Double Fantasy – John and Yoko

Last Saturday evening we watched John And Yoko: Above Us Only Sky a documentary film on Channel 4 which tells “the untold story” of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’. The film also “explores how the art, politics and music of the pair are intrinsically entwined.”

I was particularly interested to watch the documentary as only a few days before we’d visited an exhibition at the Museum of Liverpool – Double Fantasy – John & Yoko – which covered much of the same ground. 

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The multi-media exhibition covers John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s relationship from when they  first met in November 1966 at an exhibition of Yoko’s work at a London gallery right up to John’s death in December 1980. Like the film, it tells their story in their own words, but also includes personal objects alongside art, music and film produced by both John and Yoko drawn from Yoko’s own private collection, and which

explores the personal and creative chemistry of this iconic couple and their ongoing Imagine Peace campaign (exhibition website)

In many ways John and Yoko were an unlikely couple. John a famous popular music star from a lower middle background from a working class city in the north of England, and Yoko a Japanese avant-garde artist from an upper class background. But they clicked with John, perhaps, seeing in Yoko what he really wanted to be (a cosmopolitan avant-garde artist, not an upper class Japanese woman!). The exhibition shows how they influenced each other’s work, with Yoko perhaps having a bigger influence on John than John on Yoko.

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For many Beatles fans, Yoko was not popular, to say the least. Many of them blamed her for the breakup of the band. John took her with him to recording sessions and she, allegedly, offered her own musical suggestions and tried to join in on some of the songs. This certainly didn’t go down that well with other members of the band and probably widened rifts that were already starting to open.

My own view is that Yoko’s input probably accelerated what would have happened in any case rather than being the primary cause. It’s rare for a creative partnership to last forever and the Beatles were already starting to drift apart as they developed their own interests. Yoko was, for many, an easy scapegoat, and some of the antagonism was no doubt because she was Japanese. There was an underlying racism and the memories of WW2, which only ended just over 20 years before, meant that many people had a dislike of the Japanese.  Attitudes have mellowed over the years, but probably hasn’t completely gone away.

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The exhibition was chronological, taking in all the key events of their relationship from their first meeting at Yoko’s exhibition illustrating them with artefacts, works of art and song lyrics, a rolling programme of films and music videos and a music room, overlooking the Mersey, with tracks from albums playing and featuring album cover art. 

Exhibits included costumes they wore at their wedding

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Art works by Yoko and reproductions of drawings by John

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handwritten drafts of song lyrics

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Their politics were really rather naive, but well intended and their Bed-Ins for Peace protests in Amsterdam, not surprisingly, featured prominently in the exhibition

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The story of the music that John created after he left the Beatles, in most cases working with Yoko, featured heavily. It was an opportunity to reappraise what John had achieved after he had left the Beatles. Inevitably not everything was a classic (and that’s true of every act, including the Beatles) but there were some songs which were as good as anything he had created during his partnership with Paul McCartney,   –  Mind Games, Jealous Guy, Watching the Wheels, Woman, Happy Xmas (War is over)  and, of course, Imagine

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The Museum of Liverpool

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We visited the Museum of Liverpool on Easter Monday. Our main motivation was to view the exhibition of paintings by Beryl Bainbridge that’s showing there until the end of April, but we also wanted to have a look round the main exhibits. The Museum is located at the end of “Mann Island” between the Albert Dock and the “Three Graces” at the Pier Head and opened in 2011. It’s located in a purpose built, very modern building designed by Danish architects 3XN.

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Picture source: Wikipedia

Although the Museum has been open for about 18 months, it’s the first time we’d visited. The displays cover four main themes: The Great Port and Global City, on the ground floor and People’s Republic and Wondrous Place on the Second Floor. There are three other displays on the first floor. History Detectives covers the history and archaeology of Liverpool. The City Soldiers gallery tells the story of the King’s Regiment and there was also a very interesting display about the old Liverpool Overhead Railway. A couple of film shows, one about the Beatles and another about Liverpool’s football heritage, were also shown at regular intervals in the Wondrous Place Gallery and there were activities taking place throughout the day for children.

The displays covered a lot of ground between them so were, inevitably, rather superficial. But I guess that couldn’t be avoided. If they whetted visitors’ appetites and made them want to find out more about the history of the city, then I think the Museum will have served it’s purpose well.

The highlights for me included the bronze cast made of local gymnast Beth Tweddle’s body which was displayed in the entrance hall

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the Lion, a locomotive from the Manchester Liverpool railway (made in 1838)

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the exhibition about the old Liverpool Overhead Railway, which seemed to be particularly popular with older visitors from Liverpool

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the large scale model of Lutyens’ original design for Liverpool’s Catholic cathedral, which is very different from the every modern structure that was built in the 1960’s

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the stained glass map of Merseyside

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the sculptures of ‘The Builder’ and ‘The Architect’ taken from the entrance archways of the Gerard Gardens flats, Hunter Street, which had been built in the 1930s, when they were demolished

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which were very characteristic of the 1930’s and reminded us of the sculptures of Eric Gill,

the Liverpool Cityscape by Ben Johnson, commissioned to create The Liverpool Cityscape for the city’s year as European Capital of Culture year in 2008, which we’d previously seen displayed in the Walker Art Gallery

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Chris Boardman’s yellow jersey from the Tour de France, Olympic medal and other memorabilia

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the various music related displays

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the mural on the wall just outside the Wondrous Place gallery, which was inspired by the Super Star Fucker Andy Warhol Text Painting, by Peter Davies which won the John Moore’s painting prize in 2002 and is displayed in the Walker Art Gallery

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The views from the large windows at each end of the building from the 2nd floor over the Pier head at one end and the Albert Dock at the other were very good and worth the visit to the museum for that alone.

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There was a lot to see and time constraints meant that we weren’t able to visit all the displays, so we missed out on the Global City and the two film shows, both of which I’d have liked to have seen. I’d also have liked to spent more time looking round the building itself. So another visit will be on the cards for the near future.