John Lennon’s last interview

John Lennon’s last interview, December 8, 1980


John Lennon’s last interview, taken on December 8, 1980 just few hours before his murder. John and Yoke were interviewed by Dave Sholin and Laurie Kaye. Ron Hummel and Bert Keane were also part of that team. John had just finished a photo session with Annie Leibovitz for Rolling Stone magazine.

John talks about growing up Sean, the new album after five years, being separated from Yoko, how they meet in 1966 and their love and peace campaign and much more.


John Lennon’s last interview



JOHN: “Ah…  I’m sorry I’m late. I kept expecting her to buzz me but she kept sayin’ ‘One more, one more.’ Are we on?”
YOKO: “Yes dear, we’re on, we’re on.”
JOHN: “Well, what do I do? Are you doing one and then the other? Or… ”
YOKO: “No, it’s because we were just waiting… ”
JOHN: “Oh, I’m sorry. I’d just put on me jacket to leave and she said, ‘Ooh, can I have one with the jacket?’ So we took one with the jacket. “Dahling!”  “Well, hello.”

JOHN: “What’s that! Oh, it’s a microphone. Oh, well then, let me get relaxed…  Hello, hello. Testing, testing… ”
JOHN: “Which one of you is the talker? Oh, you’re both the talker.”
JOHN: “Not the John, Paul, George, Ringo and Bert – not that Bert? Oh, I know that Bert.”
JOHN: “Ok, Bert. Oh, Bert. Bert.”
JOHN: “Oh, well, I get a lot of Sesame Street, me and Sean, so I know all the characters.”
JOHN:” Oh, well, we get it on channel G from seven ’till eight. From nine ’till ten on PBS. And evenings, some time or the other.”

JOHN: “Ok.”
Sholin: “Here we are.”
JOHN: “Yeah, well, whenever you’re ready ,whatever. “Sorry to interrupt.”
YOKO: “You weren’t interrupting”
Sholin: “This one is for both of you. What is a typical day – I think the listeners would like to hear this one. What is a typical day in the life of you?”
YOKO: “Why don’t you explain it? Your side of it.”
JOHN: “Well, yeah, there’s a sort of basic day – they vary slightly. If we’re making records, that’s different. But, when we’re not making records and bein’ up late. I get up about six. Go to the kitchen. Get a cup of coffee. Cough a little. Have a cigarette. The papers arrive at seven. Sean gets up 7:20, 7:25. I oversee his breakfast – don’t cook it anymore. Got fed up with that one. But I make sure I know what he’s eating. Yoko, if she’s not really, really busy – sometimes I wake up and she’s already down here in this office – but if it’s not that kind of pressure goin’ on, she might pass through the kitchen on her way to the office, where I’ll make her a cup of espresso to get her down the elevator good. And then, I’ll hang around there until about nine and Sean’s sort of had his breakfast and him and his nanny, Helen, are deciding what to do for the day, you know. I make sure he watches PBS and not the cartoons with the commercials – I don’t mind cartoons but I won’t let him watch the commercials. So, if he’s going to watch something that morning, it’s going to be Sesame Street. Then, uh, Sean and the nanny will go off somewhere and do something, and I’ll go back to me room – it’s the bedroom but I mean I have everything there, I have instruments and records, and… whatever I do I always do… I used to say ‘if you can’t do it in bed you can’t do it anywhere’. I’m a bit like Hugh Hefner, it’s all like the bed controls the whole thing. Then, if, I’ll buzz down to see what Yoko’s doin’ downstairs. Because we have the intercom running between upstairs and downstairs. If the day’s not too hectic we can meet for lunch. Go out to lunch. If not, I’ll, if I haven’t got anything outside of the house to do, I would go back in at twelve to see that Sean gets a good lunch. And be with him while he eats, even if I don’t eat. And then it just goes on like that, and she’s still in the office. And after lunch he usually goes and does something else with the nanny, you know – that’s presuming they’ve come in for lunch. They normally do. And then I will have – from maybe one ’till five – I’ll take for myself to do whatever I want to do. Stay in, go out, read, write, whatever. Five, five-thirty I start coming looking ’round to see if Sean’s got back again. You know, if he’s back from wherever he’s gone, or it’s getting’ time for dinner. Six we eat dinner – usually Yoko’s still down in the office so then we have dinner. Seven o’clock: bath – this is Sean my life revolves around Sean. Seven o’clock: bath. Daddy goes in to watch Walter Cronkite. Seven-thirty there’s usually some kids stuff on, right? I let him watch commercial TV if I’m there because when the commercials come on, I just flick my little switch, which goes onto radio. So I don’t mind if he watches them without hearing ’em; it’s different. Seven-thirty ’till eight he watches something. I take him to his bedroom. Kiss him goodnight. The nanny probably reads him a story – whatever they get up to in there. He’s in bed by eight. Then I’ll give a buzz down there sayin’ ‘What the hell are you doin’ down there? Are you still down there?’ If I’m lucky, maybe she’ll come up and we’ll do something but she’s a workaholic – she’s liable go on until… sometimes she’ll come on back up at ten o’clock at night to take two hours of sort of rest. And then start work again at twelve midnight, ’cause she’s always callin’ the West Coast, or England or Tokyo or some Godforsaken place that’s on a different time zone from us. And that’s a regular day.”
Sholin: “How do you feel the two of you – you and Sean – have grown from your extreme, close relationship?”
JOHN: “I don’t know if it’s because he was born on the same day as me – which, that in itself was quite strange – he was born on October the 9th – which I was – so we’re almost like twins. It’s a funny thing, if he doesn’t see me for a few days or if I’m really, really busy and I just get a glimpse of him, or if I’m feelin’ depressed – without him even seeing me – he sort of picks up on it. And he starts gettin’ that way. So, it’s like I can no longer afford to have artistic depressions, which usually produced a miserable song but it was something I could use, you know? So if I start goin’ really deep – wallowing in a depression, sort of enjoying it, or whatever one does with them, best you can – he’ll start comin’ down with stuff. You know? So I’m sort of obligated to keep ‘up’. But sometimes I can’t, because something will make me depressed and there’s no way I can deal with it, and then sure as hell he’ll get a cold or trap his finger in the door – something will happen, you know? So, now I have sort of more reason to stay healthy and bright. I can no longer wallow in it, and say ‘well I guess this is how artists are supposed to be I suppose, you know, write the blues… ‘ So, that’s it, pretty regularly like that. And like, this weekend was a big deal because he went off with his nanny to Pennsylvania so I could slob around, and I didn’t have to, you know… ”
JOHN: “… So I could eat when I wanted to eat,’cause I never really want to eat at the same time, I’m never hungry at the same time. So it was very quiet in the apartment.”
Sholin: “Did you still get up early on Saturday?”
JOHN: “Well, I tend to get up early anyway – I got up at six this morning anyway, because I’m just tuned to that.”
Sholin: “I’m interested as to why you don’t want him to watch commercials.”
JOHN: “Because they hypnotize you – I don’t want him asking for junk food every ten minutes because his basic diet is pretty health-food oriented, although I don’t make him suffer, you know? And he can get his ice cream – preferably Haagen Dazs, maybe once a week. I try to discourage it in the winter because its… you know, winter. And his nanny is not a health-food girl, and she’s – I call her the ‘dairy queen’ – you know I try to limit the amount of dairy he takes because it creates mucus. But, if he goes to friends’ houses he eats what they eat, and things like that. But with the commercials – I love commercials as an art form, I really do. The way they’re made as films and I really admire them. I think the best directors are in there – not making movies, they’re making commercials. But that constant repetition. I’ve tried letting it go for a bit and he can’t help it, even though we discuss it, he can’t help wanting things he doesn’t really want. And it’s hard enough bringing up a kid without dealing with these requests for garbage all the time, you know? He can go to McDonald’s occasionally. I don’t want him goin’ there every day and livin’ on junk food. So, that’s basically it. They’re selling the sugar – we don’t eat sugar, mainly. Although, I’m guilty of it when I make records, because it gives me energy. But for the most part, since I met Yoko – 1966 – I have not taken sugar as part of my diet. And, the damned commercials… the programs are great for kids. I’ve no even qualms about violent cartoons because he understands cartoons as opposed to film. It’s that constant sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar. And the only break is hamburger, cheeseburger, hamburger, cheeseburger, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar. And I think it destroys the child’s physical health. And therefore effects his mental health.
