Starpeace – Released February 18, 1985
By Madeline Bocaro ©
Once upon a time, in our very own galaxy, a brave, wise and gentle woman launched her own starship, continuing her mission to restore peace to the universe. Yoko Ono’s 1985 album and tour were titled Starpeace.
With its ‘Air Side’ and ‘Be Side’ the album was released on February 18, 1985 – her 52nd birthday. The cover was shot by the legendary fashion photographer Francesco Scavullo. We see Yoko smiling from behind dark shades, tenderly holding a crystal ball inhabiting Earth in the palm of her hand as she glows with a galaxy behind her. Her diamond heart necklace – a gift from her husband John Lennon – is radiant. It had been five years since his death.
Starpeace– An Earth Play for Sun and Air was Yoko’s third album of the 1980s. It followed the harrowing and beautiful Season of Glass(1981) and It’s Alright (1982).
Can one small woman spread peace across the universe?
Yoko has set the ripples in motion and she will never ever stop trying.
Starpeace is a word-play opposing the Reagan administration’s Star Wars campaign. Emblazoned across the back cover is the word PEACESTAR. Due to unnamed yet discernable pressure, Yoko’s American tour supporting the album was cut short due to exaggerated hype about poor ticket sales. Her planned concert dates in Japan were also cancelled.
An article in The Los Angeles Times captured the essence of the situation, “If Ono was carrying a message of peace on this tour, the press and public seemed ready for war. And, in the end, the public and press won.”
Yoko: Onobox liner notes 1992:
“On the Starpeace album, we used musicians from different cultures to represent the world. There were some behind-the-scenes concerns with the album because of Reagan’s Star Wars program. Some people advised me against making the album. The timing wasn’t right, they said. The timing was right, I thought.
The more they argued, the more it helped to solidify my feelings that I should go ahead with it. I told Sean I was going to do it. He was the only one who would have been affected by whatever happened to me. I even went on a concert tour with the album right smack in the middle of the strong anti-peace sentiment in the USA and Europe. It was truly HELL IN PARADISE.
Then things started to turn around. It seemed to have inspired some heavy people. as you may know, and made me feel good. In hindsight, I don’t know how I did it. (I’m a coward.) But I’m glad I did.”
Ten years later, Yoko was apprehensive about touring her 1996 album, Rising.
“I was a bit scared to come out, because I remember how it was with the Starpeace tour 10 years ago. I remember a full-house show in Berlin and the next morning in the paper was a photo of me standing on stage and there was nobody in the audience. It said, `Yoko looking for the audience.’ And I’m thinking, `Why did they take that photo?’ As it turns out, it was a sound-check photo. That’s really something, isn’t it? So I thought, `Are they going to do that to me again?’”
– Yoko, TheBoston Globe, May 8, 1996
The most stunning song on Starpeace is ‘Rainbow Revelation’. This is Yoko’s delicate gospel hymn, blessing us for all of our negative energies and showing us how to transform them in a positive light, illuminating exactly which rewards we will receive for each. Remember, even if you feel that nobody in your life loves you, YOKO LOVES YOU!
This song is reprised as the gorgeous ‘Revelations’ on Yoko’s 1995 album, Rising:
Count your blessings every day for they are your protection
Which stand between you and what you wish not
Count your curses and there will be a wall
Which stand between you and what you wish
The world has all that you need
You have the power to attract what you wish
Wish for health, wish for joy
Remember, you are loved
I love you!
(See Yoko’s full story about writing ‘Rainbow Revelation’ below.)
Many songs from Starpeace were re-imagined in 2018 on Yoko’s album Warzone, on which she covers many of her own songs with sparse arrangements. She strongly feels that the messages in these songs need to be heard again…
“Because I think that each one makes a statement that’s very important to hear now. And when Beethoven wrote the 5th Symphony, he was not thinking that it would be the last time it would be played.”
– Yoko – Mojo, November 2018
‘Cape Clear’ is a serious and sad dance track. It was reworked on Warzone as ‘Teddy Bear’ – a somber spinoff using the lyrics of ‘Cape Clear’ which Yoko titled after a beautiful island in Ireland’s County Clare. The song was also issued on 12-inch vinyl in 1985.
See the ‘Teddy Bear’ video here:
The story is about Yoko’s young daughter Kyoko losing her irreplaceable toy during their travels. Yoko felt so badly about the incident which haunted her after she was separated from her daughter. When they eventually reunited decades later, Kyoko had become a woman. The minor key piano accompaniment accents the feelings of loss and sadness.
Re: being separated from Kyoko:
“I was never a possessive mother. I just want to be given a chance to help Kyoko’s situation. I think she needs to know that she’s wanted by both parents. Through the pain of this experience, I have started to go back to what I believed in before I had my own child, which is that all children belong to all of us. The exclusive ownership of children is connected with nationalism and capitalism and bad things like that. A child is brought up with family pride and taught to believe it’s different and better, when really it’s not. I used to think it would be nice if all people interested in bringing up children would register, and when a child is born it would be given three sets of parents of all different kinds—maybe a politician, a farmer, and a fisherman—and it could always change them. I’m thinking that way now again.”
