The Rolling Stone Inter­view With John Lennon | 23 November 1968

The Rolling Stone Inter­view with John Lennon

Inter­viewed by Jonathan Colt | Pub­lished: 23 Novem­ber 1968 | Source: Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone Mag­a­zine Issue No.22 November 1968'

Rolling Stone Mag­a­zine Issue No.22 Novem­ber 1968′

The inter­view took place at John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s tem­po­rary base­ment flat in Lon­don — a flat where Jimi Hen­drix, Ringo Starr and William Bur­roughs, among oth­ers, have stayed. But the flat seemed as much John and Yoko’s as the Indian incense that took over the liv­ing room. The walls were cov­ered with pho­tos of John, of Yoko, a giant Sgt. Pep­per ensign, Richard Chamberlain’s poster col­lage of news clip­pings of the Stones bust, the Time mag­a­zine cover of the Beatles.

We arrived at five on the after­noon of Sep­tem­ber 17, said hello to gallery owner Robert Fraser, who had arranged the inter­view, and to John and Yoko, sit­ting together, look­ing “tres bien ensem­ble”. We sat down around a sim­ple wooden table cov­ered with mag­a­zines, news­pa­pers, sketch paper, boxes, draw­ings, a beaded neck­lace shaped in the form of a pentangle.

John said he had to be at a record­ing ses­sion in half an hour, so we talked for a while about John’s show at the Fraser Gallery. John wrote some reminders to him­self in the won­der­fully intense absorbed way that a kid has paint­ing the sun for the first time. As a philoso­pher once remarked: “Were art to redeem man, it could do so only by sav­ing him from the seri­ous­ness of life and restor­ing him to an unex­pected boy­ish­ness.” When we arrived the next after­noon, Sep­tem­ber 18, John was walk­ing around the room, hum­ming what sounded like “Hold Me Tight” — just singing the song to the air. Old ’50’s forty-fives were scat­tered about the floor, and John played Rosie and the Orig­i­nals’ ver­sion of “Give Me Love.” We talked about the lyrics of Gene Vincent’s “Woman Love.” In spite of hav­ing slept only two hours, John asked us to sit down on the floor and begin the interview.

There’s noth­ing more fun than talk­ing about your own songs and your own records…

~ John Lennon

Any sus­pi­cions that John would be ornery, mean, cruel or brutish — feel­ings attrib­uted to him and imag­ined by press reports and var­i­ous para­noiac per­son­al­i­ties — never arose even for the pur­pose of being pressed down. As John said sim­ply about the inter­view: “There’s noth­ing more fun than talk­ing about your own songs and your own records. I mean, you can’t help it, it’s your bit, really. We talk about them together. Remem­ber that”. It’s impos­si­ble to recap­ture in print John’s inflec­tions and pro­nun­ci­a­tions of words like “ahp­pens” for exam­ple. Wish you had been there.

Q: “I‘ve listed a group of songs that I asso­ciate with you, in terms of what you are or what you were, songs that struck me as embody­ing you a lit­tle bit: ‘You’ve Got to Hide your Love Away,’ ‘Straw­berry Fields,’ ‘It’s Only Love,’ ‘She Said She Said,’ ‘Lucy in the Sky,’ ‘I’m Only Sleep­ing,’ ‘Run for Your Life,’ ‘I Am the Wal­rus,’ ‘All You Need Is Love,’ ‘Rain,’ ‘Girl.’ ”

JOHN: “The ones that really meant some­thing to me — look, I don’t know about ‘Hide Your Love Away,’ that’s so long ago. Prob­a­bly ‘Straw­berry Fields,’ ‘She Said,’ ‘Wal­rus,’ ‘Rain,’ ‘Girl.’ There are just one or two oth­ers, ‘Day Trip­per,’ ‘Paper­back Writer’ even. ‘Ticket to Ride’ was one more, I remem­ber that. It was a def­i­nite sort of change. ‘Nor­we­gian Wood’ — that was the sitar bit. Def­i­nitely, I con­sider them moods or moments.”

Q: “I feel you in these songs more than in a song like ‘Michelle’ for example.”