Sholin: “Do you consider yourself fortunate to spend the amount of time – both of you, really … ”
JOHN: “I do consider myself fortunate. But I took the time. Any, any star or whatever it is where you come under… and I’m not gonna name any names but many of them that had problems with their kids – either killin’ themselves or, in various ways …  I don’t buy that bit about, you know, quality over quantity. You know, like, an hour a week of intense rollin’ in the hay together is better than, you know, twenty minutes every day of you bein’ bitchy, and just bein’ yourself around him. So I don’t try to be the God Almighty kind of figure that never …  is always smiling and is this wonderful father. I’m not putting out an image of this person who knows all about… nobody knows about children, that’s the thing. You look in the books, there’s no real experts. Everybody’s got a different opinion. You learn by default, in a way. And I made a lot of mistakes already, but what can you do? But I think it’s better for him to see me as I am. If I’m grumpy, I’m grumpy. If I’m not, I’m not. If I want to play, I’ll play. If I don’t, I don’t. I don’t kow-tow to him. I’m as straight with him as I can be. And, yes I can afford to take the time. But anybody with a working wife might be able to take the time, if he doesn’t have a working wife because their poor and they both have to work, with the cost of living. But I know lots of dads that aren’t working that hard, in an office all day to avoid life, you know. Or sitting behind desks, doin’ nothing, just shuffling paper, right, waiting for lunchtime to get a cocktail. But I don’t buy that, you know, ‘my career is so important that I’ll deal with the kids later’ bit. Which I already did with my first marriage and my first child – and I kind of regret it. And now him and me have problems. And, God-willing, I won’t or we won’t…  won’t have problems later on – or maybe we will, I don’t know. I’m just hoping that whatever I give now, which is time, I won’t have to pay…  cause I think you can’t cheat kids, ’cause if you cheat ’em when they’re children, they’ll make you pay when they’re 16 or 17, by revolt against you or hate you or all those so-called ‘teenage problems’; I don’t really think that’s an in-born, nature thing. I think that’s – finally when they get old enough to stand up to you and tell you what a hypocrite you’ve been all this time; ‘you’ve never given me what I really wanted: which was you’. So I’m hoping that… I’m really looking at it in a calculating way, really: give him now, maybe he won’t be so frantic when he’s 16 or 17… .
Sholin: “Do you think that’s what’s happening in society now?”
JOHN: “I think that’s what happened to all of us. I think that idea of ‘no breast feeding; don’t touch them, you’ll spoil them’ – I think that’s all lunacy from some lunatic…  you see, I know it’s almost the same in America, but male children in England were brought up to defend the country. I mean, that was about it, you know? You had to have discipline and not kow…  not touch the kid. He had to be hard…  a boy was really programmed to go into the army, that was about it, you know. And, you had to be tough and you’re not supposed to cry and you’re not supposed to show emotion. And, I know Americans show more emotion, they’re more open than English people, but it’s pretty similar over here. There’s that Calvinist Protestant Anglo-Saxon ethic which is, ‘don’t touch, don’t react, don’t feel’ And I think that’s what screwed us all up. And I think it’s time for a change.”

Sholin: “It’s interesting you made that comment that you gave up being a pop star, because I’m sure there are people who will be listening to this interview who are going to say, ‘Oh sure, John and Yoko they can sit back and spend time, but the rest of us , we have to do all of these… .”
JOHN: “Well, I, well Yoko was a poor artist when I met her, ok? And, living in not the best conditions. And she had a child, and the child went wherever she went, you see? She didn’t treat her first child like I treated mine.”
YOKO: “I took her on stage… ”
JOHN: “She took her on stage, you know; little squirking thing on the… and she would take her, when they were making movies, ’cause I saw them before we got together. I’ve seen her work and the way she worked, and the child… Kyoko was running around all over the place. There have always been artistic people who’ve worked like that in the past. Not since the sixties, but in the thirties and any other time. So, even if I was poor, it’s the state of mind I’m in; I would work out some way for him to be around us somehow, ok? I would have chosen my career to suit that. And, uh, you don’t have to be rich to love your kids.”
Laurie Kaye: “So you made this conscious decision to give yourself to your son, to the relationship… .”
JOHN: “And to learn from him, too. I learned a lot from the child, ’cause they’re not hypocrites, and they’re not phony they know when you’re puttin’… I mean he knows already, you know? I mean already he makes me feel… You know what… anybody with a child who’s spent any moment with them, you know… and it’s good for you, I think, because one does tend to fool oneself, and the kids don’t buy it.”
Sholin: “You hit the nail on the head when you said be straight with them. They know when you’re not straight with them.”
Bert Keane: “I just called Jack to wish him a happy birthday. I was a day late. I saw that tonight is Monday Night Football so I called to wish him a happy fourth birthday, but he said ‘it’s not today, it’s yesterday’.
JOHN: “Whoops, sorry!”
YOKO: “He was saying, remember what he was saying, that he wants to be a daddy?”
JOHN: “Oh, yeah! See, because I hadn’t been in the studio for five years, or whatever, so he’s used to me being around all the time, cause it’s no… it’s a pleasure for me to hang around the house – I was always a homebody; I think a lot of musicians are. You write and you play in the house anyway. Or, when I wanted to be a painter – when I was younger – I was always in the house. Or writing poetry: it was always in the house. But, uh, I started the work and he started seeing a bit less of me. I mean, I let him into the studio, but it was a bit boring for him. He was excited but… long story short. At the end of the session… I got back on a night schedule where I’d be coming in when he’d be getting up. So he’d see me at breakfast but I was different; I was this sort of shredded ‘What? Oh, huh? What?’ Like that. Then one day we just sort of sitting, lying down on the bed together. Maybe watching some cartoon, or whatever. And, he just sat up and said, ‘D’ya know what I wanna be when I grow up?’ I said, ‘No, what’s that?’ And he looked me right in the eye and said, ‘Just a daddy.’ And I thought, ‘ah, um, hum ya’ mean ya’ don’t like it that I’m working now, right, and goin’ out a lot?’ He says, ‘Right.’ I said, ‘Well, I’ll tell you something, Sean: it makes me happy to do the music. And I might be less… I might have more fun with ya’ if I’m happier, right?’ He says, ‘Uh-hum.’ And that was the end of that. I mean, I think I was B.S.-ing him, you know? But he caught me off guard there with his, ‘Just a daddy.'”
Sholin: “It was his way of expressing himself.”
JOHN: “Yeah. It was pretty straight, wasn’t it?!”
Keane: “I said goodbye to Jack – and, I mean, I’ll be home tonight, but I said goodbye the other day and he was pissed. But then I called when I got here, to New York. And I said ‘Hi’ and he was different.”
JOHN: “I was guilty all through the… mostly through the making of Double Fantasy, I must say. We had his picture pinned up in the studio, because I didn’t want to lose contact with him, with what I got. I was scared, myself, that moving back into the business, and one tends to hone in on yourself and the sound, and the record, and how you’re doin’ it. We had his picture up there all the time, in between the speakers, so whenever you list… checkin’ the stereo, he was lookin’ at me all the time. And I went through some terrible guilt. Absolute… but I didn’t want to put it on the side because I knew – part of it – was I needn’t feel guilty. I’m entitled and I have to have my own space, too. But still, God, it wracks you.”
YOKO: “But, at the same time, maybe we were giving him a space too.”
JOHN: “Oh, yeah, he needs the space, too. Because I’m always on him… you know, when I’m not around he relaxes more with Helen. I’m on him about how he eats and the knife and fork business. And I do tend to sort of want him to be a little gentleman. And maybe it’s not that necessary and, you know, part of that English upbringing comes out, and I’m like, ‘Well, that’s American-style of eating, and that’s fine and you use the fork. Now, if you’re gonna use the knife, and – you know… And if it’s Japanese we’ll use the chop sticks properly, you know? Don’t pick it ’round and shove it ’round’ So he does need a break from me, too.”
