The Guardian (USA)

Yoko Ono: her 20 greatest songs – ranked!

- Alexis Petridis

20. John, John (Let’s Hope For Peace) (1969)

“I felt like soldiers were dying next to me,” said bassist Klaus Vormann of the scourging Ono-led improvisat­ion that ended the Plastic Ono Band’s set at Toronto Rock and Roll Revival festival. An endless, agonised torrent of wailing feedback and screaming, it’s as confrontat­ional as anything late-60s rock produced.

19. Born in a Prison (1972)

No one is ever going to claim the politicise­d Sometime In New York City as among John Lennon’s postBeatle­s masterpiec­es, but it’s not without its highlights. Among them Born in a Prison, one of Ono’s most successful early attempts at straightfo­rward, sweetly melodic songwritin­g: the lyrics are better than Lennon’s on-thenose political hectoring, too.

18. I Missed You Listening (2012)

Well, what do you think a collaborat­ion between Yoko Ono and members of Sonic Youth would sound like – S Club 7? I Missed You Listening’s detuned guitars, alternatel­y howling and grinding noise and nervejangl­ing vocal improv lasts for nearly 15 atonal, arhythmic minutes. Challengin­g listening; there’s something quite delightful about its no-prisoners attitude.

17. Open Your Box (1971)

Open Your Box exists in a very odd space. It’s ostensibly about sexual freedom but Ono sounds nearly choked with fury over Lennon, Ringo Starr and Klaus Vormann’s fabulous avant-funk – almost proto-baggy – backing. Its lyrics got it banned, not that radio was in a tearing hurry to play it, anyway.

16. Talking to the Universe (1995)

Ono’s attempts to reinvent herself as a mainstream pop/rock artist in the 80s were a disaster, but the 90s brought an artistic rebirth, aided by her son, Sean: 1995’s Rising balanced songs and experiment­ation and moreover sounded modern and hip, as on the tough but danceable Talking to the Universe.

15. I Want You to Remember Me ‘A’ & ‘B’ (2001)

Clearly a very tough cookie to start off with, Yoko Ono noticeably declined to mellow with age, which brings us to the two-part opening to 2001’s Blueprint for a Sunrise, an alternatel­y furious and distressin­g meditation on domestic violence split between spoken word and spooked-out, echo-drenched and Ono-strafed funkrock.

14. Waiting for the D Train (2009)

One of the joys of the latterday Sean Lennon-led Plastic Ono Band is the way

they adopted the explorator­y approach of their early-70s forebears, but infused it with a fresh, punky energy: Waiting for the D Train roars along like the titular subway, the perfect setting for Ono to let rip.

13. I Don’t Know Why (1981)

There were umpteen musical responses to John Lennon’s death, but none as raw or harrowing as the song Ono wrote the day after his murder. The music is taut new wave rock, the lyrics a terrible purging of bewilderme­nt and fury: “You bastards hate us, hate me – we had everything.”

12. The Sun Is Down! (2009)

As well as the 70s Plastic Ono Band’s fearsome improvisat­ions, Ono’s most recent albums keyed into the acceptance she had received on New York dancefloor­s. The Sun Is Down! sets her voice to a hugely effective backing of disco pulse and a tapestry of twinkling electronic­s and squelching acid lines.

11. Yes, I’m a Witch (2007)

First recorded for 1974’s unreleased A Story, and first available as part of the 1992 six-disc collection Onobox, the best version of Yes, I’m a Witch is from the 2007 remix album of the same name. It abandons the original’s slick funk for jagged guitars, better scenery for Ono’s sly retort to her detractors: “I’m going to be around for quite a while.”

10. Moonbeams (2013)

By the time she recorded her most recent album of new material, Take Me to the Land of Hell, Ono was 80. You wouldn’t know it from Moonbeams, which joltingly, thrillingl­y shifts from gentle electronic­a and spoken word to chaotic noisy alt-rock – with Ono in fullon death wail mode – and back again.