JOHN: “Yeah, right, they’re me touch. Well the thing is, I don’t know how they’d work out if I recorded them with other peo­ple, it would be entirely dif­fer­ent. But it’s my music with my band when it’s me singing it, and it’s Paul’s music with his band. Some­times it’s halvey-halvey you know. When we write them together, they’re together. But I’m not proud of all my songs. ‘Wal­rus,’ ‘Straw­berry Fields,’ you know — I’ll sort of stick my name on them, the oth­ers are a bit… I think they’re more powerful.”

Q: “I heard that ‘Straw­berry Fields’ was writ­ten when you were sit­ting on a beach alone.”

JOHN: “Yeah, in Spain, film­ing ‘How I Won The War,’ I was going through a big scene about writ­ing some songs again you know — I seem to go through it now and then, and it took me a long time to write it. See, I was writ­ing all bits and bits. I wanted the lyrics to be like con­ver­sa­tion. It didn’t work, that one verse was sort of ludi­crous really, I just wanted it to be like (John sing-talks) ‘We’re talk­ing and I just hap­pen to be singing’ — like that. And it was very quiet. But it was writ­ten in this big Span­ish house, part of it, and then fin­ished on the beach. It was really roman­tic — singing it too — I don’t know who was there.”

Q: “Don’t you find some­thing spe­cial about that song?”

JOHN: “Oh yes, def­i­nitely yes. It was a big scene, like I say ‘Ticket to Ride’ was a big scene. ‘Rain’ was, not so much, but because of the back­wards, you know. That was the time I dis­cov­ered back­wards acci­den­tally. It was the first time I dis­cov­ered it. On the end of ‘Rain’ you hear me singing it back­wards. We’d done the main thing at EMI and the habit was then to take the songs home and see what you thought a lit­tle extra gim­mick or what the gui­tar piece could be. So I got home about five in the morn­ing, stoned out of me head, I stag­gered up to me tape recorder and I put it on, but it came out back­wards, and I was in a trance in the ear­phones, what is it — what is it? It’s too much, you know, and I really wanted the whole song back­wards almost, and that was it. So we tagged it on the end. I just hap­pened to have the tape the wrong way round, it just came out back­wards, it just blew me mind. The voice sounds like old Indian.”

Q: “There have been a lot of philo­soph­i­cal analy­ses writ­ten about your songs, ‘Straw­berry Fields’ in particular…”

JOHN: “Well, they can take them apart. They can take any­thing apart. I mean, I hit it on all lev­els, you know. We write lyrics, and I write lyrics that you don’t real­ize what they mean till after. Espe­cially some of the bet­ter songs or some of the more flow­ing ones, like ‘Wal­rus.’ The whole first verse was writ­ten with­out any knowl­edge. And ‘Tomor­row Never Knows’ — I didn’t know what I was say­ing, and you just find out later. I know that when there are some lyrics I dig I know that some­where peo­ple will be look­ing at them. And I dig the peo­ple that notice that I have a sort of strange rhythm scene, because I’ve never been able to keep rhythm on the stage. I always used to get lost. It’s me dou­ble off-beats.”

Q: “In ‘Lucy in the Sky with Dia­monds’ what about an image like ‘news­pa­per taxis’?”

JOHN: “That was a Paul line, I think, in alot of them you’ll get so far. You’ve lum­bered your­self with a set of images and it’s an effort to keep it up.”

Q: “Pop ana­lysts are often try­ing to read some­thing into songs that isn’t there.”

JOHN: “It is there. It’s like abstract art really. It’s just the same really. It’s just that when you have to think about it to write it, it just means that you labored at it. But when you just say it, man, you know you’re say­ing it, it’s a con­tin­u­ous flow. The same as when you’re record­ing or just play­ing. You come out of a thing and you know ‘I’ve been there,’ and it was noth­ing, it was just pure, and that’s what we’re look­ing for all the time, really.”

Q: “What is Straw­berry Fields?”

JOHN: “It’s a name, it’s a nice name. When I was writ­ing ‘In My Life’ — I was try­ing ‘Penny Lane’ at that time — we were try­ing to write about Liv­er­pool, and I just listed all the nice-sounding names, just arbi­trar­ily. Straw­berry Fields was a place near us that hap­pened to be a Sal­va­tion Army home. But Straw­berry Fields — I mean, I have visions of Straw­berry Fields. And there was Penny Lane, and the Cast Iron Shore, which I’ve just got in some song now, and they were just good names — just groovy names. Just good sound­ing. Because Straw­berry Fields is any­where you want to go.”