YOKO: “And also, you see, as you said: a happy father is better than a grumpy father.”
JOHN: “Yeah, but I heard those women who were saying, you know, ‘I’m gonna fulfill myself by having a job’, you know. So you just… I wish there was a system where they had, you know, communes and day care and places where they would be happy to be, not foist them off like kindergarten. I sent him to kindergarten for a bit, but he was miserable and bored. And I realized, I really, really sent him because I thought I had to get more space to myself. And he was not happy. I wasn’t happy, either, because I wasn’t using the space. I was wondering, ‘What’s goin’ on? Am I doing this for the right reason? Why am I doin’ it?'”
Keane: “There are places, some different kind of schools that you can send your kids to where they won’t be bored. Like, Jack goes to a school – it’s four hours, three times a week. They learn different things, but mostly to play with kids his own age… ”
JOHN: “Well, he sees them; he knows what time they get off school. He’s on that phone. Max, he comes back at 3:30. He dials next door, he knows they’re comin’ home. So he knows it’s only a few hours when they’re at school, anyway. And his vocabulary is fantastic because he’s been with children… uh, grownups more than children. And, actually, they don’t need that companionship until about 6 and 7 – they can really relate to other kids. An hour together with kids, there’s always tension: who wants to be center of attention? After an hour’s play together you usually have to split ’em up for a bit because they get… they’re not really ready to allow each other space and have real friendships. Although he has a real friendship with this… with about three kids. But, still, you know, 6 or 7 its more important, I think, for that community thing. And I tell him, if he says, if he gets that bored feeling, I say, ‘Well, you know where your friends are. They’re two blocks down the street, here. They’re at school.’ And he’ll say, ‘No, I’ll wait ’till four.’ ‘Cause he knows, all they learn is to sit still.”
Sholin: “Would you consider yourselves a strict mother and father – at least, his moral code and what is right and wrong?”
JOHN: “Well, you see, if I knew the secrets of what is right and wrong… I wish we all knew the secrets. Nobody really knows, that’s the point. Nobody knows what’s best for children. They’re like guinea pigs that each generation experiments on. I know if you go too far to the liberal side they’ll probably grow up bein’ disciplinarians. If you give ’em too much discipline, they’ll end up the opposite. I’m tryin’ to just have no real heavy discipline about behavior, only ‘don’t be impolite; don’t hurt other people. And, yes, you do have to clean your teeth after you’ve eaten. When you eat, eat. Then you play after. Not both at the same time.’ And regular bedtimes. I think regularity is good for them. We did try the other thing of letting him sleep when he wants to sleep. But it didn’t work. He enjoyed the freedom, so in that way he relaxed. But on the other hand he started getting tired. So…  and whining… ”
YOKO: “But he has to be disciplined in a way because… ”
JOHN: “Oh, well I do discipline him… ”
YOKO: “You do.”
JOHN: “I never would hit him or anything… ”
YOKO: “So I always incorporate the two… ”
JOHN: “You’re one of the best fathers he’s ever had”
YOKO: “I’ll tell him, ‘well, you better ask your daddy’… ”
JOHN: “She’s the real mother because when it comes to the bit about who’s tired and irritable, she can deal with him when she’s tired and irritable, and I still find it hard then to give, and have him crawling all over me when I’m tired and irritable. I need that rest to deal with him.”
YOKO: “The other thing that’s very strange is… ”
JOHN: “Are we talkin’ about child-rearing or records here?”
YOKO: “The funny thing is there must be some sort of physical connection, and that’s why I can relax about it. I don’t feel, even when he’s far away… far away – I mean he’s just upstairs while I’m here working. But I feel we’re sort of connected, and we know what we’re doing. Because, uh… ”
JOHN: “He buzzes down to the office all the time.”
YOKO: “When he gets hurt or something… the other day I just suddenly woke up, very early in the morning. And I heard him cry; but, I mean, it was just an instant after I woke up that he started crying, and I just rushed over. And there was just that sort of feeling like I already knew what was gonna happen, you know?”
JOHN: “Also, no matter how busy she is, she’ll never stop him coming in. Even if she’s in a really important business meeting. Even if he comes in… this would be boring if he walked in now. He’d check it out and maybe interrupt a little, but it would be boring for him. So, he’d go away. But he knows there’s access there. So, in that way we’re lucky that our work space is within the building. But that goes for any artist, rich or poor. They do tend to work in their own homes, lofts or apartments. So, in that respect, I think a lot of people do what we do anyway. Because if you work in the apartment, you live in it, it’s all the same place. It’s not a place where Mommy or Daddy has to go across town, or get a commute every day. So, in that way, musicians and artists have the benefit that maybe ordinary people couldn’t get.”

Laurie Kaye: “I want to ask you about getting the urge to make music again… .”
JOHN: “Oh, it came over me all of a sudden, love. I didn’t know what came over me!”
Kaye: “I know, like you were possessed… ”
JOHN: “I was possessed by this rock and roll devil, you know! Was that the question? Did I interrupt you? ”
Kaye: “Uh, you got it!”
JOHN: “Why suddenly, and all that? Well, partly because suddenly I got the songs. You know?”
YOKO: “You never know, you know? Those things just come to you.”
JOHN: “Just suddenly I had like – if you’ll pardon the expression – ‘diarrhea’ of creativity. And, uh, in fact we went into the studio and cut about 22 tracks and cut it down to 14 to make the dialogue. They were all dialogue songs, meaning that we were writing as if it were a play and we were two characters in it. But it’s real life – but not real as well because on a song or a record it can’t be real. I mean, we could’ve taken it a step further and made this record so that maybe she would be called Ziggy Stardust and I would be called Tommy, and then you would call it a ‘rock-opera’. You see? But we always work from our own selves as near as we could. So the album, the work we did on this thing is really a play, but we’re using ourselves as the characters. And what we sing about in the record and the songs are real diaries of how we feel. But also, it’s not really really real, because it’s a song, and it’s on a record, and you project it in a different way. But we started this thing… and I started getting these songs. And I called her… we had discussed going back in the studio. But I didn’t have the material. But I wasn’t worried about it because I thought, ‘well, I haven’t done it in a long time , maybe if I switch into that, there’ll be something there.’ But it just sort of came. And I called her, because I was in Bermuda with Sean, and she was here in New York and I called her and I said, ‘Well, look: we were talking about recording and it must have triggered something off here because I’m gettin’ all this stuff.’ And I started singing it to her down the phone, or playing the cassette. And she would call back two hours later and say, ‘Well, when you sang that – (I’m) Losing You – or … ‘ she’d come back with (I’m) Moving On or something. And I’d say, ‘Oh, Movin’ On? Ok’ and then, I’d be swimming and then suddenly something else would come, like (Just Like) Starting Over. I would say, ‘Hey, well look this is what happened … ‘ and it started working like… coming out like that. So, then, I couldn’t wait to get back and start then. I suddenly had all this material. After not really trying, but not not trying either, for five years. I’d been so locked in the home environment and completely switched my way of thinking that I didn’t really think about music at all. My guitar was sort of hung up behind the bed – literally. And I don’t think I took it down in five years.”
Kaye: “Yoko was telling us about the emotional impact of hearing your songs to her for the first time. How did you feel hearing her material?”
JOHN: “It inspired me completely. I got… as soon as she would sing something to me or play the cassette down the phone I would, within 10 or 15 minutes, whether I wanted to work or not – if you call it work. I would suddenly get this song coming to me. And I always felt that the best songs were the ones that came to you rather than… I do have the ability to sit down… you know, if you ask me to write a song for a movie or something. And they say, ‘it’s about this’. I can sit down and sort of make a song. I wouldn’t be thrilled with it, but I can make a song like that. But I find it difficult to do that. But I can do it. You know, I call it craftsmanship, you know? I’ve had enough years at it to sort of put something together. But I never enjoyed that. I like it to be inspirational – from the spirit. And, being with Sean, and switching off from the business sort of allowed that channel to be free for a bit. I wasn’t always ‘ON!’ It was switched off. And when I sort of switched it on again, ‘ZAP!’ all this stuff came through. So now we’re already half… well, we did enough material for the next album and we’re already talking about the third. So we’re just full of VIM AND VIGOR!”
