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The murderer whose reputation John Lennon worked to restore
08:16 am


Yoko Ono
John Lennon
James Hanratty

John Lennon and Yoko Ono
In 1969 John Lennon and Yoko Ono became very interested in a convicted murderer who had been hanged for a heinous crime seven years earlier. In Britain it was one of the most famous crimes and trials of the era.

What is not in doubt is that in 1961 an individual raped Valerie Storie and murdered Michael John Gregsten, who just a little while earlier had been occupying a car together on the A6 highway in the vicinity of Bedfordshire. Storie was paralyzed from the waist down, while Gregsten, having suffered two point-blank bullets to the head, had died instantly. It does not appear to have been a robbery gone wrong or anything like that, just brutality for brutality’s sake.

There was an initial suspect named Peter Alphon, whom the police held briefly before letting him go. Many people feel that he is the likely murderer. The eventual defendant, the man who would hang for the crime, was James Hanratty. A lot of the ins and outs of the evidence-gathering phase hinged on police lineups. The trial was said to have been the longest in British history for a single murder defendant. The evidence against Hanratty was somewhat circumstantial but also not all that weak either, as far as I can tell. The jury deliberated for an unusually long time and sought clarifications from the judge in the process. Eventually the jury yielded a verdict of guilty. Six weeks later, Hanratty was executed.

A lot of social norms were changing fast in Britain—in 1965 the death penalty was outlawed in Britain for the crime of murder. The excitement over the “A6” crimes never really died down during that era, it had captured the public’s imagination. There were several books exploring the idea of Hanratty’s innocence. Hanratty’s parents and brother appear to have campaigned tirelessly on behalf of his innocence, and they were exceptionally sympathetic.

In late 1969 Hanratty’s parents visited a wealthy friend in Ascot named John Cunningham, who promptly introduced them to his pal John Lennon who lived nearby. John and Yoko quickly seized the case as another opportunity for peculiar protest; they were very much in their “Bed-In” phase.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono with the parents of James Hanratty
Together with Hanratty’s parents, John and Yoko announced their intention to make a film to back the campaign for an enquiry at an Apple press conference on December 10, 1969. Apple Films released a documentary with the title Did Britain murder Hanratty? This movie is universally referred to as “John Lennon’s movie” and yet it’s unclear how involved he was. His name isn’t on the movie, and it’s not listed in his credits on IMDb. Well, whatever sells, right? 

The single public screening of the 40-minute movie eventually took place in the crypt of St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church, London, on February 17, 1972.

The fight to outlaw capital punishment in Britain was a large topic of the day, even after it had happened; it was on the minds of a lot of people. Hanratty had a pretty serious criminal record before the A6 crimes, he had spent the bulk of the previous seven years in prison for burglary and auto theft. In 2002 DNA tests apparently confirmed Hanratty’s guilt, although Hanratty’s defenders question that result based on the use of a spoiled sample.

On John & Yoko’s “Live Jam” album (recorded December 15, 1969), which was released with Some Time in New York City, Yoko can be heard shouting “Britain, you killed Hanratty, you murderer!” and then chanting Hanratty’s name throughout the opening bars of “Don’t Worry Kyoko.”

“Don’t Worry Kyoko,” off of Live Jam/Some Time in New York City


via Beatles Video Of The Day

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
When Frank Zappa met John & Yoko, sometime in New York, 1971
06:52 pm


Yoko Ono
John Lennon
Frank Zappa

Martin Perlich interviewed Frank Zappa eight times on his “Electric Tongue” program on the Los Angeles progressive rock radio station KMET. Although Zappa was well-known to be a difficult interviewee, Perlich knew what he was talking about and always got the best out of him. In this excellent and wide-ranging 1972 talk, Perlich and Zappa discuss classical music, the philosophical role of music in society and “modernism” in a general sense. There is a great section where they discuss how to explain to kids what they’re seeing on television isn’t necessarily true and Zappa predicts that there will be another monumental media innovation within the next several decades that will will cause or require the human brain to have to rewire itself again in the same way that television had. Heady stuff and exactly what you want from a vintage Frank Zappa interview…

Interesting to note that Zappa sticks up for (the then chart-topping) Grand Funk Railroad more than once during the interview, a group he would later (improbably) go on to produce. Zappa also talks about the 20 piece orchestra that he would be performing with soon at the Hollywood Bowl (and recording The Grand Wazoo with) and tells the story of having a deranged “fan” push him into the orchestra pit at the Rainbow Theatre in London.

