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Lennon Remembers, Part One

Page 7 of 7

What are the implications?
The implications are all money – all of it is money, man. They've been hinting around, they've been saying "Well, now, this looks like a John Lennon album, not Plastic Ono," well, to me it's Plastic Ono or I wouldn't put it out like that.

I'm going to think about "Love." The original feeling was that there weren't enough things on the album to put out a single, only ten songs, only nine if you don't count "Mummy" and that means there's nothing to buy then. To me, it sounds like there are 40 songs on there. There's that side of the market and I'm not going to disregard it.

I mean to sell as many albums as I can, because I'm an artist who wants everybody to love me, and everybody to buy my stuff. I'll go for that.

There is no great shakes to the idea of putting out something that's commercial to get people to buy the album; the question is which is most commercial, "Love" or "Mother"?
How quick do you get to Number One? The thing is "Love" would attract more people, because of the message, man! There are many, many people who would not like "Mother." It hurts them. The first thing that happens to you when you get the album is you can't take it. Everybody's reacted exactly the same. They think "fuck." That's how everybody is. The second time they start saying oh, there's a little . . . So if I laid "Mother" on them it confirms the suspicion that something nasty is going on with that John Lennon and his broad again.

People aren't that hip; students aren't that aware; they're just like anybody else. "Oh, misery! Don't tell me that's what it's about, its really awful. Be a good boy, now, John, you had a hard time, but me, me and my mother . . . " So there's all that to go through. "Love" I wrote in a spirit of love for Yoko, and it has all that. It's a beautiful melody, and I'm not even known for writing melody. You've got to think of that. If it goes, it'll do me good.

Did you write most of the stuff in this album on guitar or on piano?
The ones on which I play guitar, I wrote on guitar; the ones on which I play piano, I wrote on piano.

What are the differences to you when you write them?
Because I can play the piano even worse than I play the guitar – a limited palette, as they call it – I surprise myself. I have to think in terms of going from "C" to "A", and I'm not quite sure where I am half the time. When I'm holding a chord on the guitar it's only a sixth or seventh or something like that; on the piano, I don't know what it is. It's got that kind of feel about it. I know such a lot about the guitar, that with it I can be buskin'; if I want to write just a rocker, I have to play guitar, because I can't play piano well enough to inspire me to rock. That's the difference, really.

What do you think are your best songs that you have written?
Ever? The one best song?

Have you ever thought of that?
I don't know. If somebody asked me what is my favorite song, is it "Stardust" or something, I can't answer. That kind of decision-making I can't do. I always liked "Walrus," "Strawberry Fields," "Help," "In My Life," those are some favorites.

Why "Help"?
Because I meant it – it's real. The lyric is as good now as it was then. It is no different, and it makes me feel secure to know that I was that aware of myself then. It was just me singing "Help" and I meant it.

I don't like the recording that much; we did it too fast trying to be commercial. I like "I Want To Hold Your Hand." We wrote that together, it's a beautiful melody. I might do "I Want To Hold Your Hand" and "Help" again, because I like them and I can sing them. "Strawberry Fields" because it's real, real for then, and I think it's like talking, "You know, I sometimes think no ..." It's like he talks to himself, sort of singing, which I thought was nice.

I like "Across the Universe," too. It's one of the best lyrics I've written. In fact, it could be the best. It's good poetry, or whatever you call it, without chewin' it. See, the ones I like are the ones that stand as words, without melody. They don't have to have any melody, like a poem, you can read them.

That's your ultimate criterion?
No, that's just the ones I happen to like. I like to read other people's lyrics too.

So what happened with Let It Be?
It was another one like Magical Mystery Tour. In a nutshell, it was time for another Beatle movie or something; Paul wanted us to go on the road or do something. He sort of set it up, and there were discussions about where to go, and all of that. I had Yoko by them, and I would just tag along. I was stoned all the time and I just didn't give a shit. Nobody did. It was just like it was in the movie; when I got to do "Across the Universe" (which I wanted to rerecord because the original wasn't very good), Paul yawns and plays boogie. I merely say, "Anyone want to do a fast one?" That's how I am. Year after year, that begins to wear you down.

How long did those sessions last?
Oh, fuckin' God knows how long. Paul had this idea that he was going to rehearse us. He's looking for perfection all the time, and had these ideas that we would rehearse and then make the album. We, being lazy fuckers – and we'd been playing for 20 years! We're grown men, for fuck's sake, and we're not going to sit around and rehearse, I'm not, anyway – we couldn't get into it.

We put down a few tracks, and nobody was in it at all. It just was a dreadful, dreadful feeling in Twickenham Studio, being filmed all the time, I just wanted them to go away. We'd be there at eight in the morning. You couldn't make music at eight in the morning in a strange place, with people filming you, and colored lights flashing.

So how did it end?
The tape ended up like the bootleg version. We didn't want to know about it anymore, so we just left it to Glyn Johns and said, "Here, mix it." That was the first time since the first album that we didn't want to have anything to do with it. None of us could be bothered going in. Nobody called anybody about it, and the tapes were left there. Glyn Johns did it. We got an acetate in the mail and we called each other and said, "What do you think?"

