At nearly 80 years old, Yoko Ono continues to be inspiringly lively. There could hardly be a starker way of flaunting that vibrancy than through OnoMix, her pulsing, club-ready remix album. Yoko spent her pre-teenage post-war life begging street-side at a Japanese mountain holiday resort, whilst her father found himself locked in a Vietnamese prison camp. When Yoko was a young adult, her family moved to New York, the city she still calls home.
Those tough times helped forge her, channelled into a bohemian lifestyle her family despised. Yoko evolved into an iconic feminist, an avant-garde artist, a committed political activist and an imaginative musician. She met John Lennon, the love of her life, through art, yet there’s no doubt the Beatle also saw huge power in her quirky take on music. He once joked “she forced me to become avant-garde and take my clothes off, when all I wanted was to become Tom Jones”.
Given the gritty nature of parts of her upbringing, perhaps Yoko’s peace-loving approach and work protecting the underdog aren’t all that surprising. Continuing to use music as a tool to spread those messages also seems a logical progression. Nevertheless, for an 80 year old, the launch of something as current and cutting as OnoMix is no less than remarkable.
It’s typical of Yoko that in choosing to write a form of retrospective, she does so in a less than conventional way. OnoMix is a 30-track, beat-heavy remix album featuring the likes of Basement Jaxx, Danny Tenaglia and Bimbo Jones. They work with Yoko on recreating some of her finest output, including ‘Give Peace A Chance’, ‘Walking On Thin Ice’ and ‘Talking To The Universe’. Yoko’s been working on the dance remix series since 2001, and sees it as a reinvention of her previous art-rock-leaning style.
What’s highlighted is the adaptability of her writing. “It’s nice to know that the artistic sensibility of the song is quite resilient”, Yoko says of the album. “It’s like the song is made of rubber, and it could stretch in many ways and still create excitement.” Some of the older tracks, highs like ‘Give Peace A Chance’, date back to the late ’60s anti-war movement and the very first days of the Plastic Ono Band, yet Yoko has found the process of returning to them more exhilarating than anything. The technical side was particularly pressing: “I had no knowledge of what you do for dance mix in the dance chart. It’s very different from what we used to do in rock to make a dance track.”