1980 Playboy Interview
With John Lennon And Yoko Ono
September 8-28, 1980
Published January 1981
candid conversation with the reclusive couple
about their years together and their surprisingly
frank views on life with and without the Beatles.
describe the turbulent history of the Beatles,
or the musical and cultural mileposts charted
by John Lennon, would be an exercise in the obvious.
Much of the world knows that Lennon was the guiding
spirit of the Beatles, who were themselves among
the most popular and profound influences of the
Sixties, before breaking up bitterly in 1970.
Some fans blamed the breakup on Yoko Ono, Lennon's
Japanese-born second wife, who was said to have
wielded a disproportionate influence over Lennon,
and with whom he has collaborated throughout the
1975, the Lennons became unavailable to the press,
and though much speculation has been printed,
they emerged to dispel the rumors -- and to cut
a new album -- only a couple of months ago. The
Lennons decided to speak with Playboy in the longest
interview they have ever granted. Free-lance writer
David Sheff was tapped for the assignment, and
when he and a Playboy editor met with Ono to discuss
ground rules, she came on strong: Responding to
a reference to other notables who had been interviewed
in Playboy, Ono said, "People like Carter
represent only their country. John and I represent
the world." But by the time the interview
was concluded several weeks later, Ono had joined
the project with enthusiasm. Here is Sheff's report:
was an excellent chance this interview would never
take place. When my contacts with the Lennon-Ono
organization began, one of Ono's assistants called
me, asking, seriously, "What's your sign?"
The interview apparently depended on Yoko's interpretation
of my horoscope, just as many of the Lennons'
business decisions are reportedly guided by the
stars. I could imagine explaining to my Playboy
editor, "Sorry, but my moon is in Scorpio
-- the interview's off." It was clearly out
of my hands. I supplied the info: December 23,
three P.M., Boston.
my lucky stars. The call came in and the interview
was tentatively on. And I soon found myself in
New York, passing through the ominous gates and
numerous security check points at the Lennons'
headquarters, the famed Dakota apartment building
on Central Park West, where the couple dwells
and where Yoko Ono holds court beginning at eight
o'clock every morning.
is one of the most misunderstood women in the
public eye. Her mysterious image is based on some
accurate and some warped accounts of her philosophies
and her art statements, and on the fact that she
never smiles. It is also based -- perhaps unfairly
-- on resentment of her as the sorceress/Svengali
who controls the very existence of John Lennon.
That image has remained through the years since
she and John met, primarily because she hasn't
chosen to correct it -- nor has she chosen to
smile. So as I removed my shoes before treading
on her fragile carpet -- those were the instructions
-- I wondered what the next test might be.
interruptions from her two male assistants busy
screening the constant flow of phone calls, Yoko
gave me the once-over. She finally explained that
the stars had, indeed, said it was right -- very
right, in fact. Who was I to argue? So the next
day, I found myself sitting across a couple of
cups of cappuccino from John Lennon.
still bleary-eyed from lack of sleep and scruffy
from lack of shave, waited for the coffee to take
hold of a system otherwise used to operating on
sushi and sashimi -- "dead fish," as
he calls them -- French cigarettes and Hershey
bars with almonds.
the first hour of the interview, Lennon put every
one of my preconceived ideas about him to rest.
He was far more open and candid and witty than
I had any right to expect. He was prepared, once
Yoko had given the initial go-ahead, to frankly
talk about everything. Explode was more like it.
If his sessions in primal-scream therapy were
his emotional and intellectual release ten years
ago, this interview was his more recent vent.
After a week of conversations with Lennon and
Ono separately as well as together, we had apparently
established some sort of rapport, which was confirmed
early one morning.
wants to know how fast you can meet him at the
apartment," announced the by-then-familiar
voice of a Lennon-Ono assistant. It was a short
cab ride away and he briefed me quickly: "A
guy's trying to serve me a subpoena and I just
don't want to deal with it today. Will you help
me out?" We sneaked into his limousine and
streaked toward the recording studio three hours
before Lennon was due to arrive.
told his driver to slow to a crawl as we approached
the studio and instructed me to lead the way inside,
after making sure the path was safe. "If
anybody comes up with papers, knock them down,"
he said. "As long as they don't touch me,
it's OK." Before I left the car, Lennon pointed
to a sleeping wino leaning against the studio
wall. "That could be him," Lennon warned.
"They're masters of disguise." Lennon
high-tailed it into the elevator, dragging me
along with him. When the elevator doors finally
closed, he let out a nervous sigh and somehow
the ludicrousness of the morning dawned on him.
He broke out laughing. "I feel like I'm back
in 'Hard Day's Night' or 'Help!'" he said.
the interview progressed, the complicated and
misunderstood relationship between Lennon and
Ono emerged as the primary factor in both of their
lives. "Why don't people believe us when
we say we're simply in love?" John pleaded.
The enigma called Yoko Ono became accessible as
the hard exterior broke down -- such as the morning
when she let out a hiccup right in the middle
of a heavy discourse on capitalism. Nonplused
by her hiccup, Ono giggled. With that giggle,
she became vulnerable and cute and shy -- not
at all the creature that came from the Orient
to brainwash John Lennon.
was born in 1933 in Tokyo, where her parents were
bankers and socialites. In 1951, her family moved
to Scarsdale, New York. She attended Sarah Lawrence
College. In 1957, Yoko was married for the first
time, to Toshi Ichiyanagi, a musician. They were
divorced in 1964 and later that year, she married
Tony Cox, who fathered her daughter, Kyoko. She
and Cox were divorced in 1967, two years before
she married Lennon.
Lennon half of the couple was born in October
1940. His father left home before John was born
to become a seaman and his mother, incapable of
caring for the boy, turned John over to his aunt
and uncle when he was four and a half. They lived
several blocks away from his mother in Liverpool,
England. Lennon, who attended Liverpool private
schools, met a kid named Paul McCartney in 1956
at the Woolton Parish Church Festival in Liverpool.
The following year, the two formed their first
band, the Nurk Twins. In 1958, John formed the
Quarrymen, named after his high school. He asked
Paul to join the band and agreed to audition a
friend of Paul's, George Harrison.
1959, the Quarrymen disbanded but later regrouped
as Johnny and the Moondogs and then the Silver
Beatles. They played in clubs, backing strippers,
and they got their foot in the door of Liverpool's
showcase Cavern Club. Pete Best was signed on
as drummer and the Silver Beatles left England
for Hamburg, where they played eight hours a night
at the Indra Club. The Silver Beatles became the
Beatles and, by 1960, when they returned to England,
the band had become the talk of Liverpool. In
1962, John married Cynthia Powell and they had
a son, Julian. John and Cynthia were divorced
in 1968. Later in 1962, Richard Starkey -- or
Ringo Starr -- replaced Best as the Beatles' drummer
and the rest -- as Lennon often says sarcastically
-- is pop history.
PLAYBOY: The word is out: John Lennon and Yoko
Ono are back in the studio, recording again for
the first time since 1975, when they vanished
from public view. Let's start with you, John.
What have you been doing?
I've been baking bread and looking after the baby.
With what secret projects going on in the basement?
That's like what everyone else who has asked me
that question over the last few years says. "But
what else have you been doing?" To which
I say, "Are you kidding?" Because bread
and babies, as every housewife knows, is a full-time
job. After I made the loaves, I felt like I had
conquered something. But as I watched the bread
being eaten, I thought, Well, Jesus, don't I get
a gold record or knighted or nothing?
Why did you become a househusband?
There were many reasons. I had been under obligation
or contract from the time I was 22 until well
into my 30s. After all those years, it was all
I knew. I wasn't free. I was boxed in. My contract
was the physical manifestation of being in prison.
It was more important to face myself and face
that reality than to continue a life of rock 'n'
roll -- and to go up and down with the whims of
either your own performance or the public's opinion
of you. Rock 'n' roll was not fun anymore. I chose
not to take the standard options in my business
-- going to Vegas and singing your great hits,
if you're lucky, or going to hell, which is where
John was like an artist who is very good at drawing
circles. He sticks to that and it becomes his
label. He has a gallery to promote that. And the
next year, he will do triangles or something.
It doesn't reflect his life at all. When you continue
doing the same thing for ten years, you get a
prize for having done it.
You get the big prize when you get cancer and
you have been drawing circles and triangles for
ten years. I had become a craftsman and I could
have continued being a craftsman. I respect craftsmen,
but I am not interested in becoming one.
Just to prove that you can go on dishing out things.
You're talking about records, of course.
Yeah, to churn them out because I was expected
to, like so many people who put out an album every
six months because they're supposed to.
Would you be referring to Paul McCartney?
Not only Paul. But I had lost the initial freedom
of the artist by becoming enslaved to the image
of what the artist is supposed to do. A lot of
artists kill themselves because of it, whether
it is through drink, like Dylan Thomas, or through
insanity, like Van Gogh, or through V.D., like
Most people would have continued to churn out
the product. How were you able to see a way out?
Most people don't live with Yoko Ono.
Most people don't have a companion who will tell
the truth and refuse to live with a bullshit artist,
which I am pretty good at. I can bullshit myself
and everybody around. Yoko: That's my answer.
What did she do for you?
She showed me the possibility of the alternative.
"You don't have to do this." "I
don't? Really? But--but--but--but--but...."
Of course, it wasn't that simple and it didn't
sink in overnight. It took constant reinforcement.
Walking away is much harder than carrying on.
I've done both. On demand and on schedule, I had
turned out records from 1962 to 1975. Walking
away seemed like what the guys go through at 65,
when suddenly they're supposed to not exist anymore
and they're sent out of the office [knocks on
the desk three times]: "Your life is over.
Time for golf."
Yoko, how did you feel about John's becoming a
When John and I would go out, people would come
up and say, "John, what are you doing?"
but they never asked about me, because, as a woman,
I wasn't supposed to be doing anything.
When I was cleaning the cat shit and feeding Sean,
she was sitting in rooms full of smoke with men
in three-piece suits that they couldn't button.
I handled the business: old business -- Apple,
Maclen [the Beatles' record company and publishing
company, respectively] and new investments.
We had to face the business. It was either another
case of asking some daddy to come solve our business
or having one of us do it. Those lawyers were
getting a quarter of a million dollars a year
to sit around a table and eat salmon at the Plaza.
Most of them didn't seem interested in solving
the problems. Every lawyer had a lawyer. Each
Beatle had four or five people working. So we
felt we had to look after that side of the business
and get rid of it and deal with it before we could
start dealing with our own life. And the only
one of us who has the talent or the ability to
deal with it on that level is Yoko.
Did you have experience handling business matters
of that proportion?
I learned. The law is not a mystery to me anymore.
Politicians are not a mystery to me. I'm not scared
of all that establishment anymore. At first, my
own accountant and my own lawyer could not deal
with the fact that I was telling them what to
There was a bit of an attitude that this is John's
wife, but surely she can't really be representing
A lawyer would send a letter to the directors,
but instead of sending it to me, he would send
it to John or send it to my lawyer. You'd be surprised
how much insult I took from them initially. There
was all this "But you don't know anything
about law; I can't talk to you." I said,
"All right, talk to me in the way I can understand
it. I am a director, too."
They can't stand it. But they have to stand it,
because she is who represents us. [Chuckles] They're
all male, you know, just big and fat, vodka lunch,
shouting males, like trained dogs, trained to
attack all the time. Recently, she made it possible
for us to earn a large sum of money that benefited
all of them and they fought and fought not to
let her do it, because it was her idea and she
was a woman and she was not a professional. But
she did it, and then one of the guys said to her,
"Well, Lennon does it again." But Lennon
didn't have anything to do with it.
Why are you returning to the studio and public
You breathe in and you breathe out. We feel like
doing it and we have something to say. Also, Yoko
and I attempted a few times to make music together,
but that was a long time ago and people still
had the idea that the Beatles were some kind of
sacred thing that shouldn't step outside its circle.
It was hard for us to work together then. We think
either people have forgotten or they have grown
up by now, so we can make a second foray into
that place where she and I are together, making
music -- simply that. It's not like I'm some wondrous,
mystic prince from the rock-'n'-roll world dabbling
in strange music with this exotic, Oriental dragon
lady, which was the picture projected by the press
Some people have accused you of playing to the
media. First you become a recluse, then you talk
selectively to the press because you have a new
album coming out.
That's ridiculous. People always said John and
Yoko would do anything for the publicity. In the
Newsweek article [September 29, 1980], it says
the reporter asked us, "Why did you go underground?"
Well, she never asked it that way and I didn't
go underground. I just stopped talking to the
press. It got to be pretty funny. I was calling
myself Greta Hughes or Howard Garbo through that
period. But still the gossip items never stopped.
We never stopped being in the press, but there
seemed to be more written about us when we weren't
talking to the press than when we were.
How do you feel about all the negative press that's
been directed through the years at Yoko, your
"dragon lady," as you put it?
