Walking on Thin Ice

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"Walking on Thin Ice"
Single by Yoko Ono
B-side"It Happened"
ReleasedFebruary 6, 1981 (US)
February 20, 1981 (UK)
March 25, 2003 (remix)
RecordedDecember 4–8, 1980
GenreDance,[1] post-disco,[1] new wave[1]
Songwriter(s)Yoko Ono
Producer(s)John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Jack Douglas
Yoko Ono singles chronology
"Beautiful Boys"
"Walking on Thin Ice"
"No, No, No"

"Yang Yang"

"Walking on Thin Ice"

"Will I" / "Fly"

"Hold Me"

"Walking on Thin Ice"

Alternative cover
The cover of ONO's "Walking on Thin Ice" 2003 remix single.

"Walking on Thin Ice" is a song by Yoko Ono, released in 1981. She and John Lennon concluded the recording of the song on December 8, 1980. It was upon their return from the recording studio to The Dakota (their home in New York City) that Lennon was murdered by Mark David Chapman. Lennon was clutching a tape of a final mix of the song before it was mastered when he was shot. The song was both a critical and commercial success for Ono.


Lennon's lead guitar work on the track, which he recorded on December 4, 1980, was his final creative act.[2] According to producer Jack Douglas, Lennon used his famous Beatles-era 1958 Rickenbacker 325 Capri to record all the guitar parts. Douglas worked the Bigsley Tremolo bar for Lennon during the solo.[3] It was rumored he used his new red Fender Stratocaster.[4]

The lyrics talk of the unpredictability of life and death—of "throwing the dice in the air"—and reach the conclusion, "when our hearts return to ashes, it will be just a story....". On the version included on 1992's Onobox, a new intro was added, where John Lennon can be heard remarking "I think you just cut your first number one, Yoko."

The B-side, "It Happened", was a slower, mellow track about acceptance from Ono's vaults that was originally recorded for A Story and had already seen limited release in Japan as the B-side to "Yume O Moto", but was remixed for inclusion on the single.[5] Much like the A-side, the lyrics have a retrospectively haunting quality given Lennon's murder: "It happened at a time of my life/When I least expected... And I know there's no return, no way". In the essay on the back of the single, Ono talks about how Lennon picked out this track from her old tapes and marked it as a hit. She said "No way!" to which he responded "I'll make it a hit". He was murdered hours later.

Release and reception[edit]

At the end of January 1981, "Walking on Thin Ice" was released as a single and became Ono's first chart success, peaking at number 58 in the US and gaining major club/underground airplay. The single was released in February 1981 in the UK and reached number 35 on the chart. The critical reception was favorable: NME rated it in the best tracks of year 1981 at number 10.[6]

Ultimate Classic Rock critic Michael Gallucci rated it as Ono's best song, saying "it's a great New Wave song from the era and a testament to Ono's growing influence on other outre artists who followed."[7] Record World said that "Yoko's existential lyrics are delivered over a driving rhythm – led by Tony Levin's spunky bass – that spews Lennon's molten guitar leads."[8]

The song is on the experimental compilation album called Disco Not Disco (2000). In 2003, riding on the success of several Ono club remixes including "Open Your Box" and "Kiss Kiss Kiss", "Walking on Thin Ice" was released as a maxi-single with remixes by dance artists including the Pet Shop Boys, Danny Tenaglia and Felix Da Housecat. It spent many weeks on the US dance chart before reaching number one, beating out Madonna and Justin Timberlake. In the UK, it reached number 35 on the chart, exactly the same position as the original reached in 1981.

Music videos[edit]

Yoko Ono herself directed a music video for "Walking on Thin Ice", released in February 1981, featuring footage of her in New York City's Times Square and Central Park, interspersed with archival video of her and John Lennon. In 2003, Mike Mills and Arya Senboutaraj (one half of the directing duo Rainbows & Vampires) directed an animated video featuring the "Pet Shop Boys Electro Mix Edit" of the song.

Track listings[edit]


Promo 7" single[9]

  • A. "Walking on Thin Ice" (edit) – 3:23
  • B. "Walking on Thin Ice" (long version) – 5:58

7" / 12" single

  • A. "Walking on Thin Ice" – 5:59
  • B. "It Happened" (Remix) – 5:08

Promo 12" / Cassingle

  • A. "Walking on Thin Ice" – 5:59
  • B1. "It Happened" (Remix) – 5:08
  • B2. "Hard Times Are Over" – 3:26



  1. "Walking on Thin Ice" (with Jason Pierce of Spiritualized) – 5:07
  2. "Toyboat" (with Antony of Antony and the Johnsons and Hahn Rowe) – 4:24


Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Awards Work Category Result Ref.
1982 Grammy Awards "Walking on Thin Ice" Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female Nominated [11]



See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Harr, Dan (September 23, 2013). "ONO's "Walking On Thin Ice" Ascends To #2 With A Bullet On Billboard's Hot Dance Club Play Chart". Music News Nashville. Retrieved October 28, 2013.
  2. ^ Loder, Kurt (January 22, 1981). "John Lennon: The Last Session". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 25, 2016.
  3. ^ "The uncanny genius of "Walking on Thin Ice," Yoko Ono and John Lennon's poignant final collaboration". January 24, 2021.
  4. ^ Post in thread 'John Lennon Strat'
  5. ^ [1][dead link]
  6. ^ "Best albums & tracks of year 1981" Archived April 5, 2016, at the Wayback Machine NME. Retrieved August 1, 2013
  7. ^ Gallucci, Michael (February 18, 2013). "Top 10 Yoko Ono Songs". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved June 5, 2022.
  8. ^ "Hits of the Week" (PDF). Record World. February 21, 1981. p. 1. Retrieved February 23, 2023.
  9. ^ "Yoko Ono - Walking on Thin Ice (Edit)".
  10. ^ "ONO – Walking On Thin Ice 2013 (Dave Aude House Mixshow) by Yoko Ono | Free Listening on SoundCloud". Soundcloud.com. Retrieved October 25, 2016.
  11. ^ "Grammy Awards: Best Rock Vocal Performance – Female". Grammy Awards. Retrieved January 16, 2022.
  12. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  13. ^ "RPM 50 Singles March 28, 1981". Library and Archives Canada. July 17, 2013. Retrieved November 23, 2020.
  14. ^ a b "Ultratop.be – Yoko Ono – Walking On Thin Ice". Ultratop (in Dutch). ULTRATOP & Hung Medien / hitparade.ch. Retrieved July 26, 2011.
  15. ^ "Yoko Ono | full Official Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved December 1, 2020.
  16. ^ "Yoko Ono Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved November 22, 2021.
  17. ^ a b c "Yoko Ono Chart History (Dance Club Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved November 22, 2021.
  18. ^ a b "ONO full Official Chart history". The Official Charts Company.
  19. ^ "Yoko Ono Chart History (Hot Dance/Electronic Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved November 22, 2021.
  20. ^ "Dance Club Songs – Year-End 2013". Billboard. Archived from the original on January 27, 2015. Retrieved November 22, 2021.
  21. ^ "Hot Dance/Electronic Songs – Year-End 2013". Billboard. Retrieved November 22, 2021.
  22. ^ "Fuzzbox UK Chart History". officialcharts.com. Retrieved July 28, 2022.
  23. ^ The Wicked Picketts – Overview. AllMusic.
  24. ^ "Siouxsie & Yoko Ono – Walking On Thin Ice – Royal Festival Hall, London, 23/6/13". youtube. Archived from the original on December 13, 2021. Retrieved April 25, 2015.