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Publié par Jean Helfer

This interview took place in New York City on December 8th, shortly after John and Yoko finished their albums in England. They came to New York to attend to the details of the release of the album, to make some films, and for a private visit. Those who aided in the transcribing and editing were Jonathon Cott, Charles Perry, Sheryl Ball and Ellen Wolper. The conclusion will be published in the next issue of Rolling Stone, on sale approximately January 20th.

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I don’t know about anything else, really, and the few true songs I ever wrote were like “Help” and “Strawberry Fields.” I can’t think of them all offhand. They were the ones I always considered my best songs. They were the ones I really wrote from experience and not projecting myself into a situation and writing a nice story about it. I always found that phony, but I’d find occasion to do it because I’d be so hung up, I couldn’t even think about myself.

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Anybody knows that. Any musician will tell you, just play a note on a piano, it’s got harmonics in it. It got to that. What the hell, I didn’t need anything else.

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I don’t believe in it. The dream is over. I’m not just talking about the Beatles, I’m talking about the generation thing. It’s over, and we gotta–I have to personally–get down to so-called reality.

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I know we developed our own style but we still in a way parodied American music... this is interesting: in the early days in England, all the groups were like Elvis and a backing group, and the Beatles deliberately didn’t move like Elvis. That was our policy because we found it stupid and bullshit. Then Mick Jagger came out and resurrected “bullshit movement,” wiggling your arse. So then people began to say the Beatles were passé because they don’t move. But we did it as a conscious move.

When we were younger, we used to move, we used to jump around and do all the things they’re doing now, like going on stage with toilet seats and shitting and pissing. That’s what we were doing in Hamburg and smashing things up. It wasn’t a thing that Pete Townshend worked out, it is something that you do when you play six or seven hours. There is nothing else to do: you smash the place up, and you insult everybody. But we were groomed and we dropped all of that and whatever it was that we started off talking about, which was what singing...what was it? What was the beginning of that?

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I think Dylan does it well, you know. In case he’s not sure of himself, he makes it double entendre. So therefore he is secure in his Hipness. Paul was saying, “Don’t call it ‘Yer Blues,’ just say it straight.” But I was self-conscious and I went for “Yer Blues.” I think all that has passed now, because all the musicians... we’ve all gotten over it. That’s self-consciousness.

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[John and Yoko went through four months of intensive therapy with Dr. Arthur Janov, author of ‘The Primal Scream’ (Putnam’s), in Los Angeles, June through September of this year. In October they returned to England, where they made their new albums. “Having a primal,” or “primaling,” is an extremely intense type of re-living/acting-out experience, around which many of Janov’s theories are based.]

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I’m digressing from mine, but if somebody with a rock-oriented mind could possibly hear her stuff, you’ll see what she’s doing. It’s fantastic, you know. It’s as important as anything we ever did, and it is as important as anything the Stones or Townshend ever did. Listen to it, and you’ll hear what she is putting down. On “Cold Turkey” I’m getting towards it. I’m influenced by her music 1000 percent more than I ever was by anybody or anything. She makes music like you’ve never heard on earth.

And when the musicians play with her, they’re inspired out of their skulls. I don’t know how much they played her record later. We’ve got a cut of her from the Lyceum in London, 15 or 20 musicians playing with her, from Bonnie and Delaney and the fucking lot. We played the tracks of it the other night. It’s the most fantastic music I’ve ever heard. They’ve probably gone away and forgotten all about it. It’s fantastic. It’s like 20 years ahead of its time. Anyway, back to mine.

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And, it was that we wanted to come. I need a reason for going somewhere –otherwise I’m too nervous, so I calm myself. So that was a good way of coming to San Francisco to see you. Then I have an objective: “I’m going to do an act and this is what we are coming to do.” And we settle down and we just talk.

I still think that Janov’s therapy is great, you know, but I don’t want to make it into a big Maharishi thing. You were right to tell me to forget the advert, and that is why I don’t even want to talk about it too much, if people know what I’ve been through there, and if they want to find out, they can find out, otherwise it turns into that again.

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Sometimes I used to listen to something, Buddy Holly or something, and one day the record will sound twice as fast as the next day. Did you ever experience that on a single? I used to have that: one day “Hound Dog” would sound very slow and one day it would sound very fast. It was just my feeling towards it. The way I heard it. It can do that. That’s where you have to make your artistic judgment to say well, this is the take and this isn’t. That’s the way you have to make the decision: when it sounds reasonable.

“Isolation” and “Hold On John” are rough remixes. I just mixed them on 7 1/2 [ips, a conventional home tape recorder speed] to take home to play and see what else I was going to do with them. Then I didn’t even put them onto 15 [ips–the speed at which professional taping is done], so the quality is a bit off on them.

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I was very, very shy, and there are many reasons why I didn’t like very much go for musicians. I didn’t like to have to see 20 guys sitting there and try to tell them what to do. Because they’re all so lousy anyway. So, apart from the early days–when I didn’t have much to do with it–I did it myself.

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You know Brian put us in suits and all that, and we made it very, very big. But we sold out, you know. The music was dead before we even went on the theater tour of Britain. We were feeling shit already, because we had to reduce an hour or two hours’ playing, which we were glad about in one way, to 20 minutes, and we would go on and repeat the same 20 minutes every night.

The Beatles music died then, as musicians. That’s why we never improved as musicians; we killed ourselves then to make it. And that was the end of it. George and I are more inclined to say that; we always missed the club dates because that’s when we were playing music, and then later on we became technically, efficient recording artists–which was another thing – because we were competent people and whatever media you put us in we can produce something worthwhile.

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I think there’s a guy called Richie Valens, no, Richie Havens, does he play very strange guitar? He’s a black guy that was on a concert and sang “Strawberry Fields” or something. He plays like one chord all the time. He plays a pretty funky guitar. But he doesn’t seem to be able to play in the real terms at all. I’m like that.

Yoko has made me feel cocky about my guitar. You see, one part of me says yes, of course I can play because I can make a rock move, you know. But the other part of me says well, I wish I could just do like B.B. King. If you would put me with B.B. King, I would feel real silly. I’m an artist, and if you give me a tuba, I’ll bring you something out of it.

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I’m a cinema verite guitarist, I’m a musician and you have to break down your barriers to hear what I’m playing. There’s a nice little bit I played, they had it on the back of “Abbey Road.” Paul gave us each a piece, there is a little break where Paul plays, George plays and I played. And there is one bit, one of those where it stops, one of those “carry that weights” where it suddenly goes boom, boom, on the drums and then we all take it in turns to play. I’m the third one on it.

I have a definite style of playing. I’ve always had. But I was over-shadowed. They call George the invisible singer. I’m the invisible guitarist.

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It’s hard when you ask me, it’s like asking me what do I think of... ask me about other people, because it looks so awful when I say I don’t like this and I don’t like that. It’s just that I don’t like many of the Beatles records either.

My own taste is different from that which I’ve played sometimes, which is called “cop out” to make money or whatever. Or because I didn’t know any better.

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After Brian died, that’s what happened, that’s what began to happen to us. The camera work was set-up to show Paul and not anybody else. And that’s how I felt about it. On top of that, the people that cut it, did it as if Paul is God and we are just lyin’ around there. And that’s what I felt. And I knew there were some shots of Yoko and me that had been just chopped out of the film for no other reason than the people were oriented for Englebert Humperdinck. I felt sick.

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I knew that we were in trouble then. I didn’t really have any misconceptions about our ability to do anything other than play music and I was scared. I thought, “We’ve fuckin’ had it.”