Q: “How much do you think the songs go toward build­ing up a myth of a state of mind?”

JOHN: “I don’t know. I mean, we got a bit pre­ten­tious. Like every­body, we had our phase and now it‘s a lit­tle change over to try­ing to be more nat­ural, less ‘news­pa­per taxis,’ say. I mean, we’re just chang­ing. I don’t know what we’re doing at all, I just write them. Really, I just like rock’n’roll. I mean, these (point­ing to a pile of 50’s records) are the records I dug then, I dig them now and I’m still try­ing to repro­duce ‘Some Other Guy’ some­times or ‘Be Bop A Lula.’ What­ever it is, it’s the same bit for me. It’s really just the sound.”

Q: “The Bea­t­les seem to be one of the only groups who ever made a dis­tinc­tion between friends and lovers. For Instance, there’s the ‘baby’ who can drive your car. But when it comes to ‘We Can Work It Out,’ you talk about ‘my friend.’ In most other groups’ songs, call­ing some­one ‘baby’ is a bit demean­ing com­pared to your distinction.”

JOHN: “Yeah, I don’t know why. It’s Paul’s bit that — ‘Buy you a dia­mond ring, my friend’ — it’s an alter­na­tive to baby. You can take it log­i­cally, the way you took it. See, I don’t know really. Yours is as true a way of look­ing at it as any other way. In ‘Baby, You’re a Rich Man’ the point was, stop moan­ing. You’re a rich man and we‘re all rich men, heh, heh, baby!”

Q: “I’ve felt your other mood recently: ‘Here I stand, head in hand’ in ‘Hide Your Love Away’ and ‘When I was a boy, every­thing was right’ in ‘She Said She Said.’”

JOHN: “Yeah, right. That was pure. That was what I meant all right. You see, when I wrote that I had the ‘She said she said,’ but it was just mean­ing noth­ing. It was just vaguely to do with some­one who had said some­thing like he knew what it was like to be dead, and then it was just a sound. And then I wanted a middle-eight. The begin­ning had been around for days and days and so I wrote the first thing that came into my head and it was ‘When I was a boy,’ dif­fer­ent beat, but it was real because it just hap­pened. It’s funny, because while we’re record­ing we’re all aware and lis­ten­ing to our old records and we say, we’ll do one like ‘The Word’ — make it like that. It never does turn out like that, but we’re always com­par­ing and talk­ing about the old albums — just check­ing up, what is it? like swat­ting up for the exam — just lis­ten­ing to everything.”

Q: “Yet peo­ple think you’re try­ing to get away from the old records.”

JOHN: “But I’d like to make a record like ‘Some Other Guy.’ I haven’t done one that sat­is­fies me as much as that sat­is­fied me. Or ‘Be Bop A Lula’ or ‘Heart­break Hotel’ or ‘Good Golly, Miss Molly’ or ‘Whole Lot of Shakin.’ I’m not being mod­est. I mean, we’re still try­ing it. We sit there in the stu­dio and we say, ‘How did it go, how did it go? Come on, let’s do that.’ Like what Fats Domino has done with ‘Lady Madonna’ — ‘See how they ruhhnnn.’ ”

Q: “Wasn’t it about the time of ‘Rub­ber Soul’ that you moved away from the old records to some­thing quite different?”

JOHN: “Yes, yes, we got involved com­pletely in our­selves then. I think it was ‘Rub­ber Soul’ when we did all our own num­bers. Some­thing just hap­pened. We con­trolled it a bit. What­ever it was we were putting over, we just tried to con­trol it a bit.”

Q: “Are there any other ver­sions of your songs you like?”

JOHN: “Well, Ray Charles’s ver­sion of ‘Yes­ter­day’ — that’s beau­ti­ful. And ‘Eleanor Rigby’ is a groove. I just dig the strings on that. Like 30’s strings. Jose Feli­ciano does great things to ‘Help!’ and ‘Day Trip­per.’ ‘Got to Get You Into My Life’ — sure, we were doing our Tamla Motown bit. You see, we’re influ­enced by whatever’s going. Even if we’re not influ­enced, we’re all going that way at a cer­tain time. If we played a Stones record now, and a Bea­t­les record — and we’ve been way apart — you’d find a lot of sim­i­lar­i­ties. We’re all heavy. Just heavy. How did we ever do any­thing light? What we’re try­ing to do is rock & roll, with less of your philosorock, is what we’re say­ing to our­selves. And get on with rock­ing because rock­ers is what we really are. You can give me a gui­tar, stand me up in front of a few peo­ple. Even in the stu­dio, if I’m get­ting into it, I’m just doing my old bit — not quite doing Elvis Legs but doing my equiv­a­lent. It’s just nat­ural. Every­body says we must do this and that but our thing is just rock­ing — you know, the usual gig.”

