The Sublime Spectacle of Yoko Ono Disrupting the Beatles - The New York Times
Dec 08, 2021 2 mins, 46 secs

In Peter Jackson’s “The Beatles: Get Back,” Ono is a performance artist at the height of her powers.

Early in “The Beatles: Get Back,” Peter Jackson’s nearly eight-hour documentary about the making of the album “Let It Be,” the band forms a tight circle in the corner of a movie soundstage.

She perches in reach of John Lennon, her bemused face oriented toward him like a plant growing to the light.

But as the hours passed, and Ono remained — painting at an easel, chewing a pastry, paging through a Lennon fan magazine — I found myself impressed by her stamina, then entranced by the provocation of her existence and ultimately dazzled by her performance.

I was seeing intimate, long-lost footage of the world’s most famous band preparing for its final performance, and I couldn’t stop watching Yoko Ono sitting around, doing nothing.

“She never has opinions about the stuff they’re doing,” Jackson, who crafted the series out of more than 60 hours of footage, told “60 Minutes.” “She’s a very benign presence and she doesn’t interfere in the slightest.” Ono, also a producer on the series, tweeted an article without comment that claims she is merely performing “mundane tasks” as the band gets to work.

From the beginning, Ono’s presence feels intentional.

Jackson has called his series “a documentary about a documentary,” and we are constantly reminded that we are watching the band produce its image for the camera.

Ono was, of course, already an accomplished performance artist when she encountered Lennon, seven years her junior, at a gallery show in 1966.

(In 1970, Esquire published an article titled “John Rennon’s Excrusive Gloupie” that promised to reveal “the Yoko nobody Onos,” featuring an illustration of Ono looming over Lennon, who is rendered as a cockroach on her leash.) These slurs would spiral into an indefatigable pop-culture meme that has haunted generations of women accused of intruding on male genius.

In the documentary, McCartney politely complains that his songwriting with Lennon is disrupted by Ono’s omnipresence.

In her 1964 text project “Grapefruit,” a kind of recipe book for staging art experiences, she instructs her audience “not to look at Rock Hudson but only Doris Day,” and in “The Beatles: Get Back,” she skillfully redirects the eye away from the band and toward herself.

The more Ono’s presence is challenged, the more her performance escalates.

“It all comes down to YOKO ONO,” the drummer Tobi Vail wrote in a zine connected to her riot grrrl band Bikini Kill in 1991.

In Hole’s 1997 song “20 Years in the Dakota,” Courtney Love summons Ono’s powers against a new generation of whining fanboys, and says that riot grrrl is “forever in her debt.” Vail called Ono “the first punk rock girl singer ever.”.

The best way to watch “The Beatles: Get Back” is to take in as much in one go as possible, soaking up the tedium and transcendence of the band’s creative process.

What: Paul, on John and Yoko

Paul admits to band tension over the pair but also downplays it: “It’s going to be such an incredible, comical thing like in 50 years’ time, you know: ‘They broke up because Yoko sat on an amp.’”

George tells a supportive John and Yoko about his desire to make an album on his own


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