At a certain point, John Lennon and Yoko Ono come in for some withering comments regarding their “jam session” at the Fillmore East. For whatever reason, Lennon re-titled the Zappa composition “King Kong, ” the centerpiece of the Mothers’ live act for years and a song that took up an entire side of the Uncle Meat album, as “Jamrag” and credited it to Lennon/Ono on their 1972 Sometime In New York City live album. Zappa’s own mix of this material, radically different from the Phil Spector-produced tracks on John and Yoko’s record came out on his Playground Psychotics live set in 1992.  Zappa tells the full story in the interview.


Below, John Lennon and Yoko Ono onstage with The Mothers of Invention at the Fillmore East, June 4, 1971. The Mothers at this time were comprised of Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman on vocals; Bob Harris, keyboards; Don Preston, Minimoog; Ian Underwood, keyboards, alto sax; Jim Pons, bass, vocals; and Aynsley Dunbar on drums.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Flaming Lips Band bring dada to David Letterman last night

Yoko Ono and Wayne Coyne
Someday far into the future, the next generation of Dangerous Minds will link to this video, and the hardy contributor on duty then will write something along the lines of, “THIS WAS INSANE. Legendary tee-vee talkmeister David Letterman had Yoko Ono on and she was wearing a snappy fedora and to a funky groove she howled into a microphone about ‘stopping the wars’ and ‘stopping the violence’ and FUCKING WAYNE COYNE was sitting Indian style next to her with a megaphone—this was YEARS before he ascended from the material plane into heaven during Super Bowl LXIV…”

Well, we say why wait? This crazy shit went down last night on The Late Show with David Letterman and you should watch it with the sound turned up!

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Yoko Ono is a GENIUS, in case any question remained: A primer for the befuddled
08:33 am


Yoko Ono

As Yoko Ono’s Plastic Ono Band, reconstituted in 2009 after a 34-year silence, prepares to release Take Me to the Land of Hell, it seems as good a time as any for a big ol’ info-dump. Allons y!
For many years, Yoko Ono was married to Mr. John Lennon, who was one of the chief songwriters for a band called The Beatles. They did some really, really cool shit. If you’re in the dark on that band, or only glancingly familiar, you should really look them up.  Some books are available.

Even if Ono hadn’t married a superstar, she’d be worth knowing about. An early mover in the Dada-like Fluxus art movement, she distanced herself from the group almost as soon as it became a movement with a name:

“I thought avant-garde world in New York was still very exciting but that it was starting to become an institution in itself, and there were rules and regulations in an invisible way, and I just wanted to get out of it. I never considered myself a member of any group. I was just doing my own thing, and I’m sure that most artists I knew in those days felt the same.”

Despite her refusenik status, Ono remains Fluxus’ best-known alumnus, and has been as important a figure in the development of American Conceptual Art as John Cage, Chris Burden, or John Baldessari. She initially became known for performances like “Cut Piece,” in which viewers were invited to approach her with scissors as she sat still, cutting off pieces of her clothing until she was entirely naked. Arguably, her most enduring non-musical works are her Instruction pieces - widely disseminated in her now-classic (and pretty much essential) book Grapefruit - participatory/hueristic koan-like invitations for readers to complete artworks in their minds.
painting for the wind
Ono’s music career began years before her association with John Lennon. She collaborated with the likes of John Cage and Ornette Coleman in the early ‘60s. It was with Lennon, though, that she began to work within the rock process, and at the same time, he began to bring avant-garde ideas gleaned from Ono to bear in some of The Beatles’ work. Ono’s contributions to both rock and experimental music have long been championed by adventurous musicians starting as early as the Punk and New Wave era (surprising, given the anathema status of The Beatles’ undeniable Summer Of Love associations to Punk’s hippie-hating year zero ethos), a love affair that saw a culmination in the 2007 compilation Yes, I’m A Witch, which saw contemporary artists creating new music beds for a career-spanning selection of Ono’s vocal tracks. Peaches’ update of “Kiss Kiss Kiss” and Cat Power’s “duet” with Ono on “Revelations” are both absolutely stunning.