That’s what this new record is about. Def­i­nitely rock­ing. What we were doing on Pep­per was rock­ing, and not rock­ing. “A Day in the Life” — that was some­thing. I dug it. It was a good piece of work between Paul and me. I had the ‘I read the news today’ bit, and it turned Paul on. Now and then we really turn each other on with a bit of song, and he just said ‘yeah — bang bang,’ like that. It just sort of hap­pened beau­ti­fully, and we arranged it and rehearsed it, which we don’t often do, the after­noon before. So we all knew what we were play­ing, we all got into it. It was a real groove, the whole scene on that one. Paul sang half of it and I sang half. I needed a middle-eight for it, but that would have been forc­ing it. All the rest had come out smooth, flow­ing, no trou­ble, and to write a middle-eight would have been to write a middle-eight, but instead Paul already had one there. It’s a bit of a 2001, you know. Q: “Songs like ‘Good Morn­ing, Good Morn­ing’ and ‘Penny Lane’ con­vey a child’s feel­ing of the world.”

JOHN: “We write about our past. ‘Good Morn­ing, Good Morn­ing,’ I was never proud of it. I just knocked it off to do a song. But it was writ­ing about my past so it does get the kids because it was me at school, my whole bit. The same with “Penny Lane.” We really got into the groove of imag­in­ing Penny Lane — the bank was there, and that was where the tram sheds were and peo­ple wait­ing and the inspec­tor stood there, the fire engines were down there. It was just reliv­ing childhood.”

Q: “You really had a place where you grew up.”

JOHN: “Oh, yeah. Didn’t you?”

Q: “Well, Man­hat­tan isn’t Liverpool.”

JOHN: “Well, you could write about your local bus station.”

Q: “In Manhattan?”

JOHN: “Sure, why not? Every­where is somewhere.”

Q: “In ‘Hey Jude,’ as in one of your first songs, ‘She Loves you,’ you’re singing to some­one else and yet you might as well be singing to your­self. Do you find that as well?”

JOHN: “Oh, yeah. Well, when Paul first sang ‘Hey Jude’ to me — or played me the lit­tle tape he’d made of it -’ I took it very per­son­ally. ‘Ah, it’s me!’ I said, ‘It’s me.’ He says,‘No, it’s me.’ I said, ‘Check, we’re going through the same bit.’ So we all are. Who­ever is going through that bit with us is going through it, that’s the groove.”

Q: “In the ‘Mag­i­cal Mys­tery Tour’ theme song you say, ‘The Mag­i­cal Mys­tery Tour is wait­ing to take you away.’ In Sgt. Pep­per you sing, ‘We’d like to take you home with us.’ How do you relate this embrac­ing, come-sit-on-my-lawn feel­ing in the songs with your need for every­day privacy?”

JOHN: “I take a nar­rower con­cept of it, like who­ever was around at the time want­ing to talk to them talked to me, but of course it does have that wider aspect to it. The con­cept is very good and I went through it and said, “Well, okay. Let them sit on my lawn.” But of course it doesn’t work. Peo­ple climbed in the house and smashed things up, and then you think, ‘That’s no good, that doesn’t work.’ So actu­ally you’re say­ing, ‘Don’t talk to me,’ really. We’re all try­ing to say nice things like that but most of the time we can’t make it — ninety per­cent of the time — and the odd time we do make it, when we do it, together as peo­ple. You can say it in a song: ‘Well, what­ever I did say to you that day about get­ting out of the gar­den, part of me said that but, really, in my heart of hearts, I’d like to have it right and talk to you and com­mu­ni­cate.’ Unfor­tu­nately we’re human, you know — it doesn’t seem to work.”

Q: “Do you feel free to put any­thing in a song?”

