Yoko Ono to Receive A Writing Credit for ‘Imagine’

Photo: @Sean_ono_lennon on Instagram

36 years after John Lennon’s murder, his widow, Yoko Ono, is to receive a writing credit for perhaps his most famous (and covered) song of all time: “Imagine.”

Variety reports that at the annual meeting of the National Music Publishers Association, Yoko and her son Sean Lennon received the Centennial Song award, and at the ceremony, NMPA’s CEO David Israelite showed a video from 1980 in which John Lennon explains that Ono deserves a writing credit on the song, due to her enormous influence upon it. As per his request, Yoko is to be added to the track as a co-wroter.

The credit is significant because of the law stating that a song enters the public domain 70 years after its last creator’s death – meaning instead of becoming available for use free of charge in 2050, it will now be many more years after that before people can freely add “Imagine” to the soundtrack of their student films for free.

After Ono accepted the Centennial Song award, Patti Smith and her daughter Jessie performed an emotional cover of the song. Here’s an iconic picture of the pair of them with Yoko and Sean:

Lennon was shot outside of his apartment building, The Dakota, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, by a crazed fan: Mark David Chapman. Listen to “Imagine” below:

The Flaming Lips and Yoko Motherflippin’ Ono!

The Flaming Lip performed at Terminal 5 last night. Wow. Sure, I could describe the show with big fancy adjectives – but there’re better writers out there that can do that and seeing the Flaming Lips is more of a present moment experience. For example, blogger Salvatore Bono did a really great job of summing up the show and telling us about it in chronological order – from start to finish. Well done. Lead singer Wayne Coyne conducted the psyche musical affair like a leader of a strange church whose religion involves a full-frontal assualt on sight and sound – and occasionally smell. We listened. We watched. We occasionally screamed, "LIPS!" 

Opening the show was Sean Lennon’s new band, The Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger. I bet they were good. (This writer missed seeing them because the cab from Brooklyn to Terminal 5 took much longer than was expected, but Salvatore Bono described the experience as: "It was fascinating watching Lennon play.")

One of the highlights of the evening was a surprise appearance from Yoko Motherflippin’ Ono. Yes, the woman who broke up The Beatles set the room screaming. Wayne commanded her to the stage by saying, "I’d like to bring out the mom of one of the musicans here tonight." Hello Yoko. The innovator of the Fluxus Movement shrieked her way into our hearts with a visual spectacle that burnt into our retinas.

If you don’t believe me, simply check it out for yourself: 

Olfactory Designer David Bernstein on the Power of Scent in Theater

Certain scents—even unpleasant ones—evoke powerful emotions and memories. The first few days of spring weather in New York, when the streets smell like trash, remind me that my birthday is coming up. Walking into the BlackBook editorial offices somehow transports me to my childhood dentist’s office, an odd mix of antiseptic and fluoride. Turns out I’m not the only one affected this way.

“There is something embarrassingly intimate about smell,” says olfactory designer David Bernstein (pictured, showing off his knee pads by Yoko Ono for Opening Ceremony). “It allows the external to penetrate our most private associations.”

Bernstein works as a designer in the growing field of sensory theater, lending authenticity to theatrical and artistic performances through the addition of various scents. The acrid smell of freshly-ignited gunpowder, for example, might bring the tension and pain of a battlefield scene to life. A romance may benefit from the fresh scent of pavement after a spring rain, setting the stage for the first, furtive advances of young lovers.

Bernstein embarked on this unusual career path in 2010 after being approached by director Julia Locascio for her production of her original work You Are Made of Stars, the story of a teenager who filters her experiences through the surreal realm of her senses.  The actors would cue the audience to pick up numbered fabric swatches that Bernstein covered in the scent of the scene, ranging from playing in a childhood bedroom (scents akin to Play-Doh and condensed milk) to the traumatic loss of virginity (leather and Old Spice).

“I remember getting my hands on a riding crop smell, and it somehow reeked of sex in this very visceral way,” Bernstein explains. “It was the first time it really hit home that this could be something a little more stimulating than the idea of smell-o-vision.” Since then, he has worked with the Theater Reconstruction Ensemble’s Patrick Scheid, whose upcoming trilogy of performances inspired by the writing of Frederic Nietzsche will explore a range of sensory effects. In one chapter of the project, Scheid plans to do away with actors altogether and rely solely on a shifting landscape of sights, sounds, smells, and atmospheric affects like humidity to connect with the audience.

In perhaps the most significant validation of his unique medium, the Museum for Arts and Design called upon his expertise during the run of its 2012 exhibit, “The Art of Scent: 1889-2012,” the first museum retrospective to exhibit the scents of commercially available perfumes as objects of art.

