On December 5, 1980, three days before he was murdered, John Lennon sat down with Rolling Stone‘s Jonathan Cott for a nine-hour interview. Select excerpts from the interview ran in Rolling Stone‘s tribute to John Lennon the following month — but Cott never transcribed all of the tapes. For 30 years they sat in the back of his closet.
“Earlier this year I was cleaning up to find some files in the recesses of my closet when I came across two cassette tapes marked ‘John Lennon, December 5th, 1980,'” Cott says. “It had been 30 years since I listened to them, and when I put them on this totally alive, uplifting voice started speaking on this magical strip of magnetic tape.”
Cott’s interview with John Lennon — the artist’s last print interview — finally hits newsstands this Friday as the centerpiece of Rolling Stone‘s tribute to John Lennon on the 30th anniversary of his death. In the remarkably candid interview Lennon lashes out at fans and critics who went after him during his five-year break from music. “What they want is dead heroes, like Sid Vicious and James Dean,” Lennon says. “I’m not interested in being a dead fucking hero…so forget ’em, forget ’em.”
He also talked about plans for a possible return to the road. “We just might do it,” he said. “But there will be no smoke bombs, no lipstick, no flashing lights. It just has to be comfy. But we could have a laugh. We’re born-again rockers, and we’re starting over…There’s plenty of time, right? Plenty of time.”
Yoko Ono also contributed an intensely personal essay to the issue about her final days with Lennon. “Just before we left the studio [minutes before he died] John looked at me,” Ono writes. “I looked at him. His eyes had an intensity of a guy about to tell me something important. ‘Yes,’ I asked. And I will never forget how, with a deep, soft voice, as if to carve his words in my mind, he said the most beautiful things to me. ‘Oh,’ I said after a while, and looked away, feeling a bit embarrassed.”