Let me ask you about one on the double album, "Glass Onion." You set out to write a little message to the audience.
Yeah, I was having a laugh because there'd been so much gobbledegook about Pepper, play it backwards and you stand on your head and all that.
Even now, I just saw Mel Torme on TV the other day saying that "Lucy" was written to promote drugs and so was "A Little Help From My Friends" and none of them were at all – "A Little Help From My Friends" only says get high in it, it's really about a little help from my friends, it's a sincere message. Paul had the line about "little help from my friends," I'm not sure, he had some kind of structure for it and – we wrote it pretty well 50-50 but it was based on his original idea.
Why did you make "Revolution"?
There's three of them.
Starting with the single.
When George and Paul and all of them were on holiday, I made "Revolution" which is on the LP and "Revolution #9." I wanted to put it out as a single, I had it all prepared, but they came by, and said it wasn't good enough. And we put out what? "Hello Goodbye" or some shit like that? No, we put out "Hey Jude," which was worth it – I'm sorry – but we could have had both.
I wanted to put what I felt about revolution; I thought it was time we fuckin' spoke about it, the same as I thought it was about time we stopped not answering about the Vietnamese War when we were on tour with Brian Epstein and had to tell him, "We're going to talk about the war this time and we're not going to just waffle." I wanted to say what I thought about revolution.
I had been thinking about it up in the hills in India. I still had this "God will save us" feeling about it, that it's going to be all right (even now I'm saying "Hold on, John, it's going to be all right," otherwise, I won't hold on) but that's why I did it, I wanted to talk, I wanted to say my piece about revolution. I wanted to tell you, or whoever listens, to communicate, to say "What do you say? This is what I say."
On one version I said "Count me in" about violence, in or out, because I wasn't sure. But the version we put out said "Count me out," because I don't fancy a violent revolution happening all over. I don't want to die; but I begin to think what else can happen, you know, it seems inevitable.
"Revolution #9" was an unconscious picture of what I actually think will happen when it happens; that was just like a drawing of revolution. All the thing was made with loops, I had about thirty loops going, fed them onto one basic track. I was getting classical tapes, going upstairs and chopping them up, making it backwards and things like that, to get the sound effects. One thing was an engineer's testing tape and it would come on with a voice saying "This is EMI Test Series #9." I just cut up whatever he said and I'd number nine it. Nine turned out to be my birthday and my lucky number and everything. I didn't realize it; it was just so funny the voice saying "Number nine"; it was like a joke, bringing number nine into it all the time, that's all it was.
Yoko: It also turns out to be the highest number you know, one, two, etc., up to nine.
John: There are many symbolic things about it but it just happened you know, just an engineer's tape and I was just using all the bits to make a montage. I really wanted that released.
So that's my feeling. The idea was don't aggravate the pig by waving the thing that aggravates – by waving the Red flag in his face. You know, I really thought that love would save us all. But now I'm wearing a Chairman Mao badge.
I'm just beginning to think he's doing a good job. I would never know until I went to China. I'm not going to be like that, I was just always interested enough to sing about him. I just wondered what the kids who were actually Maoists were doing. I wondered what their motive was and what was really going on. I thought if they wanted revolution, if they really want to be subtle, what's the point of saying "I'm a Maoist and why don't you shoot me down?" I thought that wasn't a very clever way of getting what they wanted.
You don't really believe that we are headed for a violent revolution?
I don't know; I've got no more conception than you. I can't see . . . eventually it'll happen, like it will happen – it has to happen; what else can happen? It might happen now, or it might happen in a hundred years, but. . . .
Having a violent revolution now might just be the end of the world.
Not necessarily. They say that every time, but I don't really believe it, you see. If it is, OK, I'm back to where I was when I was 17 and at 17 I used to wish a fuckin' earthquake or revolution would happen so that I could go out and steal and do what the blacks are doing now. If I was black, I'd be all for it; if I were 17 I'd be all for it, too. What have you got to lose? Now I've got something to lose. I don't want to die, and I don't want to be hurt physically, but if they blow the world up, fuck it, we're all out of our pain then, forget it, no more problems!
