By Madeline Bocaro ©
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”
On the cover of the ‘Give Peace a Chance’ single (and in the advert), a full-scale POB appears. Lucite 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 exhibit in Liverpool -2018-2019.
The ever-changing Plastic Ono band members began in 1969 with the Live Peace in Toronto album. For that concert, the band included John Lennon, Yoko Ono, 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 17 December 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), who merged with them as the Plastic Ono Elephant’s Memory band. The 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.
In another incarnation, The Plastic Ono Supergroup supported Yoko on her solo tour of Japan in 1974, and at her solo gigs in New York City.
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 (Sept. 2009). 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.
UK Ad June 1, 1969:
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.