By Madeline Bocaro
© Madeline Bocaro, 2019. No part of this site may be reproduced or reblogged in whole or in part in any manner without the permission of the copyright owner.
The Plastic Ono Band concept was Yoko’s idea.
“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.
That was the beginning of the Plastic Ono Band. What John built with all sorts of plastic things that were laying around disappeared a long time ago”
In May 1969 John and Yoko had recorded a track called ‘ROCKPEACE’ which was intended to be a single release by Plastic Yono Band. Although recorded, it was never released. Next, a single called ‘Laugh/Whisper’ was to be released by Plastic Ono People. This also did not happen. The first Plastic Ono Band release was ‘Give Peace a Chance’ / ‘Remember Love’ recorded at the Montreal Bed In for Peace in June. (Released July 4, 1969 in the U.K. and on July 7 in the USA).
On the cover of the ‘Give Peace a Chance’ single (and in the advert), a full-scale POB appears. Plexiglas encasings and stands are flanked by audiovisual equipment. The ad places the transparent POB ‘members’ over a page from the telephone directory which shows the listings under the surname ‘Jones’.
A re-creation of the original ‘Plastic Ono Band’ model appeared at Yoko’s exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in 2015 – Yoko Ono – One Woman Show, and also at the John & Yoko Double Fantasy exhibition in Liverpool (2018-2019).
The ever-changing Plastic Ono band line-up began in September 1969 with the Live Peace in Toronto concert. John and Yoko quickly assembled the band which included Eric Clapton, Klaus Voormann, Alan White, Billy Preston, and Jim Keltner.
For John’s single ‘Cold Turkey’ (1970), Ringo Starr became a POB member along with Eric Clapton and Klaus Voormann This same line-up was on the b-side, Yoko’s song ‘Don’t Worry Kyoko (Mummy’s Only Looking for a Hand in the Snow’).
The POB included everyone in the Montreal hotel room when ‘Give Peace a Chance’ was recorded. John and Yoko also considered the audience to be POB members, using the slogan, “YOU are the Plastic Ono Band.”
On December 15, 1969 the Plastic Ono Band played a benefit concert for UNICEF at the Lyceum Ballroom in London. John quickly assembled the folks from the Toronto lineup (Clapton, Voorman, and White), adding Billy Preston on keyboards. Clapton brought along Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett. Also included were Lennon’s George Harrison, saxophonist Bobby Keys, drummer Jim Gordon and Jim Price on trumpet. The Who’s Keith Moon also joined in that evening. This lineup was later referred to as the Plastic Ono Supergroup.
For the 1970 recordings of John and Yoko’s solo Plastic Ono Band albums, the POB included Klaus Voormann and Ringo Starr. On the single ‘Instant Karma!”, George Harrison became a POB member.
On 6 June 1971 John and Yoko performed with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention at the Fillmore East in New York City. This collaboration was called the “Plastic Ono Mothers”.
The Plastic Ono Band’s 1971 Christmas single ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ featured drummer Jim Keltner, pianist Nicky Hopkins and guitarists Hugh McCracken and Chris Osbourne.
When John and Yoko moved to New York, they enlisted the band Elephant’s Memory (1971-1973). They had recorded solo albums, and two songs for the film soundtrack Midnight Cowboy. They merged with John & Yoko as the Plastic Ono Elephant’s Memory band. Yoko pointed out that their moniker’s initials spelled POEM. The Elephant’s members were; Wayne ‘Tex’ Gabriel on guitar, bassist Gary Van Scyoc, Stan Bronstein on sax, keyboardists Adam Ippolito and John La Boosca, and drummer Richard Frank, Jr. They recorded the album Sometime in New York City. Jim Keltner also played on the album – released on 12 June 1972, credited to John & Yoko/Plastic Ono Band with Elephant’s Memory plus Invisible Strings. A bonus disc, entitled Live Jam included the recordings from the 1969 Lyceum concert and the 1971 performance with Frank Zappa.
On 30 August 1972, the Plastic Ono Elephant’s Memory Band performed a pair of benefit concerts at Madison Square Garden. The benefit, entitled “One to One”, raised money for children with mental challenges. They also performed at the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon on Labor Day.
The last collaboration of the Plastic Ono Elephant’s Memory Band was Ono’s double album Approximately Infinite Universe (January 1973). Yoko’s next solo album, Feeling the Space (November 1973) featured yet another POB – featuring David Spinozza on guitar.
