BBFC Book & Music Review Archives - 2009 © 2011 British Beatles Fan Club
Throughout the year, members of the British Beatles Fan Club write and publish reviews of new releases of books and music related to the Beatles and the solo Beatles. This document compiles all the reviews from 2009.
Contents BBFC Book & Music Review Archives - 2009 ......................................................................................... 1 Nowhere Boy – the film ............................................................................................................................ 2 Nowhere Boy – the soundrack CD ............................................................................................................ 4 In the studio with The Beatles by Dennis Dekker ..................................................................................... 5 The Beatles: Here, There and Everywhere ............................................................................................... 6 The Beatles: Rare and Unseen .................................................................................................................. 7 John Lennon: Solo Bootleg Discography ................................................................................................... 8 The Fab4D Experience .............................................................................................................................. 9 John Lennon and The Plastic Ono Band: Live in Toronto '69 .................................................................. 10 Yoko Ono—Between the Sky and My Head ........................................................................................... 12
Nowhere Boy – the film Reviewed by – Richard Porter Nowhere Boy is the new biopic about the teenage years of John Lennon. Normally the word 'biopic' fills me with dread, especially where the Beatles are concerned. Remember the 'classic' Birth of the Beatles where the Fabs are walking around Liverpool, pre-fame, carrying Harrods bags! The early indications were that Nowhere Boy was going to disappoint too. The internet has been filled with stories of how John's half sister Julia was fully behind the film, but then was very upset about it. Then Yoko got involved and allowed a recording of John singing Mother to be used. This made me fear that Yoko would insist on editorial control and a 'whitewash' of the story. When I received an invite to view a press screening in Studio Two at Abbey Road I was delighted to have another chance to visit such a prestigious location, but with very low expectations of the film. How wrong I was! Nowhere Boy is by far the best Beatles-related biopic I've seen. Actually, it would be wrong to call it a 'Beatles' film—it is very much the story of John Lennon and his relationships with his mother, Julia, and with his Aunt Mimi.
The film begins with John having fun in Liverpool with the Jerry Lee Lewis song Wild One playing on the soundtrack. This works extremely well, as does the interweaving of 50s rock and roll songs throughout the film. We then see John's uncle George collapsing after saying goodnight to him and taken away in an ambulance. Mimi then comes home from the hospital to tell John that George died. John starts laughing and thinks it's a joke, but then cries. Mimi tells John to go his room as he shouldn't cry in public. At the funeral John sees his mother, Julia, but she leaves before speaking to him. Later John's cousin Stanley takes him to where Julia has been living, without John's knowledge, within walking distance of Mimi. Julia and John fast strike up a relationship. Julia is the emotional opposite to her sister—whereas Mimi keeps her feelings to herself, Julia wears her heart on her sleeve. However, she comes across here as being extremely bipolar—one minute flirting with John's friends, the next crying through depression. John is then even more confused and is torn between his fun loving mother and formidable, but dependable aunt. Of course, a big part of the film is John's discovery of rock and roll and the formation of the Quarrymen. True to form Julia is very encouraging and Mimi is not. However, it is Mimi who buys John his first guitar. Later on John gets a bad report from school and as a punishment Mimi sells his guitar. He then goes to Julia get some money to buy it back!
A highlight of the film is the depiction of St Peter's Fete and the first meeting of John and Paul McCartney. The emphasis of the film is the complex relationships between John, Mimi and Julia, and this comes to a climax when Mimi confronts Julia in front of John over the birth of a baby daughter to a serviceman and her subsequent adoption. We also see a flashback to John's trip to Blackpool with his father and having to choose whether to go to New Zealand with his father or back to Liverpool with Julia. Things between the three seem to be getting better, but then tragedy strikes when Julia is knocked down and killed outside Mendips.