JOHN: “Yes. In the early days I’d… well, we all did… we’d take things out for being banal cliches, even chords we wouldn’t use because we thought they were cliches. And even just this year there’s been a great release for all of us, going right back to the basics. On ‘Rev­o­lu­tion’ I’m play­ing the gui­tar and I haven’t improved since I was last play­ing, but I dug it. It sounds the way I wanted it to sound. It’s a pity I can’t do it bet­ter… the fin­ger­ing, you know… but I couldn’t have done that last year. I’d have been too para­noiac. I couldn’t play: (‘Rev­o­lu­tion’ gui­tar intro) ‘d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d.’ George must play, or some­body bet­ter. My play­ing has prob­a­bly improved a lit­tle bit on this ses­sion because I’ve been play­ing a lit­tle. I was always the rhythm gui­tar any­way, but I always just fid­dled about in the back­ground. I didn’t actu­ally want to play rhythm. We all sort of wanted to be lead — as in most groups — but it’s a groove now, and so are the cliches. We’ve gone past those days when we wouldn’t have used words because they didn’t make sense, or what we thought was sense. But of course Dylan taught us a lot in this respect.”

Another thing is, I used to write a book or sto­ries on one hand and write songs on the other. And I’d be writ­ing com­pletely free form in a book or just on a bit of paper, but when I’d start to write a song I’d be think­ing: dee duh dee duh do doo do de do de doo. And it took Dylan and all that was going on then to say, ‘oh, come on now, that’s the same bit, I’m just singing the words.’ With ‘I Am the Wal­rus,’ I had ‘I am he as you are he as we are all together.’ I had just these two lines on the type­writer, and then about two weeks later I ran through and wrote another two lines and then, when I saw some­thing, after about four lines, I just knocked the rest of it off. Then I had the whole verse or verse and a half and then sang it. I had this idea of doing a song that was a police siren, but it didn’t work in the end (sings like a siren) ‘I-am-he-as-you-are-he-as…’ You couldn’t really sing the police siren.”

Q: “Do you write your music with instru­ments or in your head?”

JOHN: “On piano or gui­tar. Most of this ses­sion has been writ­ten on gui­tar ‘cuz we were in India and only had our gui­tars there. They have a dif­fer­ent feel about them. I missed the piano a bit because you just write dif­fer­ently. My piano play­ing is even worse than me gui­tar. I hardly know what the chords are, so it’s good to have a slightly lim­ited palette, heh heh.”

Q: “What did you think of Dylan’s ver­sion of ‘Nor­we­gian Wood’?”

JOHN: “I was very para­noid about that. I remem­ber he played it to me when he was in Lon­don. He said, ‘What do you think?’ I said, ‘I don’t like it.’ I didn’t like it. I was very para­noid. I just didn’t like what I felt I was feel­ing — I thought it was an out-and-out skit, you know, but it wasn’t. It was great. I mean, he wasn’t play­ing any tricks on me. I was just going through the bit.”

Q: “Is there any­body besides Dylan you’ve got­ten some­thing from musically?”

JOHN: “Oh, mil­lions. All those I men­tioned before — Lit­tle Richard, Presley.”

Q: “Any­one contemporary?”

JOHN: “Are they dead? Well, nobody sus­tains it. I’ve been buzzed by the Stones and other groups, but none of them can sus­tain the buzz for me con­tin­u­ally through a whole album or through three sin­gles even.”

Q: “You and Dylan are often thought of together in some way.”

JOHN: “Yeah? Well we were for a bit, but I couldn’t make it. Too para­noiac. I always saw him when he was in Lon­don. He first turned us on in New York actu­ally. He thought ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ — when it goes ‘I can’t hide’ — he thought we were singing ‘I get high.’ So he turns up with Al Aronowitz and turns us on, and we had the biggest laugh all night — for­ever. Fan­tas­tic. We’ve got a lot to thank him for.”

Q: “Do you ever see him anymore?”

JOHN: “No, ‘cuz he’s liv­ing his cozy lit­tle life, doing that bit. If I was in New York, he’d be the per­son I’d most like to see. I’ve grown up enough to com­mu­ni­cate with him. Both of us were always uptight, you know, and of course I wouldn’t know whether he was uptight, because I was so uptight. And then, when he wasn’t uptight, I was — all that bit. But we just sat it out because we just liked being together.”

