Lost & Found: Remember That Time Yoko Ono Jammed With Chuck Berry on a Morning Talk Show?
For one week in February 1972, John Lennon and Yoko Ono invaded living rooms across America when they co-hosted ‘The Mike Douglas Show.’
Douglas was a staple of morning television back in the day, playing host to a fairly wide variety of guests, including actors, musicians, politicians and general celebrities. Having guest hosts was a regular feature on the show. But inviting hell-raisers like Lennon and Ono to co-host for a week was just asking for trouble.
The couple sat down besides Douglas during his interviews. But more significantly, they had a huge hand in picking who would appear on the show during their residency. And their picks were as controversial as they were far from the mainstream guests that usually populated TV talk shows back then: comedian George Carlin, Black Panther leader Bobby Seale, radical activist Jerry Rubin and rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Chuck Berry.
Lennon and his band, Elephant’s Memory, even performed with Berry on a pair of the legend’s classic hits, ‘Memphis’ and ‘Johnny B. Goode.’
It was thrilling enough to watch Lennon jam with one of his rock ‘n’ roll heroes on songs that helped form the future Beatle‘s formative music years. But apparently it wasn’t as a reverential moment for Ono, who seemed to think a little updating of the classic cuts was in order.
As the band jammed on, Ono showed up onstage with a drum and proceeded to pound away while Lennon and Berry ripped through ‘Memphis.’ Perhaps moved by the music, she even removed the microphone from its stand at one point and did that Yoko thing she does on top of the music.
Even though he never says a word or breaks from character, there is a sudden look of horror on Berry’s face as he comes to the realization of what’s happening to his beloved tune. Meanwhile, Lennon and band played on, business as usual, Ono finished on the mic and then returned to her drum pounding. You can watch the video of the performance above.
While the concept of such a display of music, politics, art and humor in mid-American homes may have seemed a bit outlandish at the time, in some ways, it seems even more out there now. It’s doubtful that any TV show today would give up the reins and allow its guests to have such influence over the proceedings. And it sure as hell wouldn’t let someone like Ono anywhere near a microphone.