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Paul made an attempt to carry on as if Brian hadn’t died by saying, “Now, now, boys, we’re going to make a record.” Being the kind of person I am, I thought well, we’re going to make a record all right, so I’ll go along, so we went and made a record. And that’s when we made “Magical Mystery Tour.” That was the real...

Paul had a tendency to come along and say well he’s written these ten songs, let’s record now. And I said, “well, give us a few days, and I’ll knock a few off,” or something like that. “Magical Mystery Tour” was something he had worked out with Mal and he showed me what his idea was and this is how it went, it went around like this, the story and how he had it all... the production and everything.

Paul said, “Well, here’s the segment, you write a little piece for that,” and I thought bloody hell, so I ran off and I wrote the dream sequence for the fat woman and all the thing with the spaghetti. Then George and I were sort of grumbling about the fuckin’ movie and we thought we better do it and we had the feeling that we owed it to the public to do these things.

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So we went to see Maharishi, the whole gang of us, the next day, charged down to his hut, his bungalow, his very rich-looking bungalow in the mountains, and as usual, when the dirty work came, I was the spokesman–whenever the dirty work came, I actually had to be leader, wherever the scene was, when it came to the nitty gritty, I had to do the speaking–and I said “We’re leaving.”

“Why?” he asked, and all that shit and I said, “Well, if you’re so cosmic, you’ll know why.” He was always intimating, and there were all these right-hand men always intimating, that he did miracles. And I said, “You know why,” and he said, “I don’t know why, you must tell me,” and I just kept saying “You ought to know” and he gave me a look like, “I’ll kill you, you bastard,” and he gave me such a look. I knew then. I had called his bluff and I was a bit rough to him.

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Well, Yoko and I together, we came up with the idea to give it all away, and stop fuckin’ about with a psychedelic clothes shop, so we gave it all away. It was a good happening.

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I knew on the flight over to Toronto or before we went to Toronto: I told Allen I was leaving, I told Eric Clapton and Klaus that I was leaving then, but that I would probably like to use them as a group. I hadn’t decided how to do it–to have a permanent new group or what – then later on, I thought fuck, I’m not going to get stuck with another set of people, whoever they are.

I announced it to myself and the people around me on the way to Toronto a few days before. And on the plane–Klein came with me–I told Allen, “It’s over.” When I got back, there were a few meetings, and Allen said well, cool it, cool it, there was a lot to do, businesswise you know, and it would not have been suitable at the time.

Then we were discussing something in the office with Paul, and Paul said something or other about the Beatles doing something, and I kept saying “No, no, no” to everything he said. So it came to a point where I had to say something, of course, and Paul said, “What do you mean?” I said, “I mean the group is over, I’m leaving.”

Allen was there, and he will remember exactly and Yoko will, but this is exactly how I see it. Allen was saying don’t tell. He didn’t want me to tell Paul even. So I said, “It’s out,” I couldn’t stop it, it came out. Paul and Allen both said that they were glad that I wasn’t going to announce it, that I wasn’t going to make an event out of it. I don’t know whether Paul said “Don’t tell anybody,” but he was darned pleased that I wasn’t going to. He said, “Oh, that means nothing really happened if you’re not going to say anything.”

So that’s what happened. So, like anybody when you say divorce, their face goes all sorts of colors. It’s like he knew really that this was the final thing; and six months later he comes out with whatever. I was a fool not to do it, not to do what Paul did, which was use it to sell a record.

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I think he claims that he didn’t mean that to happen but that’s bullshit. He called me in the afternoon of that day and said, “I’m doing what you and Yoko were doing last year.” I said good, you know, because that time last year they were all looking at Yoko and me as if we were strange trying to make our life together instead of being fab, fat myths. So he rang me up that day and said I’m doing what you and Yoko are doing, I’m putting out an album, and I’m leaving the group too, he said. I said good. I was feeling a little strange, because he was saying it this time, although it was a year later, and I said “good,” because he was the one that wanted the Beatles most, and then the midnight papers came out.

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I did a job on this banker that we were using, and on a few other people, and on the Beatles.

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If there is such a thing as genius–which is what... what the fuck is it?–I am one, and if there isn’t, I don’t care. I used to think it when I was a kid, writing me poetry and doing me paintings. I didn’t become something when the Beatles made it, or when you heard about me, I’ve been like this all me life. Genius is pain too.

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You see, I presumed that I would just be able to carry on, and bring Yoko into our life, but it seemed that I had to either be married to them or Yoko, and I chose Yoko, and I was right.

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I was always hoping that they would come around. I couldn’t believe it, and they all sat there with their wives, like a fucking jury and judged us and the only thing I did was write that piece (Rolling Stone, April 16th, 1970) about “some of our beast friends” in my usual way–because I was never honest enough, I always had to write in that gobbly-gook– and that’s what they did to us.

Ringo was all right, so was Maureen, but the other two really gave it to us. I’ll never forgive them, I don’t care what fuckin’ shit about Hare Krishna and God and Paul with his “Well, I’ve changed me mind.” I can’t forgive ‘em for that, really. Although I can’t help still loving them either.

Yoko played me tapes I understood. I know it was very strange, and avant garde music is a very tough thing to assimilate and all that, but I’ve heard the Beatles play avant garde music–when nobody was looking–for years.

But the Beatles were artists, and all artists have fucking’ big egos, whether they like to admit it or not, and when a new artist came into the group, they were never allowed. Sometimes George and I would have liked to have brought somebody in like Billy Preston, that was exceptional, we might have had him in the group.

We were fed up with the same old shit, but it wasn’t wanted. I would have expanded the Beatles and broken them and gotten their pants off and stopped them from being God, but it didn’t work, and Yoko was naive, she came in and she would expect to perform with them, with any group, like you would with any group, she was jamming, but there would be a sort of coldness about it. That’s when I decided: I could no longer artistically get anything out of the Beatles and here was someone that could turn me on to a million things.

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It was insane going around London. When we went to the club we thought it was on fire and then we thought it was a premiere, and it was just an ordinary light outside. We thought, “Shit, what’s going on here?” We were cackling in the streets, and people were shouting “Let’s break a window,” you know, it was just insane. We were just out of our heads. When we finally got on the lift [an elevator in England] we all thought there was a fire, but there was just a little red light. We were all screaming like that, and we were all hot and hysterical, and when we all arrived on the floor, because this was a discotheque that was up a building, the lift stopped and the door opened and we were all [John demonstrates by screaming].

I had read somebody describing the effects of opium in the old days and I thought “Fuck! It’s happening,” and then we went to the Ad Lib and all of that, and then some singer came up to me and said, “Can I sit next to you?” And I said, “Only if you don’t talk,” because I just couldn’t think.

This seemed to go on all night. I can’t remember the details. George somehow or another managed to drive us home in his mini. We were going about ten miles an hour, but it seemed like a thousand and Patty was saying let’s jump out and play football. I was getting all these sort of hysterical jokes coming out like speed, because I was always on that, too.

God, it was just terrifying, but it was fantastic. I did some drawings at the time, I’ve got them somewhere, of four faces saying “We all agree with you!” I gave them to Ringo, the originals. I did a lot of drawing that night. And then George’s house seemed to be just like a big submarine, I was driving it, they all went to bed, I was carrying on in it, it seemed to float above his wall which was 18 foot and I was driving it.

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Peter Fonda came, and that was another thing. He kept saying [in a whisper] “I know what it’s like to be dead,” and we said “What?” and he kept saying it. We were saying “For Christ’s sake, shut up, we don’t care, we don’t want to know,” and he kept going on about it. That’s how I wrote “She Said, She Said”–”I know what’s it’s like to be dead.” It was a sad song, an acidy song I suppose. “When I was a little boy”... you see, a lot of early childhood was coming out, anyway.

