How did you feel then?
I was cursing, because I hadn't done it. I wanted to do it, I should have done it. Ah, damn, shit, what a fool I was. But there were many pressures at that time with the Northern Songs fight going on; it would have upset the whole thing, if I would have said that.
How did you feel when you found out that Dick James had sold his shares in your own company, Northern Songs? Did you feel betrayed?
Sure I did. He's another one of those people, who think they made us. They didn't. I'd like to hear Dick James' music and I'd like to hear George Martin's music, please, just play me some. Dick James actually has said that.
That he made us. People are under a delusion that they made us, when in fact we made them.
How did Dick James tell you that? "Well, I'm. . . . "
He didn't tell us he did it. It was just a fait accompli. He went and sold his thing to Lew Grade. That's all we knew. We read it in the paper, I think.
What was it like? All those meetings and conferences?
Oh, it was fantastic. It was like this room full of old men smoking and fighting. It's great. People seem to think that businessmen like Allen, or Grade, or any of them, are a race apart. They play the game the way we play music, and it's something to see. They play a game, first they have a ritual, then they create. Allen, he's a very creative guy, you know, he creates situations which create positions for them to move in, they all do it, you know, and it's a sight to see. We played our part, we both did.
What did you do?
With the bankers and things like that? I think Allen could tell you better because I don't know. Everything seems as though it's going to be trouble, like you can't say anything about anybody, because you're going to get sued, or something like that. Allen will tell you what we did.
I did a job on this banker that we were using, and on a few other people, and on the Beatles.
How do you describe the job? You know, you know, my job – I maneuver people. That's what leaders do, and I sit and make situations which will be of benefit to me with other people, it's as simple as that.
I had to do a job to get Allen in Apple. I did a job, so did Yoko.
Yoko: You do it with instinct, you know.
John: Oh. God, Yoko, don't say that. Maneuvering is what it is, let's not be coy about it. It is a deliberate and thought-out maneuver of how to get a situation the way we want it. That's how life's about, isn't it, is it not?
Yoko: Well, you're pretty instinctive.
John: Instinctive doesn't . . . isn't Dick James – so is Lew Grade – they're all instinctive, so is he, if it's instinctive – but it's maneuvering. There's nothing ashamed about it. We all do it, it's just owning up, you know, not going around saying "God Bless you, Brother," pretending there is no vested interest.
Yoko: The difference is that you don't go down and bullshit and get them. But you just instinctively said that Allen is the guy to jump into it.
John: That's not the thing, the point I'm talking about is creating a situation around Apple and the Beatles in which Allen could come in, that is what I'm talking about, and he wouldn't have gotten in unless I'd done it, and he wouldn't have gotten in unless you'd done it, you made the decision, too.
How did you get Allen in?
The same as I get anything I want. The same as you get what you want. I'm not telling you; just work at it, get on the phone, a little word here, and a little word there and do it.
What was Paul's reaction?
You see, a lot of people, like the Dick James, Derek Taylors, and Peter Browns, all of them, they think they're the Beatles, and Neil and all of them. Well, I say fuck 'em, you know, and after working with genius for ten, 15 years they begin to think they're it. They're not.
Do you think you're a genius?
Yes, if there is such a thing as one, I am one.
When did you first realize that?
When I was about 12. I used to think I must be a genius, but nobody's noticed. I used to wonder whether I'm a genius or I'm not, which is it? I used to think, well, I can't be mad, because nobody's put me away, therefore, I'm a genius. A genius is a form of madness, and we're all that way, you know, and I used to be a bit coy about it, like my guitar playing.
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.
How do you feel towards the Beatle people? All of them who used to – some still do – work at Apple, who've been around during those years. Neil Aspinal, Mal Evans . . .
I didn't mention Mal. I said Neil, Peter Brown and Derek. They live in a dream of Beatle past, and everything they do is oriented to that. They also have a warped view of what was happening. I suppose we all do.
They must feel now that their lives are inextricably bound up in yours.
Well, they have to grow up then. They've only had half their life, and they've got another whole half to go; and they can't go on pretending to be Beatles. That's where it's at, I mean when they read this, they'll think it's "cracked John," if it's in the article, but that's where it's at, they live in the past.
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.
What were their reactions when you first brought Yoko by?
They despised her.
From the very beginning?
Yes, they insulted her and they still do. They don't even know I can see it, and even when its written down, it will look like I'm just paranoiac or she's paranoiac. I know, just by the way the publicity on us was handled in Apple, all of the two years we were together, and the attitude of people to us and the bits we hear from office girls. We know, so they can go stuff themselves.
Yoko: In the beginning, we were too much in love to notice anything.
John: We were in our own dream, but they're the kind of idiots that really think that Yoko split the Beatles, or Allen. It's the same joke, really, they are that insane about Allen, too.