Bernstein’s work is designed to connect audiences with the emotional context of a production, whether literal or figurative. The heady, rich smell of a family dinner does more than recall memories of the foods one might have eaten around such a table. It also underscores the contrast of such an opulent setting with others in the same play, as it did in a production Bernstein worked on with director Christoph Buchegger called The Man Outside. As the main character, a German army veteran stumbling home after World War II through the rubble of war, enters the house of his commanding officer, the audience could feel his palpable discomfort as the starving man inhaled the sweet, thick smell of their evening meal.

But how do you ensure that the greasy smell elicits a troubled feeling, instead of a hungry one?

“When a smell isn’t literally trying to evoke a physical setting of the play, I could use almost anything to evoke emotion,” Bernstein says, describing a scent meant to accompany a personification of the Elbe River in Germany as a shrieking, sexualized female character in The Man Outside. “As she’s about to be introduced, there’s this rotting, fishy, salty smell spiked with the artificially floral notes of knockoff perfume. It was a particularly difficult one to execute, but it smelled exactly as I had hoped: rotten, watery, off-putting, but somehow feminine and serene.”

Bernstein uses the intrusion of smell to embrace incompleteness and uncertainty, to draw the viewer into the time, weather, and emotional tone of a scene. The spectacle of production is sharpened, pulling audiences through uncomfortable moments by engaging all the senses.

And yet Bernstein feels that certain performances are best left unscented, embracing a minimalist approach in his own directing work. In his upcoming play, Too Many Lenas, inspired by the hit HBO show Girls, Bernstein uses a spare stage with few props to encourage audiences to fill a vague, shapeless aesthetic with their own perceptions of the show’s eccentric characters. Negative space is its own character.

Bernstein’s minimalism does, however, have its limits. “I can be like a Christmas tree decorator with Alzheimer’s,” he says. “I’m like, it needs a little bit more! Now it’s perfect! And then I turn around, and I’m like wait, ADD THIS!”

A man truly dedicated to the art of experience. 

[More by Nicole Pinhas]

Imagine No Fracking and Maybe Buy a Carpet This Friday

There are still people out there who are sore at Yoko Ono for supposedly breaking up the Beatles, but for the rest of the left-leaning world, she’s emerged over the years as quite a hero. Say what you will about her, but you can’t deny that she’s been awfully consistent in her support of peace. Yes, it’s kind of a simple, single-issue platform, but it’s also hard to argue against it. Who doesn’t want peace? Of course, there are other ideas that support the concept of peace, and those include environmentalism, for which she is also a tireless advocate. With Earth Day coming up on Monday (have you done your shopping yet?) she’s throwing her considerable influence behind a specific cause that has rallied many in the entertainment industry: the fight against a type of natural gas extraction method known as fracking, which kind of sounds like another bad word. There’s evidence that fracking damages water supplies, and since most of us drink water, it’s something to be concerned about. And so, she’s organizing a celebrity-drenched event on Friday at Manhattan’s ABC Carpet & Home to raise awareness and rally support for the anti-fracking cause. 

Entitled "Imagine No Fracking" (there a display of her murals in the store’s windows with messages to this affect) the invite-only event will feature such celebrities as Adrian Grenier as co-host, Susan Sarandon as honorary co-chair, and Rufus Wainright as musical guest. There will be a few surprise celebrity cameos as well, along with food from ABC Kitchen. And while they got rid of the yurt years ago, there’s funky furniture and cool carpets to look at as you plan the interior design of your future dream house. Better get an SUV to lug it all home (I kid). 

I wish them luck in their fight against fracking, but it’s an uphill battle to be sure. Fracking projects are going at full speed all over New York State, although the environmental impact is still being measured. Of course there’s some benefit to having a new domestic energy source, and it will create tons of high-paying jobs (it will, right? Tons of good-paying jobs?) but from what I’ve heard it does beat the hell out of the earth. If only the same money, ferver, and political will were put behind clean energy sources we’d have global warming licked in no time.

And so, while Yoko Ono and her chums might be an easy target to pick on (her "I Love You Earth" poem in today’s Village Voice isn’t exactly Shakespeare), I’m glad she’s able to disregard the slings and arrows and keep pushing forward. Do you have a cause you’re as devoted to? 

Yoko Ono Tweets Anti-Gun Statement on Her 44th Wedding Anniversary

Today would be the 44th wedding anniversary for John Lennon and Yoko Ono. It is, of course, a somber day for artist and musician Ono; this December marks the 33rd anniversary of Lennon’s murder. To honor the occasion, Ono tweeted a pretty strong statement about rampant gun violence in America, incorporating the image of Lennon’s bloody glasses which adorns the cover of her first album following her husband’s murder, the fantastic Season of Glass.

Ono and Lennon were returning to their home at The Dakota following the recording of Ono’s classic "Walking on Thin Ice," on which Lennon played guitar. He was holding a copy of the final mix when he was shot in front of his home by Mark David Chapman. Take a listen below.