In 2001, The Japan Society Gallery in NYC hosted an exhibit called YES YOKO ONO, her first American retrospective:

The exhibition explored Ono’s position within the postwar international avant-garde, and her critical and influential role in originating forms of contemporary art, music, film and performance. Featuring approximately 130 works from the 1960s to the present, it presented Ono as a key transmitter of Asian thought to the international art world, through her use of chance and minimalism, and her investigation of everyday life.

The exhibition toured, and its catalogue is an excellent staring point for understanding her career. Currently, an even larger retrospective is touring the museums of Europe, coinciding with Ono’s 80th year.

Fact: if you hate Yoko Ono because “derrr she dun broked up da BEEEEAAAATLES” or because “she don’t even sing or nothin’, she just wails a buncha nonsense,” you’re a useless ass and you need to get your god damn fool eyes off my article right now and go use your valuable Internet time to look at some image macros of funny kittycats. NOW. I’m not even slightly kidding. Go get fitted for a new droolcup. (previous) (previouser). Fuck off, even.

The first iteration of the Plastic Ono Band was comprised of whoever happened to be present (including Tommy Smothers!) singing along and clapping their hands at Ono and Lennon’s Montreal “Bed Peace” performance in July of 1969, while the single “Give Peace A Chance” was recorded. The first properly band-like version was assembled in September 1969 for the Toronto Rock And Roll Revival festival, and featured, in addition to Ono and Lennon, future Yes drummer Alan White, noteworthy visual artist and onetime Manfred Mann bassist Klaus Voormann, and one Eric Clapton, who did some other fairly well known stuff himself.

The first Plastic Ono Band studio albums were a matched set of recordings with very nearly identical covers, one under Ono’s name, one under Lennon’s, both credited “and the Plastic Ono Band.” Decent copies of Lennon’s version can be found in thrift stores for pocket change, while Ono’s has become a sought-after collectable.
Ono has been posting a new song from the forthcoming album every week on the Plastic Ono Band’s web site, culminating on Take Me to the Land of Hell being streamable by the release date, September 17, 2013. Check out “Bad Dancer,” featuring Beastie Boys Mike Diamond and Adam Horovitz.

Lastly, from just a couple of months ago: whoa, this is cool.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
‘Freedom’: Yoko Ono almost takes her bra off, while John Lennon makes electronic noises
10:37 am


Yoko Ono
John Lennon

Yoko Ono’s films tend to deal with themes of sexuality, intimacy, and the navigation of public life. 1969’s Rape is arguably her most famous work, a disturbing first-person perspective from the eyes of the film crew, who chase, harass, and assault a German woman as she flees through the streets of London. No doubt the film is a commentary on the sudden media onslaught she experienced in the initial stages of her relationship with John Lennon. It’s an incredibly compelling piece.

It’s also 77 damn minutes long, and since I know you’re all reading this at work, I’ll hook you up with one of Ono’s briefer film experiments.

In Freedom, we see a shot of Ono’s chest in a silky purple bra. Faceless, she attempts to unhook the front claps in slow motion to the sound of modulating, electronic drone, (provided by John Lennon, of course). While it’s not unheard of to see a close-up of breasts on celluloid, the speed and sounds of the shot transform a mundane ritual of taking off a bra into a sort of post-modern dirge. The bra is never removed on camera, and the audience is left in a state of anticipation, as the clinical, hypnotic feel of the film belies all the general comfort we associate with breasts, whether maternal or sexual.

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Still Pissed At Yoko: Disgruntled Beatles fan gets something off his chest
11:31 am


Yoko Ono
The Beatles

Dig George Johnson’s ambitious humorous homage to The Beatles and the woman some fans think “broke them up.”