Sholin: “Did you know, after you heard the album, did you know it was going to be accepted like that?”
YOKO: “No, we didn’t know anything, really.”
JOHN: “You know you go through two ways. Sometimes you think, ‘Wow, yeah. This is great’ when we’ve done it. And then the next time you hear it… well, she’s not as quite the same as… I’ll think, ‘Oh, this is not working, this is not right’. So I would go ‘yay’ and ‘nay’ on it all the time. But I think, uh, basically we thought if people will listen to it for what it is and not listen to it with preconceived ideas of how it ought to be or as compared to something else, then if people could listen to it just as if it wasn’t even John and Yoko. Just that it came over the radio. And you accepted it or not accepted it as you hear it, not as you expect to hear John Lennon, or expect to hear Yoko Ono, or expect to hear an ex-Beatle, or expect to hear whatever. Or, having read some good review or a bad review, forget about that. Just get it on the radio, I thought, and it’ll be alright.”
YOKO: “The way I looked it was probably it’s an album that’s not gonna do too well. But, in the end, you know, maybe like two years later or something, people will say, ‘ah, that was good.’ Because I knew that the theme was good, I knew the dialogue was important, etcetera. And each song was alright, you know? So I had a feeling that even if it takes a long time, people would know about it. But I didn’t think it was gonna be that instant, you know?”
Kaye: “You went on a limb with this, though. You took a lot of very personal love songs and laid them out for everybody. How does that feel to you? How do you feel about – after five years of silence – bearing yourselves to people in interviews, through music?”
JOHN: “Because, even as I put it in my last incarnation Everybody Has Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey, it means really that one can not be absolutely oneself in public because the fact that you’re in public makes you… you have to have some kind of self defense, or whatever it is. But we always tried from, whether from Two Virgins through Imagine though anything we’ve done together, the films we made together, we always tried to get as near to the uncensored, as it were, for what we are. Not to project an image of something that we’re not. Because having been in that sort of pop business for so long and tried to retain myself throughout it but obviously not always being successful at that. It was most uncomfortable when I didn’t feel I was being myself. You know, when I would have to smile when I didn’t wanna smile, and it became like all like being a politician, you know? And what I really got through these five years is: I’m not running for office. I like to be liked. I don’t like to offend people. I would like to be a happy contented person. I don’t want to have to sell my soul again – as it were – to have a hit record. It’s… I’ve discovered that I can live without it. It’d make it happier for me, but I’m not gonna come back in and try to create a persona who would not be myself. Does that explain it?
Sholin: “Do you think the confirmation of removing yourself from the music scene and also the artist that has to deliver an album every six months, ‘Ok, it’s time’… ”
JOHN: “Yeah, well, I went… ”
Sholin: “… and the you just gotta sit down and crank one out. Did that stall the creativity that you were… ”
JOHN: “Yes, yes, it was to give… it’s like the channels on the radio were jammed, you know? I was not getting clear signals. And after ten, fifteen, almost twenty years of being under contract, and having to produce at least two albums a year and – at least in the early days – and a single every three months, regardless of what the hell else you were doing. Or what your family life was like, or your personal life was like – it was like nothing counted – you just have to get those songs out. And Paul and I turned out a lot of songs in those days. And, uh, it was easier because it was the beginning of our business… you know, relationship and career. Paul and I developed in public, as it were. We had a little rehearsal in private, but mainly we developed our abilities in public. But then it got to be format. And, sort of, not the pleasure that it was. That’s when I felt that I’d lost meself. Not that I was on purpose, purposely being a hypocrite or a phony, but it… it took like… it took something away from what I set out to do. I started out to do rock and roll because I absolutely liked doing it. So, that’s why I ended up doin’ a track like (Just Like) Starting Over. It’s kinda tongue-in-cheek. You know it’s ‘w-e-e-e-e-l-l-l-l-l, w-e-e-e-e-l-l-l-l-l’. It’s sort of a la Elvis and that; and I hope people accept it like that. I think it’s a serious piece of work but its also tongue-in-cheek, you know? I mean I went right back to me roots. All the time we were doin’ it I was callin’ it ‘Elvis Orbison’, you know? And it’s not going back to being Beatle-John in the sixties, it’s being John Lennon who was… whose life was changed completely by hearing American rock and roll on the radio as a child. And that’s the part of me that’s coming out again, and why I’m enjoying it this time. I’m not trying to compete with my old self, or compete with the young new wave kids, or anything like that that are comin’ on, I’m not competing with anything. I’m trying to go back and enjoy it, as I enjoyed it originally. And it’s working.”
YOKO: “Oh, that’s another thing. Yes, we both enjoyed it so much. And that’s, you know, really good isn’t it?”
JOHN: “Yeah, to have a… I was saying to someone the other day, there’s only two artists I’ve ever worked with for more than one night’s stand, as it were: Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono. I think that’s a pretty damned good choice. Because, in the history of the Beatles Paul met me the first day I did Be-Bop-A-Lu-La live onstage, okay? And a fr… a mutual friend brought him to see my group, called The Quarrymen. And we met, and we talked after the show and I saw he had talent. He was playing guitar backstage, and doin’ Twenty-Flight Rock by Eddie Cochrane. And I turned around to him right then on the first meeting and said, ‘Do you wanna join the group?’ And he went, ‘Hmmm, well, you know… ‘ And I think he said ‘yes’ the next day, as I recall it. Now, George came through Paul, and Ringo came through George, although of course I had a say in where they came from, but the only person I actually picked as my partner – who I recognized had talent, and I could get on with – was Paul. Now, twelve, or however many years later I met Yoko, I had the same feeling. It was a different feel, but I had the same feeling. So, I think as a talent-scout I’ve done pretty damned well!”

Laurie Kaye: “Can you tell us about that meeting?”
JOHN: “With Yoko? Well, it was sort of 1966 and, uh, I got a call from a guy called John Dunbar, who used to be married to Marianne Faithful – you know, everybody’s connected. And he had a gallery in London called Indica Gallery, an art gallery. And, I used to go there occasionally to see whatever art show was on, you see? And he said, ‘Oh, I’ve got this… there’s this fantastic Japanese girl coming from New York, and she’s gonna do this other thing but she’s also gonna put on an exhibition at my gallery. And it’s gonna be this big event’. Something about ‘black bags!’ and I thought, ‘Ooooh, orgies’, you know? These artists, they’re all ravers, you know? It was in the days of happenings, paint, and all that stuff, right? So I go right down there, you know, for the opening. ‘Goody, goody!’, you know? Lennon goes down to see what’s happening. I get down there, and it’s the night before the opening. I mean, I thought there was going to be a big party, and an opening and the whole bit, you know? A big hap…  I didn’t wanna get involved. I wanted to watch, you know? I get there and its all white and quiet and there’s just these strange things all on display, like an apple on a stand for 200 pounds – when the pound was worth 8 dollars, or something. Whatever. And there’s hammers, saying ‘Hammer a nail in’, all this very peculiar stuff, and a ladder with a painting on the sky… or it looked like a blank canvass on the ceiling with a spyglass hanging from it. So, I’m lookin’ ’round and there doesn’t seem to be many people. There’s a couple of people downstairs. And I didn’t know who was who. So, I get up the ladder, and I look through this spyglass and it says, ‘Yes’. And I took that as a personal, positive message, because most of the avant garde artists of that period were all negative. Like, breaking a piano with an axe; it was mainly male… I’m looking at the female…  it was mainly male art, and it was all destructive, and sort of ‘nay, nay-na-nay nay’, you know? But here was this little crazy message on the ceiling. And then the guy introduced me to her. And she didn’t know who the hell I was. She had no idea. She was living in a different environment altogether. And, uh, I was sayin’ ‘Well this is a good con, isn’t it? Apples at 200 pounds. Hammer a nail. Who’s gonna buy this?’, you know? I didn’t know what concept art was; which, in a nutshell is ‘the idea is more important than the object’. So that’s why you won’t see many rich concept artists around, because you can’t really, you know… like the guy that wraps up, uh, what’s the guy that wraps up the… ”
Kaye: “Christo… ”

JOHN: “Christo wraps up things. He doesn’t expect you to buy the canvass. What he’s doing is selling you this idea, whatever it is he’s projecting. It was the same kinda thing, but I hadn’t come across it before. How do you sell a ‘nail in a hammer?’ So anyway, I said, uh, the gallery owner was all fussin’ ’round saying, ‘Is he gonna buy something?’ And she’s not..she’s ignoring me. So he introduced us, and I said ‘Well, uh, where’s the event?’ you know, ‘Where’s the happening?’ ‘Cause I’d seen the bag. So she just takes a card out and gives it to me and it just says, ‘Breathe’. So I said, ‘like that?’ She said, ‘You got it’. I said, ‘Uh huh, alright’. I’m beginning to catch on, here. So, and then I see this hammer, this thing… ”
YOKO: “I just remember his nose… He did it exactly like that.”