How would you characterize George's, Paul's and Ringo's reaction to Yoko?
It's the same. You can quote Paul, it's probably in the papers, he said it many times at first he hated Yoko and then he got to like her. But, it's too late for me. I'm for Yoko. Why should she take that kind of shit from those people? They were writing about her looking miserable in the Let It Be film, but you sit through 60 sessions with the most bigheaded, up-tight people on earth and see what its fuckin' like and be insulted – just because you love someone – and George, shit, insulted her right to her face in the Apple office at the beginning, just being 'straight-forward,' you know that game of 'I'm going to be up front,' because this is what we've heard and Dylan and a few people said she'd got a lousy name in New York, and you give off bad vibes. That's what George said to her! And we both sat through it. I didn't hit him, I don't know why.
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 fuckin' 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 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.
You say that the dream is over. Part of the dream was that the Beatles were God or that the Beatles were the messengers of God, and of course yourself as God. . . .
Yeah. Well, if there is a God, we're all it.
When did you first start getting the reactions from people who listened to the records, sort of the spiritual reaction?
There is a guy in England, William Mann, who was the first intellectual who reviewed the Beatles in the Times and got people talking about us in that intellectual way. He wrote about Aeolian Cadences and all sorts of musical terms, and he is a bullshitter. But he made us credible with intellectuals. He wrote about Paul's last album as if it were written by Beethoven or something. He's still writing the same shit. But it did us a lot of good in that way, because people in all the middle classes and intellectuals were all going "Oooh."
When did somebody first come up to you about this thing about John Lennon as God?
About what to do and all of that? Like "you tell us Guru"? Probably after acid. Maybe after Rubber Soul. I can't remember it exactly happening. We just took that position. I mean, we started putting out messages. Like "The Word Is Love" and things like that. I write messages, you know. See, when you start putting out messages, people start asking you "what's the message?"
How did you first get involved in LSD?
A dentist in London laid it on George, me and wives, without telling us, at a dinner party at his house. He was a friend of George's and our dentist at the time, and he just put it in our coffee or something. He didn't know what it was; it's all the same thing with that sort of middle class London swinger, or whatever. They had all heard about it, and they didn't know it was different from pot or pills and they gave us it. He said "I advise you not to leave," and we all thought he was trying to keep us for an orgy in his house, and we didn't want to know, and we went to the Ad Lib and these discotheques and there were these incredible things going on.
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.
When you came down what did you think?
I was pretty stoned for a month or two. The second time we had it was in L.A. We were on tour in one of those houses, Doris Day's house or wherever it was we used to stay, and the three of us took it, Ringo, George and I. Maybe Neil and a couple of the Byrds – what's his name, the one in the Stills and Nash thing, Crosby and the other guy, who used to do the lead. McGuinn. I think they came, I'm not sure, on a few trips. But there was a reporter, Don Short. We were in the garden, it was only our second one and we still didn't know anything about doing it in a nice place and cool it. Then they saw the reporter and thought "How do we act?" We were terrified waiting for him to go, and he wondered why we couldn't come over. Neil, who never had acid either, had taken it and he would have to play road manager, and we said go get rid of Don Short, and he didn't know what to do.
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.
So LSD started for you in 1964: How long did it go on?
It went on for years, I must of had a thousand trips.
Literally a thousand, or a couple of hundred?
A thousand. I used to just eat it all the time.
I never took it in the studio. Once I thought I was taking some uppers and I was not in the state of handling it, I can't remember what album it was, but I took it and I just noticed . . . I suddenly got so scared on the mike. I thought I felt ill, and I thought I was going to crack. I said I must get some air. They all took me upstairs on the roof and George Martin was looking at me funny, and then it dawned on me I must have taken acid. I said, "Well I can't go on, you'll have to do it and I'll just stay and watch." You know I got very nervous just watching them all. I was saying, "Is it all right?" And they were saying, "Yeah." They had all been very kind and they carried on making the record.
The other Beatles didn't get into LSD as much as you did?
George did. In L.A. the second time we took it, Paul felt very out of it, because we are all a bit slightly cruel, sort of "we're taking it, and you're not." But we kept seeing him, you know. We couldn't eat our food, I just couldn't manage it, just picking it up with our hands. There were all these people serving us in the house and we were knocking food on the floor and all of that. It was a long time before Paul took it. Then there was the big announcement.
So, I think George was pretty heavy on it; we are probably the most cracked. Paul is a bit more stable than George and I.
I don't know about straight. Stable. I think LSD profoundly shocked him, and Ringo. I think maybe they regret it.
Did you have many bad trips?
I had many. Jesus Christ, I stopped taking it because of that. I just couldn't stand it.
You got too afraid to take it?
