WHAT is your position on Yoko Ono? Last Saturday on Radio 4’s Archive on 4, Jennifer Lucy Allan mounted the case for the defence. “Today marks the 90th birthday of one of the most maligned and misunderstood people in popular culture, who for me is also one of the most tenacious, inspiring and influential,” Allan stated at the beginning of this hour that mixed archive clips featuring Yoko alongside new interviews with art critics, authors and musicians who were all lining up to sing Yoko’s praises.

This is still a mildly controversial position to take. The anti-Yoko constituency remains active. In his book One, Two, Three, Four: The Beatles in Time, winner of the 2020 Baillie Gifford prize, Craig Brown was scathing of her artistic genius and the influence the Japanese artist brought to bear on Lennon.

That said, back in the 1960s and 1970s there was always an element of racism and misogyny in some of the antipathy towards Ono. “It was something about John being their treasure or something and then it seems like I stole that from them,” she once told Michael Parkinson.

Archive on 4 covered the doubters but was more interested in making the argument that Ono was an important avant garde artist in her own right as well as a unique talent in the story of pop.

The former seems easier to prove. Ono was an artist well known in Japanese and American avant garde circles long before she met Lennon. Her most famous work, Cut Piece – in which she invited gallery visitors to cut off part of her clothing with scissors – remains a strange, disturbing work. In the programme, Ono suggests she is passive-aggressive. Cut Piece is possibly the artistic playing out of that.

As for Ono’s singing, well that is a more acquired taste perhaps. Not that it’s impossible to acquire. The most entertaining contributor of the evening was Scottish author David Keenan, who raved about Ono’s musical outpourings. “My favourite Beatle is Yoko Ono,” he announced. “Without Yoko Ono, the Beatles would merely be the Rolling Stones.”

I’m not sure that’s true, but it made me laugh.

More interestingly, he spoke up for Ono’s singing voice (which Craig Brown once dismissed as “hideous caterwauling”). “When I say she’s a great rock and roll vocalist, I think she’s up there with Little Richard, Iggy Pop,” Keenan testified (I use the word deliberately), “that way of understanding the sort of nonsense energy at the base of rock and understanding that that is the most liberatory thing it could give you. So she’s pure a-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-lop-bam-boom.” Now that is something to be.

I don’t write about Chris Moyles much in this slot because, well, life’s too short. But he caused a minor online kerfuffle at the end of last week when he went off on one because a listener had taken him to task for talking about a Peloton bike for 10 minutes rather than giving an unsigned band a leg-up. The gist of Moyles’s subsequent rant was that “most unsigned bands are crap”.

To be fair, I’m not sure Moyles’s shows have ever been the place to listen for unsigned bands. If it’s new music you’re after you’d be better placed listening to John Kennedy’s Radio X show, X-Posure. That’s not Moyles’s job.

That Moyles likes the sound of his own voice can hardly be a surprise to anyone. But I do remember him, back in his pomp on Radio 1, talking a lot of sense on at least one occasion. He was reading a letter from a listener who was taking him to task for existing basically.

Moyles’s argument was simple. Don’t waste your time writing letters of complaint. If you don’t like me, just turn over. So I did.


Listen out for: Stark Talk, Radio Scotland, tonight, 6.30pm Edi Stark returns for a new series of one-to-one interviews. Tonight’s guest is Su-a-Lee, the South Korean-born, Scottish-based cellist.