I’ve been trying to listen to each of these records as I write them up for this project, whether I think I know them well or not. In some cases, that has slowed this way down because, well, for example, I didn’t feel like listening to Yoko this week. SO not where my head was at. There is so much other music to play, so many new records to spin, and I’ve got this thing hanging over my head. But today was the day.
I bought this 1973 release around 1980, still at the height of my Beatlemania. I was never a fan of Yoko’s music per se, but I also wasn’t a Yoko hater. I wasn’t in the room and couldn’t judge how she did or didn’t affect The Beatles, and didn’t find it a very interesting argument. Still, there’s no question on earth she would never have had records released had she not been in a relationship with John Lennon, and her caterwauling certainly would not have been taken seriously. It’s fashionable to say that she inspired other experimental vocalists and certain types of punk rock sounds, but almost without exception, they make an effort to be musical in ways that Yoko simply eschewed most of the time.
My memory of this record was that it was at least listenable, and there there may even have been a song or two that I liked, but there was never anything that made it onto a cassette, to be sure. It’s not that kind of music. For the most part, I’d forgotten it; even the song titles didn’t really job my memory.
So here’s a surprise. It starts with a flute. And then . . . Yoko sings. Quite nicely. The musicians are, not surprisingly, top notch. The sound is lush, nothing you wouldn’t have heard on any SoCal disc of the day. I mean: she’s singing. With much better tone than was on display on “Double Fantasy,” I must say.
Then, one pretty good song after another. We’re 11 songs in before we hit a hint of a warble.
So it raises the point. Someone on Twitter recently said that Lou Reed could sing, and my reply was simply, “Then why didn’t he?” Here we have evidence that Yoko could sing. Not the strongest voice in the world, but hey, I’m a fan of breathy French female pop, so . . . . With this full band and great orchestration, Yoko is putting out perfectly good songs that are perfectly pleasant to listen to.
Now my question becomes, why have I not listened to this more than a handful of times since the ‘80s. When I first got it, I would play it now and again, a reminder that yes, she could put out perfectly good music. And I think the reason is that there aren’t really any hooks in this. All the songs function as good album filler, but nothing with a real grabber. Even some Yoko songs that I dislike have more of a grab (I mean, there’s a reason many songs we hate are earworms nonetheless). So it may be just that, while this is a perfectly fine album, with a mix very representative of its time, and while the songs are much more subtle social commentary than we normally associate with Yoko (or John, for that matter), there isn’t really a hit on the record, and there isn’t a song that grabbed me personally and would cause me to put this on the turntable. So if I’m going to play this, it’s just to remember what it sounded like, not to hear a particular song.
But really, anyone else could have put this out, and we’d say it was perfectly fine.