The film ends with John going to ask Mimi to sign some forms to enable him to go to Hamburg with the Beatles. Mimi asks John whether she is his parent or guardian—John says 'both'. Over the end titles we hear John Lennon singing Mother—an extremely poignant and fitting ending. What's Good: The central performances of the film are quite outstanding. Aaron Johnson makes a wonderful teenage John Lennon. He has a great look to him and plays the role as the multi faceted character that John was—showing his sexy side, violent side but also his vulnerable, sensitive side too. I can't think of a better portrayal of John in any film or play I've seen. Kristen Scott Thomas as Mimi and Anne Marie Duff as Julia are just as good. The soundtrack of mainly 50s rock and roll songs is wonderful throughout and really enhances the film. What's not so good: As with any biopic there is some artistic licence taken. For instance, in the film uncle George dies after saying goodnight to John, when actually John was away in Scotland when George died. However, these instances don't detract from the overall enjoyment of the film. In fact, the story is told so well and the performances are so believable, that it's easy to ignore any factual blips. To me the outside of Mendips was wrong. It was also depicted as being on a quiet side-street, when of course Menlove Avenue is a busy dual carriageway. Paul McCartney is something of peripheral character in the film, but that's largely because the three main characters are so strong and the film is about John and his family. Overall rating: 4 stars out of 5—highly recommended—not only for Beatles fans, but anyone wanting to see a good film.
Nowhere Boy – the soundrack CD Reviewed by – Richard Porter Along with the film there is a great soundtrack CD. In fact, it's a double CD with the first CD having songs from the film itself and the second one, songs inspired by the film. It is a great collection of 1950s rock and roll, featuring songs by Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Elvis, Fats Domino, Buddy Holly and many others. Many of the songs featured were performed by the Beatles in Liverpool or Hamburg at some time in their career. Also included are contemporary versions of old classics performed by The Nowhere Boys— who are basically the cast of the film plus some session musicians. The Nowhere Boys capture the sound of the 50s very well, and Aaron Johnson shines on lead vocals. I especially like their version of Maggie May, the old Liverpool folk song that the Beatles did a brief snippet of on the Let It Be album. Here we get the full song. The only time I've heard the whole song before was when Paul McCartney performed it at his concert in Liverpool in 2003—so it's great having it on CD at last. The Nowhere Boys also perform That'll be the Day and In Spite of All the Danger, the two songs the Quarrymen did for their first ever recording session. Although it's a shame they couldn't use the actual recordings, the versions here are very good—and of course, you can hear the Quarrymen version on the first volume of the Beatles Anthology. The first CD ends with John Lennon singing Mother, which I suppose doesn't work too well in context with the 50s rock and roll songs—but of course, can be seen as the theme of the film. It is also a different version to that released before and is therefore a John Lennon rarity. Not only is the album a great accompaniment to the film, it also works in its own right as a great collection of 50s rock and roll that sums up a great era of music. —Richard Porter
In the studio with The Beatles by Dennis Dekker Reviewed by – Ernie Sutton Ernie Sutton takes a look at the book, published both in English and Dutch, that puts the break-up of The Beatles in a different perspective Gelderland vakbladen publishers ISBN: 978 9081 359177 Price; €19.95 For over three years, Dennis Dekker almost literally spent his time in the studio with The Beatles. Every month he listened to a part of the (Nagra) rehearsal sessions, which have been integrally filmed by documentary and moviemaker Michael Lindsay-Hogg in 1969. Dekker wrote a captivating personal transcript that defeats the myth the Get Backsessions only show the falling apart of the Beatles. The Beatles-fan club in The Netherlands eagerly put these texts on their website. The texts have now been joined together in a unique volume: In the studio with the Beatles. "Londen, 27 januari 1969 / Hoofdstuk 16 / Roll 515A Still Get Back. These versions are not good enough yet for this perfectionist band. After having played part of a song, the band stops and John wants to say something. His story is not well audible, because the microphone stands to far away. Someone (John? Is that why he stopped the session?) tunes his guitar and the band starts with Oh! Darling. 