u p w ith I'm usually on the sam e page with her. it was kind of ignored— but it's a brilliant w ork. Y ou ment ioned earlier t he goal of giving us somet hing relat ed t o John every y ear. It just cam e from him . Any t hing y ou can ment ion. isn't it?" Do y ou feel he was alway s like t hat . [Being] in close proxim ity is w hat did it. this is the bonanza y ear. It was not an abstract thing at all. too. w hich w as a brilliant work and affected the world v ery m uch—and not just the m u sic world but the w orld per se— to "Im agine" [in October 1 9 7 1 ]. We w ere not try ing to influence each other so m u ch. But also he w as v ery caring about his position. Do y ou t hink John would st ill be making music at 7 0? Well. let m e put it that way . and I think that John w ould hav e lov ed the fact w e're doing all these things. and when he w as inspired to w rite som ething and record som ething. there y ou hav e it. Oliv ia is su ch an incredible." I think it's v ery accom m odating to the people w ho w ant to buy these things. So by doing [the boxed set] it's. w hen y ou go through all of this y ou w ill hav e a picture of an incredibly talented.

com/pt/cpt?… 5/5 . Inc.printthis.clickability. © 2008 Nielsen Business Media.Gary Graff YOKO ONO: THE BILLBOARD Q&A Links referenced within this article Find this article at: http://w w w .billboard. All rights reserved.biz/bbbiz/content_display/magazine/features/e3i24b330102bdc9a1111294b544379debd SAVE THIS | EMAIL THIS | Close Uncheck the box to remove the list of links referenced in the article. www.08/10/2010 -.

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