Tuesday, 14 May 2013

The Yoko Ono mystery - 7 billion people on the planet, yet the media keep recycling the same old bores

I was aware of a familiar annoying voice twittering away on Woman’s Hour this morning (I was making a cup tea, not listening to the programme, you understand). It turned out to be Okay Yoni (as Private Eye used to call her). Guess what she was talking about? What’s that? You haven’t got a clue? Prepare to be amazed. She was talking about... JOHN LENNON! No, really – she was!

Apparently, the universally beloved Japanese concept artist and renowned songstress is about to curate the Meltdown Festival in London. (No, I don’t have a clue what that means either.) To prove that she isn’t vampirically feeding off her dead husband’s reputation in order to scavenge a few more precious moments in the public eye, Ms Ono has arranged for the festival to end with a live performance of Lennon’s anodyne last album, Double Fantasy (don’t get caught in the stampede for tickets).

Why are we still being subjected to this ghastly old bint? My wife made the point that, despite the fact that there are seven billion human beings alive today, there appears to a finite – and tiny – number of available “celebrities” available for interview. Given that none of us has ever heard of 90% of the nonentities that appear on “reality” TV shows and the BBC’s penchant for recycling the same tired old faces (and voices) again and again, Mrs. G may well be right.

The next time you switch on the TV to be confronted by the sight of that dreadful old boot Germaine Greer talking tripe, ask yourself why anyone thought it would be a good idea to invite her on. I presume she appeals to left-wing wimmin over the age of 60 and a handful of young socialists (a group which includes all BBC current affairs producers) because she can’t open her mouth without uttering some tediously predictable contrarian opinion designed to épater la bourgeoisie (as if we haven’t been sufficiently épated by now). But as for rest of us (that would be around 80% of the adult population) are concerned, we’ve had enough of her – in fact, we had enough of her about 40 years ago. As for Yoko, she started getting on our nerves in 1967 when the emotionally crippled and drug-befuddled Lennon first allowed her into his life.

The other day my lunch was spoiled by the appearance of caravan enthusiast Margaret Beckett on some political talk how or other. Margaret Beckett! How desperate and sad is that?

Eventually, of course, these oldsters disappear off the scene for a variety of reasons - including, of course, waning mental powers, death, and, increasingly, arrest for sexual offences against children. But chronic over-exposure, a complete lack of talent, irrelevance, predictability and being cosmically boring are never an excuse – as far as our broadcasters are concerned – for not foisting these boring old fossils on the viewing public.

The problem is that programme editors are risk-averse – for the very simple reason that producing a dull show never got anyone sacked as long the guests have been used a thousand times before. It’s when a newbie doesn’t work out that you get into “brave decision” territory and a new career at BBC Radio Auchtermuchty beckons.

I once had the honour of editing an obscure four-times-a-week political talk show on BBC Two. As we took to the air just after Newsnight (great scheduling) our remit was to find unknown guests – i.e. dreadful bores like Tony Benn and Roy Hattersley were never invited on. Of course many of the guests turned out to be useless once the cameras started rolling (female Labour parliamentary candidates, in particular, were as intellectually lively as speak-your-weight machines), but at least half the newbies turned out to be perfectly acceptable, and a handful were simply outstanding. We had an average audience of 250,000 per night (500,000 if we were on after the snooker) but, unfortunately, other BBC current affairs producers seemed to have better things to do than check out new talent, because we only got two calls in two years from mainstream programmes asking for recommendations for new faces. When you’re churning out this stuff on a daily basis, the temptation to go for the safe but dull option tends to be overwhelming.

I presume another reason for the likes of Ms Ono and Ms Greer appearing on our screen so often despite general indifference - or outright hostility - is that they represent the Sixties, and young lefties are obsessed by the decade that brought us anti-American riots, drugs, free love, revolution, people saying fuck on TV and disrespect for authority. Bliss was it in that very dawn etc.

