Happy Birthday, Yoko Ono

Yoko Ono turns 81 today! Below is a New York Times magazine article celebrating the enigmatic life and art of the avant-garde activist, excerpted from Lisa Carver’s book, Reaching Out with No Hands: Reconsidering Yoko Ono.

Yoko Ono is not pretty, she is not easy, her paintings aren’t recognizable, her voice is not melodious, her films are without plot and her Happenings make no sense. One of her paintings you are told to sleep on. One of her paintings you are told to burn. One of her paintings isn’t a painting at all — it’s you going outside and looking at the sky. Most of her stuff is not even there. This is why I love her. This is why we need her. We have too much stuff already. It clutters our view, inward and outward.

We need more impossible in our culture. Go out and capture moonlight on water in a bucket, she commands. Her art is instructions for tasks impossible to complete. We already have a billion lovely things and a million amazing artists who have honed their talent and have lorded it above us. People who have achieved the highest of the possible. People wearing their roles as artist or writer or filmmaker or spokesman as a suit of armor or as an invisibility cloak or as an intimidatingly, unacquirably tasteful outfit.

Even other artists can’t figure out Ono or accept her as legit, nor can she obey the club rules. Her stuff is all wrong. She tells you to spend a whole year coughing. Listen to a two-minute song of recorded silence, music lovers. As for you, the most imperialist and arms-profiteering superpower in the history of the world, give peace a chance.

There are two schools of art. One is what is made beautiful by the artist; the other is to make way for the viewer to see or feel what is already beautiful.

The first is to make something ornate and unreachably special with skills. The viewer or listener is awed, their belief regarding the order of things is confirmed and they are reminded by this unachievable beauty of their own powerlessness. And I do love that kind of art, the beautiful kind.

The other way to make art is to tear down what’s between us and nature, us and eternity, us and the realization that everything is already perfect. In this experience of art, the viewer or listener loses respect for the current order or arrangement of civilization and thus becomes powerful, like King Kong, and outside civilization, like God — or simply like the shuffling janitor who is pleased with his own work and sleeps well.

I always admired the Japanese use of negative space in decorating and the unspoken in conversations (or so I gather from old films). Ono uses the negative positively. She is a classically trained operatic student who uses silence or screeches in her singing; a recipient of coveted gallery showings who hangs unpainted canvases with requests for you to pound holes in them or to walk on them. She was the first woman admitted to the philosophy program at Gakushuin University in Tokyo, and could travel the world discoursing multisyllabically, yet instead she tries lying in bed and not lifting a finger to cure a war.

It takes an enormous lack of ego to not put your imprint on everything you do, to notemploy your learning and position. To stand back, to hold back, to keep your mouth shut. To yell with your silence, when you know you very well could make soothing and welcomed sounds at the drop of a hat. She could sing; she knows how. And being a Beatles wife could have been a magic charm — but she wasn’t interested. It takes willpower to overpower the will to power. To be accepted, to be thought nice, is traditionally woman’s power. That is something Ono doesn’t need.

To continue reading, go to NYTimes.com!

Reaching Out with No Hands

John Lennon once described her as “the world’s most famous unknown artist: everybody knows her name, but nobody knows what she does.” Many people are aware of her art, and her music has always split crowds, from her caterwauling earliest work to her later dance numbers, but how many people have looked at Yoko Ono’s decades-spanning career and varied work in total and asked the simple question, “Is it any good?”

From her earliest work with the Fluxus group and especially her relationship with John Cage, through her enigmatic pop happenings (where she met John Lennon), her experimental films, cryptic books, conceptual art, and her long recording career that has vacillated between avant-garde noise and proto-new wave, earning the admiration of other artists while generally confusing the public at large who often sees her only in the role of the widow Lennon,Reaching Out with No Hands is the first serious, critical, wide-ranging look at Yoko Ono the artist and musician.

A must-read for art and music fans interested in going beyond the stereotyped observations of Yoko as a Lennon hanger-on or inconsequential avant noisemaker.

The Beatles’ 50th Anniversary

On February 9th, 1964, The Beatles performed on The Ed Sullivan Show and changed the landscape of the music world in America forever. In keeping with the spirit of things, here are some funny moments from  A Hard Day’s Night, the immensely influential 1964 black-and-white comedy film starring (who else) The Beatles. The script of A Hard Day’s Night is included in Film Scripts Fourpart of the Applause Books Film Scripts Series.

