45th Anniversary – Yoko Ono – Feeling The Space
Released November 5, 1973
By Madeline Bocaro ©
“You’ve heard of woman nation
Well, that’s coming, baby”
Welcome to ‘Suffragette City’! Feeling The Space is Yoko Ono’s feminist manifesto. The album’s theme is female liberation. Side One tells stories of individual women oppressed by society. On Side Two women unite, wake up, rise up and kick ass!
Her dedication reads…
“This album is dedicated to the sisters who died in pain and sorrow
and those who are now in prisons and in mental hospitals
for being unable to survive in the male society.”
Yoko’s fourth solo album was the quick follow-up to her double album Approximately Infinite Universe which was released on January 8, 1973. Feeling The Space was released on November 5 in America (November 23 in the UK).
Recording began in June 1973 at New York City’s Record Plant. Originally (like AIU) it was also going to be a double set with the title Half A Windsong. That idea was shelved – one reason being the impending demise of the Beatles’ label, Apple Records. However, several outtakes (and other songs that Yoko later recorded in December) saw the light of day decades later (1992) on an album called A Story.
Yoko’s most astounding song on the album is the the thunderous, bottom-heavy rocker ‘Woman Power’. The lyrics illuminate society’s perpetual repression of women and their eventual rise to power. John Lennon’s scathing guitar rips through the original, as he was in complete agreement with his wife about women’s rights.
The lyrics were so prophetic that we recently had a very near miss of having a woman president.
Two thousand years of male society
Laying fear and tyranny
Seeking grades and money
Clinging to values vain and phony
Do you know that one day you lost your way, man
Do you know that some day you have to pay, man
Have you anything to say, man
Except, “Make no mistake about it, I’m the president, you hear
I wanna make one thing clear, I’m the president, you hear”
The stripped-down version of ‘Woman Power’ (on Yoko’s 2018 Warzone album) retains its funky groove with her resonant message sung/spoken loud and clear, with a nice guitar and vocal freak-out at the end!
Yoko produced Feeling The Space. The album was engineered by Jack Douglas. The musicians were most notably John Lennon and David Spinozza on guitar, Michael Brecker on sax and Jim Keltner on drums. The female group Something Different joined on backing vocals. The male band members’ birth dates, phone numbers and vital statistics are listed in the liner notes, mocking adult film adverts and the strict desired guidelines that women’s bodies are supposed to adhere to, according to men.
There was much turmoil in the lives of John and Yoko. John had been ordered to leave the USA three months prior in March. He appealed the immigration decision. In rebuttal, the Lennons announced the formation of a conceptual country on April 1st (April Fool’s Day). (Nutopia has no land, no boundaries, no passports, only people. Nutopia has no laws other than cosmic). Yoko was a distraught mother, desperately searching for her young daughter Kyoko who disappeared with her ex-husband. Amidst the stress, the Lennons temporarily separated. John went to Los Angeles (his so-called lost weekend lasted 18 months).
When Yoko’s month-long sessions ended, John immediately enlisted Yoko’s session musicians to record his album Mind Games, also at Record Plant. Both of their albums were released on the same day, November 5th (in America).
John plays guitar on ‘Woman Power’ and ‘She Hits Back’. He also sings backing vocals on ‘Men, Men, Men’ – a playfully condescending song which reverses male chauvinism back onto the guys – giving them a taste of their own medicine. (Putting men in their ‘rightful position’ was also the theme of ‘What a Mess’ on Yoko’s previous album AIU.) In the credits, he adopts the named ‘John O’Cean (‘Not for sale’).
Feeling The Space consists mainly of ballads; ‘Growing Pain’, ‘Yellow Girl’ the beautiful ‘Run, Run, Run’, ‘If Only’ and ‘Angry Young Woman’ (which Yoko performed this on the Mike Douglas Show during a solo TV appearance in November 1973).
The melancholy melody of ‘If Only’ was later reprised for the single ‘Yume O Motou 夢をもたう(Let’s Have a Dream)’ released only in Japan to promote Yoko’s August 1974 tour. A couple of rockers include ‘Straight Talk’ about total communication and ‘She Hits Back’ in which a woman blatantly deflects all that is thrust upon her by male society.
