Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Yoko Ono - Fly (1971)

^Screenshot from the Fly short

The second album by Yoko Ono. Her first was 'Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band' with the fluctuating supergroup that included John Lennon, and at variously Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Phil Spector, etc. It was a companion piece to what is considered Lennon's most accomplished solo album 'John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band'.

'Fly' is definitely up there with the debut, a record that is variously avant-garde and jam-oriented - groovy even - but always experimental in it's approach. For the most part it sounds like nothing else from the period, the only music that came close was the budding 'krautrock' scene, and this was unfortunately lacking in Ono's kabuki-theatre wailing (which is like Marmite, except if you don't appreciate the spectrum of it's abrasive/beautiful range then you're a dick).

Unlike 'Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band', which was at times loud and fast and today is still hailed as proto-punk, 'Fly' is more spaced-out, much longer and more of an all-round Fluxus (the Japanese Dada-inspired art collective Yoko represented) statement.
Not only was the gatefold sleeve stuffed with sublime frames from the 'Fly' art film and instructions for performance taken from Yoko's 'Grapefruit' book; tracks were culled from various installation pieces (Telephone Piece, Toilet Piece, Airmale is the soundtrack to Lennon's 'Erection' film). On record you will also hear the use of mysterious, specialist 'instruments' custom-built by Joe Jones, a Fluxus artist whose idea it was to evoke emotions yet to be illuminated by sound vibrations.

^ From Grapefruit, to be performed by the reader. Ono's background in conceptual and performance art is all but evident on 'Fly'

Also, if you're a Beatles fan it's interesting to hear the rhythm section of Klaus Voorman (the man responsible for several iconic Beatles record covers) and Ringo thrashing out weird jams with Clapton and Lennon atonally banging away in the background. It feels like they have all been infected with the Yoko virus, and the results are electric.

So this is a must-have, as everybody from Sonic Youth to David Bowie would testify (if that's the kind of convincing you need). Lennon and Yoko's later musical collaborations would get a lot more direct and conventional, the feminist themes a lot less oblique; and in the singularly idiotic 'Yoko Vs. Beatles' debate these great records and Ono's light-hearted and accessible take on the avant-garde have all too often been forgotten. For shame, as you will hear.

This upload is at 320, and it's one of the recent Rykodisc remasters with two bonus tracks and artwork included. Needless to say, if you really, really like it go out and buy the CD - the packaging of the reissue is special.


1 comment:

Roger said...

Thank you for posting this. I've been meaning to hear it for a long time.

I'll definitely be bookmarking your blog if you're willing to make posts about Chris Morris, who is nothing less than a genius.