'I just heard that Yoko's divorce has just gone through. Free at last!', John screams when the song is over. It is celebrated by playing another part of Oh! Darling. They take a short break and then Get Back is started again. And again. And again. The band seems to be greedy: 'Do you wanna do it once more then? Yes. Yes, yes!' Just before the tape ends the song is started again..." Ernie Sutton brings us this review: This hardback book is for the die hard fan and any fan of the infamous "Let It Be" recording sessions, and published in Holland. The book documents in a diary form the events of January 1969, and focuses on what is contained on each roll of film used during the sessions that eventually became the Let It Be movie. It is in effect a written version of the various bootlegs that have appeared over the years of these sessions. The songs recorded during these sessions most of us know as what eventually emerged as the Let It Be album, but the dialogue during these sessions is also documented and shows the tensions that were within the group at the time. It also shows there were some lighter moments as well during these sessions, so the tensions weren't always there. The fabs are also documented talking about their other projects, such as Paul talking about the new album Postcard that he produced for Mary Hopkin. However, the book itself will have a limited market and there isn't anything new here that the average Beatle fan doesn't know already. For more information and to buy the book go to gelderlandvakbladen.nl
The Beatles: Here, There and Everywhere Reviewed by – Ernie Sutton Ernie Sutton reviews this new DVD, released 28th September 2009. Buy The Beatles: Here, There and Everywhere now from amazon.co.uk This 80 minute DVD features rare and unseen ITN archive footage of the Fab Four as they made pop history. Wherever they went ITN followed, allowing a fascinating insight into their amazing rise to fame and overwhelming success. This never before seen footage includes:
The Beatles' arrival in America and the start of their US invasion. Paul McCartney's shocking and candid admission to taking LSD, a move which the UK press immediately seized upon. The Ballad of John and Yoko, chronicling the events surrounding Lennon's marriage. The news announcing the untimely death of manager Brian Epstein and the massive impact that this had on the group. The Beatles' trip to India, meeting the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and exploring their mystic side. Behind the scenes footage and 'off the record' interviews given during TV rehearsals and private backstage moments.
This captivating DVD features all of this and much more incredible footage of the key moments in the Beatles' career; it is an essential purchase for any die-hard fan of the Fab Four. Ernie sutton brings us this review: When you think you have seen everything, a small gem pops out and surprises you. This 85 minute DVD is completely taken from the archives of ITN (Independent Television News) in the UK and covers the period 1963-1970. Yes there are clips here we have seen before, notably in the Anthology, but there are some interviews I have not seen before or not seen in some time. Sadly there is no Beatles music here, but that doesn't detract from some great interview highlights. Starting in 1963 at the Manchester studios we see the entire interview featuring The Beatles and Ken Dodd. A colour film of The Beatles Come to Town follows, showing them both on and off stage. Heavily featured is John's "Bigger Than Jesus" quote from 1966. Highlights for me include an interview with Ringo, the day after his and Maureen's second child was born and the entire David Frost interview with John & Yoko from 1969. There is also colour footage from India 1968, and the DVD closes with an interview with Allen Klein, talking about Paul's position within Apple at the time. There are also other great interviews but you should watch the DVD to find out more! All in all a DVD worth adding to your collection, even though we have seen some of these interviews before, but there is enough material on here not on other recent DVDs to keep Beatles fans happy. More info: odeonent.co.uk
Buy The Beatles: Here, There and Everywhere now from amazon.co.uk 6
The Beatles: Rare and Unseen Reviewed by – Donna Jackson This new DVD includes the earliest known footage of the Beatles on stage in Liverpool, February 1962 and the only existing film on tour in Scotland— Caird Hall, Dundee. Release date: 24th August 2009 Buy The Beatles: Rare and Unseen now from amazon.co.uk or amazon.com! John, Paul, George and Ringo—four lads who shook the world. This documentary film traces their humble beginnings in Liverpool to their eventual break up ten years later, using recently discovered film and video of the band, including home-movies, concert footage, newsreels and photographs from private collections. For the first time we can see The Beatles relaxed, at play, on and off stage, on film and is a rare glimpse inside the lives of the most famous band in the world. Includes interviews/additional contributions from: Phil Collins, Steve Harley, Norman "Hurricane" Smith, Colin Hanton (their first drummer), Sam Leach (tour manager), Tony Barrow (press officer 1962–1968), Tony Bramwell (friend and roadie), Ken Dodd, Tony Booth, Gerry Marsden, Len Goodman and Sylvie Varten. Donna Jackson brings us this review: Despite the claims on the press release by Wienerworld, this is not a new DVD release. Rather, it is a reissue by a different distributer. The contents of the DVD are exactly the same as the one issued by Liberation in 2007—and I can guarantee that because I own the earlier version and I watched the DVDs at the same time (one on the computer, one on my DVD player) just to make sure. There are some interesting snippets in the documentary. It includes interviews with various people associated with the Beatles