Tittenhurst Park

This Tittenhurst Park blog is dedicated to John Lennon's home in Sunningdale, near Ascot, Berkshire between 1969 and 1971. The aim is to gather as much material relating to the estate as possible - obviously with the emphasis on the Lennon-era, but also concerning Tittenhurst Park as it was before and after John Lennon's ownership. In addition, there will be posts about and associated with the Beatles, plus any other rubbish I feel like. The blog is purely meant for the entertainment of anyone (assuming there is actually anyone) who, like me, has an unhealthy interest in one particular Georgian mansion. Those with anything interesting to contribute in the way of links, photos, scans, stories etc. please do contact me: tittenhurstlennon@gmail.com
(Legal: this blog is strictly non-commercial. All material is the property of the photographer/artist/copyright holder concerned. Any such who wishes a picture etc to be removed should contact me and I will do so. Alternatively, if someone is happy to see their photo on here, but would like a credit/link then let me know and I'll be happy to provide one).
Enjoy!


Saturday

John Lennon and Yoko Ono: Milk and Honey - "I Don't Wanna Face It"

The last song of his own that John ever recorded was "I Don't Wanna Face It," recorded on 2nd September 1980, but never fully finished by John; it appears on the CD Milk and Honey. The last song Lennon played on was probably Yoko's "Walking On Thin Ice," which appears on her album Season Of Glass; he was working on it at the time of his death. The last recordings he ever made at home, however, were four new songs recorded as demos at his Dakota residence on November 14th. Two, "Pop Is The Name Of The Game" and "You Saved My Soul," have never been officially released. The other two, "Dear John" and "Serve Yourself," were released on 1998's Lennon Anthology. Here's John Lennon's acoustic demo for "I don't Wanna Face It"..


The final demo of "I Don't Wanna Face It" used for Milk and Honey..

Milk and Honey

Milk and Honey was released in 1984. It is the first posthumous release of Lennon's music, having been recorded in the last months of his life during and following the sessions for Double Fantasy.
Milk and Honey was the duo's projected follow-up to Double Fantasy, though Lennon's death caused a temporary shelving of the project. It took Ono three years to be able to resume work to complete it. Ono's material largely comprises new recordings, which she undertook during the album's preparation in 1983, which give her songs a more commercial and contemporary edge. Conversely, Lennon's material, being rough takes and rehearsal recordings, has a more casual feeling.
"Nobody Told Me", a song Lennon had intended for Ringo Starr's upcoming album Stop and Smell the Roses, was released as a single and became a worldwide Top 10 hit. Other singles from the album were "I'm Stepping Out" and "Borrowed Time".
The album title is a reference to John and Yoko's relationship, "milk and honey" being an expression for an Asian/Caucasian mixed-race couple. The cover is an alternate take from the same photo session that produced the front cover of Double Fantasy, though this time it appears in colour.

John Lennon: Live In New York City


It was prepared under the supervision of his widow, Yoko Ono, and released in 1986 as his second official live album, following Live Peace in Toronto 1969.
Recorded on 30th August 1972 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, both John Lennon and Yoko Ono performed two shows, entitled "One to One", to raise money for children with mental challenges at friend Geraldo Rivera's request. He introduces Lennon and Ono at the beginning of the album.
Other performers at these concerts included Stevie Wonder, Roberta Flack and the Sha-Na-Na, although their performances are not included on the album.
Live in New York City captures John Lennon's last full-length concert performance, coming right after the release of Some Time in New York City, the commercial failure of which had devastated Lennon. Not surprisingly, his stage talk, while humorous, is also self-deprecating and slightly nervous in tone. Backing Lennon and Ono were Elephant's Memory, the band used on Some Time in New York City. Although he performs material largely from his last three albums (John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, Imagine and Some Time in New York City), Lennon pleases fans by resurrecting his Beatles hit "Come Together" and pays tribute to Elvis Presley with "Hound Dog" before leading the audience in a singalong of "Give Peace a Chance".
Upon its early 1986 release, Ono was criticized by former members of Elephant's Memory for using the first - and weaker - performance instead of the stronger evening show. They also took issue with the simultaneous video release of the concert, which was edited to show Ono as prominently as Lennon. However, Ono cut out from the audio edition of the concert all of her solo performances, which included "Sisters O Sisters" among others, to give fans what they wanted - a pure John Lennon album. (The video retains the complete set list.)
The first part of the second performance later saw release on The John Lennon Anthology.
Live in New York City reached #55 in the UK, and surprised many with its US appeal where it peaked at #41 and eventually went gold.
The concerts were Lennon's only full-length live performances in his solo career, and his first formal, full-fledged shows since The Beatles retired from the road in 1966 (after brief and informal performances in between). He never had the opportunity to tour solo. They also marked the last time he would perform live with Ono.

John Lennon: Madison Square Garden - 30th August 1972


On 30th August 1972, John Lennon performed at Madison Square Garden. It was his last concert as a headliner. The show was posthumously released in 1986 as 'Live in New York City'.

John Lennon: New York City 1975/77

Yoko Ono (pregnant with Sean) and John Lennon, New York City 1975


John Lennon plays guitar with Sean Lennon, at home in The Dakota, 1977.

