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John Lennon Interview

john7yoko-1

JW. When did you know that you were going to be working towards that lyric, “I don’t believe in Beatles”?

JL. I don’t know when I realised I was putting down all these things that I didn’t believe in you know, so I could have gone on and have had a Christmas card list. You know, I thought where do I end? Churchill? Who have I missed out? I don’t like that, you know, I had to stop you know. I was gonna leave a gap and say ‘why don’t you fill in your own, put in whoever you don’t believe in.’ It just got outta hand. But Beatles was the final thing because it’s like I no longer believed in myth, you know, and Beatles is another myth you know. I don’t believe in it, the dream’s over, it’s over you know and we gotta, well I have anyway, gotta get down to so-called reality.

JW. What we knew in advance going into it was that it was going to be a major interview when he was going to talk for the first time ever in a frank and complete, full way about himself and the Beatles. Therefore it was never going to wrong; he had a long career to deal with, a long history, and the fact that he had never spoken much about any of this at all before. His whole past and the story of the Beatles had only been presented in a scrubbed up, cleaned up, blemish-free, packaged, sanitised version for consumption as the four mop-tops. So it was starting from scratch with lots of territory to cover.

JL. We were four guys, I met Paul who joined the band, then George joined and then Ringo joined. We were just a band who made it very, very big, that’s all. And sometimes our best work was never recorded, you know. Because we were performers in Liverpool, Hamburg and other dance halls you know, and what we generated was fantastic when we played straight rock. And there was nobody to touch us in Britain, you know. But as soon as we made it… we made it but the edges were knocked off. You know, Brian put us in suits and all that and we made it very, very big but we sold out you know. Our music was dead before we even went on a theatre tour of Britain, we were feeling shit already because we had to reduce an hour or two hours playing, which we were glad in one way, to twenty-minutes. And go on and repeat the same twenty-minutes every night. The Beatles music died then, as musicians. That’s why we never improved you know – as musicians. We killed ourselves then, to make it. What we do is rock ‘n’ roll, we didn’t sound like everybody else, that’s all. I mean we didn’t sound like black musicians because we weren’t black, etc. etc. And because we were brought up on a different kind of music and atmosphere.

j-10

JW. What was the first gimmick?

JL. The first gimmick was the harmonica. I played a lot of harmonica, mouth organ really it was, when I was a child. So we started using it on ‘Love Me Do’ and then we stuck on ‘Please Please Me’ and then we stuck on ‘Me To You’ and then it went on and on and became a gimmick, and then we dropped it - it became embarrassing. And then later on we became technically efficient recording artists which was another thing because we were competent people and whatever media you put us in we could produce something worthwhile.

JW. While he was full of attitude and airs, there was something very earthy about John. There was no pretence there. There was a lot of arrogance but no pretence. And what you have here is the urgency and power of a man still in the battle. Still young, still thinking, and still fresh out of the maelstrom, and fresh out of the storm, and finally important, but still reeling from the whole thing. It was tough stuff.

JL. Our tours were like something else. If you could get on our tours you were in you know. Such a heavy scene it was. I mean when we hit town, we hit it you know, we’re not pissing about. You know, there are photographs of me crawling about on my knees in Amsterdam, coming out of whore houses, and things like that, and people saying ‘Good morning John’ and all that. The police escorting me to the places, because we never wanted a big scandal (I don’t want to really talk about it because it hurt Yoko, you know). I’m sorry (to Yoko)…

YO. I was surprised you know, I didn’t know things like that. I thought, well John is an artist and had maybe had two or three affairs…

JL. Most things are left out you know, about what bastards we were. Big bastards, that’s what the Beatles were. You had to be a bastard to make it man, and that’s a fact. And the Beatles were the biggest bastards on earth.

YO. How did you manage to keep a clean image?

JL. Because everybody wants the image to carry on. The press around and with you wanted it to carry on because they wanted the free drinks and the free whores, and the fun. Everybody wants to be the band’s mate. We were the scene then, who was going to knock us? See, a lot of people, they think they’re the Beatles, they all wanted a piece of us. Well I say fuck ‘em. After working with genius for ten to fifteen years, they begin think they’re it. So, they’re not.

j-63

JW. Do you think you’re a genius?

JL. Yes! If there’s such a thing as one, I am one. When I was about twelve you know I used to think, ‘I must be a genius because nobody’s noticed.’ I thought I was a genius or I must be mad, but which is it? I said, ‘I can’t be mad but nobody’s put me away, therefore I am a genius.’ I mean genius is a form of madness and we’re all that way, you know. But I used to be a bit coy about my guitar playing. If there’s such a thing as genius (which is just what…), I am one. And if there isn’t, I don’t care you know. But I used to think as a kid when I was writing my poetry and doing my painting, I didn’t become something when the Beatles made it or when you heard about me, I’ve been like this all my life. Genius is pain too. It’s just pain you know. Creating is a result of pain too. I have to put it somewhere, and I write songs you know.

YO. Well, I’m sure he knew he was a genius but I don’t think that it’s being super-ego to just tell the truth. I mean he knew that he was a genius. It sounds very strong because everybody was not speaking out in that sense, we’re all very careful… We have to be careful to survive – in the Beatles days he could not be that truthful. And so the whole thing came out almost like a gush of wind…

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