including Allan Williams, Sam Leach, Norman "Hurricane" Smith, Tony Barrow, Tony Bramwell and Gerry Marsden. There are also clips of interviews given by John in 1975, but that's the only appearance by any of the Beatles (nor is any of the background music performed by the Beatles). It's always interesting to hear these people reminisce, but there was nothing particularly new or 'rare' in what they had to say. The previously 'unseen' part of the DVD included film footage of the Beatles from 1962, and footage of a concert in Dundee in 1964. It was great to see these performances even though the actual length of the clips was no more than 30 seconds. They were made to appear much longer, however, by continually repeating the footage on a loop in the background. There was also some great footage of the Beatles' holiday in Jersey, of the Magical Mystery Tour, and of the Beatles' performance at the Olympia in Paris. During the latter clip, Paul skips across the stage and it's totally adorable. Perhaps the most annoying aspect of the documentary was the fact that it had clearly been made for American television. At intervals of about ten minutes, there was a summary of what had been seen thus far, and what was "coming up" in the next segment, with obvious breaks for advertisements. Overall, I thought the DVD was quite interesting and I enjoyed watching it. I especially enjoyed the film clips, even if they weren't that long. However, and bearing in mind that this is a re-release, I do think that it's a little bit strong to describe the content as 'rare' or 'unseen'. It's a great DVD—as long as you dont expect too many revelations from it. 7
John Lennon: Solo Bootleg Discography Reviewed by – Ernie Sutton By John Eustace & Phil Boylett - Release date: 22nd Jun 2009 Athena Press ISBN 9 781847 485670 Buy John Lennon: Solo Bootleg Discography now from amazon.co.uk or amazon.com! Compiled by John Eustace and British Beatles Fan Club member Phill Boylett, this book is the first in a series which will compile all the bootlegs from The Beatles as a band and solo artists. The task to compile a complete record of all the bootlegs released must be a thankless one and Phill and John have done a great job here, although they admit some may have been omitted, but not without the want of trying. 662 pages of listings and reviews of over 900 bootlegs, listing vinyl and CD releases, coupled separate songs and disc indexes make this the ultimate source for a collector of bootlegs. There is a special chapter dedicated to The Lost Lennon Tapes, and all 218 shows are chronicled here. All in all the effort that has gone into making this book available deserves credit on its own, but the content is a massive bonus. It shows that the releases after John's passing such as Acoustic and Menlove Avenue only scratch the surface as to what archive material there is of John in the archives, and there are many bootlegs listed of demos made during period 1976–79. Perhaps some of these, from this period of so called "obscurity" will see an official release one day. Bring on the next volume. (Bootlegs are illegal to sell, but not illegal to own.) The BBFC can obtain a discount from the publisher. Anyone unable to find a copy of the book, or would like to purchase it, please email the treasurer. Please note this offer is available to BBFC members only.
The Fab4D Experience Reviewed by – Donna Jackson Building on the major success of the Beatles Story's first site in Liverpool's historic Albert Dock, its second home—'the Beatles Story Pier Head'—is housed at the new £10.5million Mersey Ferries terminal building on Liverpool's globally renowned waterfront. It's very hard to write a review of Fab4D without spoiling any of the surprises... but I shall try! The newest part of the Beatles Story exhibition at Pier Head is an animated film that was described in the press release as "an exciting multi-sensory 4D journey through the music of the Beatles." Well, it certainly is exciting! And funny! And full of surprises!! It only lasts about ten minutes and therefore it would be unfair to expect too much in the way of Beatles' music, but about five songs are featured (sadly, not the originals but still good nonetheless). To me, it seemed less like a journey through the music of the Beatles, but more of a reminder of the message behind much of the music: that, in the end, it's love that matters. The film tells the story of Mike and Anna, who, with the help of Sgt Pepper, Eleanor Rigby and Lucy, finally discover their true feelings for each other. But the outcome isn't the best bit of this movie; it's the journey itself. And believe me, it's a journey that you really must experience for yourself. The 3D effects of the film are exciting on their own, but when you add in the other sensory experiences—and it really does captivate ALL the senses—it's absolutely hilarious and totally brilliant! And really, I can 'say no more'... because I don't want to spoil it. I watched the film twice; the first time I sat in the back row (of four) in the theatre, and the second time, I was at the front. Some of the effects are better nearer the front; in fact the second row is probably the best place to sit! If anything, even though I knew what was coming, it was better the second time around; I laughed just as much and the 'surprises' were still just as much fun!