We were going to let it out in really shitty condition. I didn't care. I thought it was good to let it out and show people what had happened to us, we can't get it together; we don't play together any more; you know, leave us alone. The bootleg version is what it was like, and everyone was probably thinking they're not going to fucking work on it. There were 29 hours of tape, so much that it was like a movie. Twenty takes of everything, because we were rehearsing and taking everything. Nobody could face looking at it.

When Spector came around, we said, Well, if you want to work with us, go and do your audition. He worked like a pig on it. He always wanted to work with the Beatles, and he was given the shittiest load of badly recorded shit, with a lousy feeling toward it, ever. And he made something out of it. He did a great job.

When I heard it, I didn't puke; I was so relieved after six months of this black cloud hanging over me that this was going to go out.

I had thought it would be good to let the shitty version out because it would break the Beatles, break the myth. It would be just us, with no trousers on and no glossy paint over the cover, and no hype: This is what we are like with our trousers off, would you please end the game now?

But that didn't happen. We ended up doing Abbey Road quickly, and putting out something slick to preserve the myth. I am weak as well as strong, you know, and I wasn't going to fight for Let It Be because I really couldn't stand it.

Finally, when Let It Be was going to be released, Paul wanted to bring out his album.
There were so many clashes. It did come out at the same time or something, didn't it? I think he wanted to show he was the Beatles.

Were you surprised when you heard it, at what he had done?
Very. I expected just a little more. If Paul and I are sort of disagreeing, and I feel weak, I think he must feel strong, you know, that's in an argument. Not that we've had much physical argument, you know.

What do you think Paul will think of your album?
I think it'll probably scare him into doing something decent, and then he'll scare me into doing something decent, like that.

I think he's capable of great work and I think he will do it. I wish he wouldn't, you know, I wish nobody would, Dylan or anybody. In me heart of hearts, I wish I was the only one in the world or whatever it is. But I can't see Paul doing it twice.

What was it like to go on tour? You had cripples coming up to you.
That was our version of what was happening. People were sort of touching us as we walked past, that kind of thing. Wherever we went we were supposed to be not like normal and we were supposed to put up with all sorts of shit from Lord Mayors and their wives, be touched and pawed like Hard Day's Night only a million more times, like at the American Embassy or the British Embassy in Washington here or wherever it was when some bloody animal cut Ringo's hair. I walked out of that, swearing at all of them. I'd forgotten but you tripped me off into that one. What was the question?

The cripples.
Wherever we went on tour, in Britain and everywhere we went, there were always a few seats laid aside for cripples and people in wheelchairs. Because we were famous, we were supposed to have epileptics and whatever they are in our dressing room all the time. We were supposed to be sort of "good," and really you wanted to be alone. You don't know what to say, because they're usually saying "I've got your record" or they can't speak and just want to touch you. It's always the mother or the nurse pushing them on you, they themselves would just say hello and go away, but the mothers would push them at you like you were Christ or something, as if there were some aura about you which would rub off on them. It just got to be like that and we were very sort of callous about it. It was just dreadful: you would open up every night, and instead of seeing kids there, you would just see a row full of cripples along the front. It seemed that we were just surrounded by cripples and blind people all the time, and when we would go through corridors, they would be all touching us and things like that. It was horrifying.

You must have been still fairly young and naive at that point.
Yeah, well, as naive as In His Own Write.

Surely that must have made you think for a second.
Well, I mean we knew what the game was.

It didn't astound you at that point, that you were supposed to be able to make the lame walk and the blind see?
It was the "in" joke that we were supposed to cure them; it was the kind of thing that we would say, because it was a cruel thing to say. We felt sorry for them, anybody would, but there is a kind of embarrassment when you're surrounded by blind, deaf and crippled people. There is only so much we could say, you know, with the pressure on us, to do and to perform.

The bigger we got, the more unreality we had to face; the more we were expected to do until, when you didn't sort of shake hands with a Mayor's wife, she would start abusing you and screaming and saying "How dare they?"

There is one of Derek's stories in which we were asleep after the show in the hotel somewhere in America, and the Mayor's wife comes and says, "Get them up, I want to meet them." Derek said, "I'm not going to wake them." She started to scream, "You get them up or I'll tell the press." There was always that – they were always threatening that they would tell the press about us, if we didn't see their bloody daughter with her braces on her teeth. It was always the police chief's daughter or the Lord Mayor's daughter, all the most obnoxious kids – because they had the most obnoxious parents – that we were forced to see all the time. We had these people thrust on us.

The most humiliating experiences were like sitting with the Mayor of the Bahamas, when we were making Help and being insulted by these fuckin' junked up middle-class bitches and bastards who would be commenting on our work and commenting on our manners.

I was always drunk, insulting them. I couldn't take it. It would hurt me. I would go insane, swearing at them. I would do something. I couldn't take it.

All that business was awful, it was a fuckin' humilitation. One has to completely humiliate oneself to be what the Beatles were, and that's what I resent. I didn't know, I didn't forsee. It happened bit by bit, gradually until this complete craziness is surrounding you, and you're doing exactly what you don't want to do with people you can't stand – the people you hated when you were ten. And that's what I'm saying in this album – I remember what it's all about now you fuckers – fuck you! That's what I'm saying, you don't get me twice.

To be continued.

This story is from the January 21st, 1971 issue of Rolling Stone.

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

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