John Lennon: 'Imagine' Live - Waldorf Astoria Hotel on 18th April 1975





John Lennon at the Waldorf Asoria Hotel on 18th April 1975 for "Salute to Sir Lew Grade: The Master Showman." John’s appearance was part of a related settlement arising from a publishing dispute over material co-written by he and Yoko Ono. For the show, John, sported a pair of dark round-lensed glasses, appeared with his long hair pulled back from his face, and dressed in a bright red jumpsuit covered with zippers. John played acoustic guitar on Slippin’ and Slidin’, Stand By Me, and Imagine. He was backed by the eight-piece band, called Etcetera, who rather strangely were wearing face masks attached to the back of their heads. When asked about the masks, John said: "It was a sardonic reference to my feelings on Lew Grade’s personality!" Etcetera is actually the band BOMF, which stands for "Brothers of Mother Fuckers," the name still visible on their drum during the performance. John returned at the end of the show to take a bow along with the rest of the cast, this time he dressed in a more formal blue shirt and white trousers, along with his trademark cap and scarf. The 52-minute videotaped show was first shown in America on June 13, 1975, with the UK TV screening taking place a week later. Both versions cut John’s performance of Stand By Me. This turned out to be John Lennon’s last live public performance. Click the title or here to view John Lennon performing Imagine at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel during that evening..

John Lennon and Elton John: Madison Square Garden - 28th November 1974









John Lennon and Elton John: Madison Square Garden - 28th November 1974

Elton John and John Lennon: Madison Square Garden - 28th November 1974 (Thanksgiving)
A collaboration with John Lennon took place, resulting in Elton John covering The Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and Lennon's "One Day at a Time", and in return Elton John and band being featured on Lennon's "Whatever Gets You thru the Night". In what would be Lennon's last live performance, the pair performed these two number 1 hits along with the Beatles classic "I Saw Her Standing There" at Madison Square Garden. Lennon made the rare stage appearance to keep the promise he made that he would appear on stage with Elton if "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night" became a number 1 single.









John Lennon and Yoko Ono: Cannes, France - 15th May 1971


John Lennon and Yoko Ono on the beach in Cannes for the film festival on 15th May 1971. John Lennon and Yoko Ono's short films Apothesis and Fly were exhibited.
Apothesis Part 1
Apothesis Part 2
Fly

Thursday

John Lennon and Yoko Ono: Cannes, France - May 1971

Photograph by Claude Azoulay
John and Yoko in Cannes, May 1971

John Lennon: Watching The Wheels



"Watching the Wheels" was a 1981 single by John Lennon, released posthumously after his assassination the year before. It was the third and final single released from Lennon and Yoko Ono's Double Fantasy album, and reached #10 in the U.S and #30 in the UK.
"Watching the Wheels" concerns Lennon's dismissal of those who were confounded by his "househusband" years, 1975-1980. During this period, he stayed away from the music industry and raised his son Sean with Yoko. The song's second verse seems to contain an allusion to Plato's "Allegory of the cave". The song features a hammered dulcimer accompanying the lead piano. The B-side features Yoko's "Yes, I'm Your Angel." The photograph on the cover (below) was taken by Paul Goresh, a fan of John Lennon. Goresh also took the infamous photo of Lennon signing a copy of Double Fantasy for his assassin. Both photos where taken at the same place, in front of the Dakota building, and were the site of his 1980 shooting. The acoustic demo of "Watching the Wheels" is featured in the ending credits to the 2009 film Funny People starring Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen.

John Lennon at Tittenhurst Park:

John Lennon on the mixing console in Ascot Sound Studios, Tittenhurst Park Estate: July 1971


John and Yoko at Tittenhurst Park : August 1971

John Lennon and Yoko Ono: David Frost Show - 16th December 1971

During their appearance on the David Frost Show, 16th December 1971 John and Yoko get involved in a heated discussion with two member of the studio audience, who accuse the Lennons of "making it sound as if the only worthwhile people in this world are people who have committed crimes".

Part 1

Part 2

John Lennon and Yoko Ono: October 1977


Elephant's Memory



Although chiefly remembered these days for their role as John Lennon's loose and ragged backup band on his Some Time in New York City album from 1972, Elephant's Memory have a bit more to their history than that. Formed in 1967 by drummer Rick Frank and saxophonist and clarinetist Stan Bronstein, who reportedly met on the New York City strip-joint circuit, the group specialized in an eclectic Frank Zappa-like mix of psychedelia, jazz, and acid-tinged rock, and delivered a truly bizarre stage show complete with inflatable stage sets. Their first album, simply called Elephant's Memory, was released in 1969 on Buddah Records, a label more famous for bubblegum pop groups than whacked-out horn bands.Two tracks from the LP, "Jungle Gym at the Zoo" and "Old Man Willow," found their way onto the Midnight Cowboy movie soundtrack later that year, which gave the group some visibility, but it didn't exactly translate into sales for the debut album. A second LP, 1970's Take It to the Streets, had even less commercial impact. Then came John Lennon and Some Time in New York City, and Elephant's Memory had their moment in the sun. They released a third album, also called Elephant's Memory and featuring David Peel, on Apple Records later that year, then backed up Yoko Ono on 1973's Approximately Infinite Universe. Angels Forever, which turned out to be the group's swan song, appeared in 1974.Elephant's Memory left behind what is probably best described as a footnote legacy, since they will undoubtedly always be linked chiefly to Lennon and Ono. An impressive number of musicians passed through the band in its seven-year run, including Frank and Bornstein, as well as Carly Simon (yes, that Carly Simon, who was a member of the group for about six months), Jon Sachs, Gary VanScyoc, Michal Shapiro, Chris Robinson, Martha Velez, John Ward, Chester Ayres, Myron Yules, Richard Sussman, Wayne "Tex" Gabriel, Daria Price, and John Labosca. Footnote they may be, but Elephant's Memory made more of an impact than anyone ever might have suspected from a scuffling New York City street band.

Stan Bronstein - sax/clarinet/vocals
Rick Frank - drums
Wayne "Tex" Gabriel (Barrett) - guitar
Gary Van Scyoc - bass/vocals
Adam Ippolito - keyboards/vocals

John Lennon Guitar, Percussion, Keyboards,
Vocals Yoko Ono Vocals
Michal Shapiro Vocals

John Lennon and Yoko Ono: The Hit Factory, mixing Double Fantasy - 10th October 1980

This is more rare footage of John Lennon and Yoko Ono in the The Hit Factory New York., mixing Double Fantasy. Friday 10th October 1980.


