Tag Archives: Yoko Ono

John Lennon/Yoko Ono • “Instant Karma!”/“Who Has Seen the Wind?” [7″]

Another Record Store Day 7″, JOHN LENNON’s “Instant Karma!” b/w YOKO ONO’s “Who Has Seen the Wind?” is not exactly a reissue of the original 1971 single. This time it’s a pairing of 2020* remixes of the songs, in line with the 2019 remix of Lennon’s Imagine album (also recorded in ’71). Apparently held over from that release – after all, RSD was supposed to be in April – as a reminder about the availability of the aforementioned remix LP (these tracks aren’t on it or any of the box set versions), this 45 is housed in a similar “picture” sleeve and dons near-identical Apple labels and the original UK catalog number. (The lengthy, modern UPC barcode and catalog number are, of course, unique to this release and thankfully printed only on the outside hype sticker.) This “ultimate mix” of “Instant Karma!” isn’t that different from the original, though it does seem to make the individual instruments stand out on their own a little better, with Klaus Voormann’s bass and Alan White’s drums a bit tighter. Back then, Lennon, Ono and co-producer Phil Spector went for a much denser, Wall of Sound-esque mix than what we’d consider good today. Still, if you’re not intimately familiar with the original you really have to squint to hear the difference between the ’71 and ’20 mixes.

As for Ono’s “Who Has Seen the Wind?,” I am honestly not familiar enough with it to hear the differences between the original and today’s remix to weigh in. Sorry, Yoko! I’d certainly heard the song before (I have an original pressing of the single), but was never as interested in repeat listenings of it as I was of the A-side, which is not only a stone cold classic but was also a worldwide hit and has appeared on numerous Lennon compilation albums over the last fifty years. But I can tell you this: these 2020 remixes are for the hardcore fan (as you’d basically expect) and not the casual listener. This trend of remixing classics is getting a bit tedious, really. I mean, especially in the case of something like “Karma,” which suffered a bit from a crummy mix, why not really go for it and do something radically different? Or at least noticeably different?! – Marsh Gooch

2.5/5 (Apple/Calderstone APPLES 1003/602508778711, 2020)
* Chances are these remixes were actually done in 2019 during the same sessions as the
Imagine remixes.

NOTE: The above video is, of course, of the original 1971 mix.

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John & Yoko/Plastic Ono Band* • Sometime in New York City [album]

“Boy, he sure does cover a lot of Beatles-related stuff in this blog.” – Yes, I Do

JOHN & YOKO got together in the late ’60s when they were still John Lennon, one of The Beatles, and Yoko Ono, fairly obscure avant garde artist. The kindred spirits not only made love together, but art and music, too. At the time they made 1972’s Sometime in New York City with their Plastic Ono Band the music and other aural delicacies they’d created were quite often looked upon as liberal rubbish. Sometime, though, was the first time they put out a record of actual songs and music under both of their names – so they were really laying it out on the line. Of course Lennon didn’t have a lot to lose; he was, after all, still considered a Beatle. Yoko, as we all know, willingly lured Lennon into a life of aural degradation (ahem) and broke-up her husband’s band, so she also had little to worry about as she was already the lowest of the low! Forty-five years ago today he and his wife committed this double album to wax (and 8-track tape) and let the dice fall where they may.

To call Sometime in New York City a political album would be putting it mildly. Nine of the ten songs that make up record one (the second is comprised of live cuts) are political in one way or another, whether it’s “John Sinclair” or “Angela” (about Sinclair and Davis, both who had been jailed [separately] for very minor offenses), or the main, lead off track, “Woman Is the Nigger of the World.” The fact that Lennon & Ono chose it as the album’s only single shows that they must have been ready to tackle all comers and (naturally, considering the title) go to lengths to defend its title and what it was actually about. And, not surprisingly given its name, the single pretty much tanked. (Released on 45 in the US, it made it only to number 57.) Not a bad song at all, “Woman…” catalogs some of the many crappy ways women are treated (“we make her paint her face and dance…/We insult her every day on TV and wonder why she has no guts or confidence”) and is one of Lennon’s most fully realized political messages. You might argue that its title is over the top, and by today’s standards it’s definitely politically incorrect, but you can’t argue that the song’s point isn’t clear. Other songs on the LP tackle “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “The Luck of the Irish” (both concerning then current events in Ireland), “Attica State” (about a prison riot and how the authorities poorly handled it) and a few other topics. Only “New York City” lets up on the polemics, coming at the end of side one and a nice 12-bar blues breather before getting back to business on the other side of the record.

As noted above, Sometime features both John and Yoko songs, and indeed, Ms. Ono sings lead on half of the studio tracks. This may be the one time before 1980’s Double Fantasy that Yoko’s singing isn’t difficult listening. In fact, her songs here are as pop as she ever got, even considering “Kiss Kiss Kiss” or 1981’s “Walking on Thin Ice.” Seriously, if you think all she was capable of was caterwauling you’re wrong. I’m not saying that her vocalizing isn’t an acquired taste to most of us, just that if ever there was an argument against the standard that ain’t singing, that’s noise line, this album is it.

Hampered somewhat by its mixes, the Lennon and Phil Spector-produced studio part of the album is a fairly murky presentation of John & Yoko’s latest. The second record, internally called Live Jam, sounds much better. It was recorded in concert in London, 1969 and at NYC’s Fillmore East in ’71 on a bill with Frank Zappa & The Mothers (that set resulting in The Mothers’ acclaimed Fillmore East – June 1971). A few of the songs here are of Lennon & Co. and Zappa & Co. together jamming (as we used to call it) on some blues and other concoctions.** In 2005 Yoko Ono oversaw a remix of the studio cuts and most of the live tracks for a single CD reissue, ending up with a much clearer, more palatable mix of the album. (She had all of Lennon’s albums remixed in that decade and they’re worth checking out if you don’t find the exercise completely sacrilegious.) While its not necessarily how Lennon would have wanted us to hear it, this version of Sometime in New York City does give new life to his and his wife’s early Seventies co-billed creation.

3/5 (Apple SVBB 3392 [2LP, 1972]; Capitol CDP 0946 3 40976 2 8 [CD, 2005])

* Full original credit: John and Yoko/Plastic Ono Band with Elephants Memory and Invisible Strings [sic].  ** Frank reissued these cuts in a more Zappa-centric mix on an early 1990s compilation called Playground Psychotics.

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