The band morphed into the Plastic U.F.Ono Band for John’s album Mind Games. This configuration (assembled by Jim Keltner) was David Spinozza on guitar, Gordon Edwards on bass, Jim Keltner on drums, Arthur Jenkins on percussion, Michael Brecker on sax and Ken Ascher on keyboards. Background vocals were by a band called Something Different. These musicians also appear on Yoko’s album Feeling the Space.
The Plastic Ono Nuclear band was assembled for John’s Walls and Bridges album In July 1974. There were some familiar members as well as new ones. Jim Keltner, Kenneth Ascher, and Arthur Jenkins carried over from Mind Games, Klaus Voorman, Nicky Hopkins, and Bobby Keys returned. Jesse Ed Davis and Eddie Mottau were recruited on guitar.
In another incarnation, Plastic Ono Super Band supported Yoko on her solo tour of Japan in 1974, and at her solo gigs in New York City. Yoko Ono (vocals) Steve Khan (guitar), Andy Muson (bass), Don Grolnick (keyboards), Randy Brecker, Michael Brecker (sax), Rick Marotta & Steve Gadd on drums.
Paul McCartney paid tribute to the Plastic Ono band in his 1980 music video for his song “Coming Up”. The ‘band’ features Paul playing the role of multiple musicians, including a horn section. The logo on the bass drum reads, ‘The Plastic Macs’.
In 2009, as his mother’s producer and band leader, Sean Ono Lennon encouraged Yoko to reinstate the Plastic Ono Band concept for her album Between My Head and the Sky . Members included Sean Ono Lennon, Yuka Honda, Nels Cline, Yuko Araki, Cornelius and others.
In 2010, at a Brooklyn concert entitled We Are Plastic Ono Band, Yoko and Sean Lennon reunited with Eric Clapton, Klaus Voorman, and Jim Keltner. In 2011, Yoko and Sean collaborated with The Flaming Lips on their EP The Flaming Lips with Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band.
Im 2011, yet another cast of characters became the POB. I have fond memories of this concert when Lou Reed joined Yoko … SEE MY REVIEW OF THIS CONCERT, WHICH ALSO FEATURED PATTI SMITH… https://madelinex.com/…/yoko-ono-friends-to-japan-with…/
(EXCERPT ABOUT LOU):
Everyone sang and spoke something heartfelt and respectful in dedication to the people of Japan. However, Lou Reed shuffled onstage, cranked up his guitar to eleven and blasted out ‘Leave Me Alone’ from Street Hassle! He brought along an iPad with a scrolling teleprompter – which was hilarious and pretentious because all he sings is, ‘Leave me leave me leave me leave me leave me alone’! (Yoko had sheets of musical notations too – when most of her songs are purely improvisational one-word mantras like ‘Why?’!)
Lou’s song was ear splitting. He worked Yoko’s band of young Japanese musicians (and Sean) to the bone – making them play louder and harder. It was as if he was telling Yoko, ‘Look! I’m even crazier than YOU are!’ She stood beside him, glancing at his teleprompter, chiming in with a few inaudible screams, but she politely surrendered as Lou hijacked her band! He mumbled something about how we all must be shocked, but to the contrary, it’s just what one would expect from Lou Reed. I am not saying that it wasn’t great. I just hate to admit it because Lou is so damned arrogant!
Sean stood between Lou and Yoko, watching in awe, as if he’d bought a ticket to the show himself and forgot that he was in it. He was amazed at organizing and pulling off yet another spontaneous, chaotic, and enthralling Plastic Ono Band event.
The latest POB recording was Yoko’s Sept. 2013 album, Take Me to the Land of Hell.
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band has made several live appearances since then, the most recent one being at the Museum of Modern Art, NYC with Denardo Coleman (son of Ornette Coleman) on drums, guitarist Alan Licht and cellist Erik Friedlander.
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Yoko’s Plastic Ono Band concept:
UK Ad June 1, 1969:
Drawing by Klaus Voormann:
Yoko with the original Plastic Ono Band model:
Plastic Ono Supergroup, The Lyceum Ballrom – London December 1969:
A ticket for a POB concert that never happened:
Plastic Ono Elephant’s Memory Band with Phil Spector.