 

Film Scripts Four

The Film Scripts Series is a new printing of some of the greatest screenplays ever written. Each of the four volumes in the series – edited by George P. Garrett, O. B. Hardison, Jr., and Jane R. Gelfman – contains three classic shooting scripts written by some of the finest writers to ever work in Hollywood. Every volume also features a highly informative introduction, a glossary of technical terms, an extensive bibliography, and the credits for each film. These enduring screenplays will be of great interest to the general film buff, the aspiring screenwriter, and the professional filmmaker. Of particular value to the screenwriter and filmmaker is the fact that all scripts are printed in standard screenplay format.

Film Scripts Four features:

A Hard Day’s Night (1964, United Artists): Script by Alun Owen; Directed by Richard Lester; Starring the Beatles; Academy Award nominations for best screenplay and best score (George Martin).

The Best Man (1964, United Artists): Script by Gore Vidal; Directed by Franklin Schaffner; Starring Henry Fonda, Cliff Robertson, Lee Tracy, Edie Adams, Shelley Berman, Ann Sothern, Gene Raymond, and Mahalia Jackson; Academy Award nomination for Lee Tracy.

Darling (1965, Embassy): Script by Frederic Raphael; Directed by John Schlesinger; Starring Julie Christie, Dirk Bogarde, and Laurence Harvey; Academy Awards for Julie Christie and best screenplay; Academy Award nominations for best picture and best director.

Yoko Ono’s Birthday

To celebrate Yoko Ono’s 80th Birthday we have shared an excerpt from Lisa Carver’s new book, Reaching Out with No Hands: Reconsidering Yoko Ono. Please enjoy!!!

This book is not about Yoko Ono. It’s about what she isn’t. What she doesn’t do, and what she will not be. Yoko Ono is not pretty, she is not easy, her paintings aren’t recognizable, her voice is not melodious, her films are without plot, and her Happenings make no sense. One of her paintings you are told to sleep on. One of her paintings you are told to burn. One of her paintings isn’t a painting at all—it’s you climbing into an outdoor bathtub and looking at the sky. Most of her stuff is not even there. This is why I love her. This is why we need her. We have too much stuff already. It clutters our view, inward and outward. We need more impossible in our culture. Go out and capture moonlight on water in a bucket, she commands. Her art is instructions for tasks impossible to complete.

We already have a billion lovely things and a million amazing artists who have honed their talent and have lorded it above us. People who have achieved the highest of the possible. People wearing their role as artist or writer or filmmaker or spokesperson as a suit of armor or an invisibility cloak or an intimidatingly, unacquirably tasteful outfit. Even other artists can’t figure Yoko out or accept her as legit, nor can she obey the club rules. Her stuff is all wrong. Grow a weed and admire it. “Listen” to a two-minute song of recorded silence, music lovers. And you, the most imperialist and arms-profiteering superpower in the history of the world, give peace a chance.

When you tell someone to do the undoable, you’re really only showing them how impossible it ever was that anyone wanted us to use our lifetime to follow orders, to accept what is agreed is reasonable. We already have a million people telling us what to do and what to believe. Yoko is telling us, “You don’t have to.” She proposes the idea that all we thought had to be done didn’t have to, doesn’t have to. And maybe some exploitative things we did to maintain order, our position on the job and in the family, were not necessary and normal after all. Life might not be arranged along one certain pyramid of hierarchical order.

Reaching Out with No Hands: Reconsidering Yoko Ono

John Lennon once described her as “the world’s most famous unknown artist: everybody knows her name, but nobody knows what she does.” Many people are aware of her art, and her music has always split crowds, from her caterwauling earliest work to her later dance numbers, but how many people have looked at Yoko Ono’s decades-spanning career and varied work in total and asked the simple question, “Is it any good?”

From her earliest work with the Fluxus group and especially her relationship with John Cage, through her enigmatic pop happenings (where she met John Lennon), her experimental films, cryptic books, conceptual art, and her long recording career that has vacillated between avant-garde noise and proto-new wave, earning the admiration of other artists while generally confusing the public at large who often sees her only in the role of the widow Lennon, Reaching Out with No Hands is the first serious, critical, wide-ranging look at Yoko Ono the artist and musician.

