HAPPY BIRTHDAY SEAN ONO LENNON!
Sean re: Mixing ‘Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)’ for the Gimme Some Truth box set: “Honestly, it was my least favorite experience. It’s just kind of awkward. That song makes me feel like I’m infantilized or something. People always play that song and look at me with a smile like, “Isn’t that sweet?” I’m like, “Oh God, I’m an old man. I’m not some smiling baby in a baby food commercial.” To be honest, that song is touching to me, but as a musician and a songwriter and a producer, it’s sort of my least favorite song musically, because it’s so saccharine. It’s great. I love it. Maybe it’s impossible for me to be objective about it.
“Beautiful Boy” is a very sort of family-friendly sound. It’s not my aesthetic. Having said that, it was a privilege to help work on a mix of a song that was about me and is very touching. And yes, I was very touched by hearing my dad say my name. He’s like “Goodnight Sean” at the end. That always reminded me of him putting me to bed. He had a sort of ritual, the way he put me to bed. He would flick the lights sort of in rhythm with his voice, so it felt like his voice was controlling the lights. Then they’d go out. I have memories, so it was nice.”
– Sean to Strombo – October 9, 2020
Sean re: John: “I remember when my dad died. That whole early period of my life became kind of cemented in my mind. I think it was a desperate reaction to him going away that my memories became that much more clear. You don’t really miss anything specific. You just miss them breathing, just being there. I miss the way his skin felt, the sound of his voice. Him tucking me in at night.
- Sean Ono Lennon, New York Magazine 1998
Sean re: John: “I think it’s true that songs like ‘Imagine’ or ‘Give Peace a Chance’ are so known compared to other songs, that I think people detach the sentiment in those songs and try to encapsulate the entirety of my dad’s personality within those songs.
Anyone who knew him knows that he wasn’t simple or easy-going. He was fun and hilarious and he could be very kind but he was tough. He said on many occasions – it’s pretty edgy even today – that he thinks everybody has the most extreme good and extreme evil within us. It’s the idea that we’re all striving towards the good and strive to the side of us that’s closer to Buddha or Jesus and not to pretend that we ever get there. And to also recognize we have the darkness as well. When you see someone being evil, you’re supposed to recognize that you have the potential to be that as well, to lead to a reconciliation or peace.
And yes, I think my dad’s his own image is mistaken for the most saccharine parts of certain songs – the sweetest ‘teddy bear in a cloud’ version of himself. Whereas his tougher side, over time is less remembered. The (peace) songs don’t represent the entirety of his personality. He was complex… People forget that songs are also their fantasies.”
– To Strombo – October 9, 2020
“I think that my mom brought my father to that place of pure, visceral expression. My mom was avant-garde and he was pop. She also gave that connection to a pure expression. Some of the ways my mom sings is almost like a baby crying. My father was very influenced by that and you can hear it in songs like ‘Mother’ on John Lennon Plastic Ono Band. He screams at the end. That was my mother’s influence. That was their new chapter, the new chapter of John and Yoko.
– Nero magazine, 2016
Sean Re: collaborating with Yoko on her album Rising.
“I know every song she ever wrote. I’m an expert in Yoko Ono’s music, basically. So in the studio, when she’d say something like ‘Make that guitar part more ocean-cricket,’ I’d know exactly what she meant.”
– Sean Ono Lennon, New York Magazine 1998
“Many don’t realize what a brilliant musician and producer my mother is. She taught me piano, songwriting, and studio production from an early age. I would not know what a diminished chord, or a compressor, or a counterpoint melody, or an overdub, or reverb and delay was, none of it, had it not been for my mother’s mentorship. I’m so proud to be releasing her remastered albums with @secretlycanadian and @chimeramusic to give people the chance to see once and for all what an amazing songwriter, lyricist, arranger, and producer she is. Please RT everything!” #plasticonoband #yokoono #yes #legend
– Twitter – February 8, 2017
“My mom’s music is more fundamental to me than anything, actually. My mother taught me what an E minor chord is. It’s my mother that taught me what a delay, mixing board, and EQ is. She taught me how to turn pain into lyrics. She’s my music sensei… To me, she’s a songwriter more than anything.”
