Lennon Remembers, Part One

Page 5 of 7

What else was left out of the Hunter Davies book?
That I don't know, because I can't remember it. There is a better book on the Beatles by Michael Brown, Love Me Do. That was a true book. He wrote how we were, which was bastards. You can't be anything else in such a pressurized situation and we took it out on people like Neil, Derek and Mal. That's why underneath their facade, they resent us, but they can never show it, and they won't believe it when they read it. They took a lot of shit from us, because we were in such a shitty position. It was hard work, and somebody had to take it. Those things are left out by Davies, about what bastards we were. Fuckin' big bastards, that's what the Beatles were. You have to be a bastard to make it, that's a fact, and the Beatles are the biggest bastards on earth.

Yoko: How did you manage to keep that clean image? It's amazing.

John: Everybody wants the image to carry on. You want to carry on. The press around too, because they want the free drinks and the free whores and the fun; everybody wants to keep on the bandwagon. We were the Caesars; who was going to knock us, when there were a million pounds to be made? All the handouts, the bribery, the police, all the fucking hype. Everybody wanted in, that's why some of them are still trying to cling on to this: Don't take Rome from us, not a portable Rome where we can all have our houses and our cars and our lovers and our wives and office girls and parties and drink and drugs, don't take it from us, otherwise you're mad, John, you're crazy, silly John wants to take this all away.

What was it like in the early days in London?
When we came down, we were treated like real provincials by the Londoners. We were in fact, provincials.

What was it like, say, running around London, in the discotheques, with the Stones, and everything.
That was a great period. We were like kings of the jungle then, and we were very close to the Stones. I don't know how close the others were but I spent a lot of time with Brian and Mick. I admire them, you know. I dug them the first time I saw them in whatever that place is they came from, Richmond. I spent a lot of time with them, and it was great. We all used to just go around London in cars and meet each other and talk about music with the Animals and Eric and all that. It was really a good time, that was the best period, fame-wise. We didn't get mobbed so much. It was like a men's smoking club, just a very good scene.

What was Brian Jones like?
Well, he was different over the years as he disintegrated. He ended up the kind of guy that you dread when he would come on the phone, because you knew it was trouble. He was really in a lot of pain. In the early days, he was all right, because he was young and confident. He was one of them guys that disintegrated in front of you. He wasn't sort of brilliant or anything, he was just a nice guy.

When he died?
By then I didn't feel anything. I just thought another victim of the drug scene.

What do you think of the Stones today?
I think its a lot of hype. I like "Honky Tonk Woman" but I think Mick's a joke, with all that fag dancing, I always did. I enjoy it, I'll probably go and see his films and all, like everybody else, but really, I think it's a joke.

Do you see him much now?
No, I never do see him. We saw a bit of each other around when Allen was first coming in – I think Mick got jealous. I was always very respectful about Mick and the Stones, but he said a lot of sort of tarty things about the Beatles, which I am hurt by, because you know, I can knock the Beatles, but don't let Mick Jagger knock them. I would like to just list what we did and what the Stones did two months after on every fuckin' album. Every fuckin' thing we did, Mick does exactly the same – he imitates us. And I would like one of you fuckin' underground people to point it out, you know Satanic Majesties is Pepper, "We Love You," it's the most fuckin' bullshit, that's "All You Need Is Love."

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.

Yoko: We lost money.

When Sgt. Pepper came out, did you know that you had put together a great album? Did you feel that while you were making it?
Yeah, yeah and Rubber Soul, too, and Revolver.

What did you think of that review in the New York Times of Sgt. Pepper?
I don't remember it. Did it pan it?

I don't remember. In those days reviews weren't very important, because we had it made whatever happened. Nowadays, I'm as sensitive as shit. But those days, we were too big to touch. I don't remember the reviews at all, I never read them. We were so blase, we never even read the news clippings. It was a bore to read about us. I don't even remember ever hearing about that review.

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.

But you got busted.
Yeah, but there are two ways of thinking: they are out to get us or it just happened that way. After I started Two Virgins and doing those kind of things, it seemed like I was fair game for the police. There was some myth about us being protected because we had an MBE. I don't think that it was true, it was just that we never did anything. The way Paul said the acid thing . . . I never got attacked for it, I don't know whether that was protection, because it was openly admitting that we had drugs. I just think nobody really bothered about us.