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I didn’t believe I could do anything and let people make me, and let them all just do what they wanted. I just was nothing. I was shit. Then Derek tripped me out at his house after he got back from L.A. He sort of said “You’re all right,” and pointed out which songs I had written. “You wrote this,” and “You said this” and “You are intelligent, don’t be frightened.”

The next week I went to Derek’s with Yoko and we tripped again, and she filled me completely to realize that I was me and that’s it’s all right. That was it; I started fighting again, being a loudmouth again and saying, “I can do this, “fuck it, this is what I want, you know, I want it and don’t put me down.” I did this, so that’s where I am now.

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Brian came up with Allan Owen, from Liverpool, who had written a play for TV called “No Trams to Lime St.” Lime Street is a famous street in Liverpool where the whores used to be in the old days, and Owen was famous for writing Liverpool dialogue. We auditioned people to write for us and they came up with this guy. He was a bit phony, like a professional Liverpool man–you know like a professional American. He stayed with us two days, and wrote the whole thing based on our characters then: me, witty; Ringo, dumb and cute; George this; and Paul that.

We were a bit infuriated by the glibness and shiftiness of the dialogue and we were always trying to get it more realistic, but they wouldn’t have it. It ended up O.K., but the next one was just bullshit, because it really had nothing to do with the Beatles. They just put us here and there. Dick Lester was good, he had ideas ahead of their times, like using Batman comic strip lettering and balloons.

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The Beatles tours were like the Fellini film “Satyricon.” We had that image. Man, our tours were like something else, if you could get on our tours, you were in. They were “Satyricon,” all right.

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I hate the way Allen is attacked and Brian is made out to be an angel just because he’s dead. He wasn’t, you know, he was just a guy.

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I resent the implication that the Stones are like revolutionaries and that the Beatles weren’t. If the Stones were or are, the Beatles really were too. But they are not in the same class, music-wise or power-wise, never were. I never said anything, I always admired them, because I like their funky music and I like their style. I like rock and roll and the direction they took after they got over trying to imitate us, you know, but he’s even going to do Apple now. He’s going to do the same thing.

He’s obviously so upset by how big the Beatles are compared with him; he never got over it. Now he’s in his old age, and he is beginning to knock us, you know, and he keeps knocking. I resent it, because even his second fuckin’ record we wrote it for him. Mick said “Peace made money.” We didn’t make any money from Peace. You know.

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They’ve been trying to knock us down since we began, specially the British press, always saying, “What are you going to do when the bubble bursts?” That was the in-crowd joke with us. We’d go when we decided, not when some fickle public decided, because we were not a manufactured group. We knew what we were doing.

Of course, we’ve made many mistakes, but we knew instinctively that it would end when we decided, and not when NBC or ATV decides to take off our series, or anything like that. There were very few things that happened to the Beatles that weren’t really well-thought out by us–whether to do it or not, and what the reaction would be and would it last forever. We had an instinct for something like that.

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I’m not their fucking parents, that’s what it is. They come to the door with a fucking peace symbol and expect to just sort of march around the house or something, like an old Beatle fan. They’re under a delusion of awareness by having long hair, and that’s what I’m sick of. They frighten me, a lot of uptight maniacs going around, wearing fuckin’ peace symbols.

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He was mumbling, pretending to hypnotize us; we’re lying there, and he’s making up all of these Walt Disney stories about past lives, which we didn’t believe. But he was such a nice guy in a way. I was more into it then than Yoko; she’s not quite as silly as I am. But I was thinking, “You never know, do you”–I had this thing: believe everything until it is disproved–it came from giving up ciggies and he was going on about how he had been on a space ship, so I said, come on, tell us more, I was suspicious, but I wouldn’t stop the stories coming out. But they were obviously all insane people, and then these other two came with him.... Actually, we went there to talk to Kyoko, and it was really a case of “brothers” and all that.

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I went to see the Beatles’ session in the beginning, and I thought, Oh well. So I said to John, “Why do you always use that beat all the time? The same beat, why don’t you do something a bit more complicated?

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The Blues are beautiful because it’s simpler and because it’s real. It’s not perverted or thought about: It’s not a concept, it is a chair; not a design for a chair but the first chair. The chair is for sitting on, not for looking at or being appreciated. You sit on that music.

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The first gimmick was the harmonica. There had been “Hey, Baby” with a harmonica and there was a terrible thing called “I Remember You” in England. All of a sudden we started using it on “Love Me Do.” The first set of tricks was double tracking on the second album. I would love to remix some of the early stuff, because it is better than it sounds.

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But now I’m sick of reading things that say Paul is the musician and George is the philosopher. I wonder where I fit in, what was my contribution? I get hurt, you know, sick of it. I’d sooner be Zappa and say, “Listen, you fuckers, this is what I did, and I don’t care whether you like my attitude saying it.” That’s what I am, you know, I’m a fucking artist, and I’m not a fucking P.R. Agent or the product of some other person’s imagination. Whether you’re the public or whatever, I’m standing by my work whereas before I would not stand by it.

That’s what I’m saying: I was the Walrus, whatever that means. We saw the movie “Alice in Wonderland” in L.A. and the Walrus is a big capitalist that ate all the fuckin’ oysters. If you must know, that’s what he was even though I didn’t remember this when I wrote it.

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You see Phil is great at that; he doesn’t fuss about with fuckin’ stereo or all the bullshit. Does it sound all right? Then let’s have it, no matter whether something’s prominent or not prominent. If it sounds good to you as a layman or a human, take it, don’t bother whether this is like that or the quality of this, just take it.

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You see, I’m shy and aggressive so I have great hopes for what I do with my work and I also have great despair that it’s all pointless and it’s shit. You know, how can you beat Beethoven or Shakespeare or whatever? In me secret heart I wanted to write something that would take over “We Shall Overcome.” I don’t know why. The one they always sang, and I thought, “Why doesn’t somebody write something for the people now, that’s what my job and our job is.”

I have the same kind of hope for “Working Class Hero.” It’s a different concept, but I feel it’s a revolutionary song.

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I think it’s for the people like me who are working class–whatever, upper or lower–who are supposed to be processed into the middle classes, through the machinery, that’s all. It’s my experience, and I hope it’s just a warning to people. I’m saying it’s a revolutionary song; not the song itself but that it’s a song for the revolution.

[Here we took a break, during which John and Allen Klein went out to discuss the possibility of a single. We began talking again, alone with Yoko, about that.]

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Capitol is now trying to say that this is John Lennon, one of the Beatles and therefore, it’s a different deal. When they were on the McCartney bandwagon, which they were on, and they thought that I was just an idiot pissing about with a Japanese broad, they didn’t want to put out the music we were making like “Toronto” because they didn’t like the idea. They were content to let me be a “Plastic Ono Band” and give me a special release I have to get, because the Beatles are tied up as Beatles.

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LENNON:

I’m going to think about “Love.” The original feeling was that there weren’t enough things on the album to put out a single, only ten songs, only nine if you don’t count “Mummy” and that means there’s nothing to buy then. To me, it sounds like there are 40 songs on there. There’s that side of the market and I’m not going to disregard it.

I mean to sell as many albums as I can, because I’m an artist who wants everybody to love me, and everybody to buy my stuff. I’ll go for that.

