Friday, June 21, 2024

Oh No


Lennon's going to be here," he shouted to his friend. "I just heard it. John Lennon's gonna be here. Hot damn!" He fidgeted in his seat, took a glance at the Padre game being played and asked, "What inning is it? The ninth? How many more are there?"

KPRI had advertised its San Diego Stadium Ball with an air of self-importance. "The most significant musical event of the year," the ad said, "with many, many surprises." Heading the bill was Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Band. The rumor of husband John's appearance never had to be spread by traditional grapevine means. it was assumed from the start that Lennon would show, if to do nothing else but to be wife Yoko's blanket from the brisk San Diego breeze. He had to show. He did the New York Central Park "one to One" concert for retarded kids, hadn't he? And he did it for jailed Michigan John Sinclair, even writing a song about him. San Diego Sickle Cell Anemia clinics could surely count on John's support.

The Incredible Jimmy Smith kicked off the afternoon with a seemingly pointless 40-minute jazz jam. Even though Smith has influenced the technique of many better-known rock keyboard players, he was still plenty pretty uninteresting. Themes of "you Are the Sunshine of My Life" and "Killing Me Softly with His Song" were intertwined by stock Smith lines. The improvisation started to go in circles. Perhaps "The Incredible" should read "The Stagnated."

The stage was at least 50 feet above the audience. You had to crane your neck painfully for any sort of decent view. The presence of backstage people standing in front of the platform did little to alleviae the crowd's sour temper. Enraged freaks pointed derisive gestures towards the stage.

During Papa John Creach's set, people amused themselves with Frisbee tournaments on the baseball diamond. Someone would run the bases, another would throw the dice in the same direction, another would catch a desperate slide to home, and he's safe? Papa John spotted this, laughed, stroked his bow against his electric violin and proceeded with another boogie rave up. His band, Zulu, was tight, though unexciting, and Creach himself had little else to do but play the same ideas he did with the Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna.

The audience was restive by this time. "Where's Lennon, goddammit?" a husky voice croaked. Indian war shouts, catcalls and general obscenity filtered through the air.

At last, Yoko was onstage, three bodyguards dressed in black on either side of her as she walked to the platform. Yoko, dressed in white pants and shirt, raised her arms in greeting. The Plastic Ono Band cranked out a methodical beat, while Yoko wailed and flailed her voice against the wind. Her voice was high register warble, uncontrolled: it sounded like squeaking chalk. "Hello, San Diego," she said finally, looking up from her lyric sheets, and then went into a ramble about what she had expected from this town, admitting it was nicer than she anticipated. "Where's John"" someone behind me muttered.

The next song, she explained, was one she wrote to her missing daughter, in hopes she would "pick up the vibrations." Again, the band banged away while Yoko screeched "Don't worry Kyoko" over and over until she started to warble once again. "Woman Power," her women's lib tract began, a quasi-Miles Davis theme with Yoko doing more of the same. The audience began to catch on. Long streams of people headed for the exits. "Let's do a slow blues," Yoko said. The temp was standard blues fair. Yoko sat at the edge of the stage, long hair hanging over half her face. Real sultry like. She didn't sing, but applied her freaky vocalisms to blues cadence. Midway through the "song" she feigned orgasm, breathing heavily and sighing in a painful tone.

The song having ended, she stood up. "All right, see you later," and was gone. No John Lennon. "Let's hear it for Yoko in her first San Diego appearance."

"And her last," someone yelled.

(first published in The Reader, 1973)

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