If you're visiting the Beatles Story, you absolutely should go over to the Pier Head and see the exhibits there (they're all included on the same ticket). The Fab4D experience is definitely worth the walk!! 9
John Lennon and The Plastic Ono Band: Live in Toronto '69 Reviewed by – Terry Bloxham Best known as one of the "Famous Four", Lennon had one of the most successful solo careers after departing from The Beatles in the late 1960s. Captured on film by D.A. Pennebaker, this is Lennon's only filmed performance with the Plastic Ono Band. Buy DVD now from amazon.co.uk or amazon.com! Studio: Wienerworld Ltd, DVD Release Date: 20 Jul 2009 This 1969 concert brought John, Yoko and the Plastic Ono Band with famed guitarist Eric Clapton and renowned musicians Klaus Voorman (bass) and Alan White (drums) to Toronto's Sweet Toronto Peace Festival—introducing Yoko to the heroes of her husband's childhood: Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry and Little Richard. Captured on film by D.A. Pennebaker, this is Lennon's only filmed performance with the Plastic Ono Band. This re-issued DVD opens with a short interview with Yoko in 1988 talking about her exhibition of John's drawings and neon light boxes at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London. Yoko recalls how she and John met at the Indica Gallery in 1966, and how John in his later years had an ambition to make a one man show. This exhibition represents the one man show Yoko feels John would have wanted. Yoko also recalled how she had an image of a new band made up of boxes on a stage. John then made some figurines out of plastic in the shape of boxes, stuck them to what Yoko thinks was a cassette and said this is the "Plastic Ono Band". After the interview, the DVD features footage of John and Yoko travelling by limo to their September 13th 1969 benefit concert in Toronto. The concert, starting in the afternoon, features Bo Diddley, singing "Hey Bo Diddley" intersecting with images of John and Yoko's limo on the road to the venue accompanied by a number of bikers. On arrival john and Yoko can be seen backstage with Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry. John was keen to introduce Yoko to these idols of his. Meanwhile, Bo Diddley is playing a very dynamic rift over and over, demonstrating what a great musician he was. Jerry Lee Lewis appears singing the Elvis Presley classic Hound Dog, including the famous foot on the piano routine. A superb Chuck Berry then performs Johnnie B Goode and includes the famous "duck walk" in the performance. The guitar playing here is superb, and it is a shame that only one track for each of these artists is included as their set was much longer. From the afternoon, we switch to a night scene and the song Lucille sung by Little Richard, including some great sax solos. There clearly was a huge gap here between Chuck Berry and Little Richard and wonder if the film could have been made better with more footage of these idols of John. At last John appears and tells the audience the band have never played together before and opens his set (written on a sheet of paper held by Yoko) with Blue Suede Shoes. Eric Clapton, with cigarette in mouth, looks more together than he did at George's "Bangladesh" concert 2 years later. The band is completed by old Beatle buddy Klaus Voorman on bass and Alan White on drums. John, with a full beard, wearing a white suit and seemingly relaxed, watches as Yoko gets into a bag on stage. Money and Dizzy Miss Lizzie follow. However, some of John's chat in between the numbers, heard on the subsequent album release in December 1969, are sadly missing here. 10
Yoko then emerges from the bag as John launches himself into Yer Blues. Yoko's vocals are more evident on this DVD than on the CD release. Next is "Cold Turkey"—a track only just released at the time. The concert version has a much more refined beginning and the song is obviously so new that John has to read the lyrics from a piece of paper held in front of him by Yoko, sometimes singing the wrong lyric. Finally after some dialogue Give Peace a Chance closes the first half of the Plastic Ono Band show. Then John announces "Now Yoko's gonna do her thing all over you". We are then treated to 14 minutes of Yoko's howling into a microphone the two tracks, Don't Worry Kyoko (mummy's only looking for a hand in the snow), and John, John, Let's Hope For Peace. Between the tracks John and Yoko exchange a kiss, a sign that John is grateful that Yoko is there with him. During the final track, John takes his guitar to the amp to get "feedback", and starts to swing it too and fro, while Eric rubs the neck of his guitar, eventually taking his guitar and leaning it against an amp. While the guitars sit at the amps taking feedback, John dances rock'n'roll style behind Yoko. However a few minutes later, John stands behind Yoko with arms folded and whispers something into her ear (possibly to end her 'song' as Eric Clapton can clearly be seen looking at John Lennon with a look of horror on his face during Yoko's caterwauling. Yoko continues for another 3 minutes or so, as the band leave the stage, all 3 guitars now up against amplifiers getting feedback. The total DVD running time is 56 minutes, but this could be a much better production with the inclusion of more of the earlier acts, who must have performed some great stuff which we have yet to see, in this or any of the previously released versions of this great concert. Saying that, this is a superb opportunity to see some rather rare footage of John performing live without the Beatles. Well worth it at the price.