Wednesday

John Lennon at Madison Sqaure Gardens: 30th August 1972 - Instant Karma!

On August 30, 1972, John Lennon performed at Madison Square Garden, New York. It was his last concert as a headliner with his band Elephant's Memory. The show was posthumously released in 1986 as 'Live in New York City'. Here Elephant's Memory perform Instant Karma! (We All Shine On).


John Lennon and Yoko Ono at Tittenhurst Park: February 1970


John Lennon: NBC USA - 16th December 1974

16th December 1974 Today (NBC USA) - An interview for NBC's breakfast show. The quality not great but it's very rare.

Part 1

Part 2

John Lennon interviewed by Elliot Mintz - 1st November 1973

John and Elliot walk along Malibu Beach and talk for ABC's Eyewitness News in Los Angeles.


Raw Footage

John Lennon at Tittenhurst Park:

John Lennon sporting his 'This Is Not Here' T-Shirt




John Lennon at Tittenhurst Park:


John Lennon at Tittenhurst Park: June 1971

Phil Spector and John Lennon in Ascot Sound Studios during the recording of Imagine.



John Lennon at the white piano in the white drawing room in Tittenhurst Park.



Tuesday

John Lennon: Jann Wenner Tapes 1-6

An in-depth portrait of John Lennon, told through the audio of Jann Wenner's seminal 1970 New York interview for Rolling Stone magazine. The most famous interview Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner ever did was an extensive interrogation, on tape, of Lennon shortly after the Beatles had broken up. Lennon and Ono had already given the magazine a blessing of sorts by posing nude for its first anniversary issue in late 1968. Their's was a relationship of trust. An edited version of Wenner's interview went to press in 1971, and the two issues in which it appeared both sold out overnight. The Lennon interview remains one of the most important ever done with a popular musician. Lennon himself regarded it as definitive. It documented the Beatles' career and split with painstakingly emotional (at times excruciating) detail, and served as a major, and controversial, point of exorcism for Lennon in his coming to terms with the '60s, the legacy of the Beatles and particularly his ruptured relationship with Paul McCartney. He holds forth throughout on the subjects of art and politics, his own musical genius, his love for Yoko, drugs, primal therapy and mysticism. It was the last interview he ever spoke with such candour. He's on terrific form - acidly sharp, furious and funny, philosophical, exuding confidence, at times disarmingly vunerable. A transcript of the interview can be found here.






Monday

John Lennon and Yoko Ono: Photographed by Annie Leibovitz - 8th December 1980


Taken by Annie Leibovitz in 1980 for Rolling Stone Magazine... four hours before he was shot apparently. It ended up being the front cover after his death with only the Rolling Stone logo at the top. A great picture. Rolling Stone Magazine, Issue #335 (Jan. 22, 1981)
"What is interesting is she said she'd take her top off and I said, 'Leave everything on' -- not really preconceiving the picture at all. Then he curled up next to her and it was very, very strong. You couldn't help but feel that she was cold and he looked like he was clinging on to her. I think it was amazing to look at the first Polaroid and they were both very excited."