We are both sensitive people and we were hurt
a lot by it. I mean, we couldn't understand it.
When you're in love, when somebody says something
like, "How can you be with that woman?"
you say, "What do you mean? I am with this
goddess of love, the fulfillment of my whole life.
Why are you saying this? Why do you want to throw
a rock at her or punish me for being in love with
her?" Our love helped us survive it, but
some of it was pretty violent. There were a few
times when we nearly went under, but we managed
to survive and here we are. [Looks upward] Thank
you, thank you, thank you.
But what about the charge that John Lennon is
under Yoko's spell, under her control?
Well, that's rubbish, you know. Nobody controls
me. I'm uncontrollable. The only one who controls
me is me, and that's just barely possible.
Still, many people believe it.
Listen, if somebody's gonna impress me, whether
it be a Maharishi or a Yoko Ono, there comes a
point when the emperor has no clothes. There comes
a point when I will see. So for all you folks
out there who think that I'm having the wool pulled
over my eyes, well, that's an insult to me. Not
that you think less of Yoko, because that's your
problem. What I think of her is what counts! Because
-- fuck you, brother and sister -- you don't know
what's happening. I'm not here for you. I'm here
for me and her and the baby!
Of course, it's a total insult to me----
Well, you're always insulted, my dear wife. It's
Why should I bother to control anybody?
She doesn't need me.
I have my own life, you know.
She doesn't need a Beatle. Who needs a Beatle?
Do people think I'm that much of a con? John lasted
two months with the Maharishi. Two months. I must
be the biggest con in the world, because I've
been with him 13 years.
But people do say that.
That's our point. Why?
They want to hold on to something they never had
in the first place. Anybody who claims to have
some interest in me as an individual artist or
even as part of the Beatles has absolutely misunderstood
everything I ever said if they can't see why I'm
with Yoko. And if they can't see that, they don't
see anything. They're just jacking off to -- it
could be anybody. Mick Jagger or somebody else.
Let them go jack off to Mick Jagger, OK? I don't
He'll appreciate that.
I absolutely don't need it. Let them chase Wings.
Just forget about me. If that's what you want,
go after Paul or Mick. I ain't here for that.
If that's not apparent in my past, I'm saying
it in black and green, next to all the tits and
asses on page 196. Go play with the other boys.
Don't bother me. Go play with the Rolling Wings.
No, wait a minute. Let's stay with this a second;
sometimes I can't let go of it. [He is on his
feet, climbing up the refrigerator] Nobody ever
said anything about Paul's having a spell on me
or my having one on Paul! They never thought that
was abnormal in those days, two guys together,
or four guys together! Why didn't they ever say,
"How come those guys don't split up? I mean,
what's going on backstage? What is this Paul and
John business? How can they be together so long?"
We spent more time together in the early days
than John and Yoko: the four of us sleeping in
the same room, practically in the same bed, in
the same truck, living together night and day,
eating, shitting and pissing together! All right?
Doing everything together! Nobody said a damn
thing about being under a spell. Maybe they said
we were under the spell of Brian Epstein or George
Martin [the Beatles' first manager and producer,
respectively]. There's always somebody who has
to be doing something to you. You know, they're
congratulating the Stones on being together 112
years. Whoooopee! At least Charlie and Bill still
got their families. In the Eighties, they'll be
asking, "Why are those guys still together?
Can't they hack it on their own? Why do they have
to be surrounded by a gang? Is the little leader
scared somebody's gonna knife him in the back?"
That's gonna be the question. That's-a-gonna be
the question! They're gonna look back at the Beatles
and the Stones and all those guys are relics.
The days when those bands were just all men will
be on the newsreels, you know. They will be showing
pictures of the guy with lipstick wriggling his
ass and the four guys with the evil black make-up
on their eyes trying to look raunchy. That's gonna
be the joke in the future, not a couple singing
together or living and working together. It's
all right when you're 16, 17, 18 to have male
companions and idols, OK? It's tribal and it's
gang and it's fine. But when it continues and
you're still doing it when you're 40, that means
you're still 16 in the head.
Let's start at the beginning. Tell us the story
of how the wondrous mystic prince and the exotic
Oriental dragon lady met.
It was in 1966 in England. I'd been told about
this "event" -- this Japanese avant-garde
artist coming from America. I was looking around
the gallery and I saw this ladder and climbed
up and got a look in this spyglass on the top
of the ladder -- you feel like a fool -- and it
just said, Yes. Now, at the time, all the avant-garde
was smash the piano with a hammer and break the
sculpture and anti-, anti-, anti-, anti-, anti.
It was all boring negative crap, you know. And
just that Yes made me stay in a gallery full of
apples and nails. There was a sign that said,
Hammer A Nail In, so I said, "Can I hammer
a nail in?" But Yoko said no, because the
show wasn't opening until the next day. But the
owner came up and whispered to her, "Let
him hammer a nail in. You know, he's a millionaire.
He might buy it." And so there was this little
conference, and finally she said, "OK, you
can hammer a nail in for five shillings."
So smartass says, "Well, I'll give you an
imaginary five shillings and hammer an imaginary
nail in." And that's when we really met.
That's when we locked eyes and she got it and
I got it and, as they say in all the interviews
we do, the rest is history.
What happened next?
Of course, I was a Beatle, but things had begun
to change. In 1966, just before we met, I went
to Almeria, Spain, to make the movie "How
I Won the War." It did me a lot of good to
get away. I was there six weeks. I wrote "Strawberry
Fields" Forever" there, by the way.
It gave me time to think on my own, away from
the others. From then on, I was looking for somewhere
to go, but I didn't have the nerve to really step
out on the boat by myself and push it off. But
when I fell in love with Yoko, I knew, My God,
this is different from anything I've ever known.
This is something other. This is more than a hit
record, more than gold, more than everything.
It is indescribable.
Were falling in love with Yoko and wanting to
leave the Beatles connected?
As I said, I had already begun to want to leave,
but when I met Yoko is like when you meet your
first woman. You leave the guys at the bar. You
don't go play football anymore. You don't go play
snooker or billiards. Maybe some guys do it on
Friday night or something, but once I found the
woman, the boys became of no interest whatsoever
other than being old school friends. "Those
wedding bells are breaking up that old gang of
mine." We got married three years later,
in 1969. That was the end of the boys. And it
just so happened that the boys were well known
and weren't just local guys at the bar. Everybody
got so upset over it. There was a lot of shit
thrown at us. A lot of hateful stuff.
Even now, I just read that Paul said, "I
understand that he wants to be with her, but why
does he have to be with her all the time?"
Yoko, do you still have to carry that cross? That
was years ago.
No, no, no. He said it recently. I mean, what
happened with John is like, I sort of went to
bed with this guy that I liked and suddenly the
next morning, I see these three in-laws, standing
I've always thought there was this underlying
thing in Paul's "Get Back." When we
were in the studio recording it, every time he
sang the line "Get back to where you once
belonged," he'd look at Yoko.
Are you kidding?
No. But maybe he'll say I'm paranoid. [The next
portion of the interview took place with Lennon
This may be the time to talk about those "in-laws,"
as Yoko put it. John, you've been asked this a
thousand times, but why is it so unthinkable that
the Beatles might get back together to make some
Do you want to go back to high school? Why should
I go back ten years to provide an illusion for
you that I know does not exist? It cannot exist.
Then forget the illusion. What about just to make
some great music again? Do you acknowledge that
the Beatles made great music?
Why should the Beatles give more? Didn't they
give everything on God's earth for ten years?
Didn't they give themselves? You're like the typical
sort of love-hate fan who says, "Thank you
for everything you did for us in the Sixties --
would you just give me another shot? Just one
We're not talking about miracles -- just good
When Rodgers worked with Hart and then worked
with Hammerstein, do you think he should have
stayed with one instead of working with the other?
Should Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis have stayed
together because I used to like them together?
What is this game of doing things because other
people want it? The whole Beatle idea was to do
what you want, right? To take your own responsibility.
All right, but get back to the music itself: You
don't agree that the Beatles created the best
rock 'n' roll that's been produced?
I don't. The Beatles, you see -- I'm too involved
in them artistically. I cannot see them objectively.
I cannot listen to them objectively. I'm dissatisfied
with every record the Beatles ever fucking made.
There ain't one of them I wouldn't remake -- including
all the Beatles records and all my individual
ones. So I cannot possibly give you an assessment
of what the Beatles are. When I was a Beatle,
I thought we were the best fucking group in the
god-damned world. And believing that is what made
us what we were -- whether we call it the best
rock-'n'-roll group or the best pop group or whatever.
But you play me those tracks today and I want
to remake every damn one of them. There's not
a single one. . . . I heard "Lucy in the
Sky with Diamonds" on the radio last night.
It's abysmal, you know. The track is just terrible.
I mean, it's great, but it wasn't made right,
know what I mean? But that's the artistic trip,
isn't it? That's why you keep going. But to get
back to your original question about the Beatles
and their music, the answer is that we did some
good stuff and we did some bad stuff.
Many people feel that none of the songs Paul has
done alone match the songs he did as a Beatle.
Do you honestly feel that any of your songs --
on the Plastic Ono Band records -- will have the
lasting imprint of "Eleanor Rigby" or
"Imagine," "Love" and those
Plastic Ono Band songs stand up to any song that
was written when I was a Beatle. Now, it may take
you 20 or 30 years to appreciate that, but the
fact is, if you check those songs out, you will
see that it is as good as any fucking stuff that
was ever done.
It seems as if you're trying to say to the world,
"We were just a good band making some good
music," while a lot of the rest of the world
is saying, "It wasn't just some good music,
it was the best."
Well, if it was the best, so what?
It can never be again! Everyone always talks about
a good thing coming to an end, as if life was
over. But I'll be 40 when this interview comes
out. Paul is 38. Elton John, Bob Dylan -- we're
all relatively young people. The game isn't over
yet. Everyone talks in terms of the last record
or the last Beatle concert -- but, God willing,
there are another 40 years of productivity to
go. I'm not judging whether "I am the Walrus"
is better or worse than "Imagine." It
is for others to judge. I am doing it. I do. I
don't stand back and judge -- I do.
You keep saying you don't want to go back ten
years, that too much has changed. Don't you ever
feel it would be interesting -- never mind cosmic,
just interesting -- to get together, with all
your new experiences, and cross your talents?
Wouldn't it be interesting to take Elvis back
to his Sun Records period? I don't know. But I'm
content to listen to his Sun Records. I don't
want to dig him up out of the grave. The Beatles
don't exist and can never exist again. John Lennon,
Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Richard Starkey
could put on a concert -- but it can never be
the Beatles singing "Strawberry Fields"
or "I am the Walrus" again, because
we are not in our 20s. We cannot be that again,
nor can the people who are listening.
But aren't you the one who is making it too important?
What if it were just nostalgic fun? A high school
I never went to high school reunions. My thing
is, Out of sight, out of mind. That's my attitude
toward life. So I don't have any romanticism about
any part of my past. I think of it only inasmuch
as it gave me pleasure or helped me grow psychologically.
That is the only thing that interests me about
yesterday. I don't believe in yesterday, by the
way. You know I don't believe in yesterday. I
am only interested in what I am doing now.
What about the people of your generation, the
ones who feel a certain kind of music -- and spirit
-- died when the Beatles broke up?
If they didn't understand the Beatles and the
Sixties then, what the fuck could we do for them
now? Do we have to divide the fish and the loaves
for the multitudes again? Do we have to get crucified
again? Do we have to do the walking on water again
because a whole pile of dummies didn't see it
the first time, or didn't believe it when they
saw it? You know, that's what they're asking:
"Get off the cross. I didn't understand the
first bit yet. Can you do that again?" No
way. You can never go home. It doesn't exist.
Do you find that the clamor for a Beatles reunion
has died down?
Well, I heard some Beatles stuff on the radio
the other day and I heard "Green Onion"
-- no, "Glass Onion," I don't even know
my own songs! I listened to it because it was
a rare track----
That was the one that contributed to the "Paul
McCartney is dead" uproar because of the
lyric "The walrus is Paul."
Yeah. That line was a joke, you know. That line
was put in partly because I was feeling guilty
because I was with Yoko, and I knew I was finally
high and dry. In a perverse way, I was sort of
saying to Paul, "Here, have this crumb, have
this illusion, have this stroke -- because I'm
leaving you." Anyway, it's a song they don't
usually play. When a radio station has a Beatles
weekend, they usually play the same ten songs
-- "A Hard Day's Night," "Help!,"
"Let It Be" -- you know, there's all
that wealth of material, but we hear only ten
songs. So the deejay says, "I want to thank
John, Paul, George and Ringo for not getting back
together and spoiling a good thing." I thought
it was a good sign. Maybe people are catching
Aside from the millions you've been offered for
a reunion concert, how did you feel about producer
Lorne Michaels' generous offer of $3200 for appearing
together on "Saturday Night Live" a
few years ago?