– Nero magazine, 2016
(Two Virgins was reissued on LP, CD and digitally by Secretly Canadian/Chimera on the anniversary of its American release – 11th November 2016 with bonus tracks and rare photos):
“I’m listening to a very special, precious moment to my parents. They influenced each other. It means a great deal to me, it’s very special. After all, they’re my parents. Up to that point, my dad hadn’t done anything but rock ‘n’ roll and pop music, so getting free from the boundaries of Western music was a great stimulus to him. I understand that very well. My mom urged my dad to experiment with avant-garde, and he was an inspiration to her too. My dad learnt how far he could go in his freedom to express himself, and she learnt how to do recording. My dad had been wanting to experiment since his days with the Beatles. In that sense, my mom wasn’t only the trigger for him, but she also was a break-through to him to a world of new ideas and expressions.”
– Rockin’ On magazine (Japan) February 2017
“You’re listening to John and Yoko falling in love and having fun in the studio. Alone. It was just my dad and mom. You’re hearing that natural love explosion.”
– Nero magazine, 2016
“It’s wild music, man. For one thing, Wedding Album (1969) just showed how sweet they are, you know? They’re so cute, just hanging out all night making weird, wobbly sounds. You can tell that they’re having a good time, which is what I like about it most… That’s what led to my existence. The album is ultimately sort of my origin, too, isn’t it? I’m quite proud of having been a part of [the reissue]. “I feel like a good son for having done it. It makes me feel like — like a good boy. What more could I do to say thank you other than remaster the music you made myself and make sure it’s all put together beautifully, then give people the opportunity to re-experience that?”
“I don’t know when I realized that Plastic Ono Band was the greatest record ever. I don’t know if it was because it’s my mom or what. But I got it. Why do I like it? I don’t know why people don’t like it.”
When I play “Greenfield Morning” or “Why” for anybody that I know my age who’s into rock, they are fucking floored. When that beat kicks in “Greenfield Morning” [does human-beatbox imitation of the drum pattern] – I would play it for my friends who were only into hip-hop. They’d be like, That’s fat. They want to hear Public Enemy rhyming over it.
“My dad was saying to the world, “This is it, man. Yoko is it.’ His inspiration came directly from her. And people didn’t get it. It’s intense how racist the world is. If she looked like Deborah Harry, I really think the reaction would have been different.”
– To Rolling Stone‘s David Fricke June 11, 1998
Sean Ono Lennon Re: Yoko’s song ‘Remember Love’
“There is a sweetness and hesitance in her voice – obviously a hesitance, which vanishes very quickly when she starts making her own albums like POB or Fly. How intimidating it must be finding yourself in a world-famous couple celebrity relationship with a Beatle – having the bravery to jump head first into songwriting. For her, it must have been daunting… I feel like you can hear it in her voice. It’s an appropriate and natural hesitance – her husband is arguably the most famous songwriter in the world. There’s something sweet and brave – and something remarkable in the context of where she’s going to develop.”
“Yoko can pack a lot into a lyric. The phrase ‘approximately infinite universe,’ for example. What does that mean? The universe is infinitely large, so how can it be ‘approximately’ infinite? Here it helps set up a contrast between the vastness of someone’s potential experience in life and the more limited, painful situation of the woman who’s the subject of the song.”
– hyperallergenic.com, Feb. 2017
SEAN ONO LENNON Re: #9 DREAM
“From my perspective there were 2 peaks in John Lennon’s great solo work. ‘Mind Games’ and ‘#9 Dream’ would be probably the highest mountains to climb.
There’s something about the musicality of ‘#9 Dream’ and ‘Mind Games’. Famously my dad did the arrangements for ‘#9 Dream’… What’s interesting is that he said he didn’t like ‘#9 Dream’. I don’t know what to believe anymore… Gimme some truth man…! It’s unique in structure. It’s always been one of my favorite songs. It’s very dreamy. I guess it’s probably the most psychedelic song that he did as a solo artist. My favorite work of my dad’s is probably Revolver and Sgt. Pepper but part of me likes Let it Be and Abbey Road more, but It definitely harkens back to a more produced period of his work. I like that about it. It’s polished. – the opposite of John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band which I love for its simplicity and rawness. But ‘#9 Dream’ is a very produced fantasy land of beauty and surrealism and beauty. It’s very successful in that regard. It’s a kind of songwriting he had abandoned for a while, and I missed I guess, as a fan. It was nice to see him return to a lyric that’s surrealistic and strings that are more produced. A great piece of work.”