The eerie ‘Woman of Salem’ refers to the witch trials. During a live performance on June 2, 1973 for the Feminist Planning Conference, Yoko spoke these words in introduction to the dirge-like ‘Coffin Car’ (in which a woman lives life as if she were the walking dead).
‘I Learned to Stutter’ (released in 1997)
…I was living as an artist and had relative freedom as a woman and was considered a bitch in this society. Since I met John, I was upgraded into a witch and I think that that’s very flattering.
Anyway, what I learned from being with John is that society suddenly treated me as a woman…who belonged to a man who is one of the most powerful people in our generation. Some of his closest friends told me that probably I should stay in the background, I should shut up. I should give up my work and that way I’d be happy.
I was lucky. I was over 30 and it was too late for me to change. But still… I want to say this to the sisters because I really wish that you know that you are not alone.
Because the whole society started to attack me and the whole society wished me dead, I started to accumulate a tremendous amount of complex and as a result of that, I started to stutter.
I consider myself a very elegant and also an attractive woman, all my life and suddenly because I was associated with John I was considered an ugly woman, ugly Jap who took your monument or something away from you.
That’s when I realized how hard it is for women. If I can start to stutter being a strong woman, and having lived 30 years by then, learn to stutter in 3 years being treated as such, it is a very hard road.”
Yoko and the Plastic Ono Super Band previewed songs from the album by playing a week-long residency (October 3 – 28) at Kenny’s Castaways in New York City. Yoko performed twelve (not only sold-out but over-crowded) shows. John was in Los Angeles at the time. Although she looked stunning all in black, wearing velvet hot pants and thigh-high boots, Yoko wore them in mockery of men’s expectation that a woman wearing such a thing should be demure. The crowds – mostly men, clamored for her autograph after each show.
Remnants of the intended double album were ‘O’ Oh’ and ‘Yes, I’m a Witch’ which were to appear on Yoko’s next album, A Story. However, they were not released until decades later. The entire A Story album was released as the Run, Run, Run disc on Rykodisc’s 1992 Onobox CD set.
‘Dogtown’ and ‘Will You Touch Me?’ were also omitted from Feeling The Space and later re-worked for Season of Glass (1981). ‘Hard Times Are Over’ was updated for Double Fantasy in 1980.
Two songs from the Feeling The Space sessions; ‘Yume O Motou 夢をもたう(Let’s Have a Dream)’ and Joseijoi Banzai’ were issued in Japan as singles when Yoko toured there with her Plastic Ono Super Band in August 1974.
The ancient Egyptian themed artwork also includes Yoko’s essay, Feeling The Space published in The New York Times on August 24, 1973. In it, she states, “There was always such a space around me.”
Still, at age 85 Yoko continues her steadfast fight for women’s rights alongside her never-ending campaign for peace, with her silent partner John beside her.
“In my mind, I’m really an eternal sphinx.”
Some of Yoko’s eternal feminisms:
Ban the veil? Ridiculous. If it’s to stop repression of women, start with banning spandex and very high heel shoes. They’re health hazards.
– Twitter, 3/10/17
I am probably one of the last few people who believe in capitalism. But I do.
Just give us women double your salaries and we’ll shut up 🙂
Women are still not equal to men. But do we want to be equal to them? I think it is better to pursue higher.
– Twitter 2016
Just be yourself. You help the world by being you, not by wearing a pair of high-heeled shoes. Yoko, Twitter (2016 or 2017)
Remember, many feminists have followed the ways of men and hurt their health by drinking, smoking and pursuing more money and power by intense competition. Think of your health and think of being you instead of having an intense competition.
– Yoko, Twitter 7-23-18
A man is called a wizard, and a woman is called a witch. What a difference, isn’t it?
– New York Magazine August 20, 2018
Equality is a very strange word, because we are basically not equal, none of us are. We want justice, not equality. I myself, do not want to be equated with men, I want to always be me.”
– Refinery29, August 2018
Society was built on male power, and women’s power was… ignored is the best word to describe it I suppose. We have been running society on one power. Half a power really. And that’s so terrible. The world needs womens’ power too.
Feeling The Space
Reissue bonus tracks 1997 – Rykodisc
“I Learned to Stutter/Coffin Car” (Live)
Reissue Bonus Tracks 2017 – Chimera/Secretly Canadian
‘It’s Been Very Hard’
‘Left Turn’s the Right Turn’
‘Mildred, Mildred’ demo (introduced by John.