JOHN: “… well, you know, what else are you gonna do? This was the big event. I mean, all the way from New York for that? So, I see the hammer hanging on the thing with a few nails. And I said, ‘Well, can I at least hammer a nail in? You know, I’ve come all the way from the suburbs for this’. And she says, ‘No!'”
YOKO: “‘Cause it’s before the opening… ”
JOHN: “… it’s before the opening and she didn’t want the thing messed up. So, anyway, the gallery owner has a ‘little word’ with her. Then she says, she comes over to me and she says, ‘Alright.’ No smiling, or anything. Because, you know how she is, she doesn’t… she’s not runnin’ for office – she never was, though. She looks at me and she says, ‘You give me 5 shillings’. Well, that’s about $10 or maybe $20… ”
YOKO: “$10?!? Are you kidding? 5 shillings was about 50 cents… ”
JOHN: “No, no, in those days the shilling,… well, whatever, she says ‘Give me 5 shillings and you can hammer a nail in.’ So I looked at her and I said, ‘I’ll give you an imaginary 5 shillings and hammer in an imaginary nail in, okay?’ And that’s when we connected really, and we looked at each other like… you know that sort of… something went off. Well, I didn’t see her again for a few weeks. We went to a Claes Oldenburg opening and we were all… we… I went with Paul, and I don’t know who she was with. But I got separated from Paul, and I felt this sort of vibe behind me. And I looked ’round and there she was. And, we’re both very shy – believe it or not. And we… I don’t know what I said. We said something… uh, we didn’t really get together until 18 months later. We didn’t make love ’till two years… You think we’re rock and rollers, you know, all the… life that people lead. And, uh, it’s alright coming on with someone you know its not going to go anywhere. It’s easy to one-night-stand, and groupies and that. But for a real relationship… I was so paranoid and it was 18 months or a year before we got near to, uh, each other physically, as it were. ‘Cause I didn’t know how to treat somebody – a real woman. I only knew how to treat groupies, really. That’s not to say anything against me first wife, but that was when we were kids and our relationship started when we were both kids, so it was a different thing altogether. But this was quite a shock for me, and somebody who demanded equal rights right from the word ‘go’, you know? It was quite a long trip. But we’ve been together now longer than the Beatles. You know that?”
YOKO: “That is interesting… ”
JOHN: “People always think, ‘well, John and Yoko just got together and the Beatles split’. But we’ve been together longer than the Beatles.”
Kaye: “How did your music start… and your meeting, and your spiritual bond with Yoko – was it immediate?”
JOHN: “Well, it was immediate. I used to have a place where I worked in the house – again – upstairs in my first incarnation with my other wife and kids. And I used to make kinda freaky music at home. And I’d… you’d hear it coming through on things like Tomorrow Never Knows on Revolver, or Rain and some little backwards things. But I never made that the whole track… ”
YOKO: “Well, you had sort of freaky stuff on cassettes… ”
JOHN: “… but at home I’d make freakier stuff, you know? Which… I would take the sort of most usable and add it to the Beatles, or to my tracks on the Beatles, like I’m the Walrus or Strawberry Fields, whatever. Fiddled around a bit, or put loops or something funny…  But at home I was really far out. And I had a kinda little studio, which was really just a lot of tape recorders. And we made Two Virgins that way. She came over for a date – as it were. And I didn’t know what to do, and she didn’t know what to do. So I said… you know, I didn’t know what to do with her! So I said, ‘You wanna go upstairs and play with the tapes?’, you know? So… ’cause we didn’t know what to do, we did play with the tapes all night, and we made Two Virgins. And I was showin’ her all me different tape recordings, and how I made the funny sounds… ”
YOKO: “You running around… ”
JOHN: “I was runnin’ around pushing the buttons, and playin’ the mellotron and she was… she started into her Yoko Ono stuff – which is now stuff you hear on B-52s or Lene Lovich and all that stuff. She started doin’ this ‘Oooooh. Ohh. Ow’ and all that. And I thought, ‘This is great!’ And I was goin’ ‘Bloobulb. Booblub’ on the tapes, and she was goin’ ‘Owww. Ohhh.’ And we did… we made a tape all night and in the morning we made love, as the sun came up. But we’d made this album’s worth of sound together, without consciously setting out to make something. And that was the first togetherness. We shot the cover ourselves, privately, and it wasn’t… we got somebody to set the camera up. Took the shot, and put out Two Virgins. And that was the start of the whole she-bang.”
Kaye: “And the reaction was… .”
JOHN: “‘What are they doing?!?!? This Japanese witch has made him crazy, and he’s gone bananas.’ But what… all she did was take the bananas part of me out of the closet more, you know, that had been inhibited by other part.”
Kaye: “And did that help you?”
JOHN: “Oh it was a… it was a complete relief to meet somebody else who was as far out as I was, you know? That was the real thing.”
Sholin: “The music you make together is such a pleasure for you to make… at the same time that it is a pleasure for you… well, obviously you enjoyed making this album was that it or did you want it to be a commercial success, along with the fact that ‘we also enjoyed it and are having a good time’?”
JOHN: “Oh, well, now we’d like to have a commercial success because… also… I mean if I’m taking up too much of your time, please direct the question to Yoko… ”
YOKO: “Oh, no… go ahead..”
JOHN: “… its from all those years of… I tend to hog the conversation. But when we made Two Virgins we weren’t worried about commercial. We wanted to put out a statement of where it was at, we wanted to share the thing… ”
YOKO: “Naively… ”
JOHN: “No, not naively at all, because some people accepted it – a lot of people didn’t – but the thing had an affect. The fact that an ‘Elvis Presley’ would take his clothes off and expose… now we had other shots for that cover which made us look a lot more sexy and attractive. Believe me, you know? You know, if you pose a certain way you just do it like this. And there were a couple more shots that later came out in a calendar with the Live Peace in Toronto album, where we look a little more attractive as a couple in a ‘star’ kinda way. But we deliberately chose the one where we were standing there in our… in all our glory, with like a little flab ’round the waist, the legs a little… you know – nothing pretty about it. We wanted to say ‘We met. We’re in love. We wanna share it.’ And it was a kinda statement, as well, of… of… of an awakening for me, too, you know? ‘This Beatle-thing that you’ve heard about?… This is how I am, really.’ You know? ‘This is me naked, with the woman I love. You wanna share it?’ And, people did and people didn’t. But now you can’t get it for 200 bucks, Two Virgins, right? So that’s the way it goes. But of course, now… she got more interested in pop and I got more interested in avant garde, so we sort of blended in like that. And I think now we’ve kind of found… we ‘re finding a meeting ground, which has only really developed through Double Fantasy.”
Sholin: “Where was that time, where you got more involved in pop?”
YOKO: “Oh, well around Approximately Infinite Universe, I think. I started to understand, ‘well, it’s interesting’, you know? And there’s a lot of things you can say with it, and so… But even then, around that time, I was more interested in expanding the medium of pop into, ah, something more theatrical. Like a Bertolt Brecht kinda thing. And, so, all the songs were long, I think… ”
JOHN: “Well, on Approximately Infinite Universe what… what year was that?”
