The New Plastic Ono Band
By John Schaefer, WNYC
They say time heals all wounds. With the passage of four decades, maybe all those Beatles fans who lay the demise of their favorite band at the feet of Yoko Ono will get over it. Various books over the years by people associated with the band — some of them, like engineer Geoff Emmerick, quite closely associated with them — suggest that the Beatles were being pulled apart by forces way stronger than a slight, avant-garde artist from Japan.
But that doesn’t mean Yoko Ono will get over it. Her new album ends with a 23-second track that consists of someone hammering a nail while Yoko says, simply, “It’s me. I’m alive.” This is easily heard as a statement of defiance — that this idiosyncratic artist who was thrust into a global spotlight and vilified for most of her career by a large and vocal group of listeners was still here, still working, still pushing boundaries.
There’s also a second possible interpretation. The story is that John met Yoko at one of her exhibitions where audience members were invited to hammer a nail. John asked to hammer the nail but Yoko said no, because the exhibit hadn’t opened yet. The hammering on “I’m Alive” takes on a strangely nostalgic quality if you look at it that way.
In fact, there are several nostalgic, lyrical and almost conventionally beautiful songs on her new album, Between My Head and the Sky. (There are also the usual hard-to-take vocals and some schizophrenic stylistic jumps.) At a time when the Beatles reissues and “Beatles Rock Band” are putting many of us in a retrospective mood, it’s interesting to see Yoko Ono in that mood as well.