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People aren’t that hip; students aren’t that aware; they’re just like anybody else. “Oh, misery! Don’t tell me that’s what it’s about, its really awful. Be a good boy, now, John, you had a hard time, but me, me and my mother...” So there’s all that to go through. “Love” I wrote in a spirit of love for Yoko, and it has all that. It’s a beautiful melody, and I’m not even known for writing melody. You’ve got to think of that. If it goes, it’ll do me good.

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I don’t like the recording that much; we did it too fast trying to be commercial. I like “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” We wrote that together, it’s a beautiful melody. I might do “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “Help” again, because I like them and I can sing them. “Strawberry Fields” because it’s real, real for then, and I think it’s like talking, “You know, I sometimes think no...” It’s like he talks to himself, sort of singing, which I thought was nice.

I like “Across the Universe,” too. It’s one of the best lyrics I’ve written. In fact, it could be the best. It’s good poetry, or whatever you call it, without chewin’ it. See, the ones I like are the ones that stand as words, without melody. They don’t have to have any melody, like a poem, you can read them.

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We put down a few tracks, and nobody was in it at all. It just was a dreadful, dreadful feeling in Twickenham Studio, being filmed all the time, I just wanted them to go away. We’d be there at eight in the morning. You couldn’t make music at eight in the morning in a strange place, with people filming you, and colored lights flashing.

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We were going to let it out in really shitty condition. I didn’t care. I thought it was good to let it out and show people what had happened to us, we can’t get it together; we don’t play together any more; you know, leave us alone. The bootleg version is what it was like, and everyone was probably thinking they’re not going to fucking work on it. There were 29 hours of tape, so much that it was like a movie. Twenty takes of everything, because we were rehearsing and taking everything. Nobody could face looking at it.

When Spector came around, we said, “Well, if you want to work with us, go and do your audition.” He worked like a pig on it. He always wanted to work with the Beatles, and he was given the shittiest load of badly recorded shit, with a lousy feeling toward it, ever. And he made something out of it. He did a great job.

When I heard it, I didn’t puke; I was so relieved after six months of this black cloud hanging over me that this was going to go out.

I had thought it would be good to let the shitty version out because it would break the Beatles, break the myth. It would be just us, with no trousers on and no glossy paint over the cover, and no hype: This is what we are like with our trousers off, would you please end the game now?

But that didn’t happen. We ended up doing “Abbey Road” quickly, and putting out something slick to preserve the myth. I am weak as well as strong, you know, and I wasn’t going to fight for “Let It Be” because I really couldn’t stand it.

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I think he’s capable of great work and I think he will do it. I wish he wouldn’t, you know, I wish nobody would, Dylan or anybody. In me heart of hearts, I wish I was the only one in the world or whatever it is. But I can’t see Paul doing it twice.

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The bigger we got, the more unreality we had to face; the more we were expected to do until, when you didn’t sort of shake hands with a Mayor’s wife, she would start abusing you and screaming and saying “How dare they?”

There is one of Derek’s stories in which we were asleep after the show in the hotel somewhere in America, and the Mayor’s wife comes and says, “Get them up, I want to meet them.” Derek said, “I’m not going to wake them.” She started to scream, “You get them up or I’ll tell the press.” There was always that–they were always threatening that they would tell the press about us, if we didn’t see their bloody daughter with her braces on her teeth. It was always the police chief’s daughter or the Lord Mayor’s daughter, all the most obnoxious kids–because they had the most obnoxious parents– that we were forced to see all the time. We had these people thrust on us.

The most humiliating experiences were like sitting with the Mayor of the Bahamas, when we were making “Help” and being insulted by these fuckin’ junked up middle-class bitches and bastards who would be commenting on our work and commenting on our manners. I was always drunk, insulting them. I couldn’t take it. It would hurt me. I would go insane, swearing at them. I would do something. I couldn’t take it.

All that business was awful, it was a fuckin’ humiliation. One has to completely humiliate oneself to be what the Beatles were, and that’s what I resent. I didn’t know, I didn’t foresee. It happened bit by bit, gradually until this complete craziness is surrounding you, and you’re doing exactly what you don’t want to do with people you can’t stand–the people you hated when you were ten. And that’s what I’m saying in this album–I remember what it’s all about now you fuckers–fuck you! That’s what I’m saying, you don’t get me twice.

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I resent being an artist, in that respect, I resent performing for fucking idiots who don’t know anything. They can’t feel. I’m the one that’s feeling, because I’m the one that is expressing. They live vicariously through me and other artists, and we are the ones... even with the boxers–when Oscar comes in the ring, they’re booing the shit out of him, he only hits Clay once and they’re all cheering him. I’d sooner be in the audience, really, but I’m not capable of it.

One of my big things is that I wish to be a fisherman. I know it sounds silly–and I’d sooner be rich than poor, and all the rest of that shit–but I wish the pain was ignorance or bliss or something. If you don’t know, man, then there’s no pain; that’s how I express it.

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LENNON:

We’ve grown up a little, all of us, there has been a change and we’re all a bit freer and all that, but it’s the same game. Shit, they’re doing exactly the same thing, selling arms to South Africa, killing blacks on the street, people are living in fucking poverty, with rats crawling over them. It just makes you puke, and I woke up to that too.

The dream is over. It’s just the same, only I’m thirty, and a lot of people have got long hair. That’s what it is, man, nothing happened except that we grew up, we did our thing–just like they were telling us. You kids–most of the so called “now generation” are getting a job. We’re a minority, you know, people like us always were, but maybe we are a slightly larger minority because of maybe something or other.

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LENNON:

On the plane over, I was thinking “Oh, we won’t make it,” or I said it on a film or something, but that’s that side of me. We knew we would wipe you out if we could just get a grip on you. We were new.

And when we got here, you were all walking around in fuckin’ bermuda shorts, with Boston crew cuts and stuff on your teeth. Now they’re telling us, they’re all saying, “Beatles are passé and this is like that, man.” The chicks looked like fuckin’ 1940 horses. There was no conception of dress or any of that jazz. We just thought “what an ugly race,” it looked just disgusting. We thought how hip we were, but, of course, we weren’t. It was just the five of us, us and the Stones were really the hip ones; the rest of England were just the same as they ever were.

You tend to get nationalistic, and we would really laugh at America, except for its music. It was the black music we dug, and over here even the blacks were laughing at people like Chuck Berry and the blues singers; the blacks thought it wasn’t sharp to dig the really funky music, and the whites only listened to Jan and Dean and all that. We felt that we had the message which was “listen to this music.” It was the same in Liverpool, we felt very exclusive and underground in Liverpool, listening to Richie Barret and Barrett Strong, and all those old-time records. Nobody was listening to any of them except Eric Burdon in Newcastle and Mick Jagger in London. It was that lonely, it was fantastic. When we came over here and it was the same –nobody was listening to rock and roll or to black music in America–we felt as though we were coming to the land of its origin but nobody wanted to know about it.

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I remember that the simplicity on the new album was evident on the Beatles double album. It was evident in ‘She’s So Heavy,” in fact a reviewer wrote of “She’s So Heavy”: “He seems to have lost his talent for lyrics, it’s so simple and boring.” “She’s So Heavy” was about Yoko. When it gets down to it, like she said, when you’re drowning you don’t say “I would be incredibly pleased if someone would have the foresight to notice me drowning and come and help me,” you just scream. And in “She’s So Heavy,” I just sang “I want you, I want you so bad, she’s so heavy, I want you,” like that. I started simplifying my lyrics then, on the double album.

