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YOKO ONO: ACTION, PEACE, DANCE PEACE
Conversation with Steve Koenig
February 5, 2008

There are very few musicians who, at age 76, consistently find themselves at the top of the dance charts. Yoko Ono will celebrate her birthday, February 18, with the release of fifteen remixes of "Give Peace A Chance" under her nom de club music, ONO. Those who only know the song from the Plastic Ono Band's Apple single 1809 from 1969, or from various John Lennon compilations, might find themselves disconcerted at the anthem's new garb, but the song's transformation is simply a new entity to be accepted on its own terms.

Indeed, "Give Peace A Chance" had already been remixed in 2004 as "Give Peace A Chance Y2K+," tabla and wah-wah enhanced, with Yoko's added texts regarding September 11th. The Asia-only Lennon compilation Peace, Love and Truth offered that version plus "Give Peace A Chance Remix 2005 (Featuring The Voices of Asia)," with vocals and a semi-rap by musicians from all over Asia. ONO's 2007 album, Open Your Box, features a pumping remix by DJ Dan.

For the new remixes, Yoko offers a new chant: "It's Time To Take Action/ Action is Peace/Think Peace/Act Peace/Spread Peace/Shed Light in Darkness/Imagine Peace/All We Are Saying Is Give Peace A Chance." DJ Meme made the best use of this new material, I'm delighted that the "Blow-Up Popism Mix" happily alludes to Yoko's concept of Bagism, ("bagism, tagism, this-ism, that-ism") referenced in the original lyric.

With many ONO remixes, the dance factor is served more than that of the original song structure or lyric, typical of current club music. The Peter Rauhaufer "Ying Mix" of "Yang Yang" starts with some breathing and moaning, which reminded me of both 20th century classical vocal works, like some by Luciano Berio, as well as Donna Summer and other disco-moaners of the late-70s. Then, on Rauhaufer's "Yang Mix" he samples the vocals "I hate you/ You're making me sick," which falls in the line of '90s gay-oriented dance records using snap-queen insults, such as Ride Committee's "Get Huh," and Urban Discharge's "Drop A House (On That Bitch)." (George) Morel's mix of "Give Me Something" preserves a lot of the original song.

Her first actual dance record was the brilliantly frightening "Walking On Thin Ice," a six minute single from Geffen, which got tons of club play at a time (1981) when it was very rare for any non-disco track to get any play in the clubs, at least in the NYC gay clubs. The few break-ins were The Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up," Devo's "Whip It," The B-52's, The Pretenders and Yoko's original "Walking On Thin Ice." Since 2002, Yoko Ono has been releasing a series of dance remix singles of various Yoko tracks, some from her 1973 album Approximately Infinite Universe. "Walking On Thin Ice" has since has had a CD-single issue with remixes by the likes of Danny Tenaglia, The Pet Shop Boys. and Felix da Housecat.

During our fifteen minute talk, I didn't have time to suggest to Yoko that she offer her more avant-garde works from Plastic Ono Band/Yoko Ono and Fly to remixers in the noise or 'lower case sound' genres, such as Yamantaka Eye, Ralf Wehowski or Fennesz. Meanwhile, as Yoko said to me, "Whenever I hear just one or two notes of the dance music, my body starts to move. I think that's how it is with all of us. There should be more dance music."

The interview here is offered unedited, the first forty five seconds an homage to Yoko's "Telephone Piece."

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