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John Lennon: The Rolling Stone Interview

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Lenny Bruce once compared himself to a doctor, saying that if people weren't sick, there wouldn't be any need for him.
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.

Tony Palmer, in an article for The Observer, wrote how he had been predicting the Beatles' failure ever since The Cavern days. All he did was recall the various times he's predicted your failure. And then when he ended this article, he predicted it again. How does he feel?
I just got a letter from him saying he feels fine. Such a lot of mistakes and lies in the article, saying it was Yoko's show and just some very nasty bits about Yoko, just cruel, you know. I don't know what they think we are. They really do think that we're very hard people. I mean they must be hard to do what they do. You just hold your breath and wait.

Couldn't you go off to your own community and not be bothered with all of this?
Well, it's just the same there, you see. Cause I mean 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.

Your show at the Fraser Gallery gave critics a chance to take a swipe at you.
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?

Do you think Yoko's film of you smiling would work if it were just anyone smiling?
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 I mean 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 you see it doesn't matter, it's not harmful. The people that really dig the film . . . 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.

It's too bad people can't come down here individually to see how you're living.
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.

International Times recently published an interview with Jean-Luc Godard . . .
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.

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.
What's he think we're doing? He wants to stop looking at his own films and look around.

Time magazine came out and said, look, the Beatles say "no" to destruction.
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.

What would you tell a black power guy who's changed his head and then finds a wall there all the time?
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 cause 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.

This story is from the November 23, 1968 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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