John Lennon Pt. 1 – RS74: January 21, 1971
There is nothing conceptually better than rock and roll. No group, be it Beatles, Dylan or Stones have ever improved on “Whole Lot of Shaking” for my money. Or maybe I’m like our parents: that’s my period and I dig it and I’ll never leave it. -John Lennon
By Walter Price
I admit that I am not the most knowledgeable when it comes to all things The Beatles. One of the most cherished and scrutinized bands in the history of Rock N’ Roll. Sure I know the albums, the songs and I have witnessed old TV clips and tons of quotable this and that’s from the Fab Four themselves. I just haven’t delved into mythology of what made the band tick. I’ve never been one to slam Yoko for anything. Well, she is somewhat odd but who isn’t.
The much ballyhooed interview John (and Ono) gave to Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner back on 8 December 1970 and subsequently published the following January has been picked over and debated for years. It was (probably still is) what ignited many a division for hardcore fans. Team John vs. Team Paul (GO RINGO!).
As history would have it, I’d never experienced the full interview. As fate would turn things around, I stumbled across it in Wenner’s archives. I found myself completely mesmerized by the complexities of Lennon’s thought processes. I know he thought he had it all together and he perhaps had the understanding he was mentally elevated. I now know how much John loved Yoko even if she was clearly an odd bean. Love will see past these things.
Wenner masterfully and understandably guides John into territories far and wide.Obviously the album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, drugs,therapy, Phil Spector, a surprising thought on Joan Baez, Mick Jagger, Beatles solo music (On George’s music John admits, “I don’t know… I think it’s all right, you know. Personally, at home, I wouldn’t play that kind of music,”) and almost every and anything else seemed to be right-on topics for discussion.
Here are a few of my favorite points from the session:
WENNER:“Yer Blues,” was that also deliberately meant to be a parody of the English blues scene?
John Lennon: Well, a bit. I’m a bit self-conscious–we all were a bit self-conscious and the Beatles were super self-conscious people about parody of Americans which we do and have done.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?
WENNER: Do you think your singing is better on this album?
It’s probably better because I have the whole time to myself, you know. I mean I’m pretty good at home with the tapes. This time it was my album and it used to get a bit embarrassing in front of George and Paul, because we know each other so well. We used to be a bit supercritical of each other, so we inhibited each other a lot. And now I have Yoko there, and Phil there, alternatively and together, who sort of love me so that I can perform better, and I relaxed. I’ve got a whole studio at home now, and I think it will be better next time, because that is even less inhibiting than going to E.M.I. It’s like that, but the looseness of the singing was developing on “Cold Turkey” from the experience of Yoko’s singing. You see, she does not inhibit her throat.
WENNER: Did you put in “fucking” deliberately on “Working Class Hero?”
No. I put it in because it fit. I didn’t even realize that there were two in the song until somebody pointed it out. When I actually sang it, I missed a verse which I had to add in later. You do say “fucking crazy”; that is how I speak. I was very near to it many times in the past, but, I would deliberately not put it in, which is the real hypocrisy, the real stupidity.
WENNER: Do you get any pleasure out of the Top Ten?
No, I never listen. Only when I’m recording or about to bring something out will I listen. Just before I record, I go buy a few albums to see what people are doing. Whether they have improved any, or whether anything happened. And nothing’s really happened. There’s a lot of great guitarists and musicians around, but nothing’s happening, you know. I don’t like the Blood, Sweat and Tears shit. I think all that is bullshit. Rock and roll is going like jazz, as far as I can see, and the bullshitters are going off into that excellentness which I never believed in and others going off… I consider myself in the avant garde of rock and roll. Because I’m with Yoko and she taught me a lot and I taught her a lot, and I think on her album you can hear it, if I can get away from her album for a moment.
I told you, this stuff is amazing. At the end of it all I found myself more than intrigued by this article and you should check it out in full as well as Pt. 2 of the historic journalist coolness HERE. I still wonder what took me so long to dig into this thing…
A man that knows volumes more about all things The Beatles, Ken Michaels, has been airing his love, knowledge and fascination for the Liverpool legends for decades on the US radio airwaves. And starting this weekend you can catch his Every Little Thing program right here at The GTC. We’ll kick things off with a show from 2010 that will bring you closer to all things related The Beatles than you could ever imagine.