John Lennon in New York City: 5th December 1980 - Rolling Stone Interview Part 3


By Jonathan Cott
December 5th, 1980

"All the way through your work, John, there's this incredibly strong notion about inspiring people to be themselves and to come together and try to change things. I'm thinking here, obviously, of songs like 'Give Peace a Chance,' 'Power to the People' and 'Happy Xmas (War Is Over).' " "It's still there," John replies. "If you look on the vinyl around the new album's [the twelve-inch single "(Just Like) Starting Over"] logo - which all the kids have done already all over the world from Brazil to Australia to Poland, anywhere that gets the record - inside is written: ONE WORLD, ONE PEOPLE. So we continue. "I get truly affected by letters from Brazil or Poland or Austria - places I'm not conscious of all the time - just to know somebody is there, listening. One kid living up in Yorkshire wrote this heartfelt letter about being both Oriental and English and identifying with John and Yoko. The odd kid in the class. There are a lot of those kids who identify with us. They don't need the history of rock & roll. They identify with us as a couple, a biracial couple, who stand for love, peace, feminism and the positive things of the world. "You know, give peace a chance, not shoot people for peace. All we need is love. I believe it. It's damn hard, but I absolutely believe it. We're not the first to say, 'Imagine no countries' or 'Give peace a chance,' but we're carrying that torch, like the Olympic torch, passing it from hand to hand, to each other, to each country, to each generation. That's our job. We have to conceive of an idea before we can do it. "I've never claimed divinity. I've never claimed purity of soul. I've never claimed to have the answer to life. I only put out songs and answer questions as honestly as I can, but only as honestly as I can - no more, no less. I cannot live up to other people's expectations of me because they're illusionary. And the people who want more than I am, or than Bob Dylan is, or than Mick Jagger is. . . . "Take Mick, for instance. Mick's put out consistently good work for twenty years, and will they give him a break? Will they ever say, 'Look at him, he's Number One, he's thirty-six and he's put out a beautiful song, "Emotional Rescue," it's up there.' I enjoyed it, lots of people enjoyed it. So it goes up and down, up and down. God help Bruce Springsteen when they decide he's no longer God. I haven't seen him - I'm not a great 'in'-person watcher - but I've heard such good things about him. Right now, his fans are happy. He's told them about being drunk and chasing girls and cars and everything, and that's about the level they enjoy. But when he gets down to facing his own success and growing older and having to produce it again and again, they'll turn on him, and I hope he survives it. All he has to do is look at me and Mick. . . . I cannot be a punk in Hamburg and Liverpool anymore. I'm older now. I see the world through different eyes. I still believe in love, peace and understanding, as Elvis Costello said, and what's so funny about love, peace and understanding?" "There's another aspect of your work, which has to do with the way you continuously question what's real and what's illusory, such as in 'Look at Me,' your beautiful new 'Watching the Wheels' - what are those wheels, by the way? - and, of course, 'Strawberry Fields Forever,' in which you sing: 'Nothing is real.' " "Watching the wheels?" John asks. "The whole universe is a wheel, right? Wheels go round and round. They're my own wheels, mainly. But, you know, watching meself is like watching everybody else. And I watch meself through my child, too. Then, in a way, nothing is real, if you break the word down. As the Hindus or Buddhists say, it's an illusion, meaning all matter is floating atoms, right? It's Rashomon. We all see it, but the agreed-upon illusion is what we live in. And the hardest thing is facing yourself. It's easier to shout 'Revolution' and 'Power to the people' than it is to look at yourself and try to find out what's real inside you and what isn't, when you're pulling the wool over your own eyes. That's the hardest one. "I used to think that the world was doing it to me and that the world owed me something, and that either the conservatives or the socialists or the fascists or the communists or the Christians or the Jews were doing something to me; and when you're a teenybopper, that's what you think. I'm forty now. I don't think that anymore, 'cause I found out it doesn't fucking work! The thing goes on anyway, and all you're doing is jacking off, screaming about what your mommy or daddy or society did, but one has to go through that. For the people who even bother to go through that - most assholes just accept what is and get on with it, right? - but for the few of us who did question what was going on. . . . I have found out personally - not for the whole world! - that I am responsible for it, as well as them. I am part of them. There's no separation; we're all one, so in that respect, I look at it all and think, 'Ah, well, I have to deal with me again in that way. What is real? What is the illusion I'm living or not living?' And I have to deal with it every day. The layers of the onion. But that is what it's all about. "The last album I did before Double Fantasy was Rock 'n' Roll, with a cover picture of me in Hamburg in a leather jacket. At the end of making that record, I was finishing up a track that Phil Spector had made me sing called 'Just Because,' which I really didn't know - all the rest I'd done as a teenager, so I knew them backward - and I couldn't get the hang of it. At the end of that record - I was mixing it just next door to this very studio - I started spieling and saying, 'And so we say farewell from the Record Plant,' and a little thing in the back of my mind said, 'Are you really saying farewell?' I hadn't thought of it then. I was still separated from Yoko and still hadn't had the baby, but somewhere in the back was a voice that was saying, 'Are you saying farewell to the whole game?' "It just flashed by like that - like a premonition. I didn't think of it until a few years later, when I realized that I had actually stopped recording. I came across the cover photo - the original picture of me in my leather jacket, leaning against the wall in Hamburg in 1962 - and I thought, 'Is this it? Do I start where I came in, with "Be-Bop-A-Lula"?' The day I met Paul I was singing that song for the first time onstage. There's a photo in all the Beatles books - a picture of me with a checked shirt on, holding a little acoustic guitar - and I am singing 'Be-Bop-A-Lula,' just as I did on that album, and there's a picture in Hamburg and I'm saying goodbye from the Record Plant. "Sometimes you wonder, I mean really wonder. I know we make our own reality and we always have a choice, but how much is preordained? Is there always a fork in the road and are there two preordained paths that are equally preordained? There could be hundreds of paths where one could go this way or that way - there's a choice and it's very strange sometimes. . . . And that's a good ending for our interview." Jack Douglas, coproducer of Double Fantasy, has arrived and is overseeing the mix of Yoko's songs. It's 2:30 in the morning, but John and I continue to talk until four as Yoko naps on a studio couch. John speaks of his plans for touring with Yoko and the band that plays on Double Fantasy; of his enthusiasm for making more albums; of his happiness about living in New York City, where, unlike England or Japan, he can raise his son without racial prejudice; of his memory of the first rock & roll song he ever wrote (a takeoff on the Dell Vikings' "Come Go with Me," in which he changed the lines to: "Come come come come / Come and go with me / To the peni-tentiary"); of the things he has learned on his many trips around the world during the past five years. As he walks me to the elevator, I tell him how exhilarating it is to see Yoko and him looking and sounding so well. "I love her, and we're together," he says. "Goodbye, till next time."
"After all is really said and done / The two of us are really one," John Lennon sings in "Dear Yoko," a song inspired by Buddy Holly, who himself knew something about true love's ways. "People asking questions lost in confusion / Well I tell them there's no problem, only solutions," sings John in "Watching the Wheels," a song about getting off the merry-go-round, about letting it go. In the tarot, the Fool is distinguished from other cards because it is not numbered, suggesting that the Fool is outside movement and change. And as it has been written, the Fool and the clown play the part of scapegoats in the ritual sacrifice of humans. John and Yoko have never given up being Holy Fools. In a recent Playboy interview, Yoko, responding to a reference to other notables who had been interviewed in that magazine, said: "People like Carter represent only their country. John and I represent the world." I am sure many readers must have snickered. But three nights after our conversation, the death of John Lennon revealed Yoko's statement to be astonishingly true. "Come together over me," John had sung, and people everywhere in the world came together.