I suspect that Mrs. Lennon might get a kick out of this. Johnson seems to be (I hope) poking fun at all the idiot Yoko haters, rather than joining that tired chorus. Yoko rules!

“Still Pissed At Yoko” is available for download at the iTunes store.

Thank you, Charles Hugh Smith!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Yoko Ono’s plea for gun control expressed in one image: John Lennon’s blood-splattered glasses

On the 44th anniversary (March 20) of her marriage to John Lennon, Yoko Ono tweeted this powerful photo of her late husband’s blood-splattered glasses, the ones he wore the night he was murdered

31,537 people are killed by guns in the USA every year. We are turning this beautiful country into a war zone.

Together, let’s bring back America, the green land of peace.

The death of a loved one is a hollowing experience. After 33 years our son Sean and I still miss him.” Yoko Ono Lennon

In my world, I’m still giving peace a chance and Yoko Ono will always be a hero to me. Love is all you need… and a fearless commitment to confront and defuse the powers that be.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Happy 80th Birthday Yoko Ono
09:35 am


Yoko Ono

A very, very happy birthday to the very, very wonderful Yoko Ono who turns 80 today!

I was introduced to Yoko Ono (I mean the concept of her; her work) when I was a little kid, probably 6 years old, and I found a copy of her book Grapefruit at a church rummage sale for like a quarter. I’m not trying to impress anyone with how smart or sophisticated I was when I was a small child, Grapefruit was something I stumbled across. All I knew about her then was that she had something to do (I didn’t know what, exactly) with the Beatles, who I was all into because I’d recently seen Yellow Submarine.

Grapefruit, a tiny book of the short, simplistic, whimsical and often hilarious artistic aphorisms Yoko is known for, is not exactly beyond the comprehension level of a precocious child. Here are some examples:

Carry a bag of peas.
Leave a pea wherever you go.


Steal all the clocks and watches
in the world.
Destroy them.


Imagine the clouds dripping.
Dig a hole in your garden to
put them in.

It helps if you imagine Yoko’s voice reading it. For me it was love at first sight. I have always been in love with Grapefruit and with Yoko Ono. There has never been a time in my life when I wasn’t. I grabbed her albums from cut-out bins and garage sales throughout the 70s. Yoko was awesome and made music like no other!

I never got the whole “Yoko sucks” thing. It seemed so idiotic to me, then as now (I can see someone thinking that in 1975, but after post-punk showed just how ahead of her time she was? There’s no excuse anymore!).

Yoko Ono is a charter member of my pantheon of personal heroes. I even own a “Box of Smile,” her conceptual art piece that was mass produced in 1971 (It’s a small plastic box with a mirror inside. I have never—and I repeat NEVER—seen someone fail to crack a smile when they open it, not once).

When Yoko Ono announced on her Twitter feed in 2009 that she would answer some questions, she answered mine in the first batch. Keeping in mind what I wrote above, here’s what I asked and her reply:

Do you find that children “get” your conceptual art pieces better than adults?

Not necessarily. There are kids who think they are grown ups and don’t want to know anything that smells like kids stuff. And there are grown-ups who are still kids at heart who clearly get my work.

That made my day, I can assure you.

An excerpt from Yoko’s “Mind Train”:

Below, Yoko tells interviewer David Frost, in 1967: “My ultimate goal in film-making is to make a film which includes a smiling face snap of every single human being in the world.”

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
John and Yoko on the Beatles break-up
02:47 pm


Yoko Ono
The Beatles
John Lennon

In January 1972, John Lennon and Yoko Ono told Howard Smith, a Village Voice columnist and radio personality on WPLJ FM, what they thought about the Beatles break-up and if they would ever get back together again.

Via The World’s Best Ever

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Blues Singer Lester Chambers: Reality of the Music Industry for the 99%

Lester Chambers, former lead singer of The Chambers Brothers, highlights the hard reality of the record company’s exploitation of its artists. Chambers sang such hits as “Time Has come Today”, “People Get Ready”, “Uptown”, “I Can’t Turn You Loose” and “Funky”, went for almost thirty years without seeing a royalty check, and has still to see the majority of payment due to him for all of his recordings.