A must-read for art and music fans interested in going beyond the stereotyped observations of Yoko as a Lennon hanger-on or inconsequential avant noisemaker.

Reconsidering Yoko Ono

LISA CARVER HPIM3601The following is an excerpt of Reaching Out With No Hands by Lisa Carver, as posted on SOMETHING ELSE Reviews. Please visit their site for the full excerpt.

In the Indica Gallery in London in 1966, Yoko had an apple for sale for £200. That’s US $3,000 in today’s dollars. This is the apple John Lennon walked in and bit, when he didn’t know Yoko Ono, and apparently he didn’t see the price tag or didn’t respect that this apple was an art piece.

John Lennon could buy anything — a pet monkey, a plane, a posse. When money is limitless, all things lose meaning –when they can’t be dreamt of and saved for, and maybe not gotten. How refreshing it must have been to see value inverted. If what is free (to be plucked easily off trees seeming to line every path) can be made beyond the common man’s ability to acquire, than what is beyond the common man’s ability to acquire must be free. How amazing, this apple!

How nice for Yoko that someone would mistake her art piece for the real thing, and bite it. All of her art was turning the real thing into art pieces so people would put on their special important expensive viewing eyes and just maybe they would see it, what had been there all along. They could have seen the real thing all the time, everywhere, but forgot to.

All Yoko Ono ever wanted was for people to bite what they thought could not be bitten, see what they thought could not be seen, know what they thought could not be known.

She was, it seems, Satan.

But there was a mistake in telling the story. Satan was the good guy. God didn’t want us to bite the apple of knowledge because then we’d know we were Him, and the patriarchy, the whole order of things, would turn to dust.

Keep reading this excerpt on SOMETHING ELSE Reviews.

Reaching Out With No Hands

Many people are aware of Yoko Ono’s art, and her music has always split crowds, from her caterwauling earliest work to her later dance numbers, but how many people have looked at Yoko Ono’s decades-spanning career and varied work in total and asked the simple question, “Is it any good?” A must-read for art and music fans interested in going beyond the stereotyped observations of Yoko as a Lennon hanger-on or inconsequential avant noisemaker.

December 8, 1980 The Day John Lennon Died

Keith Elliot Greenberg is the author of December 8, 1980. Below is an excerpt for an article he wrote on the blog Joe Johnson’s beatle brunch.

The sign in front of the Dakota reads, “AUTHORIZED PERSONS ONLY BEYOND THIS POINT.” I study it, read it over, walk a few paces down the block, double back and scrutinize it again.

Had the rule been enforced in 1980, Mark David Chapman would never have had the opportunity to lurk in the shadows of the archway leading to the entrance of the historic building, and fire five hollow point bullets at the back of his onetime idol, John Lennon.

Chapman, I’m convinced, was mentally ill. For whatever reason, he blamed his various shortcomings on Lennon, and had made at least one prior trip to New York to slay the former Beatle. He was also a proponent of Herostratic fame – named for Herostratus, the arsonist who torched the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, in 356 BC – or infamy at any cost.

Sadly, with this one act of violence, he succeeded. As a result, when I was doing interviews related to the hardcover release of my book, December 8, 1980: The Day John Lennon Died two years ago, a number of radio stations asked that I refrain from mentioning the killer’s name; he was already infamous enough, and listeners preferred to hear about John.

Obviously, if it weren’t for Chapman, there never would have been a sign restricting the movements of the curious in front of the Dakota. On a chilly October afternoon, as regular New Yorkers patiently wait for the M-72 bus a few feet away, a dozen or so tourists line up to photograph the wrought iron gate leading to the building’s reception area – the spot where Lennon collapsed following the attack.

The doorman and I make eye contact, and joke about the fact that, in this modern age, his face appears in hundreds, if not thousands, of social media photos. The most common question he hears: “Where did it happen?”

For more please visit Joe Johnson’s beatles brunch.

December 8, 1980

December 8, 1980: The Day John Lennon Died follows the events leading to the horrible moment when Mark David Chapman – the paunchy, mentally ill Beatles fan – calmly fired his Charter Arms .38 Special into the rock icon, realizing his perverse fantasy of attaining perennial notoriety.