John Lennon in New York City: 5th December 1980 - Rolling Stone Interview Part 2

Fan Photograph, John and Yoko leave The Dakota Building. December 1980

By Jonathan Cott
December 5th, 1980


Almost ten years later, I am again talking to John, and he is as gracious and witty as the first time I met him. "I guess I should describe to the readers what you're wearing, John," I say. "Let me help you out," he offers, then intones wryly: "You can see the glasses he's wearing. They're normal plastic blue-frame glasses. Nothing like the famous wire-rimmed Lennon glasses that he stopped using in 1973. He's wearing needle-cord pants, the same black cowboy boots he'd had made in Nudie's in 1973, a Calvin Klein sweater and a torn Mick Jagger T-shirt that he got when the Stones toured in 1970 or so. And around his neck is a small, three-part diamond heart necklace that he bought as a make-up present after an argument with Yoko many years ago and that she later gave back to him in a kind of ritual. Will that do? "I know you've got a Monday deadline," he adds," he adds, "but Yoko and I have to go to the Record Plant now to remix a few of Yoko's songs for a possible disco record. So why don't you come along and we'll talk in the studio." "You're not putting any of your songs on this record?" I ask as we get into the waiting car. "No, because I don't make that stuff." He laughs and we drive off. "I've heard that in England some people are appreciating Yoko's songs on the new album and are asking why I was doing that 'straight old Beatles stuff,' and I didn't know about punk and what's going on - 'You were great then; "Walrus" was hip, but this isn't hip, John!' I'm really pleased for Yoko. She deserves the praise. It's been a long haul. I'd love her to have the A side of a hit record and me the B side. I'd settle for it any day." "It's interesting," I say, "that no rock & roll star I can think of has made a record with his wife or whomever and given her fifty percent of the disc." "It's the first time we've done it this way," John says. "It's a dialogue, and we have resurrected ourselves, in a way, as John and Yoko - not as John ex-Beatle and Yoko and the Plastic Ono Band. It's just the two of us, and our position was that, if the record didn't sell, it meant people didn't want to know about John and Yoko - either they didn't want John anymore or they didn't want John with Yoko or maybe they just wanted Yoko, whatever. But if they didn't want the two of us, we weren't interested. Throughout my career, I've selected to work with - for more than a one-night stand, say, with David Bowie or Elton John - only two people: Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono. I brought Paul into the original group, the Quarrymen; he brought George in and George brought Ringo in. And the second person who interested me as an artist and somebody I could work with was Yoko Ono. That ain't bad picking." When we arrive at the studio, the engineers being playing tapes of Yoko's "Kiss Kiss Kiss," "Every Man Has a Woman Who Loves Him" (both from Double Fantasy) and a powerful new disco song (not on the album) called "Walking on Thin Ice," which features a growling guitar lick by Lennon, based on Sanford Clark's 1956 song, "The Fool." Which way could I come back into this game?" John asks as we settle down. "I came back from the place I know best - as unpretentiously as possible - not to prove anything but just to enjoy it." "I've heard that you've had a guitar on the wall behind your bed for the past five or six years, and that you've only taken it down and played it for Double Fantasy. Is that true?" "I bought this beautiful electric guitar, round about the period I got back with Yoko and had the baby," John explains. "It's not a normal guitar; it doesn't have a body; it's just an arm and this tubelike, toboggan-looking thing, and you can lengthen the top for the balance of it if you're sitting or standing up. I played it a little, then just hung it up behind the bed, but I'd look at it every now and then, because it had never done a professional thing, it had never really been played. I didn't want to hide it the way one would hide an instrument because it was too painful to look at - like, Artie Shaw went through a big thing and never played again. But I used to look at it and think, 'Will I ever pull it down?' "Next to it on the wall I'd placed the number 9 and a dagger Yoko had given me - a dagger made out of a bread knife from the American Civil War to cut away the bad vibes, to cut away the past symbolically. It was just like a picture that hangs there but you never really see, and then recently I realized, 'Oh, goody! I can finally find out what this guitar is all about,' and I took it down and used it in making Double Fantasy. "All through the taping of 'Starting Over,' I was calling what I was doing 'Elvis Orbison': 'I want you I need only the lonely.' I'm a born-again rocker, I feel that refreshed, and I'm going right back to my roots. It's like Dylan doing Nashville Skyline, except I don't have any Nashville, you know, being from Liverpool. So I go back to the records I know - Elvis and Roy Orbison and Gene Vincent and Jerry Lee Lewis. I occasionally get ripped off into 'Walruses' or 'Revolution 9,' but my far-out side has been completely encompassed by Yoko. "The first show we did together was at Cambridge University in 1968 or '69, when she had been booked to do a concert with some jazz musicians. That was the first time I had appeared un-Beatled. I just hung around and played feedback, and people got very upset because they recognized me: 'What's he doing here?' It's always: 'Stay in your bag.' So, when she tried to rock, they said, 'What's she doing here?' And when I went with her and tried to be the instrument and not project - to just be her band, like a sort of like Turner to her Tina, only her Tina was a different, avant-garde Tina - well, even some of the jazz guys got upset. "Everybody has pictures they want you to live up to. But that's the same as living up to your parents' expectations, or to society's expectations, or to so-called critics who are just guys with a typewriter in a little room, smoking and drinking beer and having their dreams and nightmares, too, but somehow pretending that they're living in a different, separate world. That's all right. But there are people who break out of their bags." "I remember years ago," I say, "when you and Yoko appeared in bags at a Vienna press conference." "Right. We sang a Japanese folk song in the bags. 'Das ist really you, John? John Lennon in zee bag?' Yeah, it's me. 'But how do we know ist you?' Because I'm telling you. 'Vy don't you come out from this bag?' Because I don't want to come out of the bag. 'Don't you realize this is the Hapsburg palace?' I thought it was a hotel. 'Vell, it is now a hotel.' They had great chocolate cake in that Viennese hotel, I remember that. Anyway, who wants to be locked in a bag? You have to break out of your bag to keep alive." "In 'Beautiful Boys,' " I add, "Yoko sings: 'Please never be afraid to cry . . . / Don't ever be afraid to fly . . . / Don't be afraid to be afraid.' " "Yes, it's beautiful. I'm often afraid, and I'm not afraid to be afraid, though it's always scary. But it's more painful to try not to be yourself. People spend a lot of time trying to be somebody else, and I think it leads to terrible diseases. Maybe you get cancer or something. A lot of tough guys die of cancer, have you noticed? Wayne, McQueen. I think it has something to do - I don't know, I'm not an expert - with constantly living or getting trapped in an image or an illusion of themselves, suppressing some part of themselves, whether it's the feminine side or the fearful side. "I'm well aware of that, because I come from the macho school of pretense. I was never really a street kid or a tough guy. I used to dress like a Teddy boy and identify with Marlon Brando and Elvis Presley, but I was never really in any street fights or down-home gangs. I was just a suburban kid, imitating the rockers. But it was a big part of one's life to look tough. I spent the whole of my childhood with shoulders up around the top of me head and me glasses off because glasses were sissy, and walking in complete fear, but with the toughest-looking little face you've ever seen. I'd get into trouble just because of the way I looked; I wanted to be this tough James Dean all the time. It took a lot of wrestling to stop doing that. I still fall into it when I get insecure. I still drop into that I'm-a-street-kid stance, but I have to keep remembering that I never really was one." "Carl Jung once suggested that people are made up of a thinking side, a feeling side, an intuitive side and a sensual side," I mention. "Most people never really develop their weaker sides and concentrate on the stronger ones, but you seem to have done the former." "I think that's what feminism is all about," John replies. "That's what Yoko has taught me. I couldn't have done it alone; it had to be a female to teach me. That's it. Yoko has been telling me all the time, 'It's all right, it's all right.' I look at early pictures of meself, and I was torn between being Marlon Brando and being the sensitive poet - the Oscar Wilde part of me with the velvet, feminine side. I was always torn between the two, mainly opting for the macho side, because if you showed the other side, you were dead." "On Double Fantasy," I say, "your song 'Woman' sounds a bit like a troubadour poem written to a medieval lady." " 'Woman' came about because, one sunny afternoon in Bermuda, it suddenly hit me. I saw what women do for us. Not just what my Yoko does for me, although I was thinking in those personal terms. Any truth is universal. If we'd made our album in the third person and called it Freda and Ada or Tommy and had dressed up in clown suits with lipstick and created characters other than us, maybe a Ziggy Stardust, would it be more acceptable? It's not our style of art; our life is our art. . . . Anyway, in Bermuda, what suddenly dawned on me was everything I was taking for granted. Women really are the other half of the sky, as I whisper at the beginning of the song. And it just sort of hit me like a flood, and it came out like that. The song reminds me of a Beatles track, but I wasn't trying to make it sound like that. I did it as I did 'Girl' many years ago. So this is the grown-up version of 'Girl.' "People are always judging you, or criticizing what you're trying to say on one little album, on one little song, but to me it's a lifetime's work. From the boyhood paintings and poetry to when I die - it's all part of one big production. And I don't have to announce that this album is part of a larger work; if it isn't obvious, then forget it. But I did put a little clue on the beginning of the record - the bells . . . the bells on 'Starting Over.' The head of the album, if anybody is interested, is a wishing bell of Yoko's. And it's like the beginning of 'Mother' on the Plastic Ono album, which had a very slow death bell. So it's taken a long time to get from a slow church death bell to this sweet little wishing bell. And that's the connection. To me, my work is one piece."