Yoko Ono—Between the Sky and My Head Reviewed by – Terry Bloxham and Ernie Sutton The Baltic, Gateshead, UK December 15th 2008—March 15th 2009 Yoko's latest exhibition reached the UK in December, and many of her works dating from 1961 to the present were on display. The Baltic is situated on the banks of the river Tyne, close to the Millennium Bridge. From the opposite side of the river the side of the Baltic building is covered with a large white hoarding with the words "Imagine Peace". Inside the exhibition covered three floors. (the third floor being a viewing area looking down onto part of the exhibition, representing the sky). The exhibition opens with a series of ink drawings executed by Yoko between 1994 and 2001. There are 113 drawings in total but the images themselves aren't the focus. Rather, the concept of these artworks lies in their framing. Our minds cannot perceive of reality without framing. The exhibition is billed as a retrospective of Yoko's work but very little of her 1950s and 60s work is displayed. Her involvement with Fluxus is only just mentioned on an introduction board. There were a series of 'instruction pieces' displayed on a wall, reminding us of Yoko's unique and clever way of perceiving the world and our involvement in it. However, none of her installations were reproduced for this exhibition. We expected to see Half a Room, Hammer a Nail and of course the ladder leading to Yes on the ceiling which so captured the imagination of John Lennon. Half a Room was represented by one small B&W photograph. Her 1997 retrospective at MoMA in Oxford (Have You Seen the Horizon Lately) did a much better job of covering this period. Many of her early 1960s works are here as well, including a picture of Half a Room, showing Yoko in a room where all the items within are just a half of what they normally are (e.g. half a chair). This would have been a great exhibit but sadly we have just one photograph. A lot of these early writings appeared in Yoko's book Grapefruit. The rest of the exhibition was certainly more interesting. The centrepiece on the first level was the fantastic Amaze, first created in 1971. Consisting of panels of Plexiglass, it is a maze where the centrepiece is a square light which reflects beautifully across the entire piece when you reach the centre.