New York Times-best-selling author Keith Elliot Greenberg takes us back to New York City and the world John Lennon woke up to, and we follow the other Beatles, Lennon’s family, the shooter, fans, and New York City officials through the day. Once the fatal shots are fired, the pace only becomes more breathless.

The epilogue examines the aftermath of the killing – the moment when 100,000 New Yorkers stood in silence in Central Park; the posthumous reunion of the Beatles in the studio, with George, Paul, and Ringo accompanying recordings of their old friend – and the undying legacy that persists to this day.

Q&A with Keith Elliot Greenberg

Keith Elliot Greenberg is the author of December 8, 1980: The Day John Lennon Died, now out in paperback from Backbeat Books.

Why did you feel compelled to write this book?
For 30 years, I’ve been carrying this story. I was five years old when the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan, and the first movie I ever asked my parents to see was A Hard Day’s Night. John Lennon never knew me, but I felt that I knew him, and he understood me. Mark David Chapman felt the same way. But because something misfired in his mind, he decided to take John Lennon away from all of us.

Some of the most moving parts of the book are the scenes of ordinary New Yorkers coming to the Dakota after the tragedy to express their sorrow and grieve with one another. Do you remember what you did that night?
The night of the murder and the aftermath is so vivid to me. I can see the John Lennon button I hung from the rearview mirror of my car. I remember the feeling of serenity, standing in silence at the vigil in Central Park. It’s strange because about a week later, I was in a diner in Queens, and ran into some people I’d seen at the vigil. We looked at each other and nodded, didn’t have to say anything, because we all were feeling the same thing.

I’m a lifetime New Yorker and, in some ways, the story of John Lennon’s death is a story of this city. When I interviewed people for this book—Mayor Ed Koch, a woman who lives in the Dakota, a guy who was in the emergency room when Lennon came in, a cop called to the scene—we all shared a very New York perspective of what occurred. This was a tragedy for the world, but it happened in our city—the city I love as much as any family member—and, for that reason, the memories seem that more intense.

What can we learn by looking closely at this one day in such detail? It’s clear from your book that there’s so much more to this story than just the shooting of a rock icon by a mentally ill man—shocking as it was. Why is it so significant?
December 8, 1980 was more than a day. It was a convergence. I tried to tell the story of John Lennon’s life—his emotional highs and lows—and how it all led to this day. Mark David Chapman’s was unraveling, going back and forth over whether he should commit this act, and then, in one moment, it all exploded. Everybody felt it. And the feeling lingers even now, 30 years later.

Some have said that Lennon’s death changed the relationship between celebrities and their fans. Do you agree with that?
Lennon’s death changed our perspective. John was nice to his fans, the people who hung out in front of the Dakota every day. No one realized that stalkers could actually be dangerous. Because of this incident, celebrities have had to build walls around themselves, cut themselves off. They’re scared. It makes you wonder about the effect this isolation has had on music. How can you write songs about regular people when you’re terrified that one of them, in Lennon’s words, is going to pop you off?

Why is it important to look at these events from the perspective of 30 years on?
Thirty years seems like such a short time. In many ways, I feel like the same person I was then. So do the people I interviewed for the book. But it’s important to take a moment like this—I don’t want to trivialize it and call it an anniversary—and take stock of what occurred 30 years ago. Think about the music we missed, think about the doors John could have opened, think about Yoko’s words to continue his dream of peace and pass it on to the next generation.

December 8, 1980: The Day John Lennon Died follows the events leading to the horrible moment when Mark David Chapman – the paunchy, mentally ill Beatles fan – calmly fired his Charter Arms .38 Special into the rock icon, realizing his perverse fantasy of attaining perennial notoriety. New York Times-best-selling author Keith Elliot Greenberg takes us back to New York City and the world John Lennon woke up to, and we follow the other Beatles, Lennon’s family, the shooter, fans, and New York City officials through the day. Once the fatal shots are fired, the pace only becomes more breathless.

December 8, 1980: The Day John Lennon Died

Thirty-one years ago today, Mark David Chapman calmly fired his Charter Arms .38 Special at John Lennon, killing the rock icon and fulfilling his deranged quest for infamy. In this excerpt, New York Times bestselling author of December 8, 1980 Keith Elliot Greenberg takes us back to New York City and the world Lennon woke up to on that final fateful morning.

