Plastic Ono Band is a band concept announced by John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1969 before the dissolution of the Beatles.
Lennon and Ono had begun a personal and artistic relationship in 1968 by collaborating on the experimental album Unfinished Music No.1: Two Virgins. After a second volume, Unfinished Music No.2: Life with the Lions appeared in the spring of 1969, they decided that all of their future endeavors would be credited to a conceptual and collaborative vehicle, 'Plastic Ono Band'.
As the project progressed, the name came to represent a succession of collaborations, by Lennon and Ono singly or together, with a host of artists including one performance line-up comprising Klaus Voormann, Yes drummer Alan White, and Eric Clapton, and other studio and performance groupings of artists such as George Harrison, Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, the Who's drummer Keith Moon, New York band Elephant's Memory, Billy Preston, Nicky Hopkins, Phil Spector, drummer Jim Keltner.
In revival since 2009 with Sean Lennon, Cornelius, Yuka Honda, a host of new collaborations has occurred with artists including Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore, Bette Midler, Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Scissor Sisters, Harper Simon, Paul Simon, and Gene Ween.
1 The Name,
2 The Original Concept and its later development,
3 The split with McCartney,
6 DVD releases,
8 External links,
Yoko Ono: "As I was asked to do a show in Berlin before John and I got together, I wanted to use four plastic stands with tape recorders in each one of them, as my band. I told that story to John, and he immediately coined the phrase PLASTIC ONO BAND."
The Original Concept and its later development:
In promotional material announcing Plastic Ono Band, a full-page ad in music papers and on the sleeve of its first single, the 'band' was pictured as a 'sculpture' consisting of a video camera and recording equipment mounted on plastic plinths. Accompanying slogans and other press information implied that Plastic Ono Band comprised anyone who wants to be part of it, the eye of the band's video camera claiming the audience as its 'membership'.
As Derek Taylor, Apple Records' publicist confirmed, all Lennon wished to say about the band was contained in its slogan and credo:
"YOU are the Plastic Ono Band".
In keeping with this, Lennon intended to use as the concept band's first release, two unfinished Beatles songs, "You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)" and "What's the New Mary Jane".
For this purpose, he and Paul McCartney who, as a duo on 14 April, had created the new Beatles single "The Ballad of John and Yoko", convened again at Abbey Road on 30 April 1969 to add vocals and other overdubs to the 22-month old mastertape of Lennon's proposed A-side "You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)".
The split with McCartney:
Both tracks of this proposed debut single were still considered unfinished by the time a new Lennon/McCartney-credited composition "Give Peace a Chance" was recorded - in a hotel room, during a Lennon/Ono 'bed in' protest in Montréal, Québec on 1 June 1969 with many participants - and it was this new track that would become the first Plastic Ono Band release in July 1969. Although an independent composition and release by Lennon, he cited the co-credit as a gift to McCartney for making "The Ballad of John and Yoko" with him quickly and making it a Beatles single.
But relations with McCartney would sour permanently after he drew a line and refused, as proposed next Beatles single, Lennon's "Cold Turkey", an exposition of his personal heroin addiction. So it was that "Cold Turkey", with fellow Beatle Ringo Starr on drums, became, in October, the second Plastic Ono Band single but also the first song written by either not to be published under their writing partnership of Lennon/McCartney It was also Lennon's first 'post-Beatle' release altogether as he had privately quit not only McCartney but the band itself by the time of its release.
Ironically, shortly following this, Lennon revived "You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)", the McCartney-collaboration single, when, on 26 November 1969 at Abbey Road, he edited down the A-side from a length of 6'08" to 4'19" and backing it with a newly mixed and edited version of "What's the New Mary Jane", scheduled it for release on Apple on 5 December to be the third Plastic Ono Band single. Despite a catalogue number, APPLES 1002, and the making of test pressings, the single got no further toward release than 1 December when it was marked by EMI as 'on hold'. A press release from Apple had described the imminent record as featuring Lennon and Yoko Ono singing (which was not true as it features only John and Paul) backed by "many of the greatest show business names of today", a thinly disguised reference to the Beatles. The record was cancelled before it was issued without explanation and the A-Side ultimately became the B-Side on The Beatles' final UK single, "Let It Be".
In November came the only album credited to Plastic Ono Band, Live Peace in Toronto 1969, recorded during the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival on 13 September that year and featured Klaus Voorman on bass, Eric Clapton on lead guitar, and Alan White on drums. Fronting the group, naturally, were Lennon and Ono. Lennon's performance has been cited as giving him the confidence to tell the other Beatles a few days later that he was leaving the band.
By early 1970, Lennon and Ono had begun adding their names to Plastic Ono Band releases, fully reclaiming it as their joint alias with "Instant Karma!" coming out as "Lennon/Ono with the Plastic Ono Band", and their two proper solo debut albums as John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band. By 1971 the name was being used as a secondary credit, with Lennon's and Ono's names more prominent on their solo ventures, and with variations, e.g., "Plastic Ono Nuclear Band" and "Plastic U.F.Ono Band". They played with Elephant's Memory as the "Plastic Ono Elephant's Memory Band" and with Frank Zappa as the "Plastic Ono Mothers".
The 2009 album Between My Head and the Sky is credited to Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band. It is the first use of the Plastic Ono Band name since the 1975 compilation Shaved Fish. The new line-up includes Sean Lennon, Cornelius and Yuka Honda, among others. Production credits are shared by Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon, with remixes produced by Bill Kates, Billy Martin, Damien Price, DJ Chernobyl, Jorge Artajo, King Louie & Mighty Jay, Konrad Behr, Mabarak, Madeon, Nick Vernier Band, Pedro Vainer, Posterboys, Rondo Brothers, Shuji Nabara, Technobears, Tiger et Ghost, Vivada, and Whiton. Between My Head and the Sky was released on 29 September 2009 to generally positive reviews from Rolling Stone, Mojo, Spin, Uncut, Q, NME, Nylon, Pitchfork, and others. In early 2010, the new Plastic Ono Band reunited in concert with original members Jim Keltner, Klaus Voormann and Eric Clapton, with guest artists Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore, Bette Midler, Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Scissor Sisters, Harper Simon, Paul Simon, and Gene Ween.