I was first properly introduced to Yoko Ono‘s music in the parking lot outside of Disc & Tape in Moorehead, MN. This was somewhere in the early ’90s, and my brother had just bought the Walking on Thin Ice collection. I remember it clearly because if felt like the first and last time I was properly punched in the face. It was the sound of the future and yet I knew from the liner notes that it was ancient at over 10 years old. Yoko’s voice was other worldly but profoundly human. It was punk as fuck, but I certainly didn’t recognize it next to the grunge, riot grrrl and northwest indie that was revolutionizing my world at the time. Literally dumb struck by the sensory overload and contradictory sensations, it all felt utterly illicit. I can’t say I loved the music at first, but I was fascinated. We played the title track on repeat in the springtime sun while cruising around the greater Fargo-Moorehead area in Chris’ white Geo Metro convertible with that sweet, sweet top down. Just two teenage boys jamming some orgasmic, alien disco on repeat having our minds blown.
I didn’t dig too much deeper in Yoko’s catalog at the time. Honestly, I didn’t know what to do with it. It was impenetrably large, and challenging. But bit by bit, over the years, I’d find myself continually returning to Yoko’s music, usually one record at a time. The best entree into her world is Plastic Ono Band. To quote my colleague Eric in our onesheet,
“Plastic Ono Band sounds absolutely modern 44 years out, eternally fresh despite the forward march of time.”
It’s possibly the single best recorded album I’ve ever heard (and just to say it, the new mastering from the original tapes is CHOICE). But talking about fidelity or engineering is boring and the lesser of this record’s brilliant qualities (but still, I can’t wait for you to drop that needle and believe). This shit was kraut before kraut. It was punk before punk. It was out, well, right on time. It’s timeless in the truest sense of the word. It operates equally in all three tenses.
From there, I picked up Season of Glass, deeply moved from the get go by the album cover. The patina of the production and arrangements perfectly encapsulated the album’s sense of loss and hope, acceptance and confusion. Goddamn I’m a sucker for that end credit SNL sax – and Sean as a toddler gives it the extra gut punch. It’s Kramer vs. Kramer on wax.
Anyway, maybe I’m being lazy, but I’m not going to go through each of the albums. It’d ruin the journey. And it is a journey. You probably wont love all of it, but it will stick in your brain forming that little El Nino in the back, altering you slightly.
So take it slow, take it one at a time. It’s okay, the race is not for the quick. Yoko’s records will be here for you whenever you’re ready. This is timelessness.
Returning to the original point, Yoko existed to me at the time as – and remains to many – an abstraction. EVERYONE has an opinion on Yoko. Usually a very strong one. She’s one of those people you learn about by wading thru the detritus of everyday culture. But let’s all agree to agree or disagree on our opinions. Set that stale shit aside. The fact remains that Yoko Ono has been waging a total revolution on music, art and culture over the last half century. Approaching her mid-80s, she’s been a consistent force, rarely paralleled, where most have either passed or faded away from exhaustion. It’s been an absolute dream to dig back into the first three decades of this hero’s musical output. My biggest hope is that the initiated and uninitiated alike will crack these gems open with fresh perspective. I think you’ll be surprised by what you discover. I know I am.
– Ben Swanson, Secretly Canadian co-founder