Yoko Ono: Amaze 1971—2008 Plexiglass, metal and wood, plastic cube light box with a glowing white light inside. 244 x 488 x 488 cm. BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art Copyright: Yoko Ono Photographer: Colin Davison A television screen tucked away in a corner had John & Yoko's 1969 film Rape showing continuously. At 12
77 minutes long, perhaps the organisers could have provided a chair or two? Still, it was an opportunity to view this rarely seen and very disturbing film. Many of you may be aware of the recent disappearance of the film's star Eva Majlata in Hungary. Seeing this film and wondering how she is now was quite a potent experience. Fly was also shown, in a special room, with several screens showing the film at different points. That certainly made it easier to watch as I personally find it a bit too 'dirty old man watching' for my taste—but maybe that was the point John & Yoko were making? Other films featured include OnoChord, Freedom, and Outtro. Outtro is a very moving piece featuring a picture of John, Yoko and Sean from 1980 in front of a backdrop of trees. Gradually, the picture of them fades until all that is left are the trees, to the sound of birds singing. A TV is in one corner showing a picture of the sky—called Sky TV and originally created in 1967. Moving on, the next set of exhibits focuses on the history of the Family of Man is the history of violence. Various objects are displayed, all with red paint representing the blood caused by violence. Objects such as bread board, coat hangers, and a pair of ladies shoes, all adorned by red paint - similar to the picture of John's glasses on Yoko's 1981 album Season of Glass. (The glasses were not on display here). In this area the film Cut Piece was being shown on two television screens. Conceived in 1964, Cut Piece has Yoko sitting on a chair and members of the audience are invited to cut pieces of her clothing until nothing was left. The two TVs show the original event in New York in 1965 and the event in Paris a few years ago, running in tandem. The last display on Level 3 is Touch Me 3. This consists of a rubber cast of a woman's headless body cut into pieces. Each piece is placed in its on black box and laid out as a body. The public are invited to touch her breasts, her stomach, her pubic area, etc. At some point while on display, someone damaged the toes but Yoko decided to leave the piece like this as a sign of the violence that women have faced. Stepping out of the lift on Level 4 of the exhibition you see Wish Tree. Here, the public are invited to write a wish and hang it on the tree. This was very moving. The tree was adorned with hundreds of wishes mostly from children, which were wonderful to read. To the side a television screen showed a film of the Bed In in 1969, and is the only other film to feature John, other than Outtro described earlier. Play it by Trust, Yoko's very clever all white chess set, was displayed in the main exhibition area but on a giant scale. One suspects that the curators wished to enlarge this particular installation to fill a large gallery space but it misses the intensity of the original conception. This idea was originally conceived in 1966, and was put on film by John and Yoko as part of the 1971 film Imagine.
Yoko Ono: Play It By Trust (Marble Version) 1966—2007 White Carrara marble, 100 marble squares forming the base, 32 white marble chess pieces. 13
BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art Copyright: Yoko Ono Photographer: Colin Davison The remainder of the exhibition was devoted to Yoko's more recent works and I found this to be quite exciting. The exhibits display Yoko's way of taking events and common human conditions and making us look at them in a new way. Birds for Gateshead invites us to "take a piece of the sky". These pieces are parts of a jigsaw puzzle and are placed inside WWII German helmets suspended from the ceiling. After death and destruction, we work together to rebuild our shared world. How many of us today have such a positive view of the future? Sky Ladders features sets of step ladders at different heights and positions and was created for Liverpool in 2008. My Mommy is Beautiful is an installation in which we are invited to write personal messages about our mothers and stick them on a wall. We all have mothers and mothers are traditionally viewed by all cultures as life-givers and unconditional love-givers. Such an installation reminds us of that simple yet powerful fact. We're all Water is a display of 118 bottles, all alike, filled up with water, all to the same level and tagged with individual names. The names are famous. To name a few – Oscar Wilde, George W Bush, John Lennon, Sean Lennon, and Adolf Hitler. Yoko's right – we are all just water (or rather 55 to 60%) and her statement is a powerful one. But I can't help but think that it would be more powerful if she had mixed in some not-so famous names amongst the celebrities. We're All Water was created in 2006 and is a visual creation of the song which appeared on the album Some Time In New York City in 1972.
Yoko Ono: We Are All Water 118 glass bottles, water, ink on paper, wooden shelve, chair, table, cards, pens. BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art Copyright: Yoko Ono Photographer: Colin Davison There are other items as well and the whole exhibition is almost a retrospective of Yoko's work. Disappointingly, the exhibition lacks information about each display, unless you have the accompanying book, but maybe Yoko leaves the thinking to the individual about each display and let you—the public create your own ideas as to the concept. All in all, the exhibition was enjoyable, and it was good to see a lot of people at the exhibition on the day of our visit. On leaving the Baltic, you find a "Coffin Car" outside. A 1962 Daimler Hearse is there to take two people at a time on a 20-30 minute tour of Newcastle and Gateshead—and the whole exhibition and tour were free.
Coffin Car: Ride a coffin all over the city. At the end we had an imaginary interview with Yoko. Now... Breathe.