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I started thinking about my own emotions–I don’t know when exactly it started like “I’m a Loser” or “Hide Your Love Away” or those kind of things–instead of projecting myself into a situation I would just try to express what I felt about myself which I’d done in me books. I think it was Dylan helped me realize that – not by any discussion or anything but just by hearing his work– I had a sort of professional songwriter’s attitude to writing pop songs; he would turn out a certain style of song for a single and we would do a certain style of thing for this and the other thing. I was already a stylized songwriter on the first album. But to express myself I would write “Spaniard in the Works” or “In His Own Write,” the personal stories which were expressive of my personal emotions. I’d have a separate songwriting John Lennon who wrote songs for the sort of meat market, and I didn’t consider them–the lyrics or anything– to have any depth at all. They were just a joke. Then I started being me about the songs, not writing them objectively, but subjectively.

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From the same period, same time, I never liked “Run For Your Life,” because it was a song I just knocked off. It was inspired from–this is a very vague connection – from “Baby Let’s Play House.” There was a line on it–I used to like specific lines from songs– “I’d rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man”–so I wrote it around that but I didn’t think it was that important. “Girl” I liked because I was, in a way, trying to say something or other about Christianity which I was opposed to at the time.

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I wanted to put what I felt about revolution; I thought it was time we fuckin’ spoke about it, the same as I thought it was about time we stopped not answering about the Vietnamese War when we were on tour with Brian Epstein and had to tell him, “We’re going to talk about the war this time and we’re not going to just waffle.” I wanted to say what I thought about revolution.

I had been thinking about it up in the hills in India. I still had this “God will save us” feeling about it, that it’s going to be all right (even now I’m saying “Hold on, John, it’s going to be all right,” otherwise, I won’t hold on) but that’s why I did it, I wanted to talk, I wanted to say my piece about revolution. I wanted to tell you, or whoever listens, to communicate, to say “What do you say? This is what I say.”

On one version I said “Count me in” about violence, in or out, because I wasn’t sure. But the version we put out said “Count me out,” because I don’t fancy a violent revolution happening all over. I don’t want to die; but I begin to think what else can happen, you know, it seems inevitable.

“Revolution #9” was an unconscious picture of what I actually think will happen when it happens; that was just like a drawing of revolution. All the thing was made with loops, I had about thirty loops going, fed them onto one basic track. I was getting classical tapes, going upstairs and chopping them up, making it backwards and things like that, to get the sound effects. One thing was an engineer’s testing tape and it would come on with a voice saying “This is EMI Test Series #9.” I just cut up whatever he said and I’d number nine it. Nine turned out to be my birthday and my lucky number and everything. I didn’t realize it; it was just so funny the voice saying “Number nine”; it was like a joke, bringing number nine into it all the time, that’s all it was.

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LENNON:

So that’s my feeling. The idea was don’t aggravate the pig by waving the thing that aggravates–by waving the Red flag in his face. You know, I really thought that love would save us all. But now I’m wearing a Chairman Mao badge.

I’m just beginning to think he’s doing a good job. I would never know until I went to China. I’m not going to be like that, I was just always interested enough to sing about him. I just wondered what the kids who were actually Maoists were doing. I wondered what their motive was and what was really going on. I thought if they wanted revolution, if they really want to be subtle, what’s the point of saying “I’m a Maoist and why don’t you shoot me down?” I thought that wasn’t a very clever way of getting what they wanted.

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It wasn’t about “H” at all. “Lucy In The Sky” with diamonds which I swear to God, or swear to Mao, or to anybody you like, I had no idea spelled L.S.D.–and “Happiness”–George Martin had a book on guns which he had told me about–I can’t remember–or I think he showed me a cover of a magazine that said “Happiness Is A Warm Gun.” It was a gun magazine, that’s it: I read it, thought it was a fantastic, insane thing to say. A warm gun means that you just shot something.

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I keep saying that I always preferred the double album, because my music is better on the double album; I don’t care about the whole concept of Pepper, it might be better, but the music was better for me on the double album, because I’m being myself on it. I think it’s as simple as the new album, like “I’m So Tired” is just the guitar. I felt more at ease with that than the production. I don’t like production so much. But Pepper was a peak all right.

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But still, when I heard he wanted to see me, I got nervous, because “some business man wants to see me, it’s going to be business and business makes me nervous.” Finally I got a message from Mick–Allen had really set up the whole deal you know, Mick and us nearly went into Apple together a few years back and we had big meetings and discussions about the studios and all of that, but it never happened–and Allen would have come in that way. That was after Brian died, but it didn’t happen. All these approaches were coming from all over the place, and then I met him at the “Rock and Roll Circus” [the TV film] which has never been seen, with John and Yoko performing together for the first time with a crazy violinist and Keith on bass and all that–I always regret that–and I met him there. I didn’t know what to make of him; we just shook hands and then... Yoko, what happened next?

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I don’t like talking to strangers as it is, strangers want to talk about reality, or something else, so I didn’t accept the call. Then finally did we accept the call or did I put a call through? He’ll tell you.

Do you know he knows the lyrics to every fuckin’ song you could ever imagine from the Twenties on? I was with him last night eating, and I was just singing a few things–Yoko thinks I know every song, I know millions of songs–I’m like a juke box, thousands upon millions. G chords and so on–but Allen not only knows it, but he knows every fuckin’ word, even the chorus. He’s got a memory like that, so ask him. But then we met and it was very traumatic.

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He was sitting there all nervous. He was all alone, he didn’t have any of his helpers around, because he didn’t want to do anything like that. But he was very nervous, you could see it in his face. When I saw that I felt better. We talked to him a few hours, and we decided that night, he was it!

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He is a very intelligent guy; he told me what was happening with the Beatles, and my relationship with Paul and George and Ringo. He knew every damn thing about us, the same as he knows everything about the Stones. He’s a fuckin’ sharp man.

There are things he doesn’t know, but when it comes to that kind of business, he knows. And anybody that knew me that well–without having met me–had to be a guy I could let look after me.

So I wrote to Sir Joe Lockwood that night. We were so pleased, I didn’t care what the others might say. I told Allen, “You can handle me.”

Yoko had become my advisor so that I wouldn’t go into Maharishi’s anymore. It was Derek and Yoko and I interviewing people coming in to take over Apple when we were running it at Wigmore Street, and Yoko would sit behind me and I’d play me games and she would tell me what they were doing when I blinked, and how they were in her opinion, because she wasn’t as stupid or emotional as me. And I’ve never had that except when the Beatles were against the world I did have the cooperation of a good mind like Paul’s. It was us against them.

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I had to present a case to them, and Allen had to talk to them himself. And of course, I promoted him in the fashion in which you will see me promoting or talking about something. I was enthusiastic about him and I was relieved because I had met a lot of people including Lord Beeching who was one of the top people in Britain and all that. Paul had told me, “Go and see Lord Beeching” so I went. I mean I’m a good boy, man, and I saw Lord Beeching and he was no help at all. I mean, he was all right. Paul was in America getting Eastman and I was interviewing all these so-called top people, and they were animals. Allen was a human being, the same as Brian was a human being. It was the same thing with Brian in the early days, it was an assessment; I make a lot of mistakes characterwise, but now and then I make a good one and Allen is one, Yoko is one and Brian was one. I am closer to him than to anybody else, outside of Yoko.

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[Paul meantime had met and married American photographer Linda Eastman whose father Lee and brother John were music business lawyers, who also wanted to “manage” the Beatle affairs.]

Then we got Paul. John Eastman had already been in, in fact, we almost signed ourselves over to the Eastmans at one time, because when Paul presented me with John Eastman, I thought well... when you’re not presented with a real alternative, you take whatever is going. I would say “yes”, like I said “Yes, let’s do “Let It Be.” I have nothing to produce so I will go along”, and we almost went away with Eastman. But then Eastman made the mistake of sending his son over and not coming over himself, to look after the Beatles, playing it a bit cool.

