On “Silver Horse” – the track that closes out the side A of Yoko Ono’s Season of Glass – we see Ono recount a mythical dream she had. There’s a mystery house, a stream, a frightened deer and a silver horse with no wings. “No wings?” Ono interjects incredulously, interrupting her stream of consciousness, “Well, it wasn’t so bad you know” she continues, giving way to one of Season of Glass’s most poetic verses: “I learnt to travel the world around / And run on the ground in the spring time / And that’s the story of a wandering soul / A story of a dreamer”.
If the ethos of Season of Glass could be summed up by one quote from the album itself, it would be “it wasn’t so bad, you know”. Written in the immediate aftermath of the assassination of John Lennon – unquestionably one of the most impactful cultural touchstones of the 20th Century – Season of Glass was released less than six months after the tragedy occurred. You don’t have to have been alive in the months after Lennon’s death to imagine what the expectations were going into the album – with song titles like “No, No, No”, the iconic album cover of Lennon’s blood-soaked glasses next to a glass of water, contrasted with a hazy skyline and, just with the timing of this album alone. Everything about it suggests an album consumed by grief.
It’s surprising then, the note that Ono opens the album on with “Goodbye Sadness” – a triumphant so long to suffering. “I lived in fear every day / But now I’m going my way”, she declares; a shocking yet entirely on brand mission statement from someone who spent their career up to that point defiantly doing their own thing – something that earnt Ono both a feverish, devoted following and relentless, decades-long mockery that still continues strong to this day. Another thing you wouldn’t expect given Ono’s reputation for the left-field and bizarre: how timelessly pristine “Goodbye Sadness” is – with barely there guitar strumming and restrained saxophone solos mixed perfectly against Ono’s vocals at the hands of producer Phil Spector.
Yet another surprise Season of Glass has in store for listeners – how little of it directly addresses Lennon’s murder. Those moments do exist, and they are as harrowing as one would expect – “No, No No” begins with four gunshots and an almost feral cry of “No!”. “I Don’t Know Why”, meanwhile, details every aspect of Ono’s life that is “empty” without Lennon – “My body”, “the world”, this “room” – before the music dies down and she snarls into the microphone “You bastards!”.
However, there are far more moments where Ono sings about Lennon as if he is merely in the other room – documenting the trials, tribulations and joys of love in real time. Ono doesn’t need to directly address Lennon’s death on these songs because the universally-known context surrounding them provides them with all their desired emotional weight. “Nobody Sees Me Like You Do” is one of two perfect songs on Seasons of Glass (along with “Goodbye Sadness”). “I see your face looking into the space / All tired and worried”, Ono begins – reflecting on the inherent hardship that comes with dating a troubled, forever-restless artistic soul. With the song’s soul-crushing chorus of “No one can see me like you do / No one can see you like I do”, Ono makes clear, however, this is not a song about love’s adversities, but about it’s salvationary capacities. Later, Ono looks at the future and sings wistfully about what could have been: “I wanna quit moving / I wanna quit running / I wanna relax and be tender / I wanna see us together again / Rocking away in our walnut chairs”. For most, this would be a modest and entirely realistic desire, for Ono it has recently been made impossible. The implication is devastating.
While comparatively restrained to Ono’s most famous – and infamous – works, Season of Glass still leaves room for the characteristically uncharacteristic; there’s a Jew’s harp on one song, repetition of the words “Peas porridge luck, peas porridge stuck” on another. “Dogtown”, meanwhile – a song many would reasonably expect to be a reference to the “dog-eat-dog” proverb – is quite literally a song about people in the street liking her dog.
Despite it’s many innovations and experiments, Season of Glass ends as it begun, with a surprisingly conventional piece of jazz-infused pop, “Mother of the Universe” – an ode to the divine feminine. Utilising sax arrangements strikingly similar to those of opener “Goodbye Sadness”, it’s as if the album’s last track could effortlessly flow into it’s first. Fittingly, it’s sheer sonic excellence offers a strong case to replay.
Best Tracks: “Goodbye Sadness”, “Nobody Sees Me Like You Do”, “Dogtown”, “No, No, No”