YOKO: “That was 1971, I think… ‘
JOHN: “Yeah, they were very theatrical pieces… ”
Sholin: “197-what?”
JOHN: “1971 or 2 or something like that. And uh, they were theatrical and, uh… some of the ideas that she wanted both of us to do then – I must say, I was more square then than I am now, in a way – that I wished we’d done because now other people have done them because… And I would say, ‘No, I’m not gonna do that! Are you kiddin’?! I’m not doin’ that.’ I would start reserving, you know? So, ‘I don’t wanna do that. We’re in enough trouble as it is, you know, let’s not do that!”
YOKO: “And also, I started to feel guilty because – for instance – Open Your Box was a good track… ”
JOHN: “That was on Approximately Infinite Universe also; the B-side of Power to the People. Just to let ’em know where we’re at … ”
YOKO: “… it was on Approximately Infinite Universe and it was 197… .early 1971. And, uh, he wrote a song called Power to the People – which is a very powerful song. And then my Open Your Box on the B-side and – of course – that was banned in America, you know? And that sort of thing started to happen. So I felt that maybe I was doing a disfavor to him, in a way because, well you know – he could be number one all the time, but now because he’s involved with somebody a bit radical or this and that, that he’s getting that… well, if you ban the B-side you’re banning the single. It was that sort of thing. And I was starting to feel guilty a bit. But, on the other hand, we did a lot of interesting things. We were having fun, you know, as well. It was exciting. And also, like Sometime in New York City, which was also again Bertolt Brecht…  and many interesting tracks. I mean, Woman is the Nigger of the World… ”
JOHN: “… which was pre-… that was banned, that was – Woman is the Nigger of the World – because of the word ‘nigger’. Now, I had Ebony and Jet both say they are not offended and we went down there with Dick Gregory, just in case there were any questions there. And the statement ‘woman is the nigger of the world’ was made by Yoko in 1967 or 8 to an English women’s magazine called Nova, which was a kind of Vogue, and she was on the cover and the title was ‘Woman is the Nigger of the World’. I immediately stole the title and wrote a song. It didn’t come until ’71. And, uh, there was all this hullabaloo about the word ‘nigger’ but the hullabaloo was from the white community, you know, not from the black community. ‘Cause they understood where it was comin’ from… ”
YOKO: “… ‘Cause they don’t think that they’re niggers, so they didn’t care. But the whites basically thought, ‘Well, niggers. Well, that’s their word… ‘”
JOHN: “… she came from a background of classical music, studyin’ piano at five, and all the things that rich kids do, you know? And Schoenberg and Wayburn she’d studied at Sara Lawrence and all that. I didn’t know any of that stuff. And she was turning me onto it…  even Bertolt Brecht. I knew when we made Sometime in New York City to me we were doin’… a newspaper. So one would rush it out into print, you see? So there were mistakes, say, a little harmony wasn’t perfect. We didn’t go back and perfect every note, we just printed it out, you know, like sometimes there’s words missing or something like that. And it was later she said, ‘Well, you know what we did there?’ I said, ‘No. We got into a lotta trouble, that’s all I know! And, the harmony’s funny or something’, you know? ‘Cause we had… her idea, again, we had Chairman Mao and Richard Nixon dancing naked on the cover – it wasn’t really their bodies, we just stuck their heads on ’em. Well, the record company stuck a label on it in the supermarkets, and you couldn’t even get it off when you went home, you know? And, there was no genitals – nothing, you know? But then, anyway, she… and I started getting’ down about that record, saying ‘it was a mistake’ even though we tried to say something about women, and we tried to say something about love and peace and all…  whatever, the war. And we got into so much trouble. So she then took me to see Richard Foreman’s production of the Threepenny Opera of Bertold Brecht, which – I don’t when it was originally out, in the twenties or the thirties. And I said, ‘Oh, I see. So we’re not alone,’ you know? May… I don’t know what happened to Brecht when he first put that out, but it was the same idea – meaning, you know, to make a statement on the society right now, right away and no B.S. Just say it, you know? ‘I think this is wrong, that’s right. This is my opinion.’ ”
Sholin: “You know, music… now’s a good time to ask this: is to educate or is it to entertain, or both?”
JOHN: “Communicate. Communicate was the thing. That need to communicate. And, uh… ”
Sholin: “… but it doesn’t necessarily have to be political… ”
JOHN: “No, no politics was in the air in those days, c’mon. I mean, you couldn’t avoid it, right? And, uh, being artists, when we get into something we get into it, you know what I mean? We want it to be right there down on the front lines – as we always said to everybody – with flowers, but still right down there. We want to go all the way with it. And, uh, I think we did go all the way with it, too, you know? But our intentions were good.”
Kaye: “Woman is the Nigger of the World being the most heavy militant feminist thing that was coming out then, probably still is, even today… ”
YOKO: “No, that was the first and the only… ”
JOHN: “It was before Helen Reddy’s I Am Woman… ”
YOKO: “… feminist song that was made by a guy, you know?”
JOHN: “It was before Helen Reddy, I know that, right? And she did Sisters O’Sisters on the B-side, a reggae version.”
YOKO: “But the point was that, I mean, you know, this is something that’s gonna dawn on somebody… people later. But, uh, he was always doin’ it, you know? And, uh, so we were very proud of that album in that sense. Until it was really knocked! But we didn’t feel ashamed. And, you know, that year Rolling Stone selected us as the ‘Most Boring Couple’ of the year, or something, and really sort of knocked us about it. We thought, ‘Oh, alright’… ”
JOHN: “‘Well, if it’s boring, we won’t do it anymore.'”
Kaye: “But everything – every statement from the two of you has been taken as ‘What are they doing?’ whether its extremely radical or perceived as ‘kooky’ or avant garde, everything has its hard, tough ‘I wanna get something across to you people’. Um, how… how do you feel? I mean, are you trying to get something across, or were you… ”
JOHN: “It’s to share it, you know? It’s like bein’ somewhere beautiful like Bali, and all your friends haven’t been, and you wanna say, ‘My God! I was in Bali, man, and it’s just the greatest place, and it’s really… ‘ and it’s that, that’s how we are about things. We get enthusiastic and say we wanna… the same as when I… it sort of dawned on me that love was the answer, when I was younger, on the Beatles’ Rubber Soul album. My first expression of it was a song called The Word. ‘The Word is love. In the good and the bad books that I have read, whatever, whatever the word is love’ seemed like the underlying theme to the Universe or to everything that was worthwhile, got down to this ‘love, love, love’ thing. And, it was the struggle to… to love, and be loved, and express that, you know there’s something about love that’s fantastic even though I’m not always a loving person. I wanna be that, I wanna be as loving as possible. In the Christian sense, as Christ-like as possible. In the Hindu sense as Gandhi-esque as possible. And we always approached it as… and when I met her, even though we were from two different schools of thought, as it were, we found that was the common denominator. That’s why we became the ‘love and peace’ couple. Because, before I met her she was protesting against war, in a black bag, in Trafalgar Square. And when we met, and we discussed what we wanted to do together, what we wanted to do was carry on me in my ‘love, love, love’ and her in her ‘peace, peace, peace’, put it together and that’s how we came out with the bed-in. Because I couldn’t go down, as John Lennon, to lie in a bag in Trafalgar Square, because I might get attacked those days. It was dangerous – it was dangerous for her even as an individual protest. So we developed this thing of how to express what we both believe in together the best we can. And so, you say, well, comin’ back to that ‘well, you came back’…  I went to a disco for the first time since 1967, when I was in Bermuda just before we made this album. And I was finally dragged to a disco by an assistant of mine, and I went there, and upstairs they were playin’ disco, and downstairs they were playin’ Rock Lobster by the B-52s, and I said, ‘That’s Yoko!’. And somebody said…  I thought there was two records goin’ at once or something. Because I thought it was so like Yoko, so her, I thought ‘This person’s studied her.’ I said, ‘Get the axe out, call the wife, gee have you heard this?’ I called her and said, I said, ‘You won’t believe this: I was in a disco and there was somebody doin’ your voice.’ I said, ‘This… ‘ I said, ‘This time they’re ready for us, man.’ I mean, ‘we can go on and do our stuff without even steppin’… without even changing a thing. We could go on, right back.’ And I dug out the old records we’d made; I dug out the B-52s. And I spoke to my assistant, who’d tried to turn me on to them 18 months before, but I was saying, ‘No, I’m not into the music now’, I didn’t want to hear it. He was trying to play me Pretenders and Madness and all that stuff, and I didn’t want to listen to it. And I said, ‘Get me some more of this! What’s goin’ on out there?!’ He brought all this kooky, you know – whatever you wanna call it – in and we just sort of looked at each other and said, ‘A-ha! They’ve finally caught up to where we were, what we were trying to do all the time’, which was another form of expression. And we thought, ‘This time, surely, they’re gonna understand it.’ And here we are doin’ it. Again. It’s not that much different than what we did… if you take the Plastic Ono Band albums – which are title-less – I call mine Mother for reference because it had Mother and God and a couple of tracks like that on it; and her album, which was the same cover but a kinda reverse… the first… .”