John Lennon in New York City: 5th December 1980 - Rolling Stone Interview Part 1

Photograph: Allan Tannenbaum


The Last Rolling Stone Interview


By Jonathan Cott
December 5th, 1980


"Welcome to the inner sanctum!" says John Lennon, greeting me with high-spirited, mock ceremoniousness in Yoko Ono's beautiful cloud-ceilinged office in their Dakota apartment. It's Friday evening, December 5, and Yoko has been telling me how their collaborative new album, Double Fantasy, came about: Last spring, John and their son, Sean, were vacationing in Bermuda while Yoko stayed home "sorting out business," as she puts it. She and John spoke on the phone every day and sang each other the songs they had composed in between calls. "I was at a dance club one night in Bermuda," John interrupts as he sits down on a couch and Yoko gets up to bring coffee. "Upstairs, they were playing disco, and downstairs, I suddenly heard 'Rock Lobster' by the B-52's for the first time. Do you know it? It sounds just like Yoko's music, so I said to meself, 'It's time to get out the old axe and wake the wife up!' We wrote about twenty-five songs during those three weeks, and we've recorded enough for another album." "I've been playing side two of Double Fantasy over and over," I say, getting ready to ply him with a question. John looks at me with a time and interview-stopping smile. "How are you?" he asks. "It's been like a reunion for us these last few weeks. We've seen Ethan Russell, who's doing a videotape of a couple of the new songs, and Annie Leibovitz was here. She took my first Rolling Stone cover photo. It's been fun seeing everyone we used to know and doing it all again - we've all survived. When did we first meet?" "I met you and Yoko on September 17, 1968," I say, remembering the first of our several meetings. I was just a lucky guy, at the right place at the right time. John had decided to become more "public" and to demystify his Beatles persona. He and Yoko, whom he'd met in November 1966, were preparing for the Amsterdam and Montreal bed-ins for peace and were soon to release Two Virgins, the first of their experimental record collaborations. The album cover - the infamous frontal nude portrait of them - was to grace the pages of Rolling Stone's first anniversary issue. John had just discovered the then-impoverished, San Francisco-based magazine, and he'd agreed to give Rolling Stone the first of his "coming-out" interviews. As "European editor," I was asked to visit John and Yoko and to take along a photographer (Ethan Russell, who later took the photos for the Let It Be book that accompanied the album). So, nervous and excited, we met John and Yoko at their temporary basement flat in London. First impressions are usually the most accurate, and John was graceful, gracious, charming, exuberant, direct, witty and playful; I remember noticing how he wrote little reminders to himself in the wonderfully absorbed way that a child paints the sun. He was due at a recording session in a half-hour to work on the White Album, so we agreed to meet the next day to do the interview, after which John and Yoko invited Ethan and me to attend the session for "Back in the U.S.S.R." at Abbey Road Studios. Only a performance of Shakespeare at the Globe Theatre might have made me feel as ecstatic and fortunate as I did at that moment. Every new encounter with John brought a new perspective. Once, I ran into John and Yoko in 1971. A friend and I had gone to see Carnal Knowledge, and afterward we bumped into the Lennons in the lobby. Accompanied by Jerry Rubin and a friend of his, they invited us to drive down with them to Ratner's delicatessen in the East Village for blintzes, whereupon a beatific, long-haired young man approached our table and wordlessly handed John a card inscribed with a pithy saying of the inscrutable Meher Baba. Rubin drew a swastika on the back of the card, got up and gave it back to the man. When he returned, John admonished him gently, saying that that wasn't the way to change someone's consciousness. Acerbic and skeptical as he could often be, John Lennon never lost his sense of compassion.

