Why Yoko Ono once performed backup vocals for "Rock Lobster" onstage with The B-52's

In February 2002, Yoko Ono took the stage with the B-52's during a New York performance of "Rock Lobster." The story about how she got there is fascinating and I'm surprised this is the first time I'm hearing of it. It begins in June 1980 when John Lennon heard the song and was inspired to start making music again after a long creative lull. The song's unusual backing vocals reminded him of Yoko Ono's style.

John Lennon, in a 1980 Rolling Stone interview:

"I was at a dance club one night in Bermuda… Upstairs, they were playing disco, and downstairs, I suddenly heard 'Rock Lobster' by the B-52's for the first time. Do you know it? It sounds just like Yoko's music, so I said to meself, 'It's time to get out the old axe and wake the wife up!' We wrote about twenty-five songs during those three weeks, and we've recorded enough for another album."

Writer Brian Scott MacKenzie:

"Rock Lobster" lit a fuse of inspiration that flared into Lennon's 2-LP set Double Fantasy (1980), plus a posthumous release, Milk and Honey (1984). Without the B-52's, our world might lack "Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)," "Watching the Wheels," "Woman," "(Just Like) Starting Over," and "Nobody Told Me."

Atlanta Magazine (2013):

"I said, 'That's Yoko!,'" Lennon recalled that fall in an interview with the BBC. "I thought there were two records going at once or something. Because it was so her. I mean, this person had studied her… I called her and I said, 'You won't believe this, but I was in a disco and there was somebody doing your voice. This time, they're ready for us!"

Ok, maybe they weren't. But in a 2018 People interview, Kate Pierson says she and Cindy Wilson intentionally included "Ono-isms" into "Rock Lobster":

…Cindy and I added the fish sounds — [demonstrates inimitable ululation] — that sound Cindy does at the end. But we also incorporated some [Yoko] Ono-isms in our fish sound. She was really an inspiration to us. We listened to Elephant's Memory and we were into Yoko, genuinely. So that was like an homage to Yoko. It was just all out of jamming, because nobody would sit down and go, "Hey, let's add Yoko Ono fish sounds."

In the same interview, Fred Schneider says, "I love Yoko's work — we all did — so it was just a thrill. Then we got to meet Yoko. She's become very friendly and I see her a couple times a year."

Thanks, Veek!

Image: YouTube