Oh, yeah. Paul and I were together watching that
show. He was visiting us at our place in the Dakota.
We were watching it and almost went down to the
studio, just as a gag. We nearly got into a cab,
but we were actually too tired.
How did you and Paul happen to be watching TV
That was a period when Paul just kept turning
up at our door with a guitar. I would let him
in, but finally I said to him, "Please call
before you come over. It's not 1956 and turning
up at the door isn't the same anymore. You know,
just give me a ring." He was upset by that,
but I didn't mean it badly. I just meant that
I was taking care of a baby all day and some guy
turns up at the door. . . . But, anyway, back
on that night, he and Linda walked in and he and
I were just sitting there, watching the show,
and we went, "Ha-ha, wouldn't it be funny
if we went down?" but we didn't.
Was that the last time you saw Paul?
Yes, but I didn't mean it like that.
We're asking because there's always a lot of speculation
about whether the Fab Four are dreaded enemies
or the best of friends.
We're neither. I haven't seen any of the Beatles
for I don't know how much time. Somebody asked
me what I thought of Paul's last album and I made
some remark like, I thought he was depressed and
sad. But then I realized I hadn't listened to
the whole damn thing. I heard one track -- the
hit "Coming Up," which I thought was
a good piece of work. Then I heard something else
that sounded like he was depressed. But I don't
follow their work. I don't follow Wings, you know.
I don't give a shit what Wings is doing, or what
George's new album is doing, or what Ringo is
doing. I'm not interested, no more than I am in
what Elton John or Bob Dylan is doing. It's not
callousness, it's just that I'm too busy living
my own life to be following what other people
are doing, whether they're the Beatles or guys
I went to college with or people I had intense
relationships with before I met the Beatles.
Besides "Coming Up," what do you think
of Paul's work since he left the Beatles?
I kind of admire the way Paul started back from
scratch, forming a new band and playing in small
dance halls, because that's what he wanted to
do with the Beatles -- he wanted us to go back
to the dance halls and experience that again.
But I didn't. . . . That was one of the problems,
in a way, that he wanted to relive it all or something
-- I don't know what it was. . . . But I kind
of admire the way he got off his pedestal -- now
he's back on it again, but I mean, he did what
he wanted to do. That's fine, but it's just not
what I wanted to do.
What about the music?
"The Long and Winding Road" was the
last gasp from him. Although I really haven't
You say you haven't listened to Paul's work and
haven't really talked to him since that night
in your apartment----
Really talked to him, no, that's the operative
word. I haven't really talked to him in ten years.
Because I haven't spent time with him. I've been
doing other things and so has he. You know, he's
got 25 kids and about 20,000,000 records out --
how can he spend time talking? He's always working.
Then let's talk about the work you did together.
Generally speaking, what did each of you contribute
to the Lennon-McCartney songwriting team?
Well, you could say that he provided a lightness,
an optimism, while I would always go for the sadness,
the discords, a certain bluesy edge. There was
a period when I thought I didn't write melodies,
that Paul wrote those and I just wrote straight,
shouting rock 'n' roll. But, of course, when I
think of some of my own songs -- "In My Life"
-- or some of the early stuff -- "This Boy"
-- I was writing melody with the best of them.
Paul had a lot of training, could play a lot of
instruments. He'd say, "Well, why don't you
change that there? You've done that note 50 times
in the song." You know, I'll grab a note
and ram it home. Then again, I'd be the one to
figure out where to go with a song -- a story
that Paul would start. In a lot of the songs,
my stuff is the "middle eight," the
Take "Michelle." Paul and I were staying
somewhere, and he walked in and hummed the first
few bars, with the words, you know [sings verse
of "Michelle"], and he says, "Where
do I go from here?" I'd been listening to
blues singer Nina Simone, who did something like
"I love you!" in one of her songs and
that made me think of the middle eight for "Michelle"
[sings]: "I love you, I love you, I l-o-ove
you . . . ."
What was the difference in terms of lyrics?
I always had an easier time with lyrics, though
Paul is quite a capable lyricist who doesn't think
he is. So he doesn't go for it. Rather than face
the problem, he would avoid it. "Hey, Jude"
is a damn good set of lyrics. I made no contribution
to the lyrics there. And a couple of lines he
has come up with show indications of a good lyricist.
But he just hasn't taken it anywhere. Still, in
the early days, we didn't care about lyrics as
long as the song had some vague theme -- she loves
you, he loves him, they all love each other. It
was the hook, line and sound we were going for.
That's still my attitude, but I can't leave lyrics
alone. I have to make them make sense apart from
What's an example of a lyric you and Paul worked
In "We Can Work It Out," Paul did the
first half, I did the middle eight. But you've
got Paul writing, "We can work it out/We
can work it out" -- real optimistic, y' know,
and me, impatient: "Life is very short and
there's no time/For fussing and fighting, my friend...."
Paul tells the story and John philosophizes.
Sure. Well, I was always like that, you know.
I was like that before the Beatles and after the
Beatles. I always asked why people did things
and why society was like it was. I didn't just
accept it for what it was apparently doing. I
always looked below the surface.
When you talk about working together on a single
lyric like "We Can Work It Out," it
suggests that you and Paul worked a lot more closely
than you've admitted in the past. Haven't you
said that you wrote most of your songs separately,
despite putting both of your names on them?
Yeah, I was lying. [Laughs] It was when I felt
resentful, so I felt that we did everything apart.
But, actually, a lot of the songs we did eyeball
But many of them were done apart, weren't they?
Yeah. "Sgt. Pepper" was Paul's idea,
and I remember he worked on it a lot and suddenly
called me to go into the studio, said it was time
to write some songs. On "Pepper," under
the pressure of only ten days, I managed to come
up with "Lucy in the Sky" and "Day
in the Life." We weren't communicating enough,
you see. And later on, that's why I got resentful
about all that stuff. But now I understand that
it was just the same competitive game going on.
But the competitive game was good for you, wasn't
In the early days. We'd make a record in 12 hours
or something; they would want a single every three
months and we'd have to write it in a hotel room
or in a van. So the cooperation was functional
as well as musical.
Don't you think that cooperation, that magic between
you, is something you've missed in your work since?
I never actually felt a loss. I don't want it
to sound negative, like I didn't need Paul, because
when he was there, obviously, it worked. But I
can't -- it's easier to say what I gave to him
than what he gave to me. And he'd say the same.
Just a quick aside, but while we're on the subject
of lyrics and your resentment of Paul, what made
you write "How Do You Sleep?," which
contains lyrics such as "Those freaks was
right when they said you was dead" and "The
only thing you done was yesterday/And since you've
gone, you're just another day"?
[Smiles] You know, I wasn't really feeling that
vicious at the time. But I was using my resentment
toward Paul to create a song, let's put it that
way. He saw that it pointedly refers to him, and
people kept hounding him about it. But, you know,
there were a few digs on his album before mine.
He's so obscure other people didn't notice them,
but I heard them. I thought, Well, I'm not obscure,
I just get right down to the nitty-gritty. So
he'd done it his way and I did it mine. But as
to the line you quoted, yeah, I think Paul died
creatively, in a way.
That's what we were getting at: You say that what
you've done since the Beatles stands up well,
but isn't it possible that with all of you, it's
been a case of the creative whole being greater
than the parts?
I don't know whether this will gel for you: When
the Beatles played in America for the first time,
they played pure craftsmanship. Meaning they were
already old hands. The jism had gone out of the
performances a long time ago. In the same respect,
the songwriting creativity had left Paul and me
in the mid-Sixties. When we wrote together in
the early days, it was like the beginning of a
relationship. Lots of energy. In the "Sgt.
Pepper"- "Abbey Road" period, the
relationship had matured. Maybe had we gone on
together, more interesting things would have come,
but it couldn't have been the same.
Let's move on to Ringo. What's your opinion of
Ringo was a star in his own right in Liverpool
before we even met. He was a professional drummer
who sang and performed and had Ringo Star-time
and he was in one of the top groups in Britain
but especially in Liverpool before we even had
a drummer. So Ringo's talent would have come out
one way or the other as something or other. I
don't know what he would have ended up as, but
whatever that spark is in Ringo that we all know
but can't put our finger on -- whether it is acting,
drumming or singing I don't know -- there is something
in him that is projectable and he would have surfaced
with or without the Beatles. Ringo is a damn good
drummer. He is not technically good, but I think
Ringo's drumming is underrated the same way Paul's
bass playing is underrated. Paul was one of the
most innovative bass players ever. And half the
stuff that is going on now is directly ripped
off from his Beatles period. He is an egomaniac
about everything else about himself, but his bass
playing he was always a bit coy about. I think
Paul and Ringo stand up with any of the rock musicians.
Not technically great -- none of us are technical
musicians. None of us could read music. None of
us can write it. But as pure musicians, as inspired
humans to make the noise, they are as good as
How about George's solo music?
I think "All Things Must Pass" was all
right. It just went on too long.
How did you feel about the lawsuit George lost
that claimed the music to "My Sweet Lord"
is a rip-off of the Shirelles' hit "He's
Well, he walked right into it. He knew what he
Are you saying he consciously plagiarized the
He must have known, you know. He's smarter than
that. It's irrelevant, actually -- only on a monetary
level does it matter. He could have changed a
couple of bars in that song and nobody could ever
have touched him, but he just let it go and paid
the price. Maybe he thought God would just sort
of let him off. [At presstime, the court has found
Harrison guilty of "subconscious" plagiarism
but has not yet ruled on damages.]
You actually haven't mentioned George much in
Well, I was hurt by George's book, "I, Me,
Mine" -- so this message will go to him.
He put a book out privately on his life that,
by glaring omission, says that my influence on
his life is absolutely zilch and nil. In his book,
which is purportedly this clarity of vision of
his influence on each song he wrote, he remembers
every two-bit sax player or guitarist he met in
subsequent years. I'm not in the book.
Because George's relationship with me was one
of young follower and older guy. He's three or
four years younger than me. It's a love- hate
relationship and I think George still bears resentment
toward me for being a daddy who left home. He
would not agree with this, but that's my feeling
about it. I was just hurt. I was just left out,
as if I didn't exist. I don't want to be that
egomaniacal, but he was like a disciple of mine
when we started. I was already an art student
when Paul and George were still in grammar school
[equivalent to high school in the U.S.]. There
is a vast difference between being in high school
and being in college and I was already in college
and already had sexual relationships, already
drank and did a lot of things like that. When
George was a kid, he used to follow me and my
first girlfriend, Cynthia -- who became my wife
-- around. We'd come out of art school and he'd
be hovering around like those kids at the gate
of the Dakota now. I remember the day he called
to ask for help on "Taxman," one of
his bigger songs. I threw in a few one-liners
to help the song along, because that's what he
asked for. He came to me because he couldn't go
to Paul, because Paul wouldn't have helped him
at that period. I didn't want to do it. I thought,
Oh, no, don't tell me I have to work on George's
stuff. It's enough doing my own and Paul's. But
because I loved him and I didn't want to hurt
him when he called me that afternoon and said,
"Will you help me with this song?" I
just sort of bit my tongue and said OK. It had
been John and Paul so long, he'd been left out
because he hadn't been a songwriter up until then.
As a singer, we allowed him only one track on
each album. If you listen to the Beatles' first
albums, the English versions, he gets a single
track. The songs he and Ringo sang at first were
the songs that used to be part of my repertoire
in the dance halls. I used to pick songs for them
from my repertoire -- the easier ones to sing.
So I am slightly resentful of George's book. But
don't get me wrong. I still love those guys. The
Beatles are over, but John, Paul, George and Ringo
Didn't all four Beatles work on a song you wrote
for Ringo in 1973?
"I'm the Greatest." It was the Muhammad
Ali line, of course. It was perfect for Ringo
to sing. If I said, "I'm the greatest,"
they'd all take it so seriously. No one would
get upset with Ringo singing it.
Did you enjoy playing with George and Ringo again?
Yeah, except when George and Billy Preston started
saying, "Let's form a group. Let's form a
group." I was embarrassed when George kept
asking me. He was just enjoying the session and
the spirit was very good, but I was with Yoko,
you know. We took time out from what we were doing.
The very fact that they would imagine I would
form a male group without Yoko! It was still in
their minds. . . .
Just to finish your favorite subject, what about
the suggestion that the four of you put aside
your personal feelings and regroup to give a mammoth
concert for charity, some sort of giant benefit?
I don't want to have anything to do with benefits.
I have been benefited to death.
Because they're always rip-offs. I haven't performed
for personal gain since 1966, when the Beatles
last performed. Every concert since then, Yoko
and I did for specific charities, except for a
Toronto thing that was a rock-'n'-roll revival.
Every one of them was a mess or a rip-off. So
now we give money to who we want. You've heard
That's when you give away a fixed percentage of
Right. I am just going to do it privately. I am
not going to get locked into that business of
saving the world on stage. The show is always
a mess and the artist always comes off badly.
