Friday, March 27, 2015


Richard Furnstein: Listen, we can't move ahead with our scheduled post: a tepid run down of the Gerry Goffin/Carole King song "Chains" from Please Please Me. I'm sorry, I know there is a strict schedule to these posts, developed through extensive research into maximizing the viral marketing potential of this blog. I also know that we could go on for hours about the Beatboys' rendition of that classic Cookies track. Sometimes you have to say "bugger the system" and push forward for what is right. It's time that we told our devoted readers about the Yoko Ono/John Lennon Two Virgins album. Sure, you've probably heard about the album--and the controversial body explorations of the front and back sleeves--but never dug into the hairy and uncircumsized music contained on this release. I'm sure you get the general idea: prototypical junkie bedroom explorations, including rudimentary freakout guitar tracks, crumbling barroom piano, guttural whispers, sparse snippets of Lennon's tense and mocking conversational tones, and denatured organ play. Remind you of a little of "Revolution 9"? Well, by golly, it should! While "Revolution 9" used a complex and terrifying mesh of source material to soundtrack the madness of Beatle/human life in 1968, Two Virgins is a more intimate affair documenting the start of a love affair between two married people. The revolution inside.  Yoko and John circle each other in a junkie mating dance; the old push-and-pull in a white bedroom. Unfolding wings and encircling prey. Yoko pushes the frantic fly range of her instrument while John tries on some new stuffy British businessman voices. It's positively titillating!

Robert Bunter: For readers who may not be up on the story so far: it’s 1968 and John is a wreck. Japanese avant-garde artist Yoko Ono has been on the periphery of his scene for quite a while, and they corresponded by mail while he was over in India meditating with the Maharishi. One day he takes a bunch of drugs at home with his longtime buddy Pete Shotton (his wife and young son were presumably elsewhere). According to Shotton, John started uncontrollably rotating his arms in a slow dual propeller motion while alternating between hideous laughter and uncontrollable sobbing. Every time Pete asked him what was wrong, he denied that there was any problem, which must have been unintentionally hilarious. Finally, he came to the realization that he was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. That seemed to calm him down and he spent the rest of the night babbling about it. The next day, surprisingly, he was still on the same track. He called an emergency Beatle meeting at Apple (highly uncharacteristic for John) and told the rest of the boys the news. They reacted with cartoonish, exaggerated “Oh wow, look at the time!” gestures while pointing at their watches and hastily exiting the meeting room for some lunch. By now he was pretty despondent, on a heavy bummer. He decides to invite Yoko over that night. They take more drugs and stay up all night playing with his tape recorders and primitive sound manipulation equipment – creaky Mellotron, vintage Binson tape-delay Echoplex unit, microphones with curly telephone-style cords attached, a radio and a couple record players. When the sun came up, they made love. Those tapes became the “Two Virgins” LP.

It certainly doesn't smell like a rich person's house in here!
Richard Furnstein: Of course, you're right. Here's the big question: is there more to this album than the story of two married weirdos falling in love? We've all heard stories about how couples first got together. Typical relationship origins stories are more about three dollar you-call-its at a dank bar or meeting that special someone in a co-worker's depressing kitchen than Echoplexplorations fueled by high grade heroin. These stories are nothing more than ice breakers at awkward dinner parties. Sure, this union had a tremendous impact on Lennon's creative output and the group's increasingly splintered identity, but do we really need this memento of this landmark event? Is this just an excuse to stare at the deflated genitals of famous people? What the hell am I doing listening to this, Bunter? Help me out.

Robert Bunter: Well, I think it was Lennon’s way of childishly thumbing his nose at the world. He regarded the general public with barely-concealed contempt, despite his popular image as a peaceful dreamer. The product of a childhood shattered by parental abandonment and a young adulthood filled with screaming lunatics, worshipful adulation and powerful drugs, circa-’68 Lennon was like a screeching monkey in a gilded cage, exposing himself and violently slinging excrement at the terrified masses. Taking up with Yoko and releasing an album with a shocking sleeve and incomprehensible contents was his attempt to express the nauseous revulsion he felt for his audience. He tried to offer a lot of different rationalizations for this ugly side of himself – it was variously passed off as highbrow avant-garde art (Two Virgins), primal psychiatric therapy (Plastic Ono Band), raw hairy rock (Live Peace In Toronto, “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”), political activism (“Give Peace A Chance” and the Bed-Ins), personal journalism (“Ballad Of John & Yoko”) or radical revolutionary rabble-rousing (Some Time In New York City) – but underneath it all you’ve got the stinky tantrums of a messed-up baby crying for attention. A long-haired, bearded feral baby with a huge ego, millions of dollars, piles of drugs and the attention of the entire world.

Richard Furnstein: It's the ultimate desperate play for attention. This junkie shell invites the world in to sift through the audio reminders of his first date with Ono. There's no way you would turn away an invitation for an intimate view of a millionaire genius. Once inside, however, you get a better understanding of the sadness in Lennon's life. The tape plays much more than just the audio-fartistry. The stink of the session wafts out of the speakers: stale incense, body odor, rotting fruit, and hashish laced cigarettes. It certainly doesn't smell like a rich person's house in here! The paper bag texture of the outer sleeve doesn't just hide the scandalous cover photo, it serves as a mocking reminder that this impossible album is a commodity. Nothing more than a can of fruit cocktail or some mousetraps from the corner store. Use once and destroy. The outer shell mocks the consumer from the record shelf. Enjoy the tuneless whistling, warped piano fondlings,and overexposed celebrity genitalia, Beatlemaniac. Is this what you wanted?

Robert Bunter: I need a sick bag. I'm going to be sick.