You sing, "Hold on world. . . ."
I sing "Hold on John," too, because I don't want to die. I don't want to be hurt, and "please don't hit me."
You think by holding on it will be all right?
It's only going to be all right – it's now, this moment. That's all right this moment, and hold on now; we might have a cup of tea or we might get a moment's happiness any minute now, so that's what it's all about, just moment by moment; that's how we're living, cherishing each day and dreading it, too. It might be your last day – you might get run over by a car – and I'm really beginning to cherish it. I cherish life.
"Happiness is a Warm Gun" is a nice song.
Oh, I like that one of my best, I had forgotten about that. Oh, I love it. I think it's a beautiful song. I like all the different things that are happening in it. Like "God," I had put together some three sections of different songs, it was meant to be – it seemed to run through all the different kinds of rock music.
It wasn't about "H" at all. "Lucy In The Sky" with diamonds which I swear to God, or swear to Mao, or to anybody you like, I had no idea spelled L.S.D. – and "Happiness" – George Martin had a book on guns which he had told me about – I can't remember – or I think he showed me a cover of a magazine that said "Happiness Is A Warm Gun." It was a gun magazine, that's it: I read it, thought it was a fantastic, insane thing to say. A warm gun means that you just shot something.
When did you realize that those were the initials of "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds"?
Only after I read it or somebody told me, like you coming up. I didn't even see it on the label. I didn't look at the initials. I don't look – I mean I never play things backwards. I listened to it as I made it. It's like there will be things on this one, if you fiddle about with it. I don't know what they are. Everytime after that though I would look at the titles to see what it said, and usually they never said anything.
You said to me "Sgt. Pepper is the one." That was the album?
Well, it was a peak. Paul and I were definitely working together, especially on "A Day In The Life" that was a real . . . The way we wrote a lot of the time: you'd write the good bit, the part that was easy, like "I read the news today" or whatever it was, then when you got stuck or whenever it got hard, instead of carrying on, you just drop it; then we would meet each other, and I would sing half, and he would be inspired to write the next bit and vice versa. He was a bit shy about it because I think he thought it's already a good song. Sometimes we wouldn't let each other interfere with a song either, because you tend to be a bit lax with someone else's stuff, you experiment a bit. So we were doing it in his room with the piano. He said "Should we do this?" "Yeah, let's do that."
I keep saying that I always preferred the double album, because my music is better on the double album; I don't care about the whole concept of Pepper, it might be better, but the music was better for me on the double album, because I'm being myself on it. I think it's as simple as the new album, like "I'm So Tired" is just the guitar. I felt more at ease with that than the production. I don't like production so much. But Pepper was a peak all right.
Yoko: People think that's the peak and I'm just so amazed. . . . John's done all that Beatle stuff. But this new album of John's is a real peak, that's higher than any other thing he has done.
John: Thank you, dear.
Do you think it is?
Yeah, sure. I think it's "Sergeant Lennon." I don't really know how it will sink in, where it will lie, in the spectrum of rock and roll and the generation and all the rest of it, but I know what it is. It's something else, it's another door.
Yoko: That you don't even know yet or realize it.
John: I'm sneakingly aware of it, but not fully, until it is all over like anyone else. We didn't really know what Pepper was going to do or what anything was going to do. I had a feeling, but, I don't know whether it's going to settle down in a minority position. The new album could do that because, in one way it's terribly uncommercial, it's so miserable in a way and heavy, but it's reality, and I'm not going to veer away from it for anything.
Yoko: I was thinking that Tom Jones is like medium without message, but John's stuff is like the message is the medium; it's the message. He didn't need any decorative sound, or decorativeness about it. That is why in some songs it seems that the accompaniment is simple but it's like an urgent message, I feel.
John: Thank you and good night.
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