Finally, when we got near the point when Allen came in, the Eastmans panicked; yet I was still open. I liked Allen but I would have taken Eastman if he would have turned out something other than what he was.

We arranged to see Eastman and Klein together in a hotel where one of them was staying. For the four Beatles and Yoko to go and see them both. We hadn’t been in there more than a few minutes when Lee Eastman was having something like an epileptic fit, and screaming at Allen, that he was “the lowest scum on earth,” and calling him all sorts of names. Allen was sitting there, taking it, you know, just takin’ it. Eastman was abusing him with class snobbery. What Eastman didn’t know then is that Neil had been in New York and found out that Lee Eastman’s real name was Lee Epstein! That’s the kind of people they are. But Paul fell for that bullshit, because Eastman’s got Picassos on the wall and because he’s got some sort of East Coast suit; form and not substance. Now, that’s McCartney. We were all still not sure and they brought in this fella, and he had a fuckin’ fit.

We had thought it was one in a million but that was enough for me, soon as he started nailing Klein on his taste. Paul was getting in little digs about Allen’s dress. I mean you just go and look at Paul’s dress, or at his father, or anything –who the fuck does he think he is? Him talking about dress!

Man, so that was it, and we said, “fuck it!” I wouldn’t let Eastman near me; I wouldn’t let a fuckin’ animal like that who has a mind like that near me. Who despises me, too, despises me because of what I am and what I look like.

You know, these people like Eastman and Dick James and people like that, think that I’m an idiot. They really can’t see me; they think I’m some kind of guy who got struck lucky, a pal of Paul’s or something. They’re so fuckin’ stupid they don’t know.

The reason Allen knew was because he knew who I was. He wasn’t going on what a pretty face I’ve got. Eastman blew it, and then he went on to do it again. Where did he do it? Next time he did it was in the Apple office. He kept coming to me, trying to hold his madness down, this insanity that kept coming out. He was coming up to me saying “I can’t tell you how much I admire you.” Gortikov [the chairman of Capitol Records] does that too; you know them, full of praise, like “I can’t tell you how much I’ve admired your work, John.”

And I’m just watchin’ this and I’m thinkin’ “it’s happening to me,” and “thank you very much,” and all that [To Yoko:] What was the second fit, because I want this out. What was the second time he blew it?

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This was supposed to be the guy who was taking over the multi-million dollar corporation, and it was going to be slick. Paul was sort of intimating that Allen’s business offices on Broadway were not nice enough as if that were any fuckin’ difference! Eastman was in the good section of town. “Oh, boy, man, that’s where it’s at!” And Eastman’s office has got class! I don’t care if this is fuckin’ red white and blue, I don’t care what Allen dresses like, he’s a human being, man.

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They refused to meet him. I said I don’t talk to anybody unless I come along with Allen. They said “Come on, John, I want to meet you alone,” and I said “I don’t see any of you, unless Allen’s with me.”

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He’s initiating all these things just to slow us down, like an immigration officer, really putting us through it. I’m sitting there, waiting, and we’re thinking, “sign it you fuckin’ idiot, and let’s get out,” but he starts insulting me; Yoko said to him “Will you please stop insulting my husband.” She was saying “Don’t call my husband stupid.” I wasn’t saying anything but “sign it and give me the signature, just put your initials on it, Epstein,” I was thinking let’s get out of here, and we’ll wrap you up, and that’s what we did.

You can’t believe it, man, epileptic fits, and they expected to run the company. Allen even offered to let John Eastman be the lawyer on the deals we were making with Northern Songs, but they were screwing everything Allen did, by putting on an argument. It fucked that Northern Songs deal and all that, but we still came out with all the money. Whatever they could do they did but in the end they couldn’t out-maneuver him. Klein was the only one who knew exactly what was going on. He not only knew our characters, and what the relationship between the group was, but he also knows his business, he knows who’s who in the group, what you have to do to get things done, and he knew about every fuckin’ contract and paper we ever had. He understood. Eastman was just making judgments and saying things to Paul based on something that he had never seen. It was a wipe-out, you can’t imagine. The real story will come out, because Allen knows every detail and he remembers everything we’ve said.

ONO:

But the point is that the Eastman family doesn’t know John’s a drop-out–I was sick and tired of that middle class thing and I married a “working class hero”; and if he is a true aristocrat, he is not going to invite Allen to the Harvard Club, but would make sure that he invites Allen to somewhere Allen would enjoy.

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When the whole Northern thing was going on, we tried to save our fuckin’ stuff [the publishing rights to most of the Lennon/McCartney songs] and he was playing hard to get, like a fuckin’ chick, because he hadn’t thought of it. It was a pure ego game, and I got into the ego thing, of course, but I was really fighting for our fuckin’ business, and what I believed was our money. It wasn’t just because I’d found Allen. I would have dropped Allen if Eastman had been something; but he was an animal, a fuckin’ stupid middle-class pig, and thought he could con me with fuckin’ talking about Kafka, and shit, and Picasso and DeKooning, for Christ’s sake, and I shit on the fuckin’ lot of them.

I don’t even know who the fuck they are; I just know that it’s something that somebody has got hung up on the wall that he thinks is an investment.

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Steve Maltz, I think; Allen said I must have gotten it from Steve Maltz, this accountant we had had, a young guy, who just sent me a letter one day saying, “You’re in chaos, you’re losing money, there is so much a week going out of Apple.”

People were robbing us and living on us to the tune of... 18 or 20 thousand pounds a week, was rolling out of Apple and nobody was doing anything about it. All our buddies that worked for us for fifty years, were all just living and drinking and eating like fuckin’ Rome, and I suddenly realized it and–I said to you–”we’re losing money at such a rate that we would have been broke, really broke.”

We didn’t have anything in the bank really, none of us did. Paul and I could have probably floated, but we were sinking fast. It was just hell, and it had to stop. When Allen heard me say that–he read it in Stone–he came over right away. As soon as he realized that I knew what was going on, he thought to himself, “Now I can get through.” Until somebody knows that they are on shit street, how can somebody come and get in... it’s just like somebody coming up to me now and saying “I want to help you with the business.” I would say “I’ve got somebody,” or “I’m doing all right, Jack...” As soon as Allen realized that I realized all that was going on, he came over.

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We didn’t want to put out “Let It Be” and Paul’s at the same time. It would have killed the sales. In the old days we used to watch it: if the Stones were coming out... we would ask Brian, “who is coming out”? and he would tell us who’s coming out. We could always beat everyone, but what is the point of losing sales? There has to be timing. Mick timed it. We never came out together, we’re not idiots. With Elvis, we miss every one; I would miss Tom Jones, anybody, now. I don’t want to fight on the charts, I want to get in when the going is good. It would have killed – Paul’s was just an ego game – it would have killed “Let It Be.”

We asked Ringo to go and talk to him because Ringo–the real fighting had been going on between me and Paul, because of Eastman and Klein, and we were on the opposite ends of our bats–Ringo had not taken sides, or anything like that, and he had been straight about it, and we thought that Ringo would be able to talk fairly, to Paul–I mean if Ringo agreed that it was unfair, then it was unfair. (At one time Paul wanted a fuckin’ extra vote on a voting trust, but that was the same as like the four of us at a table, except that Paul has two votes. I mean, Eastman–something was going on... Paul thought he was the fuckin’ Beatles, and he never fucking was, never... none of us were the fucking Beatles, four of us were.) Ringo went and asked him and he attacked Ringo and he started threatening him and everything, and that was the kibosh for Ringo. What the situation is now, I don’t know.