Follow Tyler Coates on Twitter.

Mark David Chapman’s Autographed John Lennon Album For Sale

Today is the 32nd anniversary of John Lennon’s assassination outside his Upper West Side apartment building in New York City. Convenient, then, that the album he unknowingly autographed for his killer Mark David Chapman is also up for sale.

Lennon signed an LP of his and Yoko Ono’s album Double Fantasy for Chapman, who shot the Beatle to death five hours later that very same day. The autographed album was found outside the Dakota building in a front gate flower planter after the shooting by a fan and used as evidence in the trial against Chapman, given as it was covered in his fingerprints.   

According to NME, the album is for sale for more than half a million dollars. It has been held by several private owners since 1999.  Macabre Beatles fan with some extra scratch lying around can purchase the memoribilia from vendors Moments In Time

Contact the author of this post at Jessica.Wakeman@Gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter.

Local Man Makes Strangers Uncomfy With Yoko Ono-Designed Pants

Our former fearless leader Joshua David Stein may have left BlackBook earlier this fall, but that doesn’t mean we cut ties completely. What’s so weird is that he has yet to mention this video of him modeling those crazy-ass pants designed by Yoko Ono and Opening Ceremony. What’s up with that? (I will go on record and say that it’s probably not because he’s embarrassed, as I’m still convinced it’s impossible for him to experience shame.) If you adore crazy man-on-the-street antics as much as I do, or if you just want to watch old men shoot uncomfortable looks at a thirtysomething’s crotch, this video is for you.

[Via Racked, h/t Jess Misener]

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Yoko Ono and Opening Ceremony Collaborate on Wedding Sketch-Inspired Menswear

The 1969 wedding of John Lennon and Yoko Ono inspired lots of great art, some not-so-great art and some rather unusual creative proceedings, from the Beatles’ No. 1 hit "The Ballad of John and Yoko" to the perhaps less-appreciated sound collage of the Wedding Album to a series of sketches Ono gave Lennon as a wedding gift. This week, Yoko Ono and Opening Ceremony announced the launch of "Fashions For Men: 1969-2012," a menswear collection inspired by those wedding-gift sketches, which featured positive affirmations, cartoony and somewhat whimsical depictions of genitalia and early versions of some of the items found in the collection.

Ono’s collection plays with color, shape and celebrations of the human body — on nearly every set of pants in the collection, a handprint appears over the crotch. Household items and clothing are often entwined, as with the lightbulb bandeau bra, a board worn around the neck with a leather strap, featuring two bells over the nipples and a sign that reads "RING FOR YOUR MOMMY PIECE" and open-toe thigh-highs with a side pocket (an earlier sketch featured an incense holder at the toe). And, of course, there’s the "Butt Hoodie," which is the actual name of the product and is exactly what it sounds like—which we could actually see John Lennon wearing, seeing as he seemed pretty comfortable with depictions of the human body in art (album covers or otherwise).

To introduce the collection, Opening Ceremony, with the help of Lisa Paclet and Irina Dakeva, created a video in which Ono’s sketches get the animated treatment, with cutoff shirts, butts and declarations of "YES" flooding the screen, featuring Ono’s funky track "Mind Train." Watch. 

The Rally for Pussy Riot at the Ace Hotel

Supporters of Pussy Riot gathered at the Ace Hotel last night for a reading of the jailed Russian feminist punk band’s courtroom statements. Organized by JD Samson of Le Tigre/MEN and presented by Amnesty International, the readers included Chloe Sevigny, Johanna Fateman, Eileen Myles, and Justin Vivian Bond. Though the #freepussyriot campaign is no stranger to celebrity endorsements—artists from Madonna to the Hives have expressed support—the event seemed like it had to be seen in order to be believed.

In the dimly lit Liberty Hall, however, the attention was all on the issue at hand: the trio of artists who have raised attention to human rights issues in Russia after their arrest for performing an anti-Putin protest song at a Moscow cathedral. None of the readers were introduced by name as they took turns reading the statements and letters from Katja Samutsevich, Nadia Tolokonnikova, and Masha Alyekhina that detailed their treatment in prison and defense against the charges of “hooliganism based on religious hatred.”

Readings of the courtroom transcripts revealed the nature of the show trial, where witnesses for the prosecution described how they suffered from post-traumatic stress due to the bright colors of Pussy Riot’s clothing. A letter of support from Yoko Ono and lyrics to Pussy Riot songs were also read, including a track whose name literally translates to “Putin Pissed Himself.”

This morning, it was announced that the three members of Pussy Riot have each been sentenced to two years in prison. The band has also released a new single entitled “Putin Lights Up The Fires.”

Photos by Mark Kendall