… tape ran out … a new tape is prepared …

JOHN: “… at one time, right? So I can never get more than I ever had in that respect. I’m not sayin’ I could never have four numbers, five numbers at once, ’cause that’s wishin’ meself bad luck. But let’s face the reality. I’ve had the boyhood thing of being the Elvis and having… getting’ my own spot on the show. I wanna be with me best friend – me best friend’s me wife – who could ask for anything more? I’d sooner do something else together than not work together. And that’s why we… I think that comes across in the work now. And we feel like this is just the start, see? Double Fantasy’s our… I… we feel like this is our first album. I know we worked together before; we even made albums together before. But we feel like this is the first album. I feel like… we… nothin’ happened before today.”

Laurie Kaye: “So, what is Double Fantasy… ”
Dave Sholin: “… the album title… ”
JOHN: “Well, you know where it came from?”
YOKO: “You better tell them… ”
JOHN: “I was takin’ Sean and the nanny and the family to a little… uh – except for Mother, who was here sellin’ cows – in Bermuda to The Botanical Gardens for lunch to an Italian restaurant, cause I could get some espresso and Sean could get some junk food. And I was just walking in and I looked down and in the botanical garden it said…  …  we’re in the office folks, that’s why it’s buzzin’. It said ‘Freezier Double Fantasy’ and it was some flowers. And I just thought, ‘Double Fantasy – that’s a great title!’ ‘Cause it has so many meanings that you couldn’t even begin to think what it means, so it means anything you can think of. I mean, it’s a double couple. It’s, it’s real life but it’s still fantasy because it’s now in plastic and in photograph. And it’s fantastic! And it just sort of seemed to be perfect for a title to the album. And there’s two of us. And it just sort of says it all – without really saying anything it says everything. And it’s a flower, actually.”
YOKO: “But also, in the ten years, we learned that, uh, John has his own fantasy and I have mine, too, you know? And that’s alright, you see? And we don’t have to unify our thoughts totally. I mean there’s an overall plan that we have – or a dream that we have – which we share, you know? But then we come from a totally different background, I mean, in the sense of man and woman. And that’s fine. So we are showing the differences of the fantasies, too, you know?”
JOHN: “That’s why it wasn’t just all love songs – Losing You and Moving On – to show ourselves… we’re not pretending to be the perfect couple, because we don’t wanna get into that bag, either. Right? Because we’re trying to present what it is, you know? A relationship that lots of other people are having but they’re maybe not songwriters and they don’t express it that way. And the letters we’re getting back are from couples – apart from the kids who just like it ’cause its music – but the main excitement is the letters from people who are married with kids, or not necessarily married but relate… relating together, and realizing we’re not sellin’ ourselves as the perfect couple. We have our problems. We’ve had our problems. No doubt, we’ll have problems. But, you know, we’re trying. We wanna stay together, we wanna be a family. And that’s the kind of level we’re relating to. I’m not aiming… I’m not aiming at 16-year olds. If they can dig it, please dig it. But when 0I was singing and writing this and working with her, I was visualizing all the people of my age group, from the sixties, being in their thirties and forties now, just like me. And having wives and children, and having gone through everything together… I’m singin’ to them. I hope the young kids like it as well, but I’m really talking to the people who grew up with me. And saying, ‘Here I am now. How are you? How’s your relationship goin’? Did you get through it all? Wasn’t the seventies a drag, you know? Here we are, well let’s try to make the eighties good, you know?’ ‘Cause it’s still up to us to make what we can of it. It’s not out of our control. I still believe in love, peace; I still believe in positive thinking – when I can do it. I’m not always positive, but when I am I try to project it.”
YOKO: “Well, overall we’re getting more and more positive aren’t we? Because somehow… ”
JOHN: “Because we survived! That’s the thing. You have to give thanks to God, or whatever it is up there, the fact that we all survived. We all survived Vietnam, or Watergate, or the tremendous upheaval of the whole world that’s changed… we… we were the hip ones in the sixties, but the world is not like the sixties. The whole map’s changed. And we’re goin’ into an unknown future, but we’re still all here. We still… while there’s life there’s hope.”
Kaye: “So it seems like instead of the ‘down’ litany of the early seventies where all the things you don’t believe in, now it’s… ”
JOHN: “Exactly! And that’s why I put the ‘ting, ting, ting’ on the beginning of Starting Over. And I hoped somebody would catch on, but it’s easier if I explain it. ‘Cause I like to be mysterious. A little part of me still… But, in actual fact, on the beginning of Mother, the Plastic Ono album, you hear this litany Bong! You know, very slow church bell. Which was like a death knell. ‘I don’t believe in, I don’t believe in’ and the Freudian things about mother and father, and that was a kind of negative/positive. I was tryin’ to make a positive out of a negative, but it was heavy-going. And the reason this one goes, ‘ting, ting, ting’ is to show that I’ve come through. And whoever’s listening must’ve come through, or they wouldn’t be here. And that’s the… because I always considered my work one piece, whether it be with Beatles, David Bowie, Elton John, Yoko Ono… and I consider that my work won’t be finished until I’m dead and buried, and I hope that’s a long, long time. So, to me it’s one part of one whole piece of work from the time I became public ’till now. And that’s the connecting point between that, and you hit it right on the head. And the eighties is like we got a new chance, you know?”
Kaye: “So the multi-year process that went into this evolution to Starting Over… well, obviously you had a lot of bad stuff as well as good stuff… ”
JOHN: “Well, of course… ”
Kaye: “… what was the worst for you?”
JOHN: “The worst was bein’ separated from Yoko and realizing I really, really needed to be with her, wanted to be with her, and could not literally survive without her, as a functioning human being. I just went to pieces. And I didn’t realize that I needed her so much… ”
Kaye: “What do you think of the work that reflected this period?”
JOHN: “Well, that period I did the Walls and Bridges which… ”
YOKO: “Which wasn’t bad… ”
JOHN: “… was technically okay. If you pull it apart as a production or, you know, format that songs… there’s nothin’ wrong with them, but there’s an air of loss. There’s an air of… it’s not the same kind of cloud… it’s not the same kind of… the Mother album, where there’s… it’s a positive/negative, you know? It’s sayin’ ‘this is where I’m at, this is how it’s going’. And you could say it’s a film where you came out crying from that movie, Walls and Bridges has this sort of misery, but you can’t put your hand on it. There’s this kind of cloud ’round it. If you look closely you can say Bless You is a nice song, nothin’ wrong with it. Good construction, good harmony… you know, you can go into it and look at it and you can’t find fault as a piece of art. But overall there’s some horrible confusion and loneliness in it that… that is apparent from the whole album, that it gives off.”
