Rethinking Yoko

Monday, May 04, 2009

I was a huge Beatles fan as a child and teen. Partially it was because I was born in 1970, to a young mom who came of age during the British invasion. I grew up handling the real vinyl albums that she had bought when they came out, pouring over the liner notes and staring at the pictures. The four men who changed from album cover to album cover were a solid fixture in my life.

When I began to come of age, I started collecting my own Beatles paraphernalia. My collection grew to include rare copies of Quarrymen tapes, and first editions of 45's (the complete set) and a first printing of Lennon's "Spaniard in the Works". In addition to all my adoration came the decision that it was indeed Yoko Ono who had broken the Beatles. Yep. Things were good until Yoko. She's the one. And then John moved to New York and got shot. Yep. More Yoko. Her fault.

This weekend, Terrance demanded that I come to the John and Yoko exhibit at the Museum here in Montreal. He had taken Emily a week or so prior and was genuinely taken with the experience.

Fine, I said. I'll go. Because it is Sunday and we should do a family thing. But I didn't promise to love it. I didn't tell him of my long history with Yoko. It was between she and I, after all.

Walking into the exhibit is a sign. Take pictures, Touch things, it exhorts. You make the art.
I parted the black velvet curtains and entered.

"John?" a voice floats out. "Yoko?", another voice responds. "John", the voice calls again - sweeter. "Yoko", the other voice responds, and sounds deeply content.

Pictures of each of them, John and Yoko as children are blown up and one the walls. Their voices surround you as they call to each other from 30 years ago.

A shift happens inside me. I know the tone of these voices. These are voices in love. These are the voices that call from the bed when you wake and wonder where the man has gone, so you call out. He mimics the tone because he doesn't realize that you are looking for him...and then crawls back into the warm bed and slides up next you you. You say his name again, happy for him to return. And He says your name, folding his arms around you.


I move into the next gallery, where the exhibit that John met Yoko is re-created. I hammer a nail into the wall, and climb the ladder to see the word printed in tiny font on the paper.


We move to the next installation, where the bed is revealed. The bed where they staged their protest in Montreal after their wedding. Their voices roll from the bed and ceilings - talking about peace and love. Laughing. You see John cuddling Yoko from one side of the bed. I lay down with Emily and hold her.

The exhibit moves you to New York, which became their cultural home for the rest of their lives together. The piano on which Imagine was composed is there. It asks you to sit and play.


The hall opens and invites you to leave your own mark. I laugh when I see the sign the museum has put up "Please don't use stamps on the walls". Which have been roundly ignored and laughed at by the people seeing this exhibit. The stamps are everywhere. I ignore the stamp and use my thumb as a marker. I will leave my thumbprint. My unique and distinct stamp. One and only. I wonder if Yoko will see what has been done to the walls and laugh the same way I did.

And then we are at the end. Yoko invites us to make a wish and leave it in the wish trees.

My wish? For Bravery and Strength. Compassion and Persistence. The ability to do what is right and not just what is easy. Courage to Love and be Loved. And forgiveness.

I understand Yoko. I understand it all. Thank you for being brave enough to love and be loved regardless of opinions or what was easy. Thank you for reminding me that these rich feelings of life are not convenient or neat, and that pain is as much a part of this tapestry as the joy.


8 Baleful Regards:

Goddess of Madness said...

I share your Yoko issue and wish I could see this exhibit... it sounds freeing

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing this--I had a Yoko awakening in college, but I couldn't have talked about it so eloquently.

Maureen said...

I remember my own coming to terms with Yoko and their love for each other. I don't remember the exact 'when' and 'how' of it, I just remember that same feeling - the feeling that they had each found a great respectful love in each other, which was so much more beautiful to have in this world than it was to have a rock band in it.

Jennifer said...

Beautifully written. I still don't care for Yoko, but I can appreciate what you wrote. :)

Jess said...

That was lovely. Thank you.

E. said...

I hate that Yoko gets blamed so much for shit between the Beatles. She was a whipping boy, and the fact that she was a successful artist in a radically nontraditional realm made it so much easier for people to write it off. No, I don't love "Revolution 9," but I love "The Ballad of John and Yoko" and I love Imagine. And I love their love, brave and committed, devoted to peace and humanity, and cut short way too soon.

Great post. Wish I could see this exhibit.

Michele said...


Thank you for taking me to the exhibit!


The Other Mrs. B said...

Wishes can and do come true. Yours will. Believe in your heart.

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