Just a Story – ‘Walking on Thin Ice’

Released January 6, 1981

By Madeline Bocaro ©

WalkingOnThinIceScore – Version 3

Yoko Ono released this single on January 6, 1981 – less than a month after John Lennon’s death – ‘Walking on Thin Ice’. It was the last song that she and John were working on during the Double Fantasy sessions in December 1980.

John absolutely loved Yoko’s song. The night before he was murdered, John played it repeatedly – all night long – predicting that it would be Yoko’s first No. 1 hit. In fact, a clip of him saying this is included at the start of the song in the Onobox collection (1992). Yoko was shocked when John’s prediction came true in 2013 – a CD of ‘Walking on Thin Ice’ remixes became Yoko’s 11th No. 1 single on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play chart. The song hit No. 1 again in 2013.

“Well, I wrote that song in a car coming back from Cold Spring Harbor to New York.  “I want to push it a little further, experimentally. So I was thinking about Alban Berg, in one of his operas, you know, where a drunk is going ‘ahaahaahaa’.’ Just sort of saying things but in such a way that the emphasis is all wrong, distorted.”

– Yoko

While lying on the studio couch before recording, Yoko saw a beautiful lake flash in her mind, which sparked the idea for the chilling spoken part about a girl walking across the lake.

On the groundbreaking original version, John and Earl Slick provide scathing guitar lines to this brittle song about risk, repercussion, fragility, life and death. John played his 1958 Rickenbacker 325 on all the guitar parts. It was the first time that this guitar was used on a studio recording since the 1960s.

The song’s unnerving lyrics suddenly became a shocking and sad reality. John was carrying a tape of ‘Walking on Thin Ice’ when he was killed.

All day, John did not stop playing “Walking on Thin Ice.” He played it over and over again. We still hadn’t overdubbed the gui­tar solo, so I thought he was checking what to do with it. But it was unlike him that he took so much time on it. I went to sleep. When I woke up on Sunday morning, he was still playing “Walk­ing on Thin Ice,” as he looked over the park. I knew the song was a good song. But I was just thinking of what else should be done musically. Never thought deeper than that at the time. Only just recently, it occurred to me that maybe John was aware of the song in a different light.

–  Yoko to Rolling Stone, London, October 18th, 2010

Yoko’s vocals on the track inspired countless artists in many genres to come.


The most beautiful version of the song is this remixed vocal/string arrangement in this stunning video, released on her birthday in 2016:

ONO/Tenaglia – ‘Walking on Thin Ice’ (Maestro Version) – Yes, I’m a Witch Too2016



 “The last Sunday. I’m glad in a way that we didn’t know that it was our last Sunday together, so we could have had a semblance of normalcy. But it turned out that it was not a normal Sunday at all. Something was starting to happen, like the dead silence before a tsunami. The air was getting tenser and tenser, dens­er and denser. Then, I distinctly saw airwaves in the room. It was wiggly lines, like on the heart monitor next to the hospital bed, just before it becomes a flat straight line. “John, are you all right?” I asked through the density. He just nodded and kept lis­tening to “Walking on Thin Ice,” playing it loud. Walking on thin ice. Walking on thin ice … “John, John, arrre youuuu alllll riiight?” I heard my voice vibrating. I could not go near John, for some reason. WALKING ON THIN ICE. WALKING ON THIN ICE. WALKING ON THIN ICE. I realized that both of us were in a strange dimension in a weird time zone, as if we were in a dream. Then it all stopped. I went into a long and shallow sleep, with John over me, kissing me tenderly.”

 –  Yoko to Rolling Stone, London, October 18th, 2010

Walking on thin ice
I’m paying the price
For throwing the dice in the air…

I gave you my knife
You gave me my life
Like a gush of wind in my hair
Why do we forget what’s been said
And play the game of life with our hearts?

I may cry some day
But the tears will dry whichever way
And when our hearts return to ashes
It’ll be just a story

I knew a girl who tried to walk across the lake

Of course it was winter, when all this was ice

A terrible thing to do, you know

They say the lake is as big as the ocean

I wonder if she knew about it


Listen to all of Yoko’s No. 1 Songs on Billboard’s Dance Chart:

“I think you just cut your first number one, Yoko.”

– John Lennon re: ‘Walking on Thin Ice’, 1980

1. Yoko Ono – Walking On Thin Ice
2. “Everyman… Everywoman…”
3. “No, No, No” ono
4. “Give Peace a Chance”
5. I’m Not Getting Enough
6. “Give Me Something” (remixes)
7. Ono – Wouldnit (I’m a Star)
8. “Move on Fast” (remixes)
9. “Talking to the Universe” (remixes)
10. “Hold Me” (featuring Dave Audé)
11. “Walking on Thin Ice 2013”
12. “Angel” (remixes)
13. “Hell in Paradise 2016”

Walking On Thin Ice

ONO/Tenaglia – ‘Walking on Thin Ice’ (Maestro Version) – Yes, I’m a Witch Too – 2016


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In 1986, Yoko invited me to a party in NYC for the launch of John’s book Skywriting by Word of Mouth. It was at a club called The Saint, which I didn’t know at the time was the old Fillmore East, where the OTHER side of that live jam album (included with Sometime in New York City) was recorded with Frank Zappa! I was dancing with Yoko in that very same place!!! There is now a plaque on the building stating its history.

The DJ played ‘Walking on Thin Ice” and people were dancing! It was the first time ever that nobody ran out the door when her music came on! I said, “Yoko – look! Everyone is dancing!” And she said, “Oh, well maybe I’m becoming too commercial!”Knowing her, I think that she was NOT kidding!! 

“A Small Eternity with Yoko Ono”
The encore at the Fillmore East (June 1971).
A different mix – on Zappa’s Playground Psychotics album. It’s titled
“A Small Eternity with Yoko Ono”
Listen here!

Video of the Lennon/Zappa/Ono performance:

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Read more stories in my featured category: ABOUT A SONG…



3 thoughts on “Just a Story – ‘Walking on Thin Ice’

  1. It’s heartbreaking to read Yoko’s reflections-in-hindsight on that final weekend. I hope she knows there is nothing she could have done to stop what happened. The reason they chose New York City is that they felt free to move about freely; limiting that freedom would have been completely against their nature.


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