Listen to Never-Before-Heard John Lennon Interviews From 1968

The Beatle waxes on social change, the infamous Black Dwarf letter and Rolling Stone

John Lennon
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John Lennon
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In 1968, Maurice Hindle, a college student at Keele University in England, wrote a letter to a Beatles fanzine requesting an interview with John Lennon. Remarkably, Hindle's letter was answered by Lennon himself, who invited the student and others to his home in Surrey, England to discuss politics, social change and a possible 1969 Beatles tour, among many other topics. 

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The hours-long audio tapes of this interview were acquired by Hard Rock in 1987 and with the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' U.S. debut approaching, the company is releasing the tapes to the public for the first time. The full interview, alongside transcripts, analysis and a memorabilia gallery, are available on Hard Rock's website, but to give you a sample, we've got two exclusive audio clips from the interviews below.

In the first, Lennon discusses how he can affect social change and references the infamous Black Dwarf letter. That letter, written by music critic John Hoyland in 1968 in the radical newspaper Black Dwarf, lambasts Lennon and the recently released track "Revolution" as being hostile to the growing disillusionment of youth toward authoritarian figures.

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"I've changed a lot of people's heads," Lennon says in the clip below. "I believe in change. That's what Yoko and my scene is, to change it like that…And you're not preaching to the converted … Well, what are they doing? What can they do? [Referencing the Black Dwarf letter] All I'm saying is I think you should do it by changing people's heads and they're saying, 'Well we should smash the system.' Now, the system smashing scene's been going on forever, y'know? What's it done?"

John Lennon on Social Change

Quotes/excerpts provided courtesy of Hard Rock Cafe International (USA), Inc.

The second clip finds Lennon discussing the growing weariness of The Beatles toward each other and asking the interviewer if he'd heard of Rolling Stone, which published its first issue only one year before. "I've said it all, y’know, somewhere or other," says Lennon. "It's just a bit of a hassle to say it…Just read the Rolling Stone article. There's quite a lot about it in there. Cause I went through it a bit, just about the album and different things. Have you heard of it? It's a good paper."

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Lennon notes that contrary to other publications, Rolling Stone accepted an ad for Lennon and Yoko Ono's 1968 album Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins featuring the couple standing naked. "International Times wouldn't take the front cover photo unless we gave them an indemnity against it, y’know," says Lennon. "They're so established... Amazing. But [Rolling Stone] just took it, and this paper…was cooled by it, cause they’ve had the biggest circulation they ever had."

John Lennon on Rolling Stone

Quotes/excerpts provided courtesy of Hard Rock Cafe International (USA), Inc.

In a 2009 interview with the Guardian, Hindle recalled traveling to Lennon's house for the interview. "We students crammed into the back of the Mini and John drove us up the bumpy private road that led to his house, Kenwood," said Hindle. "In a sitting room at the back of the house we sat down on thick-pile Indian carpets around a low table, cross-legged. Yoko said little, as we all knew this was primarily John's day – and he said a lot. Apart from a short break, when Yoko fed us macrobiotic bread and jam she had made, Lennon talked continuously for six hours."

On Sunday, CBS will air The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to The Beatles, an event that took place last month and featured a rare performance from Paul McCartney and Starr (who also played together during the Grammy Awards). The program will also show tributes from Stevie Wonder, Katy Perry, Dave Grohl, Pharrell, Alicia Keys, John Legend, Gary Clark, Jr., Joe Walsh and a reunited Eurythmics.

The Beatles' momentous trip to America was the subject of a recent Rolling Stone cover story, which details everything from the band's early trepidation about the trip, the U.S. press's early criticism of the group ("They look like shaggy Peter Pans," Time initially wrote) and their generation-defining three-night stint on Sullivan.

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