Q: “What about the new desire to return to a more nat­ural envi­ron­ment? Dylan’s return to coun­try music?”

JOHN: “Dylan broke his neck and we went to India. Every­body did their bit. And now we’re all just com­ing out, com­ing out of a shell, in a new way, kind of say­ing, remem­ber what it was like to play.”

Q: “Do you feel bet­ter now?”

JOHN: “Yes… and worse.”

Q: “What do you feel about India now?”

JOHN: “I’ve got no regrets at all, ‘cuz it was a groove and I had some great expe­ri­ences med­i­tat­ing eight hours a day — some amaz­ing things, some amaz­ing trips — it was great. And I still med­i­tate off and on. George is doing it reg­u­larly. And I believe implic­ity in the whole bit. It’s just that it’s dif­fi­cult to con­tinue it. I lost the rosy glasses. And I’m like that. I’m very idealistic.”

So I can’t really man­age my exer­cises when I’ve lost that. I mean, I don’t want to be a boxer so much. It’s just that a few things hap­pened, or didn’t hap­pen. I don’t know, but some­thing hap­pened. It was sort of like a (click) and we just left and I don’t know what went on. It’s too near — I don’t really know what happened.”

Q: “You just showed me what might be the front and back album pho­tos for the record you’re putting out of the music you and Yoko com­posed for your film Two Vir­gins. The pho­tos have the sim­plic­ity of a daguerreotype…”

JOHN: “Well, that’s because I took it. I’m a ham pho­tog­ra­pher, you know. It’s me Nikon what I was given by a com­mer­cially minded Japan­ese when we were in Japan, along with me Pen­tax, me Canon, me boom-boom and all the oth­ers. So I just set it up and did it.”

Q: “For the cover, there’s a photo of you and Yoko stand­ing naked fac­ing the cam­era. And on the back­side are your back­sides. What do you think peo­ple are going to think of the cover?”

JOHN: “Well, we’ve got that to come. The thing is, I started it with a pure… it was the truth, and it was only after I’d got into it and done it and looked at it that I’d real­ized what kind of scene I was going to cre­ate. And then sud­denly, there it was, and then sud­denly you show it to peo­ple and then you know what the world’s going to do to you, or try to do. But you have no knowl­edge of it when you con­ceive it or make it.”

Orig­i­nally, I was going to record Yoko, and I thought the best pic­ture of her for an album would be her naked. I was just going to record her as an artist. We were only on those kind of terms then. So after that, when we got together, it just seemed nat­ural for us, if we made an album together, for both of us to be naked. Of course, I’ve never seen me prick on an album or on a photo before: ‘What’n’earth, there’s a fel­low with his prick out.’ And that was the first time I real­ized me prick was out, you know. I mean, you can see it on the photo itself — we’re naked in front of a cam­era — that comes over in the eyes, just for a minute you go!! I mean, you’re not used to it, being naked, but it’s got to come out.”

Q: “How do you face the fact that peo­ple are going to muti­late you?”

JOHN: “Well, I can take that as long as we can get the cover out. And I really don’t know what the chances are of that.”

Q: “You don’t worry about the nuts across the street?”

JOHN: “No, no. I know it won’t be very com­fort­able walk­ing around with all the lorry dri­vers whistling and that, but it’ll all die. Next year it’ll be noth­ing, like miniskirts or bare tits. It isn’t any­thing. We’re all naked really. When peo­ple attack Yoko and me, we know they’re para­noiac. We don’t worry too much. It’s the ones that don’t know, and you know they don’t know — they’re just going round in a blue fuzz. The thing is, the album also says: Look, lay off will you? It’s two peo­ple — what have we done?”

Q: “Lenny Bruce once com­pared him­self to a doc­tor, say­ing that if peo­ple weren‘t sick, there wouldn’t be any need for him.”

JOHN: “That’s the bit, isn’t it? Since we started being more nat­ural in pub­lic — the four of us — we’ve really had a lot of knock­ing. I mean, we’re always nat­ural. I mean, you can’t help it. We couldn’t have been where we are if we hadn’t done that. We wouldn’t have been us either. And it took four of us to enable us to do it; we couldn’t have done it alone and kept that up. I don’t know why I get knocked more often. I seem to open me mouth more often, some­thing hap­pens, I for­get what I am till it all hap­pens again. I mean, we just get knocked — from the under­ground, the pop world — me per­son­ally. They’re all doing it. They’ve got to stop soon.”

