It was a historic moment when two rock legends, John Lennon and Chuck Berry, shared the stage on “The Mike Douglas Show” in 1972. But it was also a bizarre one, thanks to Lennon’s wife and artistic partner, Yoko Ono.
The Beatles idolized Berry, who was one of the pioneers of rock ‘n’ roll and influenced their sound and style. Lennon once said, “If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry.” So when Lennon and Ono were given control of the decade-old show for a week to attract younger viewers, they invited Berry to join them.
The trio performed two of Berry’s classics, “Memphis, Tennessee” and “Johnny B Goode”, with a backing band that included Ono on percussion. But Ono was not content with just playing the drums. She also decided to add some avant-garde vocalizations that shocked Berry and the audience.
A few minutes into the first song, Ono let out a high-pitched wail that made Berry’s eyes widen in disbelief. Lennon looked slightly embarrassed but carried on playing. Ono repeated her screeching twice more during the second song, but by then the sound engineer had turned off her microphone, much to the relief of many viewers.
One YouTube user commented, “Respect to the person who switched Yoko’s mic off. They should be found and put in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.” A meme that captured Berry’s reaction also went viral on social media, with the caption, “The very moment when Yoko Ono starts screeching into the microphone while John Lennon and Chuck Berry are performing on ‘The Mike Douglas Show’ in 1972.”
The Rock Reflections Facebook page added their own commentary above the meme, writing, “While Chuck may have that ‘What the……?’ stare, it looks like John has that ‘Oh crap, I forgot to tell him my wife was here’ look on his face.”
Of course, not everyone was critical of Ono’s performance. Some defended her as an accomplished and acclaimed artist in her own right, who did not break up The Beatles as some fans claimed. Others appreciated her experimental approach and artistic expression.
Stand-up comedian Bill Burr joked about the moment on his podcast, saying that Ono was trying to be part of the band and that Lennon loved her so much that he let her do whatever she wanted. He also praised Berry for being a professional and not walking off the stage.
The video of the performance has been viewed millions of times online, and remains a fascinating example of how two different musical worlds collided in an unforgettable way.