Yoko Songs: Walking on Thin Ice

Yoko Songs: Walking on Thin Ice – January 1981

By Madeline Bocaro ©

Yoko Song: Walking on Thin Ice – Single, January 1981

By Madeline Bocaro ©

John Lennon absolutely loved this track, recorded in 1980 during the Double Fantasy sessions. Just hours before he was murdered he played it repeatedly, 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 completed and released the song just one month after John’s death. She didn’t think it would, but his prediction came true in 2013 when a CD of ‘Walking on Thin Ice’ remixes became Yoko’s 11th No. 1 single on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play chart.

“Well, I wrote that song in a car coming back from Cold Spring Harbor to New York… “I wanted 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 on thin ice.

On the groundbreaking original version, John and Earl Slick provide scathing guitar lines to this brittle song about risk, repercussion, fragility, life and death. One day later, the unnerving lyrics became a sad reality.

“All day, John did not stop playing “Walking on Thin Ice.” He played it over and over again. We still hadn’t overdubbed the gui¬tar 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 “Walk¬ing 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 this song eventually inspired countless artists in many genres. The most beautiful version is this remixed vocal/string arrangement. Yoko released this stunning new video for the song on her birthday in 2016:

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

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

“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, dens¬er 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 lis¬tening 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

John was carrying the finished tape of ‘Walking on Thin Ice’ when he was killed.



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