Yoko Ono :: Two Virgins, Life With the Lions, Plastic Ono Band

I’ll never forget the exasperated look on the guy's face, standing behind the counter, holding up the copy of Yoko Ono’s Plastic Ono Band  I was attempting to purchase.

“This is the Yoko version of the record,” he said, repeating it for the second time.

Pointing with his index figure at the album cover, at the figures reclining against a tree in the grass, he continued. “You can tell, because on the John version of the record, Yoko’s against the tree; on this one, John’s against the tree. So, I mean, just so you know, this is the Yoko version of the record. You want the John version of the record. John Lennon, Plastic Ono Band.”

If I'm being charitable, perhaps he thought I wasn't ready for Yoko's debut studio album, released in conjunction with John Lennon’s solo debut Plastic Ono Band in 1970. Maybe  he thought I wouldn't be able to wrap my head around the record's raw, transcendent spirit. But more than likely, he was another dude simply dismissing Yoko, trying to negate or brush away her innovative career as modern artist and musical explorer, helping to introduce the conceptual approach of Fluxus to the world of pop music. In the heads of many like this dude at the record store, the conversation starts and ends with "Yoko broke up the Beatles" or "Yoko can't sing."

This week, Plastic Ono Band  is reissued on vinyl alongside 1968’s Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins and 1969’s Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions. The records signal the start of a joint archival partnership between Indiana label Secretly Canadian and Ono’s Chimera Music to reissue 11 of Ono’s records, exploring her work from 1968-1985. Remastered and combined with photos, posters, and art objects (including reproductions of Ono’s “A Hole To See the Sky Through” card printed download codes to access bonus material), these editions represent the label's intention to create "definitive" versions of these records. They are so thoughtfully presented they might even change the minds of a few Yoko deniers. Listening deeply to them, it feels impossible to argue against Ono's adventurous spirit and the emotional content of these collaborations between her and Lennon, each one a  daring expression of love between two people.

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