What about the Bangladesh concert, in which George
and other people such as Dylan performed?
Bangladesh was caca.
You mean because of all the questions that were
raised about where the money went?
Yeah, right. I can't even talk about it, because
it's still a problem. You'll have to check with
Mother [Yoko], because she knows the ins and outs
of it, I don't. But it's all a rip-off. So forget
about it. All of you who are reading this, don't
bother sending me all that garbage about, "Just
come and save the Indians, come and save the blacks,
come and save the war veterans," Anybody
I want to save will be helped through our tithing,
which is ten percent of whatever we earn.
But that doesn't compare with what one promoter,
Sid Bernstein, said you could raise by giving
a world-wide televised concert -- playing separately,
as individuals, or together, as the Beatles. He
estimated you could raise over $200,000,000 in
That was a commercial for Sid Bernstein written
with Jewish schmaltz and showbiz and tears, dropping
on one knee. It was Al Jolson. OK. So I don't
buy that. OK.
But the fact is, $200,000,000 to a poverty-stricken
country in South America----
Where do people get off saying the Beatles should
give $200,000,000 to South America? You know,
America has poured billions into places like that.
It doesn't mean a damn thing. After they've eaten
that meal, then what? It lasts for only a day.
After the $200,000,000 is gone, then what? It
goes round and round in circles. You can pour
money in forever. After Peru, then Harlem, then
Britain. There is no one concert. We would have
to dedicate the rest of our lives to one world
concert tour, and I'm not ready for it. Not in
this lifetime, anyway. [Ono rejoins the conversation.]
On the subject of your own wealth, the New York
Post recently said you admitted to being worth
over $150,000,000 and----
We never admitted anything.
The Post said you had.
What the Post says -- OK, so we are rich; so what?
The question is, How does that jibe with your
political philosophies? You're supposed to be
socialists, aren't you?
In England, there are only two things to be, basically:
You are either for the labor movement or for the
capitalist movement. Either you become a right-wing
Archie Bunker if you are in the class I am in,
or you become an instinctive socialist, which
I was. That meant I think people should get their
false teeth and their health looked after, all
the rest of it. But apart from that, I worked
for money and I wanted to be rich. So what the
hell -- if that's a paradox, then I'm a socialist.
But I am not anything. What I used to be is guilty
about money. That's why I lost it, either by giving
it away or by allowing myself to be screwed by
Whatever your politics, you've played the capitalist
game very well, parlaying your Beatles royalties
into real estate, livestock----
There is no denying that we are still living in
the capitalist world. I think that in order to
survive and to change the world, you have to take
care of yourself first. You have to survive yourself.
I used to say to myself, I am the only socialist
living here. [Laughs] I don't have a penny. It
is all John's, so I'm clean. But I was using his
money and I had to face that hypocrisy. I used
to think that money was obscene, that the artists
didn't have to think about money. But to change
society, there are two ways to go: through violence
or the power of money within the system. A lot
of people in the Sixties went underground and
were involved in bombings and other violence.
But that is not the way, definitely not for me.
So to change the system -- even if you are going
to become a mayor or something -- you need money.
To what extent do you play the game without getting
caught up in it -- money for the sake of money,
in other words?
There is a limit. It would probably be parallel
to our level of security. Do you know what I mean?
I mean the emotional-security level as well.
Has it reached that level yet?
No, not yet. I don't know. It might have.
You mean with $150,000,000? Is that an accurate
I don't know what we have. It becomes so complex
that you need to have ten accountants working
for two years to find out what you have. But let's
say that we feel more comfortable now.
How have you chosen to invest your money?
To make money, you have to spend money. But if
you are going to make money, you have to make
it with love. I love Egyptian art. I make sure
to get all the Egyptian things, not for their
value but for their magic power. Each piece has
a certain magic power. Also with houses. I just
buy ones we love, not the ones that people say
are good investments.
The papers have made it sound like you are buying
up the Atlantic Seaboard.
If you saw the houses, you would understand. They
have become a good investment, but they are not
an investment unless you sell them. We don't intend
to sell. Each house is like a historic landmark
and they're very beautiful.
Do you actually use all the properties?
Most people have the park to go to and run in
-- the park is a huge place -- but John and I
were never able to go to the park together. So
we have to create our own parks, you know.
We heard that you own $60,000,000 worth of dairy
cows. Can that be true?
I don't know. I'm not a calculator. I'm not going
by figures. I'm going by excellence of things.
Sean and I were away for a weekend and Yoko came
over to sell this cow and I was joking about it.
We hadn't seen her for days; she spent all her
time on it. But then I read the paper that said
she sold it for a quarter of a million dollars.
Only Yoko could sell a cow for that much. [Laughter]
For an artist, your business sense seems remarkable.
I was doing it just as a chess game. I love chess.
I do everything like it's a chess game. Not on
a Monopoly level -- that's a bit more realistic.
Chess is more conceptual.
John, do you really need all those houses around
They're good business.
Why does anyone need $150,000,000? Couldn't you
be perfectly content with $100,000,000? Or $1,000,000?
What would you suggest I do? Give everything away
and walk the streets? The Buddhist says, "Get
rid of the possessions of the mind." Walking
away from all the money would not accomplish that.
It's like the Beatles. I couldn't walk away from
the Beatles. That's one possession that's still
tagging along, right? If I walk away from one
house or 400 houses, I'm not gonna escape it.
How do you escape it?
It takes time to get rid of all this garbage that
I've been carrying around that was influencing
the way I thought and the way I lived. It had
a lot to do with Yoko, showing me that I was still
possessed. I left physically when I fell in love
with Yoko, but mentally it took the last ten years
of struggling. I learned everything from her.
You make it sound like a teacher-pupil relationship.
It is a teacher-pupil relationship. That's what
people don't understand. She's the teacher and
I'm the pupil. I'm the famous one, the one who's
supposed to know everything, but she's my teacher.
She's taught me everything I fucking know. She
was there when I was nowhere, when I was the nowhere
man. She's my Don Juan [a reference to Carlos
Castaneda's Yaqui Indian teacher]. That's what
people don't understand. I'm married to fucking
Don Juan, that's the hardship of it. Don Juan
doesn't have to laugh; Don Juan doesn't have to
be charming; Don Juan just is. And what goes on
around Don Juan is irrelevant to Don Juan.
Yoko, how do you feel about being John's teacher?
Well, he had a lot of experience before he met
me, the kind of experience I never had, so I learned
a lot from him, too. It's both ways. Maybe it's
that I have strength, a feminine strength. Because
women develop it -- in a relationship, I think
women really have the inner wisdom and they're
carrying that while men have sort of the wisdom
to cope with society, since they created it. Men
never developed the inner wisdom; they didn't
have time. So most men do rely on women's inner
wisdom, whether they express that or not.
Is Yoko John's guru?
No, a Don Juan doesn't have a following. A Don
Juan isn't in the newspaper and doesn't have disciples
and doesn't proselytize.
How has she taught you?
When Don Juan said -- when Don Ono said, "Get
out! Because you're not getting it," well,
it was like being sent into the desert. And the
reason she wouldn't let me back in was because
I wasn't ready to come back in. I had to settle
things within myself. When I was ready to come
back in, she let me back in. And that's what I'm
You're talking about your separation.
Yes. We were separated in the early Seventies.
She kicked me out. Suddenly, I was on a raft alone
in the middle of the universe.
Well, at first, I thought, Whoopee, whoopee! You
know, bachelor life! Whoopee! And then I woke
up one day and I thought, What is this? I want
to go home! But she wouldn't let me come home.
That's why it was 18 months apart instead of six
months. We were talking all the time on the phone
and I would say, "I don't like this, I'm
getting in trouble and I'd like to come home,
please." And she would say, "You're
not ready to come home." So what do you say?
OK, back to the bottle.
What did she mean, you weren't ready?
She has her ways. Whether they be mystical or
practical. When she said it's not ready, it ain't
Back to the bottle?
I was just trying to hide what I felt in the bottle.
I was just insane. It was the lost weekend that
lasted 18 months. I've never drunk so much in
my life. I tried to drown myself in the bottle
and I was with the heaviest drinkers in the business.
PLAYBOY: Such as?
Such as Harry Nilsson, Bobby Keyes, Keith Moon.
We couldn't pull ourselves out. We were trying
to kill ourselves. I think Harry might still be
trying, poor bugger -- God bless you, Harry, wherever
you are -- but, Jesus, you know, I had to get
away from that, because somebody was going to
die. Well, Keith did. It was like, who's going
to die first? Unfortunately, Keith was the one.
Why the self-destruction?
For me, it was because of being apart. I couldn't
stand it. They had their own reasons, and it was,
Let's all drown ourselves together. From where
I was sitting, it looked like that. Let's kill
ourselves but do it like Errol Flynn, you know,
the macho, male way. It's embarrassing for me
to think about that period, because I made a big
fool of myself -- but maybe it was a good lesson
for me. I wrote "Nobody Loves You When You're
Down and Out" during that time. That's how
I felt. It exactly expresses the whole period.
For some reason, I always imagined Sinatra singing
that one. I don't know why. It's kind of a Sinatraesque
song, really. He would do a perfect job with it.
Are you listening, Frank? You need a song that
isn't a piece of nothing. Here's the one for you,
the horn arrangement and everything's made for
you. But don't ask me to produce it.
That must have been the time the papers came out
with reports about Lennon running around town
with a Tampax on his head.
The stories were all so exaggerated, but... We
were all in a restaurant, drinking, not eating,
as usual at those gatherings, and I happened to
go take a pee and there was a brand-new fresh
Kotex, not Tampax, on the toilet. You know the
old trick where you put a penny on your forehead
and it sticks? I was a little high and I just
picked it up and slapped it on and it stayed,
you see. I walked out of the bathroom and I had
a Kotex on my head. Big deal. Everybody went "Ha-ha-ha"
and it fell off, but the press blew it up.
Why did you kick John out, Yoko?
There were many things. I'm what I call a "moving
on" kind of girl; there's a song on our new
album about it. Rather than deal with problems
in relationships, I've always moved on. That's
why I'm one of the very few survivors as a woman,
you know. Women tend to be more into men usually,
but I wasn't...
Yoko looks upon men as assistants... Of varying
degrees of intimacy, but basically assistants.
And this one's going to take a pee. [He exits]
I have no comment on that. But when I met John,
women to him were basically people around who
were serving him. He had to open himself up and
face me -- and I had to see what he was going
through. But... I though I had to move on again,
because I was suffering being with John.
The pressure from the public, being the one who
broke up the Beatles and who made it impossible
for them to get back together. My artwork suffered,
too. I thought I wanted to be free from being
Mrs. Lennon, so I thought it would be a good idea
for him to go to L.A. and leave me alone for a
while. I had put up with it for many years. Even
early on, when John was a Beatle, we stayed in
a room and John and I were in bed and the door
was closed and all that, but we didn't lock the
door and one of the Beatle assistants just walked
in and talked to him as if I weren't there. It
was mind-blowing. I was invisible. The people
around John saw me as a terrible threat. I mean,
I heard there were plans to kill me. Not the Beatles
but the people around them.
How did that news affect you?
The society doesn't understand that the woman
can be castrated, too. I felt castrated. Before,
I was doing all right, thank you. My work might
not have been selling much, I might have been
poorer, but I had my pride. But the most humiliating
thing is to be looked at as a parasite. [Lennon
rejoins the conversation.]
When Yoko and I started doing stuff together,
we would hold press conferences and announce our
whatevers -- we're going to wear bags or whatever.
And before this one press conference, one Beatle
assistant in the upper echelon of Beatle assistants
leaned over to Yoko and said, "You know,
you don't have to work. You've got enough money,
now that you're Mrs. Lennon." And when she
complained to me about it, I couldn't understand
what she was talking about. "But this guy,"
I'd say, "He's just good old Charley, or
whatever. He's been with us 20 years...."
The same kind of thing happened in the studio.
She would say to an engineer, "I'd like a
little more treble, a little more bass,"
or "There's too much of whatever you're putting
on," and they'd look at me and say, "What
did you say, John?" Those days I didn't even
notice it myself. Now I know what she's talking
about. In Japan, when I ask for a cup of tea in
Japanese, they look at Yoko and ask, "He
wants a cup of tea?" in Japanese.
So a good few years of that kind of thing emasculates
you. I had always been more macho than most guys
I was with, in a sense. I had always been the
breadwinner, because I always wanted to have the
freedom and the control. Suddenly, I'm with somebody
I can't possibly compete with on a level of earnings.
Finally, I couldn't take it -- or I decided not
to take it any longer. I would have had the same
difficulty even if I hadn't gotten involved with,
John -- John is the name.
With John. But John wasn't just John. He was also
his group and the people around them. When I say
John, it's not just John----
That's John. J-O-H-N. From Johan, I believe.
So you made him leave?
She don't suffer fools gladly, even if she's married
How did you finally get back together?
