Yoko Ono Talks to Indie Rock Café About Her Dance Hits, Musical Collaborations, Sean & John Lennon, and Her Childhood
Nearly 30 years after the world mourned the death of her husband, one of the most beloved musicians of all time, John Lennon, Yoko Ono has danced her way to the top of the dance club charts for the fourth straight year. Ono’s hit single, a remix of “Give Me Something”, peaked at No. 1 on the dance charts last week, and is still going strong.
In an interview with Indie Rock Cafe, the avant-garde icon, artist and philantropist said she is “excited and amazed” by the success of her remix series, and gave credit to the many “talented musicians”, including her son, Sean Lennon, who has been been working with his mother for nearly ten years on various remixes. Ono said that she is grateful to be exposed to a “whole new generation”.
The latest Billboard topper, “Give Me Something”, is a remixed version of a song that originally appeared on John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Grammy-winning, landmark LP, Double Fantasy, released in the spring of 1980, only months before his tragic murder by a deranged fan, Michael David Chapman.
Ono’s latest remix series includes a number of individual remixes from Junior Boys, Morel, Dave Aude, Stonebridge, the alternative rock band Sparks, and many others. We choose the Junior Boy’s version, which RCRDLBL.com called “thoroughly modernized, suffused with a steadier, slinkier tempo, a stronger bassline, and clusters of modular synth.”
“Give Me Something” (Junior Boys Remix) – Yoko Ono
Along with her son, and a number of other musicians, such as Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon, Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, Bette Midler, Cornelius, producer Mark Ronson and ex-Cibo Matto member Yuka Hondainc, among others, Ono performed a number of big shows in February, including sold out appearances at the Academy of Music’s Howard Gilman Opera House in Brooklyn, and at the San Francisco Bay Area’s historic Fox Theater in Oakland during the annual Noise Pop musical festival.
“Sean and I have such a wonderful time working together”, Ono said. “I was lucky to work with so many great musicians in my life, and to meet Eric Clapton again, who I worked with many years ago with John (Lennon)”.
Clapton, the legendary guitarist known best for his work as a solo artist and prolific collaborator, is often credited for his ground-breaking work in classic 1960’s rock bands like The Yardbirds, Cream and Derek and the Dominios, and is the only musician to be inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times. He was also one of the original band members of the Plastic Ono Band back in 1969.
Asked what she liked about dance music, Ono said that dance music is “like holding up the world”, adding, “don’t march through life, dance through life”.
Through Ono’s widely acclaimed remix series that started in 2001, she has also collaborated with the Flaming Lips, Pet Shop Boys, Basement Jaxx, The Polyphonic Spree, and many others.
When asked about the indie rock genre, Ono replied enthusiastically: “I think indie rock is great; it’s a cutting-edge in music like punk was. Indie music is so incredible and strong now that the big companies want to be involved with it.”
Ono’s biography is nothing short of amazing, and her credentials as an artist and activist are extensive and impressive. As one of the most well-known women in the world, Ono is widely respected as a Japanese-American artist, author, musician, activist, and philanthropist, as well as for her work with gay rights issues and AIDS awareness, and of course, a 15-year relationship/marriage to Lennon.
Over the years since Lennon’s death, Ono has released a number of albums, and is widely considered a pioneer of the 1970’s and 80’s new wave music craze.
As a musician, Ono’s original sound, an avant garde style of experimental music, is credited with influencing the sound of new wave. In a 1980 Rolling Stone magazine review of John Lennon’s last album, Double Fantasy, a story is told about Lennon hearing the B-52s’ song, “Rock Lobster,” in a club, and which he remarked that her sound had gone mainstream.
John and Yoko Love Story from Allan Tannenbaum
Since then, her influence in the world of dance music is unquestionable. Ono had her first dance hit in 1981 with “Walking on Thin Ice/It Happened”, followed by another dance hit in 1985, “Hell in Paradise”, that peaked at No. 12 on the U.S. dance charts. In 2003, Ono returned to the dance charts with a No. 1 remix of “Walking on Thin Ice”. From 2007 to just last week, Ono has had a No.1 dance hit every year since.
“Walking on Thin Ice” (Felix Da Housecat Remix) – Yoko Ono
Ono’s musical experience began as a young girl growing up in Japan. “I love most instruments including Japanese instruments”, she told IRC. “My mother had seven or eight instruments. As a girl, I played piano and my father wanted me to play western music, but I didn’t enjoy practicing. I was also encouraged to practice singing, but I can only remember practicing the piano”.
As for her mother, a professional artist, Ono said, “she never played [music] professionally because she put most of her time into painting”. Unfortunately, Ono said, she doesn’t have any of her mother’s paintings because they were all destroyed in the bombing of Japan during World War II.
Asked if she ever planned to repurpose one of her late husband’s songs as a duet with her voice added to Lennon’s, Yoko said: “No, no, I respect too much John’s music to do something like that.”
Regarding the song-writing process, Ono said, “my songs are connected with my emotion”, explaining that she doesn’t have a real process to writing. “I get upset or excited about something, and a song comes to my mind and I write it down; it just comes to me. John (Lennon) had a similar approach”.
We thought it would be cool to include this relatively new song from the band Stereo Total:
“I Love You, Ono” – Stereo Total
There is also an indie band called Oh No Ono who have been increasingly on the music radars of blogger’s around the world.
“Helplessly Young” – Oh No Ono
For trivia lovers: Sean Lennon was born on his father’s 35th birthday, October 9, 1975.
We’d like to thank Yoko Ono and Tell All Your Friends PR for setting up this interview.