Q: “Couldn’t you go off to your own com­mu­nity and not be both­ered with all of this?”

JOHN: “Well, it’s just the same there, you see. India was a bit of that, it was a taste of it — it’s the same. So there’s a small com­mu­nity, it’s the same gig, it’s rel­a­tive. There’s no escape.”

Q: “Your show at the Fraser Gallery gave crit­ics a chance to take a swipe at you.”

JOHN: “Oh, right, but putting it on was tak­ing a swipe at them in a way. I mean, that’s what it was about. What they couldn’t under­stand was that — a lot of them were say­ing, well, if it hadn’t been for John Lennon nobody would have gone to it, but as it was, it was me doing it. And if it had been Sam Bloggs it would have been nice. But the point of it was — it was me. And they’re using that as a rea­son to say why it didn’t work. Work as what?”

Q: “Do you think Yoko’s film of you smil­ing would work of it were just any­one smiling?”

JOHN: “Yes, it works with some­body else smil­ing, but she went through all this. It orig­i­nally started out that she wanted a mil­lion peo­ple all over the world to send in a snap­shot of them­selves smil­ing, and then it got down to lots of peo­ple smil­ing, and then maybe one or two and then me smil­ing as a sym­bol of today smil­ing — and that’s what I am, what­ever that means. And so it’s me smil­ing, and that’s the hang-up, of course, because it’s me again. But they’ve got to see it some­day — it’s only me. I don’t mind if peo­ple go to the film to see me smil­ing because it doesn’t mat­ter, it’s not harm­ful. The idea of the film won’t really be dug for another fifty or a hun­dred years prob­a­bly. That’s what it’s all about. I just hap­pen to be that face.”

Q: “It’s too bad peo­ple can’t come down here and indi­vid­u­ally to see how you’re living.”

JOHN: “Well, that’s it. I didn’t see Ringo and his wife for about a month when I first got together with Yoko, and there were rumors going around about the film and all that. Mau­reen was say­ing she really had some strange ideas about where we were at and what we were up to. And there were some strange reac­tions from all me friends and at Apple about Yoko and me and what we were doing -“Have they gone mad?”. But of course it was just us, you know, and if they are puz­zled or react­ing strangely to us two being together and doing what we’re doing, it’s not hard to visu­al­ize the rest of the world really hav­ing some amaz­ing image.”

Q: “Inter­na­tional Times recently pub­lished an inter­view with Jean-Luc Godard…”

JOHN: “Oh yeah, right, he said we should do some­thing. Now that’s sour grapes from a man who couldn’t get us to be in his film (One Plus One, in which the Stones appear), and I don’t expect it from peo­ple like that. Dear Mr. Godard, just because we didn’t want to be in the film with you, it doesn’t mean to say that we aren’t doing any more than you. We should do what­ever we’re all doing.”

Q: “But Godard put it in activist polit­i­cal terms. He said that peo­ple with influ­ence and money should be try­ing to blow up the estab­lish­ment and that you weren’t.”

JOHN: “What’s he think we’re doing? He wants to stop look­ing at his own films and look around.”

Q: “Time mag­a­zine came out and said, look, the Bea­t­les say ‘no’ to destruction.”

JOHN: “There’s no point in drop­ping out because it’s the same there and it’s got to change. But I think it all comes down to chang­ing your head and, sure, I know that’s a cliche.”

Q: “What would you tell a black-power guy who’s changed his head and then finds a wall there all the time?”

JOHN: “Well, I can’t tell him any­thing ‘cause he’s got to do it him­self. If destruction’s the only way he can do it, there’s noth­ing I can say that could influ­ence him ‘cuz that’s where he’s at, really. We’ve all got that in us, too, and that’s why I did the ‘Out and In’ bit on a few takes and in the TV ver­sion of ‘Rev­o­lu­tion’ — ‘Destruc­tion, well, you know, you can count me out, and in,’ like yin and yang. I pre­fer ‘out.’ But we’ve got the other bit in us. I don’t know what I’d be doing if I was in his posi­tion. I don’t think I’d be so meek and mild. I just don’t know.”

Source: Tran­scribed by from orig­i­nal mag­a­zine issue.
Copy­right © 1968 Rolling Stone

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