oh…oh YOKO: Grey Group’s 4th Annual Music Seminar at Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival
by Josh Rabinowitz, Grey Group SVP Director of Music
July 01, 2010, — Josh Rabinowitz, SVP/director of music at Grey Group, reflects on his recent encounters with Yoko Ono in New York and Cannes, the latter coming with his introducing her as part of an interview session at the Debussy Theatre, the latest in a series of annual Grey Seminars at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival. Interviewing Ono was Tim Mellors, Grey Group’s vice chairman/worldwide chief creative director.
I hadn’t been to 1 West 72nd street @ CPW since my post college days of no real job, late night jam sessions, and hanging out at old man Irish bars all over Manhattan. A friend from college grew up there, and I had been to his family apartment on a few occasions. Once we roamed the upper floors which housed a maze of hallways that were reminiscent of a castle I had once got lost in, in Scotland.
I walked into the entry where her husband had been shot and killed about 30 years previous and felt that chill, that same chill I feel whenever I hear that U2 track “Pride/In the Name of Love” where Bono sings:
Early morning, April 4
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride
In the Name of Love
I asked the outside building attendant the question in my head thrice before it actually came out of my mouth: “I’m here to see Yoko Ono?”
Why a question you ask vs. a declaration, because I couldn’t really grasp the fact that I was actually going to see Mrs. Lennon at her uber-famous, or dare I say, uber-iconic abode. Dare I say the most renowned of renowned apartments in the world.
Tim Mellors and I spent about an hour and 45 minutes with Yoko Ono and her attorney in the Dakota discussing life, music, mostly art (her apartment was like a museum – literally), advertising, and culture in soft tones, mild refrains, over Tea and sparkling water. All of us shoeless, my socks chock full of holes.
Flash Forward – As Yoko’s car drove up to the Entrée des Artistes entrance at the Palais des Festivals in Cannes, almost instantly, people appeared out of nowhere with shiny 8 x 10′s for her to sign. She signed a few, her attorney explained to me that these folks sell them at quite a high price.
Our Grey Seminars were becoming quite successful at Cannes Lions–this was our fourth year in a row. We had presented John Legend, Donovan, Tony Bennett and Little Steven in the past – now Yoko!
We escorted Ms. Ono and her people, security akimbo, to her dressing room and imagined Quentin Tarrantino, Jessica Lange, Scorsese, DiNiro, Denerve, Keitel, et al all likely wandering around these same back stage areas at some time or another, and I got lost.
I walked out onto the Debussy stage at 1:15 p.m. promptly and gave a brief speech, to the packed auditorium, on Music, Advertising, the flailing Recording industry, and a look back at the decade in ad music. I then introduced Tim and Yoko.
Tim asked several questions, and read passages to Yoko, hoping for a response. For the first 25 mins she didn’t oblige with direct answers/response but lateral non sequiturs represented in movements, actions, her own readings, a bit of crawling, and inviting Tim into a white cloth bag, where they seemed to take off some clothes, exiting it after about three minutes or so. Because I had done my research about Yoko and John Lennon, I realized it was an example of “Bagism”, which Yoko and John had called a form of total communciation. Instead of focusing on outward appearance, the listener would hear only the bagist’s message. It was interesting, awkward and engaging.
She then obliged answers to Tim’s questions.
Yoko demonstrated her unique vocal technique, which she explained was related to the guttural expressiveness of women giving birth. She danced to a re-mix of Give Peace a Chance, Tim joined her, and then the audience was invited up.
The event lasted 45 minutes in total and was thoughtful, surprising, uncomfortably eye-opening, and entertaining as hell.
Yoko Ono clearly demonstrated her force as a performer, an artist, a risk-taker and an envelope pusher. She was brave as was Tim, who rolled with the seemingly stream-of-consciousness performance art (and crafts) and handled himself admirably.
Who do I get for 2011? How can we top this one?