Why can't you be alone without Yoko?
I can be, but I don't wish to be.

There is no reason on earth why I should be without her. There is nothing more important than our relationship, nothing. We dig being together all the time, and both of us could survive apart, but what for? I'm not going to sacrifice love, real love, for any fuckin' whore, or any friend, or any business, because in the end, you're alone at night. Neither of us want to be, and you can't fill the bed with groupies. I don't want to be a swinger. Like I said in the song, I've been through it all, and nothing works better than to have somebody you love hold you.

You said at one point, you have to write songs that can justify your existence.
I said a lot of things. I write songs because that's the thing I chose to do. And I can't help writing them, that's a fact. Sometimes I felt as though you worked to justify your existence, but you don't; you work to exist, and vice versa, and that's it, really.

You say you write songs because you can't help it.
Yeah, creating is a result of pain, too. I have to put it somewhere, and I write songs. But when I was hiding in Weybridge (1968) I used to think I wasn't working there. I made 20 or 30 movies, just 8mm stuff but still movies, and many, many hours of tape of different sounds, just not rocking. I suppose you would call them avant-grade. That's how Yoko met me. There were very few people I could play those tapes to, and I played them to her, and then we made Two Virgins a few hours later.

How are you going to keep from going overboard on things again?
I think I'll be able to control meself. "Control" is the wrong word. I just won't get involved in too many things, that's all. I'll just do whatever happens. It's silly to feel guilty that I'm not working, that I'm not doing this or that, it's just stupid. I'm just going to do what I want for meself and for both of us.

You say on your record that "The freaks on the phone won't leave me alone, so don't give me that brother, brother."
Because I'm sick of all these aggressive hippies or whatever they are, the "Now Generation," being very uptight with me. Either on the street or anywhere, or on the phone, demanding my attention, as if I owed them something.

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 up-tight maniacs going around, wearing fuckin' peace symbols.

What did you think of Manson and that thing?
I don't know what I thought when it happened. A lot of the things he says are true: he is a child of the state, made by us, and he took their children it when nobody else would. Of course, he's cracked all right.

What about "Piggies" and "Helter Skelter"?
He's balmy, like any other Beatle-kind of fan who reads mysticism into it. We used to have a laugh about this, that or the other, in a light-hearted way, and some intellectual would read us, some symbolic youth generation wants to see something in it. We also took seriously some parts of the role, but I don't know what "Helter Skelter" has to do with knifing somebody. I've never listened to the words, properly, it was just a noise.

Everybody spoke about the backwards thing on Abbey Road.
That's bullshit. I just read that one about Dylan, too. That's bullshit.

The rumor about Paul being dead?
I don't know where that started, that's balmy. You know as much about it as me.

Were any of those things really on the album that were said to be there? The clues?
No. That was bullshit, the whole thing was made up. We wouldn't do anything like that. We did put in like "tit, tit, tit" in "Girl," and many things I don't remember, like a beat missing or something like that could be interpreted like that. Some people have got nothing better to do than study Bibles and make myths about it and study rocks and make stories about how people used to live. It's just something for them to do. They live vicariously.

Is there a point at which you decided you and Yoko would give up your private life?
No. We decided that if we were going to do anything, like get married or like this film we are going to make now, that we would dedicate it to peace and the concept of peace. During that period, because we are what we are, it evolved that somehow we ended up being responsible to produce peace. Even in our own heads we would get that way. That's how it is. Peace is still important and my life is dedicated to living – just surviving is what it's about – really from day to day.

What do you think the effects were?
I don't know. I can't measure it. Somebody else has to tell us what the reaction is.

What happened in Denmark? During the Peace Festival scene? There was a doctor.
Hamrick was brought over by Tony, because he said this was a great doctor – he hadn't mentioned the flying saucers until he was on his way – and he was going to hypnotize us so we would stop smoking.

Yoko: We felt it was very practical.

John: We thought "great." Tony said it really worked, because it worked on him and it was easy. So this big guy comes in who seemed to be primaling all the time – he was always crying a lot, and talking – and then he tried it and it didn't work. He talked like crackers and then he said he would put us back into our past life. We were game for anything then, it's like going to a fortune teller – so we said all right, do it.

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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Song Stories

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A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

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