WHO ARE THE PLASTIC ONO BAND?
Discover the story behind John & Yoko's conceptual participatory supergroup, related artworks, manifesto, membership and your part in it.
WHO ARE THE PLASTIC ONO BAND?
Yoko: In 1967, before John and I got together, I was invited to do a show in Berlin.
I thought it would be great to do a show where on the stage there would be a band, but instead of each member of the band being a human being, there would be plastic boxes with a mechanism or robot inside that would perform or play an instrument or a tape recording.
A year later, when I explained this to John, he immediately got a piece of wood to use as a base and pasted up a band on the stage. He put a few plastic objects together: a cassette box, a paperweight, the tube from a record cleaning cylinder brush, and created a little plastic model and said, ‘well, we should call our band Plastic Ono Band’. That was the beginning of Plastic Ono Band.
The following year, when we recorded ‘Give Peace A Chance’, we thought, ‘let’s release it as a Plastic Ono Band single’ because it wasn’t just John & Yoko on the record, it was all the people with us in Montreal and the audience – we wanted everyone in the world to join us and sing the song to create world peace.
The concept of Plastic Ono Band was ‘the message is the music’. So everyone on the recording is in it, everyone listening to the recording is in it, everyone who sings the song is in it, you’re in it and everyone in the world is in it – making Plastic Ono Band the most musical and imaginative group in the world.
John: Plastic Ono Band was a concept of Yoko’s, an imaginary band. They didn’t have this great material that they have now – lasers and lights and machines that can do all this stuff.
Plastic Ono Band original designs and manifesto, illustrated by John Lennon, 1969.
We made the band. It was physically plastic. Transparent. Like ghosts. A completely robot pop group. Plastic things with tape recorders in them. It played tapes and records, like a giant jukebox. It even had a television. We hoped to go on tour with it.
Left: ‘Who Are The Plastic Ono Band?’ advertisement, New Musical Express, 28 June 1969. Right: ‘You Are The Plastic Ono Band’ advertisement for the US single ‘Give Peace A Chance’, featuring the Plastic Ono Band sculpture superimposed on a page from the phone book, doctored to include many familiar names from the Beatles, Apple and friends hidden amongst the listings of the Joneses; original artwork, July 1969.
The first advert for the Plastic Ono Band was a page out of the English telephone book. I said, ‘Get me a page from the book’ and it happened to be the Joneses. It says: ‘You are the Plastic Ono Band’. So we are the Plastic Ono Band and the audience is the Plastic Ono Band.
There was supposed to be a party for the ‘Give Peace A Chance’ record, which was the first Plastic Ono Band record, but we’d had a car crash and we were up in a hospital (in Scotland) and couldn’t come. So at the dance hall (Chelsea Town Hall in London) where they had the party for the Plastic Ono Band, we sent the Plastic Ono Band and the press came to meet the band and the band was onstage, which was just these plastic machines that played the record and a machine with a camera pointing at them showing them on the stage themselves. The press took pictures of it and they all discussed the Plastic Ono Band.
So that is the Plastic Ono Band. A conceptual group which exists only in the mind. You’re in it. Everybody’s in the Plastic Ono Band. We’re all members of the Plastic Ono Band. We’re all members of the conceptual Utopia.
‘What Is The Plastic Ono Band?’ press release typewritten by Apple press officer Derek Taylor on official Apple letterhead first published in Disc and Music Echo, 26 July 1969.
Yoko: When we played at the Rock ’n’ Roll Revival show in Toronto, we were introduced onto the stage as Plastic Ono Band and the name stuck. It was exciting for John because he felt he didn’t need to live up to the Beatles mystique. We could be anybody or perform anything and we had total freedom and total communication.
During 1970, we did intensive Primal Scream therapy for six months, which was very beneficial for us and many of the songs were inspired as a result of those sessions. John’s songs were a literate expression of his feelings and I was more interested in expressing my feelings using revolutionary vocal sounds.
At one point, John wanted to call his album ‘Primal’ and my album ‘Scream’, but I had been screaming long before we started therapy, and we realized the therapy, whatever its title, was just a mirror. John was looking into a mirror at his own soul and soon realized the fundamental truths he discovered for himself was advice needed by everybody: feel your own pain, learn to cry, believe in yourself, love is real, it’s gonna be all right.
ON JOHN LENNON/PLASTIC ONO BAND – THE ULTIMATE COLLECTION…
WHO ARE THE PLASTIC ONO BAND?
John Lennon – vocals, guitar, piano, organ, jew’’s harp, maracas.
Yoko Ono – wind, backing vocals (‘Instant Karma!’).
Ringo Starr – drums, tom toms (album + ‘Cold Turkey’).
Klaus Voormann – bass (album + ‘Cold Turkey’ + ‘Instant Karma!’).
Billy Preston – piano (‘God’), organ (‘Instant Karma!’).
Phil Spector – piano (‘Love’).
George Harrison – guitar, piano (‘Instant Karma!’).
Eric Clapton – guitar (‘Cold Turkey’).
Alan White – drums, piano (‘Instant Karma!’).
Mal Evans – backing vocals, chimes, handclaps (‘Instant Karma!’).
Tommy Smothers – acoustic guitar (‘Give Peace A Chance’).
Timothy & Rosemary Leary, Petula Clark, Derek Taylor – backing vocals (‘Give Peace A Chance’).
Canadian chapter of Radha Krishna Temple – vocals, drums, finger cymbals (‘Give Peace A Chance’).
JOHN LENNON/PLASTIC ONO BAND Album
Produced by John & Yoko and Phil Spector.
Engineers: Phil McDonald, Richard Lush, John Leckie, Andy Stephens, Eddie Klein.
EMI Studios 2 & 3, 3 Abbey Road, London.
‘Give Peace A Chance’ single
Produced by John & Yoko.
Engineer: André Perry.
Queen Elizabeth Hotel and Les Studios André Perry, Montreal, Canada.
‘Cold Turkey’ single
Produced by John & Yoko (Bag).
Engineers: Ken Scott, Bill Trow, Dave Corlett.
Trident Studios, London.
‘Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)’ single
Produced by Phil Spector.
Engineers: Phil McDonald, Andy Stephens.
EMI Studio 3, 3 Abbey Road, London.