Friday, November 23, 2007

Yoko makes some more Penneys

Over on the Guardian music blog, Andrew Purcell launches into an almost spirited defence of Yoko Ono's decision to allow a John Lennon song to soundtrack JC Penney's Christmas advert:

The second most common criticism, is that she has betrayed her husband's legacy.
As a director of Apple Corp, however, Yoko has been incredibly protective of the Beatles image. She would certainly never have allowed a gruesome bar band cover of All You Need Is Love to sell nappies offering "leak protection for less." But she doesn't own the publishing rights to that song - Sony does. Harrison's fear that "unless we do something about it, every Beatles song is going to end up advertising bras and pork pies" may well come true, but it won't be Yoko's fault.

We're not quite sure how "someone else selling a Beatles song for a nappy advert" has any bearing on whether Ono was right or not to flog a different Lennon song to a different company - it's kind of like Alistair Darling trying to defend the HMRC loss of those CDs by saying "it was a totally different company which published its customers' credit card details onto the web."

Purcell rightly points out that a lot of the criticism of Ono is little more than thinly disguised racism and sexism, and that she suffered a terrible, terrible experience:
[A]s someone who witnessed the love of her life and the father of her child being shot, she deserves understanding, not abuse.

But that's hardly a valid argument: flogging the song to JC Penneys is a cold-headed business decision, not some sort of emotional catharsis, and it's patronising and belittling to suggest that Ono is incapable of being judged as a businesswoman because of her husband's death.

So, it comes down to this: Ono is keen to stoke the myth of the Imagine Lennon, the "no possessions, we've given our clothes to charity" Lennon while simultaneously flogging his music to the American equivalent of Debenhams to flog Christmas sweaters and candle holders. At least Kevin Barnes admits he's embracing capitalism when he does so.

Andrew Purcell suggests that "maybe" Lennon would have been happy with the deal; we don't doubt that he would have been - that's kind of the point.

Ono doesn't need the money, so, as we can comfortably rule out the Of Montreal "the cash helps keep me creating" defence, this just comes down to the question of the endorsement. And it's fine for Ono to endorse JC Penney. Providing we stop pretending that she and her husband are part of some sort of anti-materialism counterculture.

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