Yoko Ono & Opinions on Prince

Yoko Ono, once the most vilified woman in rock music, has recently become an underground heroine. This week on the show Jim and Greg will examine the strange musical path of Yoko Ono and talk to the legendary figure herself.

Yoko Ono
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Jim and Greg talk about some surprising numbers Nielsen SoundScan recently released. According to the sales trackers, 40% of the albums old in 2006 were catalog sales. While there were a number of successful new releases from acts like Mary J. Blige, The Dixie Chicks and High School Musical, it seems that music fans still have a lot of nostalgia for the hair metal era of the 1980s. AC/DC’s 1980 album Back in Black sold 444,000 copies last year, a figure that would make a contemporary CD a success. Also faring well was Metallica’s 1991 self-titled album, Guns ‘N RosesAppetite for Destruction and Bon Jovi’s Greatest Hits collection. The New Jersey band is also having success with their new release Lost Highway, though this is one figure Jim really can’t wrap his head around.

Next the hosts discuss their recent experiences at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago. The three day festival organized by the Chicago-based Internet music magazine pitchforkmedia.com and indie music promoter Mike Reed was attended by 48,000 people in Chicago’s Union Park. In fact, both Jim and Greg worry that the concert is getting too big for its britches, and the park. There were a number of highlights including performances by Yoko Ono, Mastodon and Clipse and full-album performances from Sonic Youth, Slint and GZA. But, one of the problems with a festival that celebrates the underground is that eventually things move above ground. Even Third Stage acts like electronic artist Dan Deacon demanded a huge crowd. In addition a number of artists from previous Pitchfork Festivals are appearing at this year’s Lollapalooza. One thing this proves is how big the Pitchfork tastemakers are now. More than MTV play or radio play, it’s coverage on indie sites like pitchforkmedia.com that thrust an artist into the spotlight.

Yoko Ono

This week Jim and Greg welcome music legend Yoko Ono. While many know her simply as John Lennon’s widow, Yoko is also an accomplished artist in her own right. Since coming into the spotlight, Yoko has often been reviled her for her radical views and radical music (and for breaking up the greatest pop group in the world), but she recently found a new role as a heroine in the indie rock underground. A new generation of musicians who didn’t grow up with the same kind of reverence for The Beatles have claimed Yoko as their own. This was especially evident at the Pitchfork Music Festival, where she headlined Saturday’s show. Yoko not only played to an audience of thousands people—young and old—but she invited Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Cat Power’s Chan Marshall on stage with her to perform.

Recently Yoko has been busy working on some new albums. The first is Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur, which features two discs of artists covering songs by John Lennon. She’s also released a couple of disc of her own work. Yes, I’m a Witch is a collection of remixes of Yoko’s songs by artists such as Peaches, Le Tigre and The Flaming Lips. This was followed by Open Your Box, a collection of dance remixes. The title is a testament to the artist’s strong will. It stems from her song I’m a Witch, which she was reluctant to officially release when she penned it years ago. She explains to Jim and Greg that it wasn’t as acceptable at the time to come out with such strong lyrics. But, it’s much easier in 2007 to proclaim yourself a bitch.

John and Yoko both influenced each other’s music greatly. Greg explains that Yoko’s collaboration with her husband brought out the beast in him as a guitar player But, Greg wanted to know what Yoko first thought of John’s simple pop songs considering how avant-garde her compositions were. Yoko explains that she actually found that approach quite refreshing. He helped her to understand how beautiful even the most simple, fun songs can be.

It would be unfair to categorize Yoko strictly as avant-garde. In addition to influencing John’s undoubtedly mainstream music, she’s also influenced contemporary bands like Cibo Matto and Deerhoof. Jim and Greg talk to the artist about hearing elements of the song Why in The B52s’ pop hit Rock Lobster. Yoko explains that she never looked at this as any kind of vindication, but that John actually found great joy in hearing Rock Lobster for the first time.

Planet Earth Prince

Planet Earth

Lastly, Jim and Greg address Planet Earth, Prince’s 24th studio album in nearly 30 years. On July 10th, Prince gave away the album as a free cover mount through the national UK paper The Mail on Sunday, stirring considerable controversy in the record industry. Jim and Greg discuss Prince’s long disdain for major labels and his history of alternative marketing. Jim notes the sort of funk-messianism that precedes each Prince release. However, Planet Earth doesn’t seem to offer much promise. Greg finds a decent jazzy ballad here, a good slow jam there, and complete re-write in The One U Wanna C, but nothing sounds new in Prince’s sound. Jim appreciates the old fashioned funk on tracks like Chelsea Rodgers, but couldn’t get past doozies like Mr. Goodnight, which comes off as Prince imitating Ronald Isley imitating R. Kelly. The album is too inconsistent, so both hosts give Planet Earth a Try It.

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