Chambers has suffered great hardship over the years through no fault of his own, and was most recently sleeping in a rehearsal room, until Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon offered to pay his rent on a home for him and his son in 2010.

Last year, Chambers was inducted into the West Coast Blues Hall of Fame, which is an honor, but hardly full recompense for all the years of being screwed over by record companies.

I AM the former Lead Singer of a 60’s BAND. I performed before thousands at Atlanta Pop 2, Miami Pop, Newport Pop, Atlantic Pop. I did NOT squander my money on drugs or a fancy home. I went from 1967-1994 before I saw my first Royalty Check.

The Music Giants I recorded with only paid me for 7 of my Albums.

I have NEVER seen a penny in Royalties from my other 10 Albums I recorded. Our Hit Song was licensed to over 100 Films, T.V. & Commercials WITHOUT our permission. One Major TV Network used our song for a national Commercial and my payment was $625. dollars. I am now 72, trying to live on $1200 a month. Sweet Relief, a music charity is taking donations for me.

Only the 1% of Artist can afford to sue.

I AM THE 99%

Check here for the Lester Chambers’ Sweet Relief Charity Fund.

The Chambers Brothers perform “The Time Has Come Today”.

With thanks to Charles Shaar Murray

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
John & Yoko: Discussing Art on David Frost’s show 1968

The Fab Two, John Lennon and Yoko Ono gave their first interview together on the David Frost show Frost on Saturday, August 24 1968. On it they discussed how they met, their personal and artistic philosophies, and explained some of the ideas behind their shared exhibition You Are Here:

Frost: Yes, you gave me one of these badges beforehand. Now, what, this is really the basis of what you’re talking about isn’t it, You Are Here.

Lennon: It’s that show, yeah.

Frost: Now what exactly does it mean, You Are Here?

Lennon: Well, er, You, are, here.

Ono: Usually people think in vicarious terms, they think ‘Somebody’s there,’ ‘John Lennon’s there,’ or somebody. But it’s not that. YOU are the one who’s here, and so in art, usually art gives something that’s an object and says ‘This is art,’ you know, but instead of that, art exists in people. It’s people’s art, and so we don’t believe in just making something and completing it and giving it to people, we like people to participate. All the pieces are unfinished and they have to be finished by people.

As part of the interview, two audience members tried out Yoko’s Hammer and Nail Piece, where they hammered nails into a block of wood. Both found the experience “satisfying” and “unbelievable”. When Lennon encouraged Frost to have a go, the “bubonic plagiarist” said he felt like “a man hammering in a nail”, to which Lennon countered, “I felt like one hammering it in on TV”.

The interview over-ran, and ends with Lennon conducting the audience to sing-a-long on “Hey Jude”, as the closing titles played out.

Previously on Dangerous Minds

John and Yoko: The Dentist Interview 1968


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
John & Yoko: The Dentist Interview, 1968
06:27 pm


Yoko Ono
John Lennon

Dutch sociologist Abram De Swaan interviews John and Yoko for the TV program Rood Wit Blauw at the practice of Lennon’s Knightsbridge dentist. The interview took place on December 12, 1968, just after their Two Virgins album had come out.

In the first part, while John was in the dentist’s chair, Yoko discusses Fluxus, the underground vs. the establishment, her own approach to art, why she abores “professionalism” and more.

When Lennon joins them, in reel four, he talks about revolution, reincarnation, taxes and money.

This is the single best vintage Yoko Ono interview I’ve ever seen, a real treat for Yoko fans.

After the jump, Yoko discusses living her life with Lennon in public and how their first meeting was a “miracle.”

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Miles Davis and John Lennon shooting hoops, 1971
03:34 pm


Yoko Ono
John Lennon
Miles Davis

Photo found at Awesome People Hanging Out Together

Crazy! Here’s some Super 8 footage of John Lennon and Yoko Ono at a party—perhaps one held at Allen Klein’s house, according to some accounts—in 1971 playing basketball with Miles Davis.



Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Xeni Jardin interviews Yoko Ono in Japan

Boing Boing’s Xeni Jardin, currently traveling in Japan, met up with Yoko Ono and conducted a great interview with the artist/humanitarian, who had just been awarded the 8th Hiroshima Art Prize. The Hiroshima Museum of Contemporary Art is displaying “The Road of Hope: Yoko Ono 2011,” until October 16, 2011.

Xeni Jardin: A few days ago, you were in Hiroshima accepting an award for your your legacy of art in the service of peace. You were a young girl here in Japan when the event happened. What was that day like?

Yoko Ono: Yes, I think I was 12. It was a shock of course, but at the time, initially we didn’t know what happened. I heard about it from somebody in the village. It’s a very, very different kind of bomb, they said, we have to immediately stop the war. It didn’t make sense to me at all, in any way. We didn’t understand.

Xeni Jardin: At what point did the magnitude or the nature of what had happened become more clear to you?

Yoko Ono: Well, every day, from then on. They were reporting in newspapers and magazines what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and it was just—it was something that you just could not understand. It was just so bad.

Xeni Jardin: Trying to grasp the full scope of what had happened must have been something that unfolded over many years for you, your family, and for all of your fellow countrymen and women.

Yoko Ono: Well you see, it was because of Pearl Harbor, and so the rest of the world was very, very cold to us when the bombs dropped. Like, “Oh, they deserved it.” That kind of thinking.

And of course in those days, the idea of what an enemy is, and what is fair to do to enemies were very different. For America to have bombed civilians was something that most people accepted. But women and children, old and young, they all suffered. If it had happened not to Japan but in a Western country, maybe the West would have felt differently about it. But that’s how it was. And the Japanese people, especially the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they had to endure the whole thing without any kindness or compassion from the world. Despite the meanness directed at them, even after the bombing, they stood up and survived, and they created a normal situation out of the ashes of that horror, which I believe is amazing.

The whole of Japan helped them. I learned when I was in Hiroshima, for instance, that many trees were sent from other towns throughout Japan, to be planted there to renew the bare ground. People throughout the country tried to help, but Hiroshima and Nagasaki had to stand up on their own, as well, of course.

And in a very strange way, even though they were victims and martyrs of a terrible thing, now they are not victims. They are the people who created a strong, strong recovery. They show to the world that this is what we can do, instead of all the myths that were created about those places — the myth that you could never enter those places after what happened, and that you couldn’t return into those cities. Just walking in there is dangerous.

But now, they’re two beautiful cities again. And the world sees that.

Read more of Xeni Jardin’s interview with Yoko Ono at Boing Boing.

Below, a fucking fierce Beatles/Yoko jam session in an outtake from Let It Be:


Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Zappa, Mothers live at the Fillmore East 1971

Three clips of John and Yoko onstage with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention at the Fillmore East in NYC, June 5, 1971. For whatever reason, Lennon re-titled the Mothers’ song “King Kong”—the centerpiece of their live act for years and one that took up an entire side of the Uncle Meat album—as “Jamrag” and credited it to “Lennon/Ono” on their 1972 Sometime in New York City live album. Zappa’s own mix of this material—radically different from the Phil Spector produced tracks on John and Yoko’s album—came out on his Playground Psychotics album in 1992.

The Mothers at this time were comprised of Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman on vocals, Bob Harris—keyboards, Don Preston—Minimoog, Ian Underwood—keyboards, alto sax, Jim Pons—bass, vocals and Aynsley Dunbar on drums. If you’re a Yoko fan, towards the end of the third clip, Lennon starts doing some feedback stuff with his guitar as she wails over it. It’s a fine Yoko moment, albeit brief.

This is either a fan-shot film that was synced up with soundboard audio or else something that came via Bill Graham’s archives or a mixture of both. The audio quality is quite good and the video quality is certainly watchable, although there are dropouts to black at times. Still, this is an amazing, historic concert to have footage of, I’ll take what I can get. This probably got onto YouTube by way of the amazing Zappateers fansite (truly one of the greatest fan communities on the Internet).



Below “Scumbag.” I love Don Preston’s Mini-Moog improvisations here:

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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