Thursday, April 22, 2010

Season of Glass (1981)

"I Don't Know Why" All right, let's talk about Yoko Ono. Like most Beatles fan I thought her an unwelcome intrusion in the messy conclusion of the band, though I never hated her the way some did and certainly didn't blame anything on her. I've never had much use for such projects as Unfinished Music, No. 1: Two Virgins, her collaboration with John Lennon better known for its cover of the couple in full-frontal nudity—it's still painfully unlistenable to me. Her '70s solo projects came with isolated moments (I knew enough of her champions to get fairly steady exposure), although their proportion to the noisy dross was ultimately way too low to be cost-effective for me. But I thought, and still think, that "The Ballad of John and Yoko" was one of the best late Beatles hits, and anyway, John Lennon by then was my favorite Beatle. Who was I to begrudge him his personal choices? (Who was anyone?) In 1980, I thought her half of Double Fantasy was almost embarrassingly subpar to Lennon's, and wished they'd each taken a side rather than alternating tracks; it was too much work to listen to the thing, either lifting and replacing the needle constantly, or sitting through the untoward interruptions to Lennon's amazing return. And then came the catastrophe, and a few months later this. I was afraid to listen to it for more than a year. When I finally did, I found that suddenly the rough edges and harsh textures and raw thrust of her sound had found focus and purpose—expressing an entirely appropriate rage, working through grief, dealing with the shock and pain of an unimaginable event. She did so as an artist, with dignity and courage. Entirely unexpectedly, she also appeared to have absorbed enough of Lennon's sensibility to make it feel like the collaboration that never really occurred. It stands as a startling and genuine fusion of artists, fleeting but real, the very thing I think Lennon sought all his life, and as such it's almost as unbearably sad as it is heartening. It also provides catharsis for anyone who cared. From that point on I believed in her at every level, and I still do.

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