When Yoko Ono's Plastic Ono Band played at Glastonbury in July, her performance (read: trademark primal screaming) was ridiculed across the internet as the ‘worst live performance ever’. One particularly cruel netizen said her performance of ‘Don’t Worry, Kyoko’ was ‘worse than Rebecca Black’s song “Friday”’. A few weeks later she and her band would travel to her home country to headline the Red Marquee Stage at Fuji Rock Festival. Would she still be smarting, I wondered? Of course not, I reminded myself: this was the same person who had brushed off a lifetime of snide criticism, not least for being ‘that woman who broke up the Beatles’.
I shot off an email to her manager hoping to score an interview, already fantasising about what I would pick her brain on. My interview was granted, and as I suspected, the 81-year-old Tokyo-born artist – who has been an activist for everything from peace to feminism to anti-fracking – clearly couldn’t care less if Glastonbury-goers, or anyone else for that matter, doesn’t get what she is about. Ono was also interviewed on InterFM DJ Peter Barakan’s morning radio show while in Japan. She explained that her screeching is in fact an unveiled challenge to men’s expectations of demure femininity among women, and attributed her ability to withstand years of media and public criticism to her own ‘samurai spirit’.