John Lennon in New York City: 8th-28th September 1980 - Playboy Interview Part 5

'Close Up -Trench Coat'
Yonkers, NY - 1975

By David Sheff
September 8-28, 1980

PLAYBOY: Yoko, the single you and John released from your album seems to be looking toward the future.ONO: 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. PLAYBOY: What is the Eighties' dream to you, John? LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: What is it that keeps people from accepting that message? LENNON: 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?

John Lennon in New York City: 8th-28th September 1980 - Playboy Interview Part 4

'44th Street'
NYC 1980

By David Sheff
September 8-28, 1980

PLAYBOY: "A Day in the Life."LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: May we continue with some of the ones that seem more personal and see what reminiscences they inspire? LENNON: Reminisce away. PLAYBOY: For no reason whatsoever, let's start with "I Wanna Be Your Man." LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: How about "Strawberry FieldsForever?" LENNON: 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 Fields forever. PLAYBOY: And the lyrics, for instance: "Living is easy---- " LENNON: [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. PLAYBOY: Were you able to find others to share your visions with? LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: Is she alive? LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: Her name was Julia, wasn't it? Is she the Julia of your song of that name on "The White Album?" LENNON: The song is for her -- and for Yoko. PLAYBOY: What kind of relationship did you have with your father, who went away to sea? Did you ever see him again? LENNON: I never saw him again until I made a lot of money and he came back. PLAYBOY: How old were you? LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: We'll never listen to "Strawberry Fields Forever" the same way again. What memories are jogged by the song "Help!?" LENNON: 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 gang. PLAYBOY: What were you depressed about during the "Help!" period? LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: Was "I'm a Loser" a similarly personal statement? LENNON: Part of me suspects that I'm a loser and the other part of me thinks I'm God Almighty. PLAYBOY: How about "Cold Turkey?" LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: Do you use any drugs now? LENNON: Not really. If somebody gives me a joint, I might smoke it, but I don't go after it. PLAYBOY: Cocaine? LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: Acid? LENNON: 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 Sixties. PLAYBOY: What does your diet include besides sashimi and sushi, Hershey bars and cappuccinos? LENNON: We're mostly macrobiotic, but sometimes I take the family out for a pizza. ONO: 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. PLAYBOY: And you both smoke up a storm. LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: Let's go back to jogging your memory with songs. How about Paul's song "Hey Jude?" LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: What about "Because?" LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: "Give Peace a Chance." LENNON: All we were saying was give peace a chance. PLAYBOY: Was it really a Lennon-McCartney composition? LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: Why were the compositions you and Paul did separately attributed to Lennon-McCartney? LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: How about "Do You Want to Know a Secret?" LENNON: 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." LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: What about the sexual puns: "When you feel my finger on your trigger"? LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: What was the allusion to "Mother Superior jumps the gun"? LENNON: I call Yoko Mother or Madam just in an offhand way. The rest doesn't mean anything. It's just images of her. PLAYBOY: "Across the Universe." LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: Sabotage? LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: "Getting Better." LENNON: 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 youngster. PLAYBOY: "Revolution." LENNON: 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? PLAYBOY: Was it Yoko's inspiration? LENNON: 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 with flowers. PLAYBOY: What do you think of Hoffman's turning himself in? LENNON: 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? PLAYBOY: On a new album, you close with "Hard Times Are Over (For a While)." Why? LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: 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." LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: But your songs do have messages. LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: Especially for you. LENNON: 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." PLAYBOY: You're quoting one of your peers, of sorts. Is it distressing to you that Dylan is a born-again Christian? LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: Were you a Dylan fan? LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: Like Dylan, weren't you also looking for some kind of leader when you did primal-scream therapy with Arthur Janov? ONO: I think Janov was a daddy for John. I think he has this father complex and he's always searching for a daddy. LENNON: Had, dear. I had a father complex. PLAYBOY: Would you explain? ONO: 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. LENNON: She fought with Janov all the time. He couldn't deal with it. ONO: 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. LENNON: And I was the lucky cripple she chose! ONO: 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. PLAYBOY: Do you agree with that assessment, John? LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: So Janov was a daddy for you. Who else? ONO: Before, there was Maharishi. LENNON: 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. ONO: 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 like that. LENNON: Well, you went to est. ONO: Yes, I wanted to check it out. LENNON: We went to Janov for the same reason. ONO: But est people are given a reminder---- LENNON: Yeah, but I wouldn't go and sit in a room and not pee. ONO: Well, you did in primal scream. LENNON: Oh, but I had you with me. ONO: 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. LENNON: 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 the message. PLAYBOY: And the Beatles taught people how to swim? LENNON: 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.