The other problem is that the relationship between current affairs producers and regular guests rapidly deteriorates into politico-media elite cosiness. A friend of mine once went for a job Radio 4’s The World at One. He was invited to sit in on a pre-recorded interview for that day’s programme featuring the aforementioned Roy Hattersley. As the fat man spluttered to a halt, the item producer clicked his stopwatch, grunted in satisfaction and said, “What a pro!” My friend just managed not to voice his own opinion, which was “What a c***!”


  1. "A friend of mine once went for a job Radio 4’s The World at One"

    Did he get the job? And if he did, what happened to him?

    1. No, he didn't - but he went on to write regularly on a whole host of topics for the International Herald Tribune and for a variety of other prestigious publications while living in the most beautiful city in the world, so he can probably count himself jolly lucky!

    2. Indeed - he might have ended up in Salford.

    3. With the help of £150,000 in removal fees from the licencepayer, according to recent reports, ending up in Salford might not be a bad thing. I have actually been to Salford.It's....erm..not a good place. To use a current Army expression, the BBC is becoming " a self licking lollipop."

  2. It was really Lauren Bacall who started all this. Having been in a couple of decent films ["To Have and Have Not", "Key Largo"]she then proceeded to dine out on her marriage to Bogart for the next fifty years.

    Also, see Sharon Osborne and Sheila Hancock and Britt Eklund and David Furnish [sorry, am getting confused]. By the way, did you catch Miss Yoko ["these are the yokos, folks!"] on Wossie last week-end? If Dian Abbott had been born in Yokohama she would sound exactly like Yoko Ono.[That's enough Yoko jokes. Ed.]

  3. I would rather fry and eat my right buttock than watch The Jonathan Ross Show. Why Sky is using this odious man in their latest round of avertising is anyone's guess. (There was a Private Eye cartoon once featuring John and Yoko naked, with Lennon saying "According to your tits, it's half-past six", which I thought horribly crude, sexist and unfunny.)

    If Diane Abbott had been born in Yokohama, we'd never have heard of her, which would have improved the quality of all our lives immeasurably.

    Have you seen Britt Ekland on TV recently? I know we've all passed a lot of water since she was famous, but yikes!

  4. Your post prompted a very clear memory of a trip to London in 1969 to go shopping for records. I think I bought the White Album and decided not to get something by Yes. There had been a lot of fuss about the Two Virgins, the first in a long line of unlistenable Lennon/Yoni collaborations, with a nude photo of the two establishment-challenging artistes on the cover. In those repressive days, man, it could only be stocked inside a brown paper bag.

    Being an inquisitive teenager, I decided to take a look for myself, removed the record from the bag and then found myself unable to get it back in again. For some reason, you found this episode trouser-dampeningly funny and decided to help me get over my embarrassment by loudly advertising to the entire shop my increasingly desperate and ultimately unsuccessful attempts to re-insert the gruesome sight of a naked John and Yoko into the cover where it rightly belonged. The man behind the counter eventually had to come round and help.

    In short, you could be a bit of a shit in those days. I am now over it.

    A really great post.

    1. You must have me mixed up with someone else - I distinctly remember being an exceptionally serious and compassionate young man, and I'm sure I would never have taken advantage of a friend's predicament to yell out "Look, everyone - he's staring at John Lennon's chopper!" (I'm assuming nobody in their right mind would have been eager to find out what Okay Yoni looked like in the buff!). Anyway, why were you looking at the picture sleeve? And don't pretend you were interested in the track listing.

      Whatever, instead of going through such a psychologically scarring experience, you should have bought Rolling Stone instead - I seem to remember them featuring the prominent Liverpudlian's meat and two veg on their front cover at the time.

  5. I am becoming concerned about the content of some of your posts - especially v yourself and ex-KCS. All this talk about meat and veg, for example. Please see the great Australian film " The Meatman Cometh. Hold the Veggies." Please return to serious topics - like bashing the Leftists.