It got like that, but then I stopped it for I don't know how long, and then I started taking it again just before I met Yoko. Derek came over and . . . you see, I got the message that I should destroy my ego and I did, you know. I was reading that stupid book of Leary's; we were going through a whole game that everybody went through, and I destroyed myself. I was slowly putting myself together round about Maharishi time. Bit by bit over a two-year period, I had destroyed me ego.
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.
At some point, right between Help and Hard Day's Night, you got into drugs and got into doing drug songs?
A Hard Day's Night I was on pills, that's drugs, that's bigger drugs than pot. Started on pills when I was 15, no, since I was 17, since I became a musician. The only way to survive in Hamburg, to play eight hours a night, was to take pills. The waiters gave you them – the pills and drink. I was a fucking dropped-down drunk in art school. Help was where we turned on to pot and we dropped drink, simple as that. I've always needed a drug to survive. The others, too, but I always had more, more pills, more of everything because I'm more crazy probably.
There's a lot of obvious LSD things you did in the music.
How do you think that affected your conception of the music? In general.
It was only another mirror. It wasn't a miracle. It was more of a visual thing and a therapy, looking at yourself a bit. It did all that. You know, I don't quite remember. But it didn't write the music, neither did Janov or Maharishi in the same terms. I write the music in the circumstances in which I'm in, whether its on acid or in the water.
What did you think of A Hard Day's Night?
The story wasn't bad but it could have been better. Another illusion was that we were just puppets and that these great people, like Brian Epstein and Dick Lester, created the situation and made this whole fuckin' thing, and precisely because we were what we were, realistic. We didn't want to make a fuckin' shitty pop movie, we didn't want to make a movie that was going to be bad, and we insisted on having a real writer to write it.
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.
My impression of the movie was that it was you and it wasn't anyone else.
It was a good projection of one facade of us, which was on tour, once in London and once in Dublin. It was of us in that situation together, in a hotel, having to perform before people. We were like that. The writer saw the press conference.
Rubber Soul was . . .
Can you tell me whether that white album with the drawing by Voorman on it, was that before Rubber Soul or after?
After. You really don't remember which?
No, maybe the others do, I don't remember those kind of things, because it doesn't mean anything, it's all gone.
Rubber Soul was the first attempt to do a serious, sophisticated complete work, in a certain sense.
We were just getting better, technically and musically, that's all. Finally we took over the studio. In the early days, we had to take what we were given, we didn't know how you can get more bass. We were learning the technique on Rubber Soul. We were more precise about making the album, that's all, and we took over the cover and everything.
Rubber Soul, that was just a simple play on . . .
That was Paul's title, it was like "Yer Blues," I suppose, meaning English Soul, I suppose, just a pun. There is no great mysterious meaning behind all of this, it was just four boys working out what to call a new album.
The Hunter Davies book, the "authorized biography," says . . .
It was written in [London] Sunday Times sort of fab form. And no home truths was written. My auntie knocked out all the truth bits from my childhood and my mother and I allowed it, which was my cop-out, etcetera. There was nothing about orgies and the shit that happened on tour. I wanted a real book to come out, but we all had wives and didn't want to hurt their feelings. End of that one. Because they still have wives.
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.
Would you go to a town . . . a hotel . . .
Wherever we went, there was always a whole scene going, we had our four separate bedrooms. We tried to keep them out of our room. Derek's and Neil's rooms were always full of junk and whores and who-the-fuck-knows-what, and policemen with it. Satyricon! We had to do something. What do you do when the pill doesn't wear off and it's time to go? I used to be up all night with Derek, whether there was anybody there or not, I could never sleep, such a heavy scene it was. They didn't call them groupies then, they called it something else and if we couldn't get groupies, we would have whores and everything, whatever was going.
Who would arrange all that stuff?
Derek and Neil, that was their job, and Mal, but I'm not going into all that.
Like businessmen at a convention.
When we hit town, we hit it. There was no pissing about. There's photographs of me crawling about in Amsterdam on my knees coming out of whore houses and things like that. The police escorted me to the places, because they never wanted a big scandal, you see. I don't really want to talk about it, because it will hurt Yoko. And it's not fair. Suffice to say, that they were Satyricon on tour and that's it, because I don't want to hurt their feelings, or the other people's girls either. It's just not fair.
Yoko: I was surprised, I really didn't know things like that. I thought well, John is an artist, and probably he had two or three affairs before getting married. That is the concept you have in the old school. New York artists group, you know, that kind.
The generation gap.
Right, right, exactly.
Let me ask you about something else that was in the Hunter Davies book. At one point it said you and Brian Epstein went off to Spain.
Yes. We didn't have an affair though. Fuck knows what was said. I was pretty close to Brian. If somebody is going to manage me, I want to know them inside out. He told me he was a fag.
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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