Yoko Ono has released “Early in the Morning,” a 14-minute collaboration with Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore, as a benefit single.
For those who think of her only as John Lennon’s widow — or, more darkly, the lady who broke up the Beatles — it’s another opportunity to find out more about her unique artistic vision. She remains a staunch proponent of avant-garde art (both conceptual and performance), a notable feminist, a musical experimenter whose work prefigured New Wave, and a steadfast philanthropist. And, of course, Ono helped frame Lennon’s quirky sense of Vietnam-era non-violent protest, most famously with a lengthy bed-in.
“I am eternally thankful,” Ono said this week, in The Guardian, “for any positive effect we had through what we did.”
The vinyl edition of “Early in the Morning,” available Chimera Music, includes an Ono etching and will be available in a limited printing through of just 1,000. Those are $20. Digital downloads are available at the Chimera site for $2, as well. Profits will also be donated to the Ashinaga Rainbow House, an organization set up to provide aid to orphans of the Japanese tsunami.
An EP, titled YOKOKIMTHURSTON, is set for release on September 24, 2012, and will feature “Early in the Morning,” as well. Ono is also issuing An Invisible Flower, an illustrated story that she wrote at age 19, through Chimera and Chronicle Books.
Gordon and Moore announced the end of their 27-year marriage last October, putting the future of Sonic Youth in doubt. Ono, however, has proven to be a creative catalyst for the pair, who also performed with her during a special appearance by the Plastic Ono Band on February 16, 2012. Appearing that night as well were a trio of former Plastic Ono band members — Eric Clapton, bassist Klaus Voormann and drummer Jim Keltner — along with Bette Midler, Mark Ronson, Martha Wainwright, Paul Simon and Sean Lennon — her son with the late Beatles legend.
Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Sonic Youth, John Lennon and Sean Lennon. Click through the titles for complete reviews …
JOHN LENNON – DOUBLE FANTASY: STRIPPED DOWN (2010): “Double Fantasy” never felt dangerous enough to be a great John Lennon record. That started with this too-slick, of-its-moment presentation. I guess it shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise, really, since the best of Lennon’s solo stuff after 1970?s “Plastic Ono Band” similarly suffered from dated, shag-carpety production. He loved a big sound, when sometimes a smaller one would have been more effective. It’s perhaps why, at the time, I tended to favor a pair of loose, unfinished posthumous followups, 1983?s “Milk and Honey” and 1986?s “Menlove Ave.” Not anymore. This new edit of “Double Fantasy” claims the fertile middle ground between, fostering a fresh complexity in Lennon’s last studio work — even as it stays true to certain elements of the craftsmanship from before.
SONIC YOUTH – RATHER RIPPED (2006): Can a band mature and continue to challenge themselves and listeners? Rather Ripped answers yes. Sonic Youth may not wail away with walls of squealing distortion like they used to but Rather Ripped’s lyrical focus on relationship troubles is backed by their trademark angular pop that will never be mistaken as band taking the easy way out.
THE GHOST OF A SABER TOOTH TIGER – ACOUSTIC SESSIONS (2010): Featuring this dreamtime folk whimsy and a fabulist band name, The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger sound at times like Syd Barrett, or maybe Simon and Garfunkel. Or, like an ornate, late-night 1960s French pop singer, after perhaps one too many tokes. What they don’t sound like, not really, is John Lennon. And that’s saying something. See, last November’s Acoustic Sessions is the quietly issued debut of Sean Lennon — second son of Beatle John; only child of his union with Yoko Ono — and talented multi-instrumentalist/model/girlfriend Charlotte Kemp Muhl as the Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger. Sean is, actually, this atom-smashing blend of his two parents, with the gentle romanticism and sharp wordcraft that represents one part of his father’s complex legacy, but also the far-out mysticism of his conceptual artist mom.
SONIC YOUTH – DIRTY (1992): For years and years, Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation was the record I went to when the mood struck for some ugly & hypnotic guitar. Dirty now sits in that spot. Blistering and hideous guitar madness. This isn’t for everyone … but if you’re up for some guitar torture then you oughta start right here.