It slowly started to dawn on me that John was
not the trouble at all. John was a fine person.
It was society that had become too much. We laugh
about it now, but we started dating again. I wanted
to be sure. I'm thankful to John's intelligence----
Now, get that, editors -- you got that word?
That he was intelligent enough to know this was
the only way that we could save our marriage,
not because we didn't love each other but because
it was getting too much for me. Nothing would
have changed if I had come back as Mrs. Lennon
What did change?
It was good for me to do the business and regain
my pride about what I could do. And it was good
to know what he needed, the role reversal that
was so good for him.
And we learned that it's better for the family
if we are both working for the family, she doing
the business and me playing mother and wife. We
reordered our priorities. The number-one priority
is her and the family. Everything else revolves
It's a hard realization. These days, the society
prefers single people. The encouragements are
to divorce or separate or be single or gay --
whatever. Corporations want singles -- they work
harder if they don't have family ties. They don't
have to worry about being home in the evenings
or on the weekends. There's not much room for
emotions about family or personal relationships.
You know, the whole thing they say to women approaching
30 that if you don't have a baby in the next few
years, you're going to be in trouble, you'll never
be a mother, so you'll never be fulfilled in that
Only Yoko was 73 when she had Sean. [Laughter]
So instead of the society discouraging children,
since they are important for society, it should
encourage them. It's the responsibility of everybody.
But it is hard. A woman has to deny what she has,
her womb, if she wants to make it. It seems that
only the privileged classes can have families.
Nowadays, maybe it's only the McCartneys and the
Lennons or something.
Everybody else becomes a worker-consumer.
And then Big Brother will decide -- I hate to
use the term Big Brother...
Too late. They've got it on tape. [Laughs]
But, finally, the society----
Big Sister -- wait till she comes!
The society will do away with the roles of men
and women. Babies will be born in test tubes and
Then it's Aldous Huxley.
But we don't have to go that way. We don't have
to deny any of our organs, you know.
Some of my best friends are organs----
The new album----
Back to the album, very good----
The album fights these things. The messages are
sort of old-fashioned -- family, relationships,
The album obviously reflects your new priorities.
How have things gone for you since you made that
We got back together, decided this was our life,
that having a baby was important to us and that
anything else was subsidiary to that. We worked
hard for that child. We went through all hell
trying to have a baby, through many miscarriages
and other problems. He is what they call a love
child in truth. Doctors told us we could never
have a child. We almost gave up. "Well, that's
it, then, we can't have one. . . ." We were
told something was wrong with my sperm, that I
abused myself so much in my youth that there was
no chance. Yoko was 43, and so they said, no way.
She has had too many miscarriages and when she
was a young girl, there were no pills, so there
were lots of abortions and miscarriages; her stomach
must be like Kew Gardens in London. No way. But
this Chinese acupuncturist in San Francisco said,
"You behave yourself. No drugs, eat well,
no drink. You have child in 18 months." And
we said, "But the English doctors said. .
. ." He said, "Forget what they said.
You have child." We had Sean and sent the
acupuncturist a Polaroid of him just before he
died, God rest his soul.
Were there any problems because of Yoko's age?
Not because of her age but because of a screw-up
in the hospital and the fucking price of fame.
Somebody had made a transfusion of the wrong blood
type into Yoko. I was there when it happened,
and she starts to go rigid, and then shake, from
the pain and the trauma. I run up to this nurse
and say, "Go get the doctor!" I'm holding
on tight to Yoko while this guy gets to the hospital
room. He walks in, hardly notices that Yoko is
going through fucking convulsions, goes straight
for me, smiles, shakes my hand and says, "I've
always wanted to meet you, Mr. Lennon, I always
enjoyed your music." I start screaming: "My
wife's dying and you wanna talk about my music!"
Now that Sean is almost five, is he conscious
of the fact that his father was a Beatle or have
you protected him from your fame?
I haven't said anything. Beatles were never mentioned
to him. There was no reason to mention it; we
never played Beatle records around the house,
unlike the story that went around that I was sitting
in the kitchen for the past five years, playing
Beatle records and reliving my past like some
kind of Howard Hughes. He did see "Yellow
Submarine" at a friend's, so I had to explain
what a cartoon of me was doing in a movie.
Does he have an awareness of the Beatles?
He doesn't differentiate between the Beatles and
Daddy and Mommy. He thinks Yoko was a Beatle,
too. I don't have Beatle records on the jukebox
he listens to. He's more exposed to early rock
'n' roll. He's into "Hound Dog." He
thinks it's about hunting. Sean's not going to
public school, by the way. We feel he can learn
the three Rs when he wants to -- or when the law
says he has to, I suppose. I'm not going to fight
it. Otherwise, there's no reason for him to be
learning to sit still. I can't see any reason
for it. Sean now has plenty of child companionship,
which everybody says is important, but he also
is with adults a lot. He's adjusted to both. The
reason why kids are crazy is because nobody can
face the responsibility of bringing them up. Everybody's
too scared to deal with children all the time,
so we reject them and send them away and torture
them. The ones who survive are the conformists
-- their bodies are cut to the size of the suits
-- the ones we label good. The ones who don't
fit the suits either are put in mental homes or
Your son, Julian, from your first marriage must
be in his teens. Have you seen him over the years?
Well, Cyn got possession, or whatever you call
it. I got rights to see him on his holidays and
all that business, and at least there's an open
line still going. It's not the best relationship
between father and son, but it is there. He's
17 now. Julian and I will have a relationship
in the future. Over the years, he's been able
to see through the Beatle image and to see through
the image that his mother will have given him,
subconsciously or consciously. He's interested
in girls and autobikes now. I'm just sort of a
figure in the sky, but he's obliged to communicate
with me, even when he probably doesn't want to.
You're being very honest about your feelings toward
him to the point of saying that Sean is your first
child. Are you concerned about hurting him?
I'm not going to lie to Julian. Ninety percent
of the people on this planet, especially in the
West, were born out of a bottle of whiskey on
a Saturday night, and there was no intent to have
children. So 90 percent of us -- that includes
everybody -- were accidents. I don't know anybody
who was a planned child. All of us were Saturday-night
specials. Julian is in the majority, along with
me and everybody else. Sean is a planned child,
and therein lies the difference. I don't love
Julian any less as a child. He's still my son,
whether he came from a bottle of whiskey or because
they didn't have pills in those days. He's here,
he belongs to me and he always will.
Yoko, your relationship with your daughter has
been much rockier.
I lost Kyoko when she was about five. I was sort
of an offbeat mother, but we had very good communication.
I wasn't particularly taking care of her, but
she was always with me -- onstage or at gallery
shows, whatever. When she was not even a year
old, I took her onstage as an instrument -- an
uncontrollable instrument, you know. My communication
with her was on the level of sharing conversation
and doing things. She was closer to my ex-husband
because of that.
What happened when she was five?
John and I got together and I separated from my
ex-husband [Tony Cox]. He took Kyoko away. It
became a case of parent kidnaping and we tried
to get her back.
It was a classic case of men being macho. It turned
into me and Allen Klein trying to dominate Tony
Cox. Tony's attitude was, "You got my wife,
but you won't get my child." In this battle,
Yoko and the child were absolutely forgotten.
I've always felt bad about it. It became a case
of the shoot-out at the O.K. Corral: Cox fled
to the hills and hid out and the sheriff and I
tracked him down. First we won custody in court.
Yoko didn't want to go to court, but the men,
Klein and I, did it anyway.
Allen called up one day, saying I won the court
case. He gave me a piece of paper. I said, "What
is this piece of paper? Is this what I won? I
don't have my child." I knew that taking
them to court would frighten them and, of course,
it did frighten them. So Tony vanished. He was
very strong, thinking that the capitalists, with
their money and lawyers and detectives, were pursuing
him. It made him stronger.
We chased him all over the world. God knows where
he went. So if you're reading this, Tony, let's
grow up about it. It's gone. We don't want to
chase you anymore, because we've done enough damage.
We also had private detectives chasing Kyoko,
which I thought was a bad trip, too. One guy came
to report, "It was great! We almost had them.
We were just behind them in a car, but they sped
up and got away." I went hysterical. "What
do you mean you almost got them? We are talking
about my child!"
It was like we were after an escaped convict.
Were you so persistent because you felt you were
better for Kyoko?
Yoko got steamed into a guilt thing that if she
wasn't attacking them with detectives and police
and the FBI, then she wasn't a good mother looking
for her baby. She kept saying, "Leave them
alone, leave them alone," but they said you
can't do that.
For me, it was like they just disappeared from
my life. Part of me left with them.
How old is she now?
Seventeen, the same as John's son.
Perhaps when she gets older, she'll seek you out.
She is totally frightened. There was a time in
Spain when a lawyer and John thought that we should
[Sighing] I was just going to commit hara-kiri
And we did kidnap her and went to court. The court
did a very sensible thing -- the judge took her
into a room and asked her which one of us she
wanted to go with. Of course, she said Tony. We
had scared her to death. So now she must be afraid
that if she comes to see me, she'll never see
her father again.
When she gets to be in her 20s, she'll understand
that we were idiots and we know we were idiots.
She might give us a chance.
I probably would have lost Kyoko even if it wasn't
for John. If I had separated from Tony, there
would have been some difficulty.
I'll just half-kill myself.
[To John] Part of the reason things got so bad
was because with Kyoko, it was you and Tony dealing.
Men. With your son Julian, it was women -- there
was more understanding between me and Cyn.
Can you explain that?
For example, there was a birthday party that Kyoko
had and we were both invited, but John felt very
uptight about it and he didn't go. He wouldn't
deal with Tony. But we were both invited to Julian's
party and we both went.
Oh, God, it's all coming out.
Or like when I was invited to Tony's place alone,
I couldn't go; but when John was invited to Cyn's,
he did go.
One rule for the men, one for the women.
So it was easier for Julian, because I was allowing
it to happen.
But I've said a million Hail Marys. What the hell
else can I do?
Yoko, after this experience, how do you feel about
leaving Sean's rearing to John?
I am very clear about my emotions in that area.
I don't feel guilty. I am doing it in my own way.
It may not be the same as other mothers, but I'm
doing it the way I can do it. In general, mothers
have a very strong resentment toward their children,
even though there's this whole adulation about
motherhood and how mothers really think about
their children and how they really love them.
I mean, they do, but it is not humanly possible
to retain emotion that mothers are supposed to
have within this society. Women are just too stretched
out in different directions to retain that emotion.
Too much is required of them. So I say to John----
I am her favorite husband----
"I am carrying the baby nine months and that
is enough, so you take care of it afterward."
It did sound like a crude remark, but I really
believe that children belong to the society. If
a mother carries the child and a father raises
it, the responsibility is shared.
Did you resent having to take so much responsibility,
Well, sometimes, you know, she'd come home and
say, "I'm tired." I'd say, only partly
tongue in cheek, "What the fuck do you think
I am? I'm 24 hours with the baby! Do you think
that's easy?" I'd say, "You're going
to take some more interest in the child."
I don't care whether it's a father or a mother.
When I'm going on about pimples and bones and
which TV shows to let him watch, I would say,
"Listen, this is important. I don't want
to hear about your $20,000,000 deal tonight!"
[To Yoko] I would like both parents to take care
of the children, but how is a different matter.
Society should be more supportive and understanding.
It's true. The saying "You've come a long
way, baby" applies more to me than to her.
As Harry Nilsson says, "Everything is the
opposite of what it is, isn't it?" It's men
who've come a long way from even contemplating
the idea of equality. But although there is this
thing called the women's movement, society just
took a laxative and they've just farted. They
haven't really had a good shit yet. The seed was
planted sometime in the late Sixties, right? But
the real changes are coming. I am the one who
has come a long way. I was the pig. And it is
a relief not to be a pig. The pressures of being
a pig were enormous. I don't have any hankering
to be looked upon as a sex object, a male, macho
rock-'n'-roll singer. I got over that a long time
ago. I'm not even interested in projecting that.
So I like it to be known that, yes, I looked after
the baby and I made bread and I was a househusband
and I am proud of it. It's the wave of the future
and I'm glad to be in on the forefront of that,
So maybe both of us learned a lot about how men
and women suffer because of the social structure.
And the only way to change it is to be aware of
it. It sounds simple, but important things are
John, does it take actually reversing roles with
women to understand?
It did for this man. But don't forget, I'm the
one who benefited the most from doing it. Now
I can step back and say Sean is going to be five
years old and I was able to spend his first five
years with him and I am very proud of that. And
come to think of it, it looks like I'm going to
be 40 and life begins at 40 -- so they promise.
And I believe it, too. I feel fine and I'm very
excited. It's like, you know, hitting 21, like,
"Wow, what's going to happen next?"
Only this time we're together.
If two are gathered together, there's nothing
you can't do.
What does the title of your new album, "Double
It's a flower, a type of freesia, but what it
means to us is that if two people picture the
same image at the same time, that is the secret.
