Yoko Ono was not an archetypical rock girlfriend, says Sean Ono Lennon

John Lennon’s son has said he suspects it would have been easier for fans and Yoko Ono herself if she had been an “archetypical girlfriend, rock girlfriend”.

However, Sean Ono Lennon, 44, also said his mother’s “very radical” sensibilities and avant-garde artworks were not for everyone.

John, who was murdered in 1980, married artist and peace activist Ono in 1969, and they began to make music together.

However, she was unpopular among some Beatles fans who claimed she contributed to the band’s break-up in 1970.

George Harrison: Living In The Material World screening – London
The son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Sean Ono Lennon (Ian West/PA)

Speaking on Apple Music Hits, Sean said he believed his mother had invented punk rock music, years before the movement took shape in the UK.

He said: “Famously, my dad loved her because she wasn’t a Beatles fan. Not that she disliked the Beatles, she just was from another world.

“She was Japanese. She was an avant-garde artist. Her heroes were Marcel Duchamp and John Cage.

“She wasn’t sycophantic towards the Beatles thing in that way, and I think my dad loved that.

“I do suspect that if she had been an archetypical girlfriend, rock girlfriend, I think it would have been easier for fans, and certainly easier for her, but it’s impossible to parse that out because there’s also the fact that the music was very unconventional, that her artwork was very unconventional, very radical, very avant-garde, and it wasn’t for everybody.

Double Fantasy – John & Yoko exhibition
Yoko Ono (Jason Roberts/PA)

“She goes from not being into rock n’ roll to inventing punk rock, as far as I see it.

“That is also remarkable, and it’s the other side of the story of this album (Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band).”

Sean appeared on George Stroumboulopoulos’ STROMBO show to mark what would have been his father’s 80th birthday on October 9.

John famously returned his MBE in protest at Britain’s involvement in the Nigerian Civil War in the late 60s and the fact his song Cold Turkey had underachieved commercially.

Sean said: “Famously the single didn’t do well, and he hilariously, wrote that letter to the Queen of England returning his MBE.

“I mean, it was a big deal to return the Member of the British Empire thingamajig that he was given.

John Lennon 80th birthday
The Beatles (PA)

“To the Queen, that was very irreverent. I mean, it was pre-punk rock irreverent, and frankly, maybe more punk than anything the punks did really.

“And he does it in such a funny way. That’s what I love. I mean, I can’t remember the exact wording, but he says something like, ‘Your majesty, I’m returning the MBE in protest against the Vietnam War and the Biafra thing.’

“He goes, ‘And in protest of Cold Turkey slipping down the charts,’ which I just think is great.

“It’s funny. He’s being nice to her. He’s not being rude. So he manages to kind of be irreverent and be funny at the same time.

“But what they can’t fight and they don’t know how to fight, is love and humour.

“And I feel like that MBE letter where he returns the MBE to the Queen, he manages to protest the Vietnam War, protest aristocracy and monarchy and all that kind of bullshit.

“But he’s also really funny and sweet about it.

“I know my dad was disappointed that it wasn’t a hit, but it was a side of him that wasn’t as commercial, because it was heavy and it was deep and it was about drugs.”

Previously unseen pictures of John Lennon in New York are going on display at The Beatles Story in Liverpool to mark what would have been the Imagine singer’s 80th birthday.

A pop-up TV channel, LENNON80, is also being launched as part of a global celebration of the artist.

STROMBO speaks to Sean Ono Lennon on Apple Music Hits. The two-hour special will broadcast on Friday October 9 at 10pm. Listen via apple.co/John-Lennon.

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