The Thing From Bloggy Swamp

"Music is real--the rest is scenery." Fats Waller

Con Chapman

Con Chapman
Boston, Massachusetts, US of A
September 28
. . . is the author of over fifty books--some with paper!--available on and elsewhere.


FEBRUARY 2, 2013 1:15PM

My Yoko Ono

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Physicists currently believe that all rock bands–nay, all human groups composed of four men–can be broken down into elemental particles first identified by study of The Beatles through an electron microscope.

There is the Cute One–Ringo. The Dreamy One–Paul. The Actual Musician–that would be George. And the Verbal One–John. It fell to me, as a charter member of Otis & the Elevator Company who was neither cute, dreamy nor a good guitar player–to be the Verbal One.

None of us said, as John Lennon did, that we were more popular than Jesus, but if any of us had said it, it would have been me. My mouth has been getting me into trouble since before I possessed the power of speech–it kept me out of National Honor Society until I was a senior. And for one bright and shining week of my existence–the five school days after we beat The Ostentations and The Del-Vikings in my high school’s first-ever Battle of the Bands–we were more popular than Jesus, except among the Baptists who weren’t allowed to dance and the Good Kids on the Student Council.

Jesus welcoming me home after a hot day building recreational vehicles at Klassic Trailers.

We should have used that stunning victory–to which we were powered by a potent hybrid fuel composed of equal parts soul music (the “Otis” part) and psychedelia (the “Elevator” part)–as a springboard to gigs at the premier venues in town, such as the Dew Drop Inn, which we had heard paid as much as $500 a night! Instead, something happened that, as with the Beatles, planted the seed that grew the weed in the band’s garden.

Otis Redding

I met my Yoko Ono.

Beatles fans will recall the grim details of Lennon’s first encounter with Ono, whose name, conspiracy theorists like to remind us, is an anagram for “Oo–nooky!” In November of 1966 Lennon visited an exhibition of Ono’s at a London art gallery. She passed him a card that said simply “Breathe”–thereby taking credit for something he was already doing. He then explored a work of hers–”Ceiling Painting”–described in the exhibit’s catalog as follows: “The viewer is invited to climb a white ladder, where at the top a magnifying glass, attached by a chain, hangs from a frame on the ceiling. The viewer uses the reading glass to discover a block letter ‘instruction’ beneath the framed sheet of glass – it says ‘Y E S.’”

Ono: “Er--what were you planning on doing with that hammer?”

Pretty powerful stuff, huh? Not clear how anybody could resist it, and Lennon fell for Ono like a ton of bricks, despite the fact that she was–to put it diplomatically–not as easy on the eyes as your typical rock groupie. Beatles’ fans ever since have blamed Ono for the group’s demise. Why did John have to be such a stupid intellectual, they ask, taking up with the conceptual artist generally credited with making the worst vocal recording in the history of the world? I quote verbatim from a highly favorable review of Ono’s Plastic Ono Band: “contains no actual words. [Ono] expresses herself here through wordless howls.” So do the dogs in my neighborhood, but that doesn’t make them rock singers.

My Yoko Ono was a girl sitting across the room at one of those teen drinking parties where the boys are trying to develop a taste for beer and the girls are drinking sweet cocktails such as sloe gin fizzes, rum & Cokes and screwdrivers. Everyone else was sitting around looking cool when she proceeded to do an imitation of a cat . . . washing itself.

If John Lennon fell for an intellectual chick who communicated by the words “Breathe” and “Yes,” how, I ask you, was I supposed to resist that?

My Yoko Ono was short and draped in hippie clothes that bespoke an artistic nature, or a desire to be perceived as such. My sister didn’t like her and didn’t find her attractive. Still, when one hears the siren call of artsy high school love, there’s not much one can do except go ahead and crash on the rocks, sending incense sticks and candles flying.

I could already hear lines of poems arranging themselves in my head–like geese falling into formation–when I saw her. I borrowed liberally from the Song of Solomon in composing them, but what the hell–it’s in the public domain.

The other guys viewed the new addition to our entourage as a blot on our reputation. If you’re the best band in the school, you should be consorting only with girls from the top shelf, head cheerleaders, fast girls who held “mattress parties,” and bombshells like Elizabeth, the most beautiful girl in our class who was lusted after by both the cute guy and the dreamy guy. She made it clear that the only organ she would make available for sexual purposes until she was married (or at least engaged with a humongous rock to show for it) was her hand–and still the guys fought over her!

Into this mix I introduced someone who wanted to be Gertrude Stein, or at least Alice B. Toklas.

Kahlil Gibran

There was the obligatory beret, the constant book of poetry (Kahlil Gibran) under one arm, the third-world handbag. In short, the full bohemian starter kit.

Things fell apart, to borrow a line from Yeats I would read my first year in college, and which I probably used in a letter home to my Yoko Ono, who stayed behind in our small town. We drifted apart as we grew in different directions, and she took up with an autodidact high school dropout who supposedly knew karate. I hate to criticize a woman for her taste in men–especially after she’s dated me–but I began to wonder what I ever saw in her.

Still, she was right for me at the time, and she had one huge advantage over the real Yoko Ono.

Except when we were making love, she didn’t express herself in wordless howls.

From "Barefoot Boy With Tongue in Cheek"

Author tags:

beatles, yoko ono, satire, comedy, spoof, humor

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You couldn't go into a pad in the East Village for maybe ten years without encountering the photo of her and John nude. It was a big hit. Then they all disappeared, a sort of end to the era. I now wish I'd have saved mine, tattered and torn as it was.
My favorites from that era were The Animals and The Spencer Davis Group, who were like root beer and cream soda to the Beatles/Stones Coke & Pepsi
You had me at 'full bohemian starter kit'.
I can still play both "Animalism" and "I'm a Man." Not too many clicks and pops. The Dual doesn't auto-repeat like your Curtis did. Our outfit was called "Sky King and the Ripcords" and the club was La Posada in Vegas. No, the NM Vegas. I'm glad that my Yoko took up glass art and works in the studio upstairs. But by changing partners, she may well have broken up the Cords.

Going to go play Georgia on My Mind - Side 2, cut 1.
At 87 my thing hasn't fallen apart yet but the only Ono I enjoy these days of poetic enterprise is onomatopoeia
Well, she's great too.
Cheers to all those good musical memories...

I didn't supposedly know karate, I knew it, and we fell deeply in love, until I asked her for oral sex. When she talked talking and wouldn't stop,I ran away like my hair was on fire.
I think we all have our Yoko. If for no other reason than to bring them home and prove to our parents that they don't know us as well as they think. And then we find out that they did.
That photo of her and John Lenon almost put me off White People. But I rallied with George's music, especially "Here Comes the Sun".
Con, I do enjoy reading your posts.
I was a much bigger fan of Otis than the Beatles (or the Elevators) but I knew a smart fortune cookie when I saw one. Would have been nice if my Yoko Ono knew how to turn howls into gold, but he was just a dumb non-Jewish hockey player. Great piece. And thank you SO much for not including the John and Yoko nude... I still have nightmares.
I posted this on another site and got some pro-Yoko blowback.
Just proves they had Good Weed in those days! BTW - if anyone's reading...I'm ready to be ANYBODY'S Muse! ha ha R
I dated an art chic in college who later became a successful investment banker. I'm sure that time I threw away her final project because I it was garbage had nothing to do with her sudden career change. R
A very small correction: PAUL was the cute one. Cheers, HB