9. Death of Samantha (1973)

On her third solo album, Approximat­ely Infinite Space, Ono’s material became increasing­ly strident in its feminism and confident in its songwritin­g: both demonstrat­ed on the subtly shattering Death of Samantha – understate­d 70s rock, shot through with a disturbing lyric – that also yielded a great cover by Boy George and Sinéad O’Connor.

8. Goodbye Sadness (1981)

Most of 1981’s Season of Glass was actually written years before John Lennon’s murder: Goodbye Sadness clearly wasn’t. Softly sung, it has the air – and the sax – of an early rock’n’roll ballad; the lyrics are an attempt to exorcise grief that, agonisingl­y, sounds more hopeful than fulfilled.

7. Don’t Worry Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow) (1969)

Just in case a Beatle releasing a single starkly depicting heroin withdrawal wasn’t uncompromi­sing enough, anyone who flipped over Cold Turkey was hit with Don’t Worry Kyoko … A churning bluesy riff, overlaid with Ono’s despairing wail, winningly described by Lennon as “one of the fucking best rock’n’roll records ever made”.

6. Listen, the Snow Is Falling (1971)

Tucked away on the B-side of Happy Xmas (War Is Over) was Ono’s own, beautiful Christmas song, its sighing melody decked out with sleigh bells and chimes. If you really can’t get along with her voice – somehow more of an acquired taste when she’s singing, rather than screaming – check out Thea Gilmore’s magical 2009 cover.

5. Mrs Lennon (1971)

The best tracks on Ono’s first two albums are almost invariably the farout improvisat­ions, but the stark Mrs

Lennon is the exception: the lyrics suggest being the controvers­ial wife of a Beatle isn’t much fun; the beautiful, melancholy chord sequence was subsequent­ly ripped off wholesale by Big Star on their 1978 song Holocaust.

4. Every Man Has a Woman Who Loves Him (1980)

John Lennon’s contributi­ons to comeback album Double Fantasy tended to well-crafted classic rock, but Ono’s sounded like the work of someone alive to more current, postpunk developmen­ts: the fabulous, languorous post-disco/reggae hybrid of Every Man Has a Woman Who Loves Him certainly appears to be channellin­g Grace Jones’s recently released Warm Leatherett­e album.

3. Why (1970)

The correspond­ence between Ono’s early-70s albums and the contempora­ry experiment­s of Krautrock is fascinatin­g: there’s a distinctly motorik cast to Why’s hypnotic rhythm (albeit with a very Ringo-ish tone). Meanwhile, everything about it, from the way it suddenly lurches into life, apparently midway through, to Ono’s throatshre­dding vocal, is thrillingl­y confrontat­ional.

2. Walking on Thin Ice (1981)

John Lennon was convinced the unsettling but danceable Walking on Thin Ice was a No 1 single. He was wrong, but it deservedly became an anthem in New York’s post-disco new wave clubs, an environmen­t more accepting of Ono’s avant-garde approach, particular­ly when framed by a hyperfunky bassline and jagged shards of post-punk guitar.

1. Mindtrain (1971)

Frankly, if Mindtrain had been released not by John Lennon’s wife but by Can – the band that its loose but relentless funk rhythms, bursts of abstract guitar and wild, keening vocals most obviously resembles – it would have been hailed as a masterpiec­e of avant-garde rock decades ago. Instead, it was greeted with bewilderme­nt and derision. But forget the naysayers, check the vibrant playing that suggests Lennon and Starr were having a gleefully unfettered whale of a time, lose yourself in its groove and the sound of Ono – in her husband’s words – “doing her thing all over you”: this is a fantastic record.

 ?? ?? Yoko Ono, performing on the Pyramid stage at Glastonbur­y with the Plastic Ono Band in 2014. Photograph: Photo by Joel Ryan/Joel Ryan/Invision/AP
Yoko Ono, performing on the Pyramid stage at Glastonbur­y with the Plastic Ono Band in 2014. Photograph: Photo by Joel Ryan/Joel Ryan/Invision/AP
 ?? ?? Yoko Ono in 1971. Photograph: Michael Putland/Getty Images
Yoko Ono in 1971. Photograph: Michael Putland/Getty Images

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