Below the high gables and terracotta spandrels—and the carved Lakota Indian gazing upon the yellow cabs and subway-bound commuters on Seventy-second Street—John Lennon scuttled around the Dakota, writing small notes to himself. Even with an album climbing on the charts, the former Beatle had grown to define himself as a househusband, and if he didn’t make these scribblings, certain workaday tasks just wouldn’t get done. With a five-year-old child at home, John and Yoko were awake at 8:00 A.M., planning the day and eating breakfast. At age forty, Lennon felt relatively healthy, renouncing the alcoholic tears that had characterized his youth in Liverpool and the Beatles’ early days in Hamburg, as well as the fifteen-month “Lost Weekend” that nearly broke up his marriage. Among some rock ’n’ rollers who’d grown up on the Beatles, forming a cocaine dependency ranked among the better ways to transition from the seventies to the eighties. But, having snorted his share in more thoughtless times, John now abstained.

Officially, John had also given up sugar. In the studio, though, he allowed himself to give in to arguably his most innocent of vices. John and Yoko had gone through a vegetarian phase and now aspired to be macrobiotic, eating whole grains and fish with rice. On a recent visit to the Dakota, however, an interviewer from Playboy had noticed that John still loved his Gauloises Bleues, the strong French cigarettes particularly popular in the Middle East.“Macrobiotic people don’t believe in the Big C,” Lennon told the magazine, conceding that he was more than conscious of the possibility that he was deluding himself. “Macrobiotics don’t believe that smoking is bad for you. Of course, if we die, we’re wrong.”

Mortality was an issue that came up often with Lennon. As a performer, he’d encouraged his listeners to abandon the parochial concept of earning a spot in heaven. Yet, without that secure notion to soothe him, he seemed to worry about his life ending prematurely. In virtually every interview, he broached the topic of death—even if it was to emphasize that he hoped to live a long, fulfilling life.

For more than a decade, the man who’d once smacked around insubordinate girlfriends and insolent associates had characterized himself as a pacifist. If someone challenged him to a fight, he said, he’d run away—shouting over his shoulder about peace. But Lennon pointed out that Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., had also forsaken violence—and been killed nonetheless.

In 1975, he’d removed himself from the public eye, spending the majority of his time in the warren of apartments the Lennons owned in the Dakota, the landmarked, North German Renaissance– style building on Central Park West—to live, not as a hermit, but as a civilian. The experience invigorated Lennon after years as a captive to fame. Even after the Beatles’ breakup, John had felt like he couldn’t escape his celebrity. And he’d believed that he had to hustle to maintain it—because, as much as he condemned the recording industry, he wanted to live up to the standards expected of Beatle John. During his five-year sabbatical from the business, he told one reporter, the “invisible ghost” had disappeared.

rockbookshow.com

Click here for another video of author Keith Elliot Greenberg.

December 8, 1980

In a breathtaking, minute-by-minute format, December 8, 1980: The Day John Lennon Died follows the events leading to the horrible moment when Mark David Chapman calmly fired his Charter Arms .38 Special into the rock icon, realizing his perverse fantasy of attaining perennial notoriety.

New York Times bestselling author Keith Elliot Greenberg takes us back to New York City and the world John Lennon woke up to. The day begins with a Rolling Stone photo session that takes on an uncomfortable tone when photographer Annie Leibowitz tries to maneuver Yoko Ono out of the shot. Later Lennon gives the last interview of his life, declaring, “I consider that my work won’t be finished until I’m dead and buried and I hope that’s a long, long time.”

We follow the other Beatles, Lennon’s family, the shooter, fans, and New York City officials through the day, and as the hours progress, the pace becomes more breathless. Once the fatal shots are fired, the clock continues to tick as Dr. Stephan Lynn walks from the emergency room after declaring the former Beatle dead, Howard Cosell announces the singer’s passing on Monday Night Football, and Paul McCartney is lambasted for muttering “Drag, isn’t it?” – his bereavement confused with indifference.

The epilogue examines the aftermath of the killing: the considerable moment when 100,000 New Yorkers stood in silence in Central Park, the posthumous reunion of the Beatles in the studio – with George, Paul, and Ringo accompanying the recordings of their old friend – the unveiling of a bronze John Lennon statue in Fidel Castro’s Cuba, and the durable legacy that persists today. Available for purchase here from Backbeat Books.