– Sean Lennon to Strombo, October 2020
Sean Re: ‘I’m Losing You’. – comment 11-17-21
“This song is essential to making Double Fantasy a masterpiece and not just a popular record. It might only be about how happy 2 people are in love It shows that he was a real dude. It’s a portrait of his relationship and love with my mother and the darkness- without the darkness you’re full of shit. Show the good and the bad. They were struggling. They had a breakup, got back together. They had me ten months after the Elton John show. They definitely were legendarily in love. But it was tough to be John & Yoko man! With the FBI tagging them and tapping their phones and being that famous and then the judgement about mom getting together with him and the weird avant-garde statements… It was also magical and beautiful.”
“This is musically one of my favorite songs. It has a sexy vibe. His vocal is cool. The album has a lot of happy moments – that’s not my taste as much. I can appreciate the songs… but I like the moodier music. It’s a cooler song. He sounds really relaxed when he does that throat growl thing in the beginning – the Wutang growl. He’s a cool dude. A cool sexy guy.”
– Strombo radio interview for AppleMusic 10-9-2020
Photo: Bob Gruen
Yes, I’m a Witch”
“She always turns a negative into creativity. The word ‘witch’ in English is complicated because it could be an insult, but I think my mother is a true, good witch. She’s a wizard. She’s a high level wizard. That’s why she has a song that goes, ‘I’m a witch/I’m a bitch’.”
– Nero magazine, 2016
“I remember Season of Glass, the music moving me so much. It’s an amazing accomplishment that she went into the studio after my dad died. She takes the most painful, most intense experiences and turns it them into beautiful art. And I think that’s what my dad loved so much about her.”
– Sean Ono Lennon to David Fricke, Rolling Stone -June 11th, 1998
“Even after my dad passed away, my mom immediately made an album with Phil Spector called Season of Glass. That was the most formative experience of my life because I saw my mom write songs about my father dying and how it affected her and her family. I saw how it was to be an artist and take your life experiences, even the most difficult ones, and transform them into music. It was very healing to me because as she was making the album those songs were my way of mourning my father’s death. It was my way of processing his death. That became the foundation of me being an artist because that showed me what art was; taking your life and turning into music. I learnt that through my mom. Season of Glass was my most vivid memory of being only 6 years old and hearing her sing about my dad. It helped me so much. I also felt that she was so brave to sing about it. T saved her life. If my mother didn’t have music to process her feelings, she wouldn’t have survived. It was a life lesson that was the basis of my identity as an artist. She showed me that making music isn’t something you do for decoration. It’s like therapy. It’s a means to process your most profound experiences and emotions. It can save your life. It’s an actual, spiritual exercise.”
– Nero magazine, 2016
“Her sense of film is to, say, take an avocado, film it for six days and have, like, mosquitoes buzzing around in the background… I think she is probably my greatest influence, my favourite artist.”
– Sean Ono Lennon, 2006
“I was very proud to hand her a stack of Yoko vinyls that I’d had remastered. She’s not easily touched by stuff, and she got a little tear in her eye. So that made me feel like a good son.”
– The New Yorker, February 2019
Sean proudly exclaimed re: Yoko’s new album, Take Me to the Land of Hell (2013)
“It sounds like the end of the world!”
“I think she was a revolutionary individual. One of a kind… Her conservative Japanese family didn’t quite understand her art… She felt very hurt by that. She was channeling a sort of fundamental avant-garde that was connected to Japanese folk singing which wasn’t a Western style of singing. If you look at the notation, it’s actually sort of an abstract poem. There was no Western notation. It would just go up and down. I think she’s very influenced by enka also in terms of her minor chords. Even Okinawa folk music. There’s something in her heart that’s very Japanese that’s not bound by Western conformist musical technique and theory. I think she applied that to her avant-garde theory to break through all the barriers. Pure expression, not limited music.”
– Nero magazine, 2016
“Her husband was taken from her so I had to take care of her.
She took care of me. We took care of each other.”
– Nero magazine, 2016
Photo: Greg Kadel
All Japan photos by: Kishin Shinoyama
Sean’s beautiful song about John
Sean @ Dream Power 2008 live acoustic version:
Check out my new book:
In Your Mind – The Infinite Universe of Yoko Ono
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See my related stories:
Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band
The Reissues 2017
Season Of Glass
Yoko Ono Films