Kaye: “No.# 9 Dream always hit me as the most wistful, longing song… ”
JOHN: “That’s how I felt, my dear… ”
Sholin: “Haunted… ”
JOHN: “I was haunted, alright, ’cause I realized that, uh, I needed her more than she needed me, and I always thought the boot was on the other foot, you know? And that’s as honest as I can get. And the image is always… ’cause the pop star… and Burt Reynolds said it the other night, and God bless him, that uh, he… the women have always kicked him out. And Yoko kicked me out. I didn’t go off on a ‘I’m gonna be a rock and roll, uh, bachelor’. She literally said, ‘Get out.’ And I said “Oooooh, okay! I’m goin’!’ You know, I was going to be a bachelor free… I’d been married all me life, you know? I was married before Yoko and I immediately married Yoko, so I’d never been a bachelor since I was twenty, or something. So I thought ‘Whooo-hoo, hah, hah!’ It was God-awful. It was awful”
Sholin: “Isn’t that the way we all survive, by protecting ourselves when somebody does that? We say, ‘Oh, cool, I’m not gonna… ”
JOHN: “Yeah! You know, I was gonna be Mr. Cool. But you see I was sev… I call it the seven-year hitch – I don’t know what it was – it was horrific and it took me a long time to catch on because I drank too much and the rest… a lot of it’s known already and I don’t wanna keep gurging it up, but I wasn’t too… I was out of control, and nobody was looking after me and I needed somebody to love me and there was nobody there to support me, and I just fell apart. And the other thing I wanna say about Burt Reynolds the other night, Barbara Walters asked him, ‘What do you want to be remembered as?’ and he said, ‘the best father that ever was’, you know? And I thought, ‘Thank God!’, you know? I’d been beginning to feel that maybe I’m the only father that’s interested in relating. And is it gonna be, ‘Oh, John Lennon’s now sellin’ this family business , and he’s been through peace and love and now he’s comin’ on like Daddy’ and all that. And I’m only talking about it because that’s what I’ve done and that’s how I feel. And admitting that it is… I’m more feminist now than when I sang Woman is the Nigger… I was intellectually a feminist then, now I feel at least I’ve put my… not my money but my body where my mouth was. And tried to really live up to my own preaching, as it were. And to see somebody like Burt Reynolds, who is the world’s #1 male star – over all the pop stars – worldwide, to have the guts to say he wants to be known as a… as a father, I thought ‘Oh, great. I’m not gonna be alone on this one.’ And I get letters from people sayin’ I’m not alone. I get letters from guys sayin’, ‘Well, I’m doin’ it to, you know; you’re not the only one.'”
Sholin: “It kind of destroys the macho image of ‘Let’s see how many women we can be with… ”
JOHN: “Well let’s… isn’t it time we destroyed it, because where’s it got us all these thousands of years? Are we still gonna have to be clubbin’ each other to death… do I have to arm-wrestle you to have a relationship with you as another male? Do I have to seduce her or come on with her, that I’m gonna lay her because she’s a female, or come on as some sexual… can we not have a relationship on some other level besides that same old stuff all the time? I mean it’s kids stuff, man; it’s really kids stuff. And I don’t wanna go through life as a…  pretendin’ to be James Dean or Marlon Brando, you know? In a movie, not in real life, even – in a movie version of them.”
Kaye: “Just the fact that you’re living so many of the things you were singing about, talking about, trying to get across years ago, does that make you think that maybe you were a little bit false, or just image-oriented back then?”
JOHN: “No, I think that… it wasn’t image-oriented it was just goin’ as fast as uh… not only the fact that we got together and BOOM it was like an explosion, but there was also the Beatle-thing, about us getting’ together, and whether they split up because of us – or not – whatever the reason; all that stuff. The Beatles were splittin’, the Beatles were arguin’, John and Yoko was getting together. The anti-Vietnam crusades were goin’ on all over. And we were involved in so many things, and we were puttin’ out so much work, and makin’… we were making movies, making public appearances, uh, performin’ at shows and all, and travelin’ the world, and doin’ all that – there was no time to reflect. There was only time to put out immediate impressions of what was a happening.”
YOKO: “Well, we were really honest about it. You can say that maybe we were naïve, or something, but still we were very honest about it, about everything we did, you know?”
JOHN:”That’s why I referred to ‘the word is love’ on Rubber Soul straight through to All You Need is Love to Give Peace a Chance to ‘imagine there’s no countries’ – imagine no war, in other words to… to right to this moment now. But the thing is, instead of this album doesn’t say ‘imagine the whole world’ like that, because I’ve said that – in a way – what I’m sayin’ now is let’s put the spotlight on the two of us and show how we’re tryin’ to imagine there’s no wars. To live that love and peace. Rather than sing about it only.”
Sholin: “When you two sing about love, is it possible to say what love is, or is love… is it a personal thing, is it all different?”
JOHN: “I dunno… ”
YOKO: “Well, look, love is love, isn’t it. I mean you know it, too… ”
JOHN: “… we know what it is but you can’t define it, you know?”
YOKO: “… I mean everybody knows what love is. I mean it’s not something that you can explain but it’s a very strong energy and power.”
JOHN: “I tried to define it on the Plastic Ono album… ”
YOKO: “It’s like a magical power… ”
JOHN: “… with a song called Love. Was love on Plastic Ono or on Imagine?”
YOKO: “Yes, it was on Plastic Ono… ”
JOHN: “Well I tried to define it as… in my own way, ‘love is real, real is love’. And it’s very simple lyric, or even simplistic – I don’t know which way it would go – but what can you call it? You can say ‘love is like a flower’… ”
YOKO: “It’s like saying, ‘What is air?’ And you say ‘H2O’ it doesn’t mean anything.”
JOHN: “It’s whatever it is when it feels good is love, and the other one is not love, you know?”
Kaye: “On that same album, when you first sang Hold On did you have any idea of the things you were gonna go through… ”
YOKO: “No… ”
JOHN: “No, no. No idea… ”
YOKO: “… amazing isn’t it? Oh, but the other thing is… John explained it so I have to, uh, explain my side of it, is that it’s almost like… maybe it’s almost like John and I are sort of the prototype of that situation but because the world was pressuring me so much, I mean really too much, really suffocating me in the sense that I can’t work anymore. And, uh, when John was in L.A. I really had enough space to think about it and all that. And realize it was the society, it wasn’t John so much, it was the society that’s really messing the whole thing up, you know? And when John came to New York once to sort of… wanting to come back and I said… ”
JOHN: “Not quite on his knees, but, one knee… ”
YOKO: “… and, you know, he sort sang that Bless You to me, you know, and I was crying actually… ”
JOHN: “… that was to Yoko.”
YOKO: “… and, uh, we were just sort of holding each other and crying because I thought, ‘My God, it’s beautiful’ and everything. But still I thought, ‘no, no, no let’s not get emotional, let’s not get tricked again’ because if I accept him back, the whole she-bang is gonna start again, you know? So, let’s be cool about this. You know, I was cryin’ but I said, ‘Ok, look, I’ll see you later’. And it was hard for me, too. And what I’m saying is that maybe – on a different level maybe – most women are in that position that I was in. And so that if men and women are gonna come back together again, then man has to really make a big step forward, you know. Like, to try to extend a hand and then try to really almost make up for what women lost in the society, so to speak. So, it’s hard for men, too. But that’s the only way, I think, that it’s gonna happen, you know? Because, um, I mean I tried my best but still if I were to just be normally healthy, I have to get that from John. If I didn’t, I would’ve gone crazy, anyway. So, you know, it wouldn’t have been a relationship, you know, he would have had the wife that accepted him back but I would be in a mental hospital, you know?… ”
JOHN: “I would’ve visited… ”
YOKO: “‘My wife is in a mental hospital’… ”
Kaye: “How sporting of you.”
JOHN: “Well, you know, I’m that kind of guy, you know?”
Kaye: “Yoko, when you first heard Woman did it make you cry?”
YOKO: “Oh, yes!”
Bert Keane: “I played that… I’ll make this real quick, and then I’ll shut up. I played that for my wife… ”
YOKO: “She cried… ”
Keane: “This thirties and forties groups, it’s really hittin’ them… ”
JOHN: “Well, that’s who… what I am, you know? I’m 40, I wanna talk to the people my age. I’m happy if the young people like it, and I’m happy if the old people like it, I’m talkin’ to guys and gals that have been through what we went through, together – the sixties group that has survived. Survived the war, the drugs, the politics, the violence on the street – the whole she-bang – that we’ve survived it and we’re here. And I’m talkin’ to them. And the Woman song is to Yoko, but it’s to all women. And, because my role in society – or any artist or poet’s role – is to try to