Lost Singles: Yoko Ono “No, No, No” c/w “Will You Touch Me” (1981)


It’s not really necessary to relate to you the significance of today; I trust my readers to know full well what happened today in rock history.

In 1981, widow Yoko Ono came out of grieving in the way she knew best: her art. Yoko has always been a polarizing figure, and just because she’d just watched her husband be murdered in front of her did not stop the critics; if anything, her actions ensured that if they didn’t hate her then, they most certainly would hate her now.

This stems from the cover of her newest album, Season of Glass. The cover–as seen in the videos below–was taken at the Dakota a few days after John’s murder, and the picture features Lennon’s bloody glasses, and a glass of water that presents the “half full/half empty”  philosophical conundrum. Those who disliked her had a field day with this; she was accused of manipulating the public and cashing in on her husband’s death. There were even hideous Courtney Love-style rumors that Ono had Lennon killed because of marital unhappiness and for financial gain. Utterly disgusting.

While the album’s first single, “Walking on Thin Ice,” had been recorded well before the murder–the couple were returning home from a session working on it when he was shot–the first song to formally address the murder was her second single, “No, No, No.”

It’s not an easy listen, as the introduction of the song starts with four gunshots, Yoko yelling for help, and her band imitating the sound of Ambulance sirens. Some thought this was in extremely poor taste, cheapening his death into an artistic statement. Then there’s the controversial line, “You’re thinking of Rock Hudson when we do it,” which many felt was an attack on John’s sexuality,  based on the oft-spoken rumors about him and Beatles manager Brian Epstein.

The lyrics also display the pain of grieving; on one hand, she’s demanding her independence in the face of tragedy, saying “Don’t help me,” “Don’t touch me,” and things of the matter–followed with a split-second response that negates that demand for independence. It’s a typical reaction to loss–wanting to go on with life as if it is normal, trying to stay strong, whilst the hidden, subtle truth is that the person often wants the exact opposite. It’s all a part of the stages of grieving–you have to move on with life, but yet you are so emotionally attached to the deceased that you don’t want to move on, you need that codependency. The song itself is very staccato-minded New Wave, and you can clearly hear how Yoko would inspire younger women and musicians, as it’s hard not to feel as if “No, No, No” predicts the coming of Bjork.

The flip-side, “Will You Touch Me,” is an older song, but it touches on the same sentiment of loss. It’s not as heavy-handed; its melody inspired by New Orleans-style jazz, while the lyrics are as equally sad, but not in an upsetting way.

Yoko is an icon for those who appreciate her art, and a lightning rod for sexist, racist Beatles fans who have no concept of her artistic abilities and hold on to the incorrect notion that she broke up the band.

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