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I had a group, I was the singer and the leader; I met Paul and I made a decision whether to– and he made a decision too–have him in the group: was it better to have a guy who was better than the people I had in, obviously, or not? To make the group stronger or to let me be stronger? That decision was to let Paul in and make the group stronger.

Well, from that, Paul introduced me to George, and Paul and I had to make the decision, or I had to make the decision, whether to let George in. I listened to George play, and I said “play ‘Raunchy’ “ or whatever the old story is, and I let him in. I said “OK, you come in”; that was the three of us then. Then the rest of the group was thrown out gradually. It just happened like that, instead of going for the individual thing, we went for the strongest format, and for equals.

George is ten years younger than me, or some shit like that. I couldn’t be bothered with him when he first came around. He used to follow me around like a bloody kid, hanging around all the time, I couldn’t be bothered. He was a kid who played guitar, and he was a friend of Paul’s which made it all easier. It took me years to come around to him, to start considering him as an equal or anything.

We had all sorts of different drummers all the time, because people who owned drum kits were few and far between; it was an expensive item. They were usually idiots. Then we got Pete Best, because we needed a drummer to go to Hamburg the next day. We passed the audition on our own with a stray drummer. There are other myths about Pete Best was the Beatles and Stuart Sutcliffe’s mother is writing in England that he was the Beatles.

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I made my mind up not to talk about all that shit, I’m sick of it, you know. I would like to talk about the album, I was going to say to you “Look, I don’t want to talk about all that about the Beatles splitting up because it not only hurts me, and it always ends up looking like I’m blabbing off and attacking people.” I don’t want it.

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I’m interested in concepts and philosophies. I am not interested in wallpaper, which most music is.

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What do we hear? It’s interesting to hear Van Morrison. He seems to be doing nice stuff – sort of 1960s black music–he is one of them that became an American like Eric Burdon. I just never have time for a whole album. I only heard Neil Young twice–you can pick him out a mile away, the whole style. He writes some nice songs. I’m not stuck on Sweet Baby [James Taylor]–I’m getting to like him more hearing him on the radio, but I was never struck by his stuff. I like Creedence Clearwater. They make beautiful Clearwater music–they make good rock and roll music. You see it’s difficult when you ask me what I like, there’s lots of stuff I’ve heard that I think is fantastic on the radio here, but I haven’t caught who they are half the time.

I’m interested in things with more of a world-wide... I’m interested in, what’s it called, something that means something for everyone, not just for a few kids listening to wallpaper. I am just as interested in poetry or whatever or art, and always have been, that’s been my hang-up, you know–continually trying to be Shakespeare or whatever it is. That’s what I’m doing, I’m not pissing about. I consider I’m up against them. I’m not competing myself against Elvis. Rock just happens to be the media which I was born into, it was the one, that’s all. Those people picked up paint brushes, and Van Gogh probably wanted to be Renoir or whoever went before him just as I wanted to be Elvis or whatever the shit it is. I’m not interested in good guitarists. I’m in the game of all those things, of concept and philosophy, ways of life, and whole movements in history. Just like Van Gogh was or any other of those fuckin’ people–they are no more or less than I am or Yoko is–they were just living in those days. I’m interested in expressing myself like they expressed it, in some way that will mean something to people in any country, in any language, and at any time in history.

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I got fuckin’ lost in being at high school. I used to say to me auntie “You throw my fuckin’ poetry out, and you’ll regret it when I’m famous,” and she threw the bastard stuff out.

I never forgave her for not treating me like a fuckin’ genius or whatever I was, when I was a child.

It was obvious to me. Why didn’t they put me in art school? Why didn’t they train me? Why would they keep forcing me to be a fuckin’ cowboy like the rest of them? I was different, I was always different. Why didn’t anybody notice me?

A couple of teachers would notice me, encourage me to be something or other, to draw or to paint–express myself. But most of the time they were trying to beat me into being a fuckin’ dentist or a teacher. And then the fuckin’ fans tried to beat me into being a fuckin’ Beatle or an Engelbert Humperdinck, and the critics tried to beat me into being Paul McCartney.

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Fuckin’ bullshit!

I know what Zappa is going through, and a half. I’m just coming out of it. I just have been in school again. I’ve had teachers ticking me off and marking my work. If nobody can recognize what I am then fuck ‘em, it’s the same for Yoko...

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Yoko is as important to me as Paul and Dylan rolled into one. I don’t think she will get recognition until she’s dead. There’s me, and maybe I could count the people on one hand that have any conception of what she is or what her mind is like, or what her work means to this fuckin’ idiotic generation. She has the hope that she might be recognized. If I can’t get recognized, and I’m doing it in a fuckin’ clown’s costume, I’m doing it on the streets, you know, I don’t know what–I admire Yoko’s work.

I admire “Fluxus,” a New York-based group of artists founded by George Macuinas. I really think what they do is beautiful and important.

I admire Andy Warhol’s work, I admire Zappa a bit, but he’s a fuckin’ intellectual–I can’t think of anybody else. I admire people from the past. I admire Fellini. A few that Yoko’s educated me to... She’s educated me into things that I didn’t know about before, because of the scene I was in; I’m getting to know some other great work that’s been going on now and in the past–there is all sorts going on.

I still love Little Richard, and I love Jerry Lee Lewis. They’re like primitive painters...

Chuck Berry is one of the all-time great poets, a rock poet you could call him. He was well advanced of his time lyric-wise. We all owe a lot to him, including Dylan. I’ve loved everything he’s done, ever. He was in a different class from the other performers, he was in the tradition of the great blues artists but he really wrote his own stuff – I know Richard did, but Berry really wrote stuff, just the lyrics were fantastic, even though we didn’t know what he was saying half the time.

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A drug will do it. Acid will box your head open. Some artists will do it, but they usually have to be dead two hundred years to do it. All I ever learned in art school was about Van Gogh and stuff; they didn’t teach me anything about anybody that was alive now, or they never taught me about Marcel Duchamp which I despised them for. Yoko has taught me about Duchamp and what he did, which is just out of this world. He would just put a bike wheel on display and he would say this is art, you cunts. – He wasn’t Dali; Dali was all right, but he’s like Mick, you know. I love Dali, but fuckin’ Duchamp was spot on. He was the first one to do that, just take an object from the street and put his name on it, and say this is art because I say it is.

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Like Citizen Kane, that’s something else, too. Poor old Orson, he goes on Dick Cavett, and says “Please love me, now I’m a big fat man, and I’ve eaten all this food, and I did so well when I was younger, I can act, I can direct, and you’re all very kind to me, but at the moment I don’t do anything.”

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Her work is far out, Yoko’s bottom thing is as important as “Sgt. Pepper.” The real hip people know about it. There are a few people that know; there is a person in Paris who knows about her; a person in Moscow knows about her; there’s a person in fucking China that knows about her. But in general, she can’t be accepted, because she’s too far out. It’s hard to take. Her pain is such that she expresses herself in a way that hurts you–you cannot take it. That’s why they couldn’t take Van Gogh, it’s too real, it hurts; that’s why they kill you.

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So it was positive. I felt relieved. It’s a great relief when you get up the ladder and you look through the spyglass and it doesn’t say “no” or “fuck you” or something, it said “yes.”

I was very impressed and John Dunbar sort of introduced us – neither of us knew who the hell we were, she didn’t know who I was, she’d only heard of Ringo I think, it means apple in Japanese. And John Dunbar had been sort of hustling her saying “that’s a good patron, you must go and talk to him or do something” because I was looking for action, I was expecting a happening and things like that. John Dunbar insisted she say hello to the millionaire, you know what I mean. And she came up and handed me a card which said “Breathe” on it, one of her instructions, so I just went (pant). That was our meeting.