John Lennon in New York City: 8th-28th September 1980 - Playboy Interview Part 3



By David Sheff
September 8-28, 1980

PLAYBOY: The album obviously reflects your new priorities. How have things gone for you since you made that decision?LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: Were there any problems because of Yoko's age? LENNON: 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!" Christ! PLAYBOY: 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? LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: Does he have an awareness of the Beatles? LENNON: 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 become artists. PLAYBOY: Your son, Julian, from your first marriage must be in his teens. Have you seen him over the years? LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: 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? LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: Yoko, your relationship with your daughter has been much rockier. ONO: 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. PLAYBOY: What happened when she was five? ONO: 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. LENNON: 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. ONO: 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. LENNON: 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. ONO: 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!" LENNON: It was like we were after an escaped convict. PLAYBOY: Were you so persistent because you felt you were better for Kyoko? LENNON: 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. ONO: For me, it was like they just disappeared from my life. Part of me left with them. PLAYBOY: How old is she now? ONO: Seventeen, the same as John's son. PLAYBOY: Perhaps when she gets older, she'll seek you out. ONO: She is totally frightened. There was a time in Spain when a lawyer and John thought that we should kidnap her. LENNON: [Sighing] I was just going to commit hara-kiri first. ONO: 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. LENNON: 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. ONO: 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. LENNON: I'll just half-kill myself. ONO: [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. PLAYBOY: Can you explain that? ONO: 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. LENNON: Oh, God, it's all coming out. ONO: 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. LENNON: One rule for the men, one for the women. ONO: So it was easier for Julian, because I was allowing it to happen. LENNON: But I've said a million Hail Marys. What the hell else can I do? PLAYBOY: Yoko, after this experience, how do you feel about leaving Sean's rearing to John? ONO: 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---- LENNON: I am her favorite husband---- ONO: "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. PLAYBOY: Did you resent having to take so much responsibility, John? LENNON: 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. ONO: Society should be more supportive and understanding. LENNON: 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, too. ONO: 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 simple. PLAYBOY: John, does it take actually reversing roles with women to understand? LENNON: 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. ONO: If two are gathered together, there's nothing you can't do. PLAYBOY: What does the title of your new album, "Double Fantasy," mean? LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: You saw the news item that said you were putting your sex fantasies out as an album. LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: What was that famous bed-in all about? LENNON: 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 for war. PLAYBOY: You stayed in bed and talked about peace? LENNON: 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. ONO: 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. [She giggles] PLAYBOY: What were the reports about your making love in a bag? ONO: 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 going on. PLAYBOY: Briefly, what about the statement on the new album? LENNON: 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 good game. PLAYBOY: What are your musical preferences these days? LENNON: 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." ONO: We were doing a lot of the punk stuff a long time ago. PLAYBOY: Lennon and Ono, the original punks. ONO: You're right. PLAYBOY: John, what's your opinion of the newer waves? LENNON: I love all this punky stuff. It's pure. I'm not, however, crazy about the people who destroy themselves. PLAYBOY: You disagree with Neil Young's lyric in "Rust Never Sleeps" -- "It's better to burn out than to fade away...." LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: Do you listen to the radio? LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: Yoko? ONO: No. PLAYBOY: Do you go out and buy records? ONO: Or read the newspaper or magazines or watch TV? No. PLAYBOY: The inevitable question, John. Do you listen to your records? LENNON: Least of all my own. PLAYBOY: Even your classics? LENNON: 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---- ONO: In fact, we really don't enjoy listening to other people's work much. We sort of analyze everything we hear. PLAYBOY: Yoko, were you a Beatles fan? ONO: No. Now I notice the songs, of course. In a restaurant, John will point out, "Ahh, they're playing George" or something. PLAYBOY: John, do you ever go out to hear music? LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: Your songs are performed more than most other songwriters'. How does that feel? LENNON: 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." PLAYBOY: How does it feel to have influenced so many people? LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: Do you recall what specifically hit you? LENNON: 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. ONO: 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. PLAYBOY: 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 the Beatles. LENNON: But what moved the Beatles? PLAYBOY: You tell us. LENNON: 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. ONO: The Beatles themselves were a social phenomenon not that aware of what they were doing. In a way---- LENNON: [Under his breath] This Beatles talk bores me to death. ONO: As I said, they were like mediums. They weren't conscious of all they were saying, but it was coming through them. PLAYBOY: Why? LENNON: 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 music. PLAYBOY: What do you say to those who insist that all rock since the Beatles has been the Beatles redone? LENNON: 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 on then. PLAYBOY: Wasn't a lot of the Beatles' music at least more intelligent? LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: Did you put Aeolian cadences in "It Won't Be Long?" LENNON: To this day, I don't have any idea what they are. They sound like exotic birds. PLAYBOY: How did you react to the misinterpretations of your songs? LENNON: For instance? PLAYBOY: 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"? LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: What about the chant at the end of the song: "Smoke pot, smoke pot, everybody smoke pot"? LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: What does "everybody got"? LENNON: Anything. You name it. One penis, one vagina, one asshole -- you name it. PLAYBOY: Did it trouble you when the interpretations of your songs were destructive, such as when Charles Manson claimed that your lyrics were messages to him? LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: Where did "Lucy in the Sky" come from? LENNON: 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," Simple. PLAYBOY: The other images in the song weren't drug-inspired? LENNON: 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." PLAYBOY: Do you have any interest in the pop historians analyzing the Beatles as a cultural phenomenon? LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: What started the rumors about you and Epstein? LENNON: 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 cafs 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 rumors. PLAYBOY: 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? LENNON: Right. PLAYBOY: 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. PLAYBOY: "Yesterday." LENNON: 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 written it. PLAYBOY: "With a Little Help from My Friends." LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: "I am the Walrus." LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: The song is very complicated, musically. LENNON: 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. PLAYBOY: What about the walrus itself? LENNON: 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...." PLAYBOY: How about "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window?" LENNON: 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.PLAYBOY: "I Feel Fine." LENNON: 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 on it. PLAYBOY: "When I'm Sixty-Four."LENNON: 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.