Graded on a Curve:
John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins

What a stupendous achievement! It’s not every day–or year or decade or EVER for that matter–that a major artist and former Beatle manages to produce an album so godawful that the best thing you could do for it is drag its mewing caterwaul into the backyard and SHOOT IT, so as to put it out of its misery.

And it’s not every day that, just to rub your nose in the fact that you just got ripped off but good, said Beatle has the unmitigated GALL to wave his dick in your face on the album cover.

That’s what I call chutzpah, folks.

I can only imagine what Beatle John’s loyal fans made of his (and partner Yoko’s) 1969 dive into avant-garde pretentiousness, Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins. I suspect the vast majority of ‘em wanted their money back, along with damages for mental pain and suffering. Remember all those people who burned their Beatles records after John said they were bigger than Jesus? Well, they should have waited.

Because let’s face it; when it comes to dry-humping your audience and leaving an unsightly stain on its dress, Two Virgins is an ever bigger passive-aggressive Fuck You Move than Bob Dylan’s Self-Portrait, which at least had bloody songs on it. And it puts Lou Reed’s feedback-without-the-guitars Fuck You Move Metal Machine Music–which say what you will about it at least gives you an approximate idea of what it might be like to be stuck inside an operating microwave oven for an hour or so–to shame.

Lennon would later say that Two Virgins “can change people,” and he’s right. It makes me more cynical. Lennon was, after all, the fellow who said “imagine no possessions,” and guess what? This is one possession you can definitely imagine doing without.

As for the storied recording process, John and Yoko Ono basically spent a night together banging away at a variety of instruments and screaming. Some tape loops made prior to the evening, with the help of Pete Shotton, were also involved. I suppose some people, recording engineers and avant-garde musicians and the like, find the process stuff interesting. Me, I’m too appalled by the results to give a damn.

I hear whistling, small explosions, weird animal burblings, Yoko ululations and vocal flutterings galore, atonal piano plonk, random space noises, indecipherable background chatter, one kinda cool moment that sounds like Hawaiian music being played by Martians, plenty of screeching and screaming (by Yoko again), pounding and more pounding, what sounds like a guitar being sawed in half, some deranged music hall piano, some more screeching and screaming (by John this time), Yoko doing what sounds like an imitation of a cat in heat trying to claw its way out of a locked closet, more whistling, and I think you get the idea.

My favorite moments are the snippet from Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians’ performing “Together,” and the moment when Yoko goes “Aaaah! Aaaahhhh! Aaaaaaaaaahhhh!” and John replies, “Who’s that?” To which Yoko replies, “Aaaaaaahhhhhhhhh.” Cracks me up every time.

But hey, in its own way Two Virgins is downright inspirational, because guess what? This shit is like punk rock! You hear it and say I could do better! And you could do better! Anybody could do better! 50 monkeys with tape recorders and bongos could most definitely do better!

I can’t imagine anyone listening to Yon and Joko’s Two Virgins for enjoyment, which (as implausible as it sounds) actually places it lower in the great scheme of things than Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s Love Beach. Or Lil’ Pump’s “Gucci Gang,” for that matter. I mean, think about that for a moment. I’m talking NOBODY, with the possible exception of the sorts of experimentally minded puffwits who point to albums like this one to justify their own insufferable (and insufferably pretentious) noise statements. I’ll betcha Thurston Moore plays it all the time.

It’s hard to get riled up about Two Virgins; it’s an aural souvenir of a night spent by a pair of avant-garde types cementing their newfound love by screwing the public instead of each other. That said, I expect most of the folks who handled over their hard-earned money for this monstrosity didn’t much appreciate the joke, and probably would have preferred that rock’s First Couple celebrate their burgeoning bliss by, I don’t know, posting a notice in Melody Maker or something.

That said, to the extent that you get to look at Yoko’s flabby bare bum as well as John’s on this back cover, this baby counts as a twofer, and is hence a real bargain for your entertainment dollar. Also on the plus side–it clocks in at less than a half-hour!

GRADED ON A CURVE:
F

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  • dan_oz

    At last! Somebody finally came out & said it.

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