Then I went away and the second time I met her was at a gallery opening of Claes Oldenberg in London. We were very shy, we sort of nodded at each other and we didn’t know – she was standing behind me, I sort of looked away because I’m very shy with people, especially chicks. We just sort of smiled and stood frozen together in this cocktail party thing.

The next thing was she came to me to get some backing – like all the bastard underground do–for a show she was doing. She gave me her “Grapefruit” book and I used to read it and sometimes I’d get very annoyed by it; it would say things like “paint until you drop dead” or “bleed” and then sometimes I’d be very enlightened by it and I went through all the changes that people go through with her work–sometimes I’d have it by the bed and I’d open it and it would say something nice and it would be alright and then it would say something heavy and I wouldn’t like it. There was all that and then she came to me to get some backing for a show and it was half a wind show. I gave her the money to back it and the show was, this was in a place called Lisson Gallery, another one of those underground places. For this whole show everything was in half: there was half a bed, half a room, half of everything, all beautifully cut in half and all painted white. And I said to her “why don’t you sell the other half in bottles?” having caught on by then what the game was and she did that–this is still before we’d had any nuptials–and we still have the bottles from the show, it’s my first. It was presented as “Yoko Plus Me”–that was our first public appearance. I didn’t even go to see the show, I was too uptight.

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I’d get very upset about it being intellectual or all fucking avant garde, then I’d like it and then I wouldn’t. Then I went to India with the Maharoonie and we were corresponding. The letters were still formal but they just had a little side to them. I nearly took her to India as I said but I still wasn’t sure for what reason, I was still sort of kidding myself, with sort of artistic reasons, and all that.

When we got back from India we were talking to each other on the phone. I called her over, it was the middle of the night and Cyn was away, and I thought well now’s the time if I’m gonna get to know her anymore. She came to the house and I didn’t know what to do; so we went upstairs to my studio and I played her all the tapes that I’d made, all this far out stuff, some comedy stuff, and some electronic music. She was suitably impressed and then she said well let’s make one ourselves so we made “Two Virgins.” It was midnight when we started “Two Virgins,” it was dawn when we finished, and then we made love at dawn. It was very beautiful.

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It was like a hotel press conference. We kept them out of the room. We came down the elevator in the bag and we went in and we got comfortable and they were all ushered in. It was a very strange scene because they’d never seen us before, or heard – Vienna is a pretty square place. A few people were saying, “C’mon, get out of the bags.” And we wouldn’t let ‘em see us. They all stood back saying “Is it really John and Yoko?” and “What are you wearing and why are you doing this?” We said, “this is total communications with no prejudice.” It was just great. They asked us to sing and we sang a few numbers. Yoko was singing a Japanese folk song, very nicely, just very straight we did it. And they never did see us.

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I couldn’t create, either. I created a little, it came out, but I was in the party and you don’t get out of a thing like that. It was fantastic! I came out of the sticks, I didn’t hear about anything–Van Gogh was the most far out thing I had ever heard of. Even London was something we used to dream of, and London’s nothing. I came out of the fuckin’ sticks to take over the world it seemed to me. I was enjoying it, and I was trapped in it, too. I couldn’t do anything about it, I was just going along for the ride. I was hooked, just like a junkie.

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We were the ones that were looked down upon as animals by the Southerners, the Londoners. The Northerners in the States think that people are pigs down South and the people in New York think West Coast is hick. So we were hicksville.

We were a great amount of Irish descent and blacks and Chinamen, all sorts there. It was like San Francisco, you know. That San Francisco is something else! Why do you think Haight-Ashbury and all that happened there? It didn’t happen in Los Angeles, it happened in San Francisco, where people are going. L.A. you pass through and get a hamburger.

There was nothing big in Liverpool; it wasn’t American. It was going poor, a very poor city, and tough. But people have a sense of humor because they are in so much pain, so they are always cracking jokes. They are very witty, and it’s an Irish place. It is where the Irish came when they ran out of potatoes, and it’s where black people were left or worked as slaves or whatever.

It is cosmopolitan, and it’s where the sailors would come home with the blues records from America on the ships. There is the biggest country & western following in England in Liverpool, besides London – always besides London, because there is more of it there.

I heard country and western music in Liverpool before I heard rock and roll. The people there – the Irish in Ireland are the same – they take their country and western music very seriously. There’s a big heavy following of it. There were established folk, blues and country and western clubs in Liverpool before rock and roll and we were like the new kids coming out.

I remember the first guitar I ever saw. It belonged to a guy in a cowboy suit in a province of Liverpool, with stars, and a cowboy hat and a big dobro. They were real cowboys, and they took it seriously. There had been cowboys long before there was rock and roll.

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I regret profoundly that I was not an American and not born in Greenwich Village. That’s where I should have been. It never works that way. Everybody heads toward the center, that’s why I’m here now. I’m here just to breathe it. It might be dying and there might be a lot of dirt in the air that you breathe, but this is where it’s happening. You go to Europe to rest, like in the country. It’s so overpowering, America, and I’m such a fuckin’ cripple, that I can’t take much of it, it’s too much for me.

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But it happened in San Francisco. It happened all right, didn’t it. I mean it goes down in history. I love it. It’s like when Shaw was in England, and they all went to Paris; and I see all that in New York, San Francisco and London, even London. We created something there–Mick and us, we didn’t know what we were doing, but we were all talking blabbing over coffee, like they must have done in Paris, talking about paintings... Me, Burdon and Brian Jones would be up night and day talking about music, playing records, and blabbing and arguing and getting drunk. It’s beautiful history, and it happened in all these different places. I just miss New York. In New York they have their own cool clique. Yoko came out of that.

This is the first time I’m really seeing it, because I was always too nervous, I was always the famous Beatle. Dylan showed it to me once on sort of a guided tour around the Village, but I never got any feel of it. I just knew Dylan was New York, and I always sort of wished I’d been there for the experience that Bob got from living around here.

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He came to me house, which was Kenwood, can you imagine it, and I didn’t know where to put him in this sort of bourgeois home life I was living; I didn’t know what to do and things like that. I used to go to his hotel rather, and I loved him, you know, because he wrote some beautiful stuff. I used to love that, his so-called protest things. I like the sound of him, I didn’t have to listen to his words, he used to come with his acetate and say “Listen to this, John, and did you hear the words?” I said that doesn’t matter, the sound is what counts–the overall thing. I had too many father figures and I liked words, too, so I liked a lot of the stuff he did. You don’t have to hear what Bob Dylan’s is saying, you just have to hear the way he says it.

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I just remember before that we were both in shades and both on fucking junk, and all these freaks around us and Ginsberg and all those people. I was anxious as shit, we were in London, when he came.

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I thought why? What? He’s going to put me down; I went all through this terrible thing.

In the film, I’m just blabbing off and commenting all the time, like you do when you’re very high or stoned. I had been up all night. We were being smart alecks, it’s terrible. But it was his scene, that was the problem for me. It was his movie. I was on his territory, that’s why I was so nervous. I was on his session.

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http://www.rollingstone.com/

JOHN LENNON "THE ROLLING STONE INTERVIEW" 1970
JOHN LENNON "THE ROLLING STONE INTERVIEW" 1970
JOHN LENNON "THE ROLLING STONE INTERVIEW" 1970
JOHN LENNON "THE ROLLING STONE INTERVIEW" 1970

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