…And please remember, in the story of Solomon it was the real mother who gave up her child rather than let it be cut in half.”
Yoko, The New Yorker, December 9, 1972
‘Hell In Paradise’ was Yoko’s biggest 1980s dance chart hit. The theme is the hell that we have created on this paradise called Earth. Several remixes were included the ONO remix project (2004). Another release of remixes in 2016 reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Dance Club Songs chart. A delightfully bizarre video directed by Polish filmmaker Zbigniew Rybczyński was created for the song. It was shot on Wall Street in New York City starring a mid-sized Yoko, choreographed next to giants and dwarfs.
The Warzone 2018 version of ‘Hell In Paradise’ consists purely of Yoko’s echoing vocals warning us to wake up from our self-deception amidst gunshots and the calls of ‘elephant, baboon and panther’.
Besides the slick video for ‘Hell In Paradise’ there were also low budget videos made by students who were given the opportunity; ‘I Love All Of Me’ ‘Children Power’ and ‘Sky People’.
‘It’s Gonna Rain (Living on Tiptoe)’ is Yoko’s lighthearted laid-back reggae tune about a difficult future with some nice percussive touches. The backing vocals (including those of Nona Hendryx and Bernard Fowler) which permeate the record are not so overwhelming on this track. On Warzone the song becomes a seriously dire warning that a hard rain’s gonna fall.
‘I Love All of Me’ with its upbeat Caribbean style was an early song about standing up to bullying and loving yourself no matter what. The two-chord structure on the adorable remake recalls the beginning of ‘Imagine’. No matter who you are, love yourself and just be. Yoko needs to take a break from bearing the cross and decides to just burn it.
‘I Love You Earth’ later became a live concert favorite, especially in a duet with Anhony. Earth must be so happy that someone cares. The piano and vocal Warzone remake of Yoko’s warm and fuzzy love song to our planet twinkles in her deep sincerity.
‘Children Power’ is Yoko’s simple upbeat song empowering kids.
(I was a production assistant on the rarely seen video for this song, filmed at the Unisphere sculpture at the former 1939 and 1964 World’s Fair site in Queens. My main job on the freezing cold day was keeping Yoko warm with hot chocolate, wrapping her in a blanket between takes and giving her lots of hugs!)
The Warzone version paints an ideal world with happy monkeys, whales and birds sharing the planet with us.
Also see my full review of Yoko’s 2018 album Warzone:
‘Remember Raven’in its minor key is reminiscent of ‘Kiss Kiss Kiss’ with some warbling at the end – unfortunately there is not nearly enough of that on the album!
On the title track, Yoko receives a call from outer space. The alien sounds familiar (it is her young son Sean’s computerized voice – he is also on the line using his normal voice). As the alien, he reassures us that we will not blow ourselves up. In the end, we will reach out to other galaxies, migrate to other constellations and live in the United State of Peace.
‘The King of the Zoo’ of course is John. Yoko speaks of him dreaming of the land in his mind’s eye, roaring to the dark sky when the (Dakota) gate was closed at night.
He was a dreamer
He was a king
‘Wake Up’ is a beautifully syncopated tune, full of sunshine and reassurance – with just Yoko singing and blowing kisses. The percussion throughout this album – some authentic and some electronic – is a highlight.
It was after the rain. I was looking out from my window. The buildings on the opposite side of the park were shining with a touch of pink in the evening light. There was a faint rainbow hanging in the park right in front of my eyes. I said to myself “Wait a minute, an arch is a segment of a circle, and usually it has a support underneath it. Is there a support for a rainbow? Like the fertile ground that supports the trees? Is there a part of a rainbow we’re not seeing? It could even be that a rainbow is a circle! Then a tiny voice said to me “Yes, rainbow is a circle, and more. You are just shown an inkling of a rainbow. Just like the best of you think and communicate in a shorthand, things are shown to you in little bits. And you know why? I heard myself say “Why?” with an exclamation point. A perfect silence is what came back. Only the park was still shimmering in its full glow. The little voice started to whisper to me again, this time, in what I call long hand. I kept writing it down as it came to me until it was about a hundred pages, and the sun started to rise from the window. I hope it will be of some use to you.
‘Revelations’ (Rising, 1995): Bless you for your anger for it is a sign of rising energy. Direct not to your family, waste not on your enemy. Transform the energy to versatility and it will bring you prosperity. Bless you for your sorrow for it is a sign of vulnerability. Share not with your family, direct not to yourself. Transform the energy to sympathy and it will bring you love. Bless you for your greed for it is a sign of great capacity. Direct not to your family. Direct not to the world. Transform the energy to giving. Give as much as you wish to take and you will receive satisfaction. Bless you for your jealousy for it is a sign of empathy. Direct not to your family, direct not to your friends. Transform the energy to admiration and what you admire will become part of your life. Bless you for your fear for it is a sign of wisdom. Do not hold yourself in fear. Transform the energy to flexibility and you will be free from what you fear. Bless you for your search of direction for it is a sign of aspiration. Transform the energy to receptivity and the direction will come to you. Bless you for the times you see evil. Evil is energy mishandled and it feeds on your support. Feed not and it will self-destruct. Shed light and it will cease to be. Bless you for the times you feel no love. Open your heart to life anyway and in time you will find love in you. Bless you, bless you, bless you. Bless you for what you are. You are a sea of goodness, a sea of love. Count your blessings every day for they are your protection which stands between you and what you wish not. Count your curses and they will be a wall which stands between you and what you wish. The world has all that you need and you have the power to attract what you wish. Wish for health, wish for joy. Remember you are loved. I love you! – y.o.
Earth is our haven, laughter and joy.
Earth is our paradise we live to enjoy.
“The human race is essentially peaceful. Think about it. 99% per cent probably will die without knowing the experience of killing somebody – 99%! That’s a very peaceful race, don’t you think?”
– Yoko, @ Starpeace concert -Wembley UK
Watch Starpeace tour film at the links below…
“An Earth Play For Sun and Air”
hell in paradise
i love all of me
the king of the zoo
you and i
it’s gonna rain (living on tiptoe)
i love you, earth
© Polygram Records 1985
All words and music by Yoko Ono.
Produced by Bill Laswell and Yoko Ono.
Recorded and Mixed by Rob Stevens
Yoko Ono: solo vocals, Bernie Worrell: keyboards, Jeff Bova: keyboards, Eddie Martinez: guitar, guitar synthesizer, electric sitar, Shankar: violin, Robbie Shakespeare: bass, Sly Dunbar: Simmons drums, synth drums and percussion, Tony Williams: drums, Simmons drums, Gretsch drums, Aïyb Dieng: percussion, Daniel Ponce: percussion, Anton Fier: Paiste percussion, Tony Levin: whistle, Sean Ono Lennon: vocal (‘Starpeace’). John: Inspiration
‘Hell In Paradise’ – 7-inch with instrumental version / 12-inch with remixes
‘Cape Clear’ – Promo 12-inch with re-edit of ‘Walking On Thin Ice’
Reissued by Rykodisc in August 1977 with bonus track:
‘Imagine’ recorded live during Starpeace World Tour – Budapest, Hungary, 15th March 1986.
Starpeace Tour Set List
Give Peace a Chance / Walking on Thin Ice/ Imagine / Never Say Goodbye / Midsummer New York / Hell in Paradise / Give Me Something / Sky People / Kiss Kiss Kiss / Starpeace / It Happened / I Love All of Me / I See Rainbows / Dream Love / Goodbye Sadness / Now or Never / Move on Fast
“I do the freaky songs so you know that I’m not lip-synching.”
– Yoko, Starpeace tour, Beacon Theater NYC 5/22/85
Tour Dates 1986 (See video links below)
28 – Brussels, Belgium
1 – Congresgebouw, The Hague (Netherlands)
2 – West Berlin, Germany
4 – Warsaw, Poland
6 – Munich, Germany
7 – Frankfurt, Germany
9 – Stuttgart, Germany
10 – Stockholm, Sweden
11 – Copenhagen, Denmark
12 – Hamburg, Germany
14 – Budapest, Hungary
16 – Vienna, Austria
18 – Ljubljana, Yugoslavia
21 – Wembley, London
15 – Warfield Theater, San Francisco
16 – Beverly Theater, Los Angeles
20 – The Forum, Montreal, Canada
22 – Beacon Theatre, New York City
15 – Amnesty International Concert, Giant’s Stadium, New Jersey
Watch here – Starpeace tour memories:
Amnesty International performance – June 15, 1986 – Giants Stadium, New Jersey:
‘Walking On Thin Ice’
June 15, 1986 – Giants Stadium, New Jersey:
Yoko: “OK, you can take your ear plugs off now!”
“I feel, in the big picture,
the fact that John and I met was to do this song.”
– Yoko, April 2017
‘I don’t know of any show that I have gone to that you don’t see some empty seats somewhere. ‘I think that the critics were especially sensitive, shall we say – actually, nasty is the word – about my concerts. They were actually counting the empty seats. And in Eastern Europe, the concert halls were all filled up, but when a photographer who came with me on the tour got requests from papers for his photographs, they did not want them because the pictures made it look like the hall was filled with people waving to me and throwing flowers and saying, ‘We love you.’ The newspapers said, `No, we don’t want those pictures. We want a photo of Yoko standing alone on stage, facing a hall full of empty seats. So it started like that, and because of the bad reviews, people got discouraged. Actually, in the end, there were concerts two-thirds filled. But then we came back to the United States and found that concert tickets were not selling well here. ‘So I said, OK, I’m not going to fight it. At first, I was going to be very down about it, because I am human…”
– Yoko to Chicago Tribune June 29, 1986
‘Children Power’ video shoot: