Don't Worry, Kyoko, Mummy's Only Looking For Her Hand In The Snow:John Lennon & Yoko Ono
"Don't Worry Kyoko (Mummy's Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow)" (also known as "Don't Worry Kyoko (Mummy's Only Looking for a Hand in the Snow)" or "Don't Worry Kyoko") is a song by Yoko Ono that was originally released by Plastic Ono Band in October 1969 as the B-side of John Lennon's single "Cold Turkey" and was later released on Ono's 1971 album Fly. Several live versions have been released, including on Live Peace in Toronto 1969 andSome Time in New York City in 1972. An early version was titled "Mum's Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow." It has been covered by several other artists.
"Don't Worry Kyoko (Mummy's Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow)" was inspired by Lennon's and Ono's custody fight with Ono's ex-husband Anthony Cox over Cox's and Ono's daughter Kyoko, representing Ono's attempt to communicate with her daughter. Ono and Kyoko were finally reunited in the 1990's when Kyoko was in her thirties.
The lyrics of "Don't Worry Kyoko (Mummy's Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow)" consist primarily of Ono wailing the phrase "don't worry." On the live version included on Live Peace in Toronto 1969 the phrase "mummy's only looking for her hand in the snow" is also included. The song is driven primarily by a blues-based guitar riff played by Lennon and Eric Clapton. John Blaney describes the riff as "hypnotic." Authors Ken Bielen and Ben Urish describe that Lennon and Clapton alternate between a "lilting semi-slide" groove and playing "sniping bites." The other musicians on the studio version are Klaus Voorman on bass guitar and Ringo Starr on drums. According to Bielen and Urish, Starr's drumming variations ensure that the tension keeps mounting.
Allmusic critic Ned Raggett describes Ono's vocal as a "screwy blues yowl," claiming that it suggests "something off Led Zeppelin III gone utterly berserk."New York Times critic Allan Kozinn compares Ono's vocal to "a wailing, overdriven electric guitar," claiming its virtuosity compares with the actual electric guitar playing of Lennon and Clapton.
The earliest recorded version of the song, titled "Mum's Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow" was sung by Ono at Queen Charlotte's Hospital while she was being observed during her pregnancy with Lennon's child, a pregnancy that ended in a miscarriage. Lennon provides the sole accompaniment on acoustic guitar. This version was originally released by Aspen magazine and was later included as a bonus track on the CD reissue of the couple's Wedding Album. The studio version released as a single and on Fly was recorded on October 3, 1969 at Lansdowne Studios in London. The single has the words "PLAY LOUD" written on the label, as does "Cold Turkey" on the other side.
The version of "Don't Worry Kyoko (Mummy's Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow)" included on Live Peace in Toronto 1969 was recorded at Varsity Stadium in Toronto, Ontario on September 13, 1969. The Plastic Ono Band for that performance was assembled on short notice and included Ono, Lennon, Clapton, Voorman and Alan White on drums. After Lennon played some of his recent songs and rock 'n' roll classics, Ono sang a two song set consisting of "Don't Worry Kyoko (Mummy's Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow)" followed by "John John (Let's Hope for Peace)." Audience reaction to her set was muted, and some booing was reported, more directed at "John John" than "Don't Worry Kyoko." John Blaney explains that the audience "had come to listen to good ol' rock 'n' roll, not a Japanese woman screaming at the top of her voice," but "one could at least get into the groove of 'Don't Worry Kyoko.'" Chip Madinger and Mark Easter claim that despite the audience's cold reception, the band "did an admirable job" backing Ono on the song. Ken Bielen and Ben Urish claim that the audience may have been startled by "Ono's full-throttle vocals and Lennon and Clapton's hard core guitar sounds.
The version on Some Time in New York City was recorded at the Lyceum Ballroom in London on December 15, 1969 at the "Peace For Christmas" Concert for UNICEF. In addition to the musicians who performed in Toronto, Billy Preston played keyboards, George Harrison played guitar, Keith Moon joined in on drums towards the end, and members of Delaney & Bonnie & Friends also performed. This version apparently lasted 40 minutes, as the musicians became "locked in the hypnotic riff," and was edited down to 15 minutes for the album release. Drummer Alan White recalls finally bringing the song to its conclusion by speeding up to the point where the other musicians couldn't keep up, and then slowing the tempo down, allowing the song to end. Bielen and Urish describe this performance as "vibrant," enhanced by the call and response between Ono's vocal and the horn section, and claim that the finale was so "hyped-up" that even Ono had trouble keeping up.Lennon biographer Geoffery Giuliano and Moon biographer Tony Fletcher claim that half the audience walked out during the performance.
The Lennons played the song, backed by Jim Keltner on drums and Elephant's Memory, at the matinee performance of the One to One benefit concerts at Madison Square Garden in New York City on August 30, 1972. These were the performances that were released as the Live in New York City album and video. However, "Don't Worry Kyoko" was not performed for the evening concert and was not included on either the album or video versions of Live in New York City.
In September 2005, Ono performed the song as an encore to her performance at ArthurFest. Ono's and Lennon's son Sean Lennon led the band for that performance. Reviewing that performance,Los Angeles Times critic Steve Hochman claimed that "the bleats and squalls for which Ono became famous/infamous were now expressions of a wide range of emotions as her band, led by her son Sean Lennon, pounded out primal art-blues."
Music critic Johnny Rogan considers "Don't Worry Kyoko (Mummy's Only Looking for Her Hand in the Snow)" to be "arguably Yoko Ono's finest recorded moment." Lennon claimed that the song was "one of the fuckin' best rock 'n' roll records ever made." Of the live version issued on Some Time in New York City, Lennon claimed that the musicians were "inspired out of their skulls" and that it was "the most fantastic music [he'd] ever heard." Authors Ken Bielen and Ben Urish call that version "a stunning masterwork." Of the studio version, Bielen and Urish praise it as "the standout inclusion on Fly," calling it "an amazing achievement," particularly the guitar work of Lennon and Clapton, Starr's "slowly varying drum work" and Ono's vocal, which they call "one of her most effective." The New York Times'Kozinn calls the song a "searing rocker." The Los Angeles Times' Hochman describes the song as "a raw, anguished cry from the soul." Author Bruce Pollock describes it has having "frenzied glory."
- Yoko Ono - vocals
- John Lennon - guitar
- Eric Clapton - guitar
- Klaus Voormann - bass guitar
- Ringo Starr - drums
"Don't Worry Kyoko (Mummy's Only Looking for a Hand in the Snow)" has been recorded by other artists. The B-52's recorded it on their "Whammy!" LP, but it was removed and replaced with a new recording of "There's A Moon in The Sky" on the UK pressing. All CD reissues have used the UK version, without formal explanation. Tater Totz released a 17-minute live version, recorded in San Francisco in 1989, on their 1993 album Tater Comes Alive. A 27-minute version, recorded live in Los Angeles in 1988, was included as a bonus track on the CD version of the album. They also released it on their 1988 album Alien Sleestacks from Brazil. Alan Decotes covered the song on his 2007 album Don't Worry Rock N' Roll. Donny Who Loved Bowling covered it on the 2005 album Tree Fort. Also, Yo La Tengo covered it live on the radio in New Jersey and released it in 2006 on their album Yo La Tengo Is Murdering the Classics, a compilation of their live impromptu cover-song performances on the New Jersey freeform radio station, WFMU.