You can be together but projecting two different
images and either whoever's the stronger at the
time will get his or her fantasy fulfilled or
you will get nothing but mishmash.
You saw the news item that said you were putting
your sex fantasies out as an album.
Oh, yeah. That is like when we did the bed-in
in Toronto in 1969. They all came charging through
the door, thinking we were going to be screwing
in bed. Of course, we were just sitting there
with peace signs.
What was that famous bed-in all about?
Our life is our art. That's what the bed-ins were.
When we got married, we knew our honeymoon was
going to be public, anyway, so we decided to use
it to make a statement. We sat in bed and talked
to reporters for seven days. It was hilarious.
In effect, we were doing a commercial for peace
on the front page of the papers instead of a commercial
You stayed in bed and talked about peace?
Yes. We answered questions. One guy kept going
over the point about Hitler: "What do you
do about Fascists? How can you have peace when
you've got a Hitler?" Yoko said, "I
would have gone to bed with him." She said
she'd have needed only ten days with him. People
loved that one.
I said it facetiously, of course. But the point
is, you're not going to change the world by fighting.
Maybe I was naive about the ten days with Hitler.
After all, it took 13 years with John Lennon.
What were the reports about your making love in
We never made love in a bag. People probably imagined
that we were making love. It was just, all of
us are in a bag, you know. The point was the outline
of the bag, you know, the movement of the bag,
how much we see of a person, you know. But, inside,
there might be a lot going on. Or maybe nothing's
Briefly, what about the statement on the new album?
Very briefly, it's about very ordinary things
between two people. The lyrics are direct. Simple
and straight. I went through my Dylanesque period
a long time ago with songs like "I am the
Walrus:" the trick of never saying what you
mean but giving the impression of something more.
Where more or less can be read into it. It's a
What are your musical preferences these days?
Well, I like all music, depending on what time
of day it is. I don't like styles of music or
people per se. I can't say I enjoy the Pretenders,
but I like their hit record. I enjoy the B-52s,
because I heard them doing Yoko. It's great. If
Yoko ever goes back to her old sound, they'll
be saying, "Yeah, she's copying the B-52s."
We were doing a lot of the punk stuff a long time
Lennon and Ono, the original punks.
John, what's your opinion of the newer waves?
I love all this punky stuff. It's pure. I'm not,
however, crazy about the people who destroy themselves.
You disagree with Neil Young's lyric in "Rust
Never Sleeps" -- "It's better to burn
out than to fade away..."
I hate it. It's better to fade away like an old
soldier than to burn out. I don't appreciate worship
of dead Sid Vicious or of dead James Dean or of
dead John Wayne. It's the same thing. Making Sid
Vicious a hero, Jim Morrison -- it's garbage to
me. I worship the people who survive. Gloria Swanson,
Greta Garbo. They're saying John Wayne conquered
cancer -- he whipped it like a man. You know,
I'm sorry that he died and all that -- I'm sorry
for his family -- but he didn't whip cancer. It
whipped him. I don't want Sean worshiping John
Wayne or Sid Vicious. What do they teach you?
Nothing. Death. Sid Vicious died for what? So
that we might rock? I mean, it's garbage, you
know. If Neil Young admires that sentiment so
much, why doesn't he do it? Because he sure as
hell faded away and came back many times, like
all of us. No, thank you. I'll take the living
and the healthy.
Do you listen to the radio?
Muzak or classical. I don't purchase records.
I do enjoy listening to things like Japanese folk
music or Indian music. My tastes are very broad.
When I was a housewife, I just had Muzak on --
background music -- 'cause it relaxes you.
Do you go out and buy records?
Or read the newspaper or magazines or watch TV?
The inevitable question, John. Do you listen to
Least of all my own.
Even your classics?
Are you kidding? For pleasure, I would never listen
to them. When I hear them, I just think of the
session -- it's like an actor watching himself
in an old movie. When I hear a song, I remember
the Abbey Road studio, the session, who fought
with whom, where I was sitting, banging the tambourine
in the corner----
In fact, we really don't enjoy listening to other
people's work much. We sort of analyze everything
Yoko, were you a Beatles fan?
No. Now I notice the songs, of course. In a restaurant,
John will point out, "Ahh, they're playing
George" or something.
John, do you ever go out to hear music?
No, I'm not interested. I'm not a fan, you see.
I might like Jerry Lee Lewis singing "A Whole
Lot a Shakin'" on the record, but I'm not
interested in seeing him perform it.
Your songs are performed more than most other
songwriters'. How does that feel?
I'm always proud and pleased when people do my
songs. It gives me pleasure that they even attempt
them, because a lot of my songs aren't that doable.
I go to restaurants and the groups always play
"Yesterday." I even signed a guy's violin
in Spain after he played us "Yesterday."
He couldn't understand that I didn't write the
song. But I guess he couldn't have gone from table
to table playing "I am the Walrus."
How does it feel to have influenced so many people?
It wasn't really me or us. It was the times. It
happened to me when I heard rock 'n' roll in the
Fifties. I had no idea about doing music as a
way of life until rock 'n' roll hit me.
Do you recall what specifically hit you?
It was "Rock Around the Clock," I think.
I enjoyed Bill Haley, but I wasn't overwhelmed
by him. It wasn't until "Heartbreak Hotel"
that I really got into it.
I am sure there are people whose lives were affected
because they heard Indian music or Mozart or Bach.
More than anything, it was the time and the place
when the Beatles came up. Something did happen
there. It was a kind of chemical. It was as if
several people gathered around a table and a ghost
appeared. It was that kind of communication. So
they were like mediums, in a way. It's not something
you can force. It was the people, the time, their
youth and enthusiasm.
For the sake of argument, we'll maintain that
no other contemporary artist or group of artists
moved as many people in such a profound way as
But what moved the Beatles?
You tell us.
All right. Whatever wind was blowing at the time
moved the Beatles, too. I'm not saying we weren't
flags on the top of a ship; but the whole boat
was moving. Maybe the Beatles were in the crow's-nest,
shouting, "Land ho," or something like
that, but we were all in the same damn boat.
The Beatles themselves were a social phenomenon
not that aware of what they were doing. In a way----
[Under his breath] This Beatles talk bores me
As I said, they were like mediums. They weren't
conscious of all they were saying, but it was
coming through them.
We tuned in to the message. That's all. I don't
mean to belittle the Beatles when I say they weren't
this, they weren't that. I'm just trying not to
overblow their importance as separate from society.
And I don't think they were more important than
Glenn Miller or Woody Herman or Bessie Smith.
It was our generation, that's all. It was Sixties
What do you say to those who insist that all rock
since the Beatles has been the Beatles redone?
All music is rehash. There are only a few notes.
Just variations on a theme. Try to tell the kids
in the Seventies who were screaming to the Bee
Gees that their music was just the Beatles redone.
There is nothing wrong with the Bee Gees. They
do a damn good job. There was nothing else going
Wasn't a lot of the Beatles' music at least more
The Beatles were more intellectual, so they appealed
on that level, too. But the basic appeal of the
Beatles was not their intelligence. It was their
music. It was only after some guy in the "London
Times" said there were Aeolian cadences in
"It Won't Be Long" that the middle classes
started listening to it -- because somebody put
a tag on it.
Did you put Aeolian cadences in "It Won't
To this day, I don't have any idea what they are.
They sound like exotic birds.
How did you react to the misinterpretations of
The most obvious is the "Paul is dead"
fiasco. You already explained the line in "Glass
Onion." What about the line in "I am
the Walrus" -- "I buried Paul"?
I said "Cranberry sauce." That's all
I said. Some people like ping-pong, other people
like digging over graves. Some people will do
anything rather than be here now.
What about the chant at the end of the song: "Smoke
pot, smoke pot, everybody smoke pot"?
No, no, no. I had this whole choir saying, "Everybody's
got one, everybody's got one." But when you
get 30 people, male and female, on top of 30 cellos
and on top of the Beatles' rock-'n'-roll rhythm
section, you can't hear what they're saying.
What does "everybody got"?
Anything. You name it. One penis, one vagina,
one asshole -- you name it.
Did it trouble you when the interpretations of
your songs were destructive, such as when Charles
Manson claimed that your lyrics were messages
No. It has nothing to do with me. It's like that
guy, Son of Sam, who was having these talks with
the dog. Manson was just an extreme version of
the people who came up with the "Paul is
dead" thing or who figured out that the initials
to "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" were
LSD and concluded I was writing about acid.
Where did "Lucy in the Sky" come from?
My son Julian came in one day with a picture he
painted about a school friend of his named Lucy.
He had sketched in some stars in the sky and called
it "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,"
The other images in the song weren't drug-inspired?
The images were from "Alice in Wonderland."
It was Alice in the boat. She is buying an egg
and it turns into Humpty Dumpty. The woman serving
in the shop turns into a sheep and the next minute
they are rowing in a rowing boat somewhere and
I was visualizing that. There was also the image
of the female who would someday come save me --
a "girl with kaleidoscope eyes" who
would come out of the sky. It turned out to be
Yoko, though I hadn't met Yoko yet. So maybe it
should be "Yoko in the Sky with Diamonds."
Do you have any interest in the pop historians
analyzing the Beatles as a cultural phenomenon?
It's all equally irrelevant. Mine is to do and
other people's is to record, I suppose. Does it
matter how many drugs were in Elvis' body? I mean,
Brian Epstein's sex life will make a nice "Hollywood
Babylon" someday, but it is irrelevant.
What started the rumors about you and Epstein?
I went on holiday to Spain with Brian -- which
started all the rumors that he and I were having
a love affair. Well, it was almost a love affair,
but not quite. It was never consummated. But we
did have a pretty intense relationship. And it
was my first experience with someone I knew was
a homosexual. He admitted it to me. We had this
holiday together because Cyn was pregnant and
we left her with the baby and went to Spain. Lots
of funny stories, you know. We used to sit in
cafes and Brian would look at all the boys and
I would ask, "Do you like that one? Do you
like this one?" It was just the combination
of our closeness and the trip that started the
It's interesting to hear you talk about your old
songs such as "Lucy in the Sky" and
"Glass Onion." Will you give some brief
thoughts on some of our favorites?
Let's start with "In My Life."
LENNON: It was the first song I wrote that was
consciously about my life. [Sings] "There
are places I'll remember/all my life though some
have changed..." Before, we were just writing
songs a la Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly -- pop
songs with no more thought to them than that.
The words were almost irrelevant. "In My
Life" started out as a bus journey from my
house at 250 Menlove Avenue to town, mentioning
all the places I could recall. I wrote it all
down and it was boring. So I forgot about it and
laid back and these lyrics started coming to me
about friends and lovers of the past. Paul helped
with the middle eight.
Well, we all know about "Yesterday."
I have had so much accolade for "Yesterday."
That is Paul's song, of course, and Paul's baby.
Well done. Beautiful -- and I never wished I had
"With a Little Help from My Friends."
This is Paul, with a little help from me. "What
do you see when you turn out the light/I can't
tell you, but I know it's mine..." is mine.
"I am the Walrus."
The first line was written on one acid trip one
weekend. The second line was written on the next
acid trip the next weekend, and it was filled
in after I met Yoko. Part of it was putting down
Hare Krishna. All these people were going on about
Hare Krishna, Allen Ginsberg in particular. The
reference to "Element'ry penguin" is
the elementary, naive attitude of going around
chanting, "Hare Krishna," or putting
all your faith in any one idol. I was writing
obscurely, a la Dylan, in those days
The song is very complicated, musically.
It actually was fantastic in stereo, but you never
hear it all. There was too much to get on. It
was too messy a mix. One track was live BBC Radio
-- Shakespeare or something -- I just fed in whatever
lines came in.
What about the walrus itself?
It's from "The Walrus and the Carpenter."
"Alice in Wonderland." To me, it was
a beautiful poem. It never dawned on me that Lewis
Carroll was commenting on the capitalist and social
system. I never went into that bit about what
he really meant, like people are doing with the
Beatles' work. Later, I went back and looked at
it and realized that the walrus was the bad guy
in the story and the carpenter was the good guy.
I thought, Oh, shit, I picked the wrong guy. I
should have said, "I am the carpenter."
But that wouldn't have been the same, would it?
[Singing] "I am the carpenter...."
How about "She Came in Through the Bathroom
That was written by Paul when we were in New York
forming Apple, and he first met Linda. Maybe she's
the one who came in the window. She must have.
I don't know. Somebody came in the window.
"I Feel Fine."
That's me, including the guitar lick with the
first feedback ever recorded. I defy anybody to
find an earlier record -- unless it is some old
blues record from the Twenties -- with feedback
"When I'm Sixty-Four."
Paul completely. I would never even dream of writing
a song like that. There are some areas I never
think about and that is one of them.
"A Day in the Life."
Just as it sounds: I was reading the paper one
day and I noticed two stories. One was the Guinness
heir who killed himself in a car. That was the
main headline story. He died in London in a car
crash. On the next page was a story about 4000
holes in Blackburn, Lancashire. In the streets,
that is. They were going to fill them all. Paul's
contribution was the beautiful little lick in
the song "I'd love to turn you on."
I had the bulk of the song and the words, but
he contributed this little lick floating around
in his head that he couldn't use for anything.
I thought it was a damn good piece of work.
May we continue with some of the ones that seem
more personal and see what reminiscences they
For no reason whatsoever, let's start with "I
Wanna Be Your Man."
Paul and I finished that one off for the Stones.
We were taken down by Brian to meet them at the
club where they were playing in Richmond. They
wanted a song and we went to see what kind of
stuff they did. Paul had this bit of a song and
we played it roughly for them and they said, "Yeah,
OK, that's our style." But it was only really
a lick, so Paul and I went off in the corner of
the room and finished the song off while they
were all sitting there, talking. We came back
and Mick and Keith said, "Jesus, look at
that. They just went over there and wrote it."
You know, right in front of their eyes. We gave
it to them. It was a throwaway. Ringo sang it
for us and the Stones did their version. It shows
how much importance we put on them. We weren't
going to give them anything great, right? That
was the Stones' first record. Anyway, Mick and
Keith said, "If they can write a song so
easily, we should try it." They say it inspired
them to start writing together.
How about "Strawberry Fields Forever?"
Strawberry Fields is a real place. After I stopped
living at Penny Lane, I moved in with my auntie
who lived in the suburbs in a nice semidetached
place with a small garden and doctors and lawyers
and that ilk living around -- not the poor slummy
kind of image that was projected in all the Beatles
stories. In the class system, it was about half
a class higher than Paul, George and Ringo, who
lived in government-subsidized housing. We owned
our house and had a garden. They didn't have anything
like that. Near that home was Strawberry Fields,
a house near a boys' reformatory where I used
to go to garden parties as a kid with my friends
Nigel and Pete. We would go there and hang out
and sell lemonade bottles for a penny. We always
had fun at Strawberry Fields. So that's where
I got the name. But I used it as an image. Strawberry
And the lyrics, for instance: "Living is
[Singing] "With eyes closed. Misunderstanding
all you see." It still goes, doesn't it?
Aren't I saying exactly the same thing now? The
awareness apparently trying to be expressed is
-- let's say in one way I was always hip. I was
hip in kindergarten. I was different from the
others. I was different all my life. The second
verse goes, "No one I think is in my tree."
Well, I was too shy and self-doubting. Nobody
seems to be as hip as me is what I was saying.
Therefore, I must be crazy or a genius -- "I
mean it must be high or low," the next line.
There was something wrong with me, I thought,
because I seemed to see things other people didn't
see. I thought I was crazy or an egomaniac for
claiming to see things other people didn't see.
As a child, I would say, "But this is going
on!" and everybody would look at me as if
I was crazy. I always was so psychic or intuitive
or poetic or whatever you want to call it, that
I was always seeing things in a hallucinatory
way. It was scary as a child, because there was
nobody to relate to. Neither my auntie nor my
friends nor anybody could ever see what I did.
It was very, very scary and the only contact I
had was reading about an Oscar Wilde or a Dylan
Thomas or a Vincent van Gogh -- all those books
that my auntie had that talked about their suffering
because of their visions. Because of what they
saw, they were tortured by society for trying
to express what they were. I saw loneliness.
Were you able to find others to share your visions
Only dead people in books. Lewis Carroll, certain
paintings. Surrealism had a great effect on me,
because then I realized that my imagery and my
mind wasn't insanity; that if it was insane, I
belong in an exclusive club that sees the world
in those terms. Surrealism to me is reality. Psychic
vision to me is reality. Even as a child. When
I looked at myself in the mirror or when I was
12, 13, I used to literally trance out into alpha.
I didn't know what it was called then. I found
out years later there is a name for those conditions.
But I would find myself seeing hallucinatory images
of my face changing and becoming cosmic and complete.
It caused me to always be a rebel. This thing
gave me a chip on the shoulder; but, on the other
hand, I wanted to be loved and accepted. Part
of me would like to be accepted by all facets
of society and not be this loudmouthed lunatic
musician. But I cannot be what I am not. Because
of my attitude, all the other boys' parents, including
Paul's father, would say, "Keep away from
him." The parents instinctively recognized
what I was, which was a troublemaker, meaning
I did not conform and I would influence their
kids, which I did. I did my best to disrupt every
friend's home I had. Partly, maybe, it was out
of envy that I didn't have this so-called home.
But I really did. I had an auntie and an uncle
and a nice suburban home, thank you very much.
Hear this, Auntie. She was hurt by a remark Paul
made recently that the reason I am staying home
with Sean now is because I never had a family
life. It's absolute rubbish. There were five women
who were my family. Five strong, intelligent women.
Five sisters. One happened to be my mother. My
mother was the youngest. She just couldn't deal
with life. She had a husband who ran away to sea
and the war was on and she couldn't cope with
me, and when I was four and a half, I ended up
living with her elder sister. Now, those women
were fantastic. One day I might do a kind of "Forsyte
Saga" just about them. That was my first
feminist education. Anyway, that knowledge and
the fact that I wasn't with my parents made me
see that parents are not gods. I would infiltrate
the other boys' minds. Paul's parents were terrified
of me and my influence, simply because I was free
from the parents' strangle hold. That was the
gift I got for not having parents. I cried a lot
about not having them and it was torture, but
it also gave me an awareness early. I wasn't an
orphan, though. My mother was alive and lived
a 15-minute walk away from me all my life. I saw
her off and on. I just didn't live with her.
Is she alive?
No, she got killed by an off-duty cop who was
drunk after visiting my auntie's house where I
lived. I wasn't there at the time. She was just
at a bus stop. I was 16. That was another big
trauma for me. I lost her twice. When I was five
and I moved in with my auntie, and then when she
physically died. That made me more bitter; the
chip on my shoulder I had as a youth got really
big then. I was just really re-establishing the
relationship with her and she was killed.
Her name was Julia, wasn't it? Is she the Julia
of your song of that name on "The White Album?"
The song is for her -- and for Yoko.
What kind of relationship did you have with your
father, who went away to sea? Did you ever see
I never saw him again until I made a lot of money
and he came back.
How old were you?
Twenty-four or 25. I opened the "Daily Express"
and there he was, washing dishes in a small hotel
or something very near where I was living in the
Stockbroker belt outside London. He had been writing
to me to try to get in contact. I didn't want
to see him. I was too upset about what he'd done
to me and to my mother and that he would turn
up when I was rich and famous and not bother turning
up before. So I wasn't going to see him at all,
but he sort of blackmailed me in the press by
saying all this about being a poor man washing
dishes while I was living in luxury. I fell for
it and saw him and we had some kind of relationship.
He died a few years later of cancer. But at 65,
he married a secretary who had been working for
the Beatles, age 22, and they had a child, which
I thought was hopeful for a man who had lived
his life as a drunk and almost a Bowery bum.
We'll never listen to "Strawberry Fields
Forever" the same way again. What memories
are jogged by the song "Help!?"
When "Help!" came out in '65, I was
actually crying out for help. Most people think
it's just a fast rock-'n'-roll song. I didn't
realize it at the time; I just wrote the song
because I was commissioned to write it for the
movie. But later, I knew I really was crying out
for help. It was my fat Elvis period. You see
the movie: He -- I -- is very fat, very insecure,
and he's completely lost himself. And I am singing
about when I was so much younger and all the rest,
looking back at how easy it was. Now I may be
very positive -- yes, yes -- but I also go through
deep depressions where I would like to jump out
the window, you know. It becomes easier to deal
with as I get older; I don't know whether you
learn control or, when you grow up, you calm down
a little. Anyway, I was fat and depressed and
I was crying out for help. In those days, when
the Beatles were depressed, we had this little
chant. I would yell out, "Where are we going,
fellows?" They would say, "To the top,
Johnny," in pseudo-American voices. And I
would say, "Where is that, fellows?"
And they would say, "To the toppermost of
the poppermost." It was some dumb expression
from a cheap movie -- a la "Blackboard Jungle"
-- about Liverpool. Johnny was the leader of the
What were you depressed about during the "Help!"
The Beatles thing had just gone beyond comprehension.
We were smoking marijuana for breakfast. We were
well into marijuana and nobody could communicate
with us, because we were just all glazed eyes,
giggling all the time. In our own world. That
was the song, "Help!." I think everything
that comes out of a song -- even Paul's songs
now, which are apparently about nothing -- shows
something about yourself.
Was "I'm a Loser" a similarly personal
Part of me suspects that I'm a loser and the other
part of me thinks I'm God Almighty.
How about "Cold Turkey?"
The song is self-explanatory. The song got banned,
even though it's antidrug. They're so stupid about
drugs, you know. They're not looking at the cause
of the drug problem: Why do people take drugs?
To escape from what? Is life so terrible? Are
we living in such a terrible situation that we
can't do anything without reinforcement of alcohol,
tobacco? Aspirins, sleeping pills, uppers, downers,
never mind the heroin and cocaine -- they're just
the outer fringes of Librium and speed.
Do you use any drugs now?
Not really. If somebody gives me a joint, I might
smoke it, but I don't go after it.
I've had cocaine, but I don't like it. The Beatles
had lots of it in their day, but it's a dumb drug,
because you have to have another one 20 minutes
later. Your whole concentration goes on getting
the next fix. Really, I find caffeine is easier
to deal with.
Not in years. A little mushroom or peyote is not
beyond my scope, you know, maybe twice a year
or something. You don't hear about it anymore,
but people are still visiting the cosmos. We must
always remember to thank the CIA and the Army
for LSD. That's what people forget. Everything
is the opposite of what it is, isn't it, Harry?
So get out the bottle, boy -- and relax. They
invented LSD to control people and what they did
was give us freedom. Sometimes it works in mysterious
ways its wonders to perform. If you look in the
Government reports on acid, the ones who jumped
out the window or killed themselves because of
it, I think even with Art Linkletter's daughter,
it happened to her years later. So, let's face
it, she wasn't really on acid when she jumped
out the window. And I've never met anybody who's
had a flashback on acid. I've never had a flashback
in my life and I took millions of trips in the
What does your diet include besides sashimi and
sushi, Hershey bars and cappuccinos?
We're mostly macrobiotic, but sometimes I take
the family out for a pizza.
Intuition tells you what to eat. It's dangerous
to try to unify things. Everybody has different
needs. We went through vegetarianism and macrobiotic,
but now, because we're in the studio, we do eat
some junk food. We're trying to stick to macrobiotic:
fish and rice, whole grains. You balance foods
and eat foods indigenous to the area. Corn is
the grain from this area.
And you both smoke up a storm.
Macrobiotic people don't believe in the big C.
Whether you take that as a rationalization or
not, macrobiotics don't believe that smoking is
bad for you. Of course, if we die, we're wrong.
Let's go back to jogging your memory with songs.
How about Paul's song "Hey Jude?"
He said it was written about Julian. He knew I
was splitting with Cyn and leaving Julian then.
He was driving to see Julian to say hello. He
had been like an uncle. And he came up with "Hey
Jude." But I always heard it as a song to
me. Now I'm sounding like one of those fans reading
things into it. . . . Think about it: Yoko had
just come into the picture. He is saying. "Hey,
Jude" -- "Hey, John." Subconsciously,
he was saying, Go ahead, leave me. On a conscious
level, he didn't want me to go ahead. The angel
in him was saying. "Bless you." The
Devil in him didn't like it at all, because he
didn't want to lose his partner.
What about "Because?"
I was lying on the sofa in our house, listening
to Yoko play Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata"
on the piano. Suddenly, I said, "Can you
play those chords backward?" She did, and
I wrote "Because" around them. The song
sounds like "Moonlight Sonata," too.
The lyrics are clear, no bullshit, no imagery,
no obscure references.
"Give Peace a Chance."
All we were saying was give peace a chance.
Was it really a Lennon-McCartney composition?
No, I don't even know why his name was on it.
It's there because I kind of felt guilty because
I'd made the separate single -- the first -- and
I was really breaking away from the Beatles.
Why were the compositions you and Paul did separately
attributed to Lennon-McCartney?
Paul and I made a deal when we were 15. There
was never a legal deal between us, just a deal
we made when we decided to write together that
we put both our names on it, no matter what.
How about "Do You Want to Know a Secret?"
The idea came from this thing my mother used to
sing to me when I was one or two years old, when
she was still living with me. It was from a Disney
movie: "Do you want to know a secret? Promise
not to tell/You are standing by a wishing well."
So, with that in my head, I wrote the song and
just gave it to George to sing. I thought it would
be a good vehicle for him, because it had only
three notes and he wasn't the best singer in the
world. He has improved a lot since then; but in
those days, his ability was very poor. I gave
it to him just to give him a piece of the action.
That's another reason why I was hurt by his book.
I even went to the trouble of making sure he got
the B side of a Beatles single, because he hadn't
had a B side of one until "Do You Want to
Know a Secret?" "Something" was
the first time he ever got an A side, because
Paul and I always wrote both sides. That wasn't
because we were keeping him out but simply because
his material was not up to scratch. I made sure
he got the B side of "Something," too,
so he got the cash. Those little things he doesn't
remember. I always felt bad that George and Ringo
didn't get a piece of the publishing. When the
opportunity came to give them five percent each
of Maclen, it was because of me they got it. It
was not because of Klein and not because of Paul
but because of me. When I said they should get
it, Paul couldn't say no. I don't get a piece
of any of George's songs or Ringo's. I never asked
for anything for the contributions I made to George's
songs like "Taxman." Not even the recognition.
And that is why I might have sounded resentful
about George and Ringo, because it was after all
those things that the attitude of "John has
forsaken us" and "John is tricking us"
came out -- which is not true.
PLAYBOY: "Happiness Is a Warm Gun."
No, it's not about heroin. A gun magazine was
sitting there with a smoking gun on the cover
and an article that I never read inside called
"Happiness Is a Warm Gun." I took it
right from there. I took it as the terrible idea
of just having shot some animal.
What about the sexual puns: "When you feel
my finger on your trigger"?
Well, it was at the beginning of my relationship
with Yoko and I was very sexually oriented then.
When we weren't in the studio, we were in bed.
What was the allusion to "Mother Superior
jumps the gun"?
I call Yoko Mother or Madam just in an offhand
way. The rest doesn't mean anything. It's just
images of her.
"Across the Universe."
The Beatles didn't make a good record of "Across
the Universe." I think subconsciously we
-- I thought Paul subconsciously tried to destroy
my great songs. We would play experimental games
with my great pieces, like "Strawberry Fields,"
which I always felt was badly recorded. It worked,
but it wasn't what it could have been. I allowed
it, though. We would spend hours doing little,
detailed cleaning up on Paul's songs, but when
it came to mine -- especially a great song like
"Strawberry Fields" or "Across
the Universe" -- somehow an atmosphere of
looseness and experimentation would come up.
Subconscious sabotage. I was too hurt. . . . Paul
will deny it, because he has a bland face and
will say this doesn't exist. This is the kind
of thing I'm talking about where I was always
seeing what was going on and began to think, Well,
maybe I'm paranoid. But it is not paranoid. It
is the absolute truth. The same thing happened
to "Across the Universe." The song was
never done properly. The words stand, luckily.
It is a diary form of writing. All that "I
used to be cruel to my woman, I beat her and kept
her apart from the things that she loved"
was me. I used to be cruel to my woman, and physically
-- any woman. I was a hitter. I couldn't express
myself and I hit. I fought men and I hit women.
That is why I am always on about peace, you see.
It is the most violent people who go for love
and peace. Everything's the opposite. But I sincerely
believe in love and peace. I am not violent man
who has learned not to be violent and regrets
his violence. I will have to be a lot older before
I can face in public how I treated women as a
We recorded the song twice. The Beatles were getting
really tense with one another. I did the slow
version and I wanted it out as a single: as a
statement of the Beatles' position on Vietnam
and the Beatles' position on revolution. For years,
on the Beatle tours, Epstein had stopped us from
saying anything about Vietnam or the war. And
he wouldn't allow questions about it. But on one
tour, I said, "I am going to answer about
the war. We can't ignore it." I absolutely
wanted the Beatles to say something. The first
take of "Revolution" -- well, George
and Paul were resentful and said it wasn't fast
enough. Now, if you go into details of what a
hit record is and isn't maybe. But the Beatles
could have afforded to put out the slow, understandable
version of "Revolution" as a single.
Whether it was a gold record or a wooden record.
But because they were so upset about the Yoko
period and the fact that I was again becoming
as creative and dominating as I had been in the
early days, after lying fallow for a couple of
years, it upset the apple cart. I was awake again
and they couldn't stand it?
Was it Yoko's inspiration?
She inspired all this creation in me. It wasn't
that she inspired the songs; she inspired me.
The statement in "Revolution" was mine.
The lyrics stand today. It's still my feeling
about politics. I want to see the plan. That is
what I used to say to Abbie Hoffman and Jerry
Rubin. Count me out if it is for violence. Don't
expect me to be on the barricades unless it is
What do you think of Hoffman's turning himself
Well he got what he wanted. Which is to be sort
of an underground hero for anybody who still worships
any manifestation of the underground. I don't
feel that much about it anymore. Nixon, Hoffman,
it's the same. They are all from the same period.
It was kind of surprising to see Abbie on TV,
but it was also surprising to see Nixon on TV.
Maybe people get the feeling when they see me
or us. I feel, What are they doing there? Is this
an old newsreel?
On a new album, you close with "Hard Times
Are Over (For a While)." Why?
It's not a new message: "Give Peace a Chance"
-- we're not being unreasonable, just saying,
"Give it a chance." With "Imagine,"
we're saying, "Can you imagine a world without
countries or religions?" It's the same message
over and over. And it's positive.
How does it feel to have people anticipate your
new record because they feel you are a prophet
of sorts? When you returned to the studio to make
"Double Fantasy," some of your fans
were saying things like, "Just as Lennon
defined the Sixties and the Seventies, he'll be
defining the Eighties."
It's very sad. Anyway, we're not saying anything
new. A, we have already said it and, B, 100,000,000
other people have said it, too.
But your songs do have messages.
All we are saying is, "This is what is happening
to us." We are sending postcards. I don't
let it become "I am the awakened; you are
sheep that will be shown the way." That is
the danger of saying anything, you know.
Especially for you.
Listen, there's nothing wrong with following examples.
We can have figure heads and people we admire,
but we don't need leaders. Don't follow leaders,
watch the parking meters."
You're quoting one of your peers, of sorts. Is
it distressing to you that Dylan is a born-again
I don't like to comment on it. For whatever reason
he's doing it, it is personal for him and he needs
to do it. But the whole religion business suffers
from the "Onward, Christian Soldiers"
bit. There's too much talk about soldiers and
marching and converting. I'm not pushing Buddhism,
because I'm no more a Buddhist than I am a Christian,
but there's one thing I admire about the religion:
There's no proselytizing.
Were you a Dylan fan?
No, I stopped listening to Dylan with both ears
after "Highway 64" [sic] and "Blonde
on Blonde," and even then it was because
George would sit me down and make me listen.
Like Dylan, weren't you also looking for some
kind of leader when you did primal-scream therapy
with Arthur Janov?
I think Janov was a daddy for John. I think he
has this father complex and he's always searching
for a daddy.
Had, dear. I had a father complex.
Would you explain?
I had a daddy, a real daddy, sort of a big and
strong father like a Billy Graham, but growing
up, I saw his weak side. I saw the hypocrisy.
So whenever I see something that is supposed to
be so big and wonderful -- a guru or primal scream
-- I'm very cynical.
She fought with Janov all the time. He couldn't
deal with it.
I'm not searching for the big daddy. I look for
something else in men -- something that is tender
and weak and I feel like I want to help.
And I was the lucky cripple she chose!
I have this mother instinct, or whatever. But
I was not hung up on finding a father, because
I had one who disillusioned me. John never had
a chance to get disillusioned about his father,
since his father wasn't around, so he never thought
of him as that big man.
Do you agree with that assessment, John?
A lot of us are looking for fathers. Mine was
physically not there. Most people's are not there
mentally and physically, like always at the office
or busy with other things. So all these leaders,
parking meters, are all substitute fathers, whether
they be religious or political. . . . All this
bit about electing a President. We pick our own
daddy out of a dog pound of daddies. This is the
daddy that looks like the daddy in the commercials.
He's got the nice gray hair and the right teeth
and the parting's on the right side. OK? This
is the daddy we choose. The dog pound of daddies,
which is the political arena, gives us a President,
then we put him on a platform and start punishing
him and screaming at him because Daddy can't do
miracles. Daddy doesn't heal us.
So Janov was a daddy for you. Who else?
Before, there was Maharishi.
Maharishi was a father figure, Elvis Presley might
have been a father figure. I don't know. Robert
Mitchum. Any male image is a father figure. There's
nothing wrong with it until you give them the
right to give you sort of a recipe for your life.
What happens is somebody comes along with a good
piece of truth. Instead of the truth's being looked
at, the person who brought it is looked at. The
messenger is worshiped, instead of the message.
So there would be Christianity, Mohammedanism,
Buddhism, Confucianism, Marxism, Maoism -- everything
-- it is always about a person and never about
what he says.
All the isms are daddies. It's sad that society
is structured in such a way that people cannot
really open up to each other, and therefore they
need a certain theater to go to to cry or something
Well, you went to est.
Yes, I wanted to check it out.
We went to Janov for the same reason.
But est people are given a reminder----
Yeah, but I wouldn't go and sit in a room and
Well, you did in primal scream.
Oh, but I had you with me.
Anyway, when I went to est, I saw Werner Erhardt,
the same thing. He's a nice showman and he's got
a nice gig there. I felt the same thing when we
went to Sai Baba in India. In India, you have
to be a guru instead of a pop star. Guru is the
pop star of India and pop star is the guru here.
But nobody's perfect, etc., etc. Whether it's
Janov or Erhardt or Maharishi or a Beatle. That
doesn't take away from their message. It's like
learning how to swim. The swimming is fine. But
forget about the teacher. If the Beatles had a
message, it was that. With the Beatles, the records
are the point, not the Beatles as individuals.
You don't need the package, just as you don't
need the Christian package or the Marxist package
to get the message. People always got the image
I was an anti-Christ or antireligion. I'm not.
I'm a most religious fellow. I was brought up
a Christian and I only now understand some of
the things that Christ was saying in those parables.
Because people got hooked on the teacher and missed
And the Beatles taught people how to swim?
If the Beatles or the Sixties had a message, it
was to learn to swim. Period. And once you learn
to swim, swim. The people who are hung up on the
Beatles' and the Sixties' dream missed the whole
point when the Beatles' and the Sixties' dream
became the point. Carrying the Beatles' or the
Sixties' dream around all your life is like carrying
the Second World War and Glenn Miller around.
That's not to say you can't enjoy Glenn Miller
or the Beatles, but to live in that dream is the
twilight zone. It's not living now. It's an illusion.
Yoko, the single you and John released from your
album seems to be looking toward the future.
Yes, "Starting Over" is a song that
makes me feel like crying. John has talked about
the Sixties and how it gave us a taste for freedom
-- sexual and otherwise. It was like an orgy.
Then, after that big come that we had together,
men and women somehow lost track of each other
and a lot of families and relationships split
apart. I really think that what happened in the
Seventies can be compared to what happened under
Nazism with Jewish families. Only the force that
split them came from the inside, not from the
outside. We tried to rationalize it as the price
we were paying for our freedom. And John is saying
in his song, OK, we had the energy in the Sixties,
in the Seventies we separated, but let's start
over in the Eighties. He's reaching out to me,
the woman. Reaching out after all that's happened,
over the battlefield of dead families, is more
difficult this time around. On the other side
of the record is my song, "Kiss Kiss Kiss,"
which is the other side of the same question.
There is the sound of a woman coming to a climax
on it, and she is crying out to be held, to be
touched. It will be controversial, because people
still feel it's less natural to hear the sounds
of a woman's lovemaking than, say, the sound of
a Concorde, killing the atmosphere and polluting
nature. Altogether, both sides are a prayer to
change the Eighties.
What is the Eighties' dream to you, John?
Well, you make your own dream. That's the Beatles'
story, isn't it? That's Yoko's story . That's
what I'm saying now. Produce your own dream. If
you want to save Peru, go save Peru. It's quite
possible to do anything, but not to put it on
the leaders and the parking meters. Don't expect
Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan or John Lennon or
Yoko Ono or Bob Dylan or Jesus Christ to come
and do it for you. You have to do it yourself.
That's what the great masters and mistresses have
been saying ever since time began. They can point
the way, leave signposts and little instructions
in various books that are now called holy and
worshiped for the cover of the book and not for
what it says, but the instructions are all there
for all to see, have always been and always will
be. There's nothing new under the sun. All the
roads lead to Rome. And people cannot provide
it for you. I can't wake you up. You can wake
you up. I can't cure you. You can cure you.
What is it that keeps people from accepting that
It's fear of the unknown. The unknown is what
it is. And to be frightened of it is what sends
everybody scurrying around chasing dreams, illusions,
wars, peace, love, hate, all that -- it's all
illusion. Unknown is what what it is. Accept that
it's unknown and it's plain sailing. Everything
is unknown -- then you're ahead of the game. That's
what it is. Right?
Rolling Stone Interview
With John Lennon
by Jonathan Cott
Rolling Stone Interview
With John Lennon
by Pete Hamill
Rolling Stone Interview
With John Lennon
by Jonathan Cott
of the Decade'
Interview With John Lennon