Wednesday, August 31, 2011

48. Yoko Ono, "I Don't Know Why" (1981)


This is a dramatically charged song, of course. It comes from the album Season of Glass, recorded and released in the six months following the murder of John Lennon (evidently assembled in part from the same sessions that produced Double Fantasy, as Lennon is credited here for guitars and keyboards). The cover of the album famously features the eyeglasses Lennon was wearing at the time of his death, broken and bloodstained by the gunshots that killed him. To say that the material is intended as an exercise in catharsis would be an understatement. Its intentions are plain. I was actually afraid to even listen to it for more than a year, as I've written about before. The surprise is that Yoko Ono had somehow suddenly so absorbed his sensibility as to make it sound approximately like the collaborations I think Lennon always wanted with her. Most of this song is a pretty good example of that, rolling in like a fully loaded tank, thrumming with malevolence. The carefully enunciated lyrics are vaguely biting but mostly just expressions of her confusion about the source of all the hatred directed toward them. And so it proceeds, its details sad, almost unbearably so in moments ("my body's so empty without you"). Then, in the last 30 seconds, as it positions itself for the fade-out, her rage suddenly makes its appearance. It cuts through like a knife. There's a certain unflattering sense of privilege to it that makes me think it almost had to be improvised right on the spot, if not at this point than at whatever moment it was recorded and later inserted here as is. It feels like a blow to the body, stunning—the pain is vividly there to witness and to feel, and then just like that the song is over.

No comments:

Post a Comment