Relisten without prejudice to Yoko Ono’s ‘Plastic Ono Band’

Having been enthusiastically received as a vinyl rerelease and digital download, it’s safe to say that Yoko’s debut album has now shaken off the sexist and racially insensitive critiques, distortions and misrepresentations that dogged it for so long. You would think.


Yoko Ono’s Plastic Ono Band was originally released in the same month – December 1970 – that Esquire magazine deemed it okay to publish an article by Charles McCarry titled ‘John Rennon’s Excrusive Gloupie’, a piece that not only mocked the artist’s Asian accent, but also conveyed a full-page caricature of her as a wild-haired giant holding a miniature John Lennon on a lead, who in turn takes the form of – wait for it – a beetle. The album subsequently struggled to number 182 in the US and failed to chart in the UK, evidence that the listening public refused to buy into the 41 minutes of uncompromising music that it had to offer: six avant-garde and heavily improvised tracks, variously consisting of the word ‘why’ wailed desperately over and over, screaming, guttural outbursts, frenzied guitar, heavy breathing, an echoing sitar, free jazz, tom-toms and railway clatter. However, in our more enlightened times, we have come to recognise its true significance as an art form and its contribution to the development of post-punk and alternative rock, having long dispensed with old prejudices in order to treat it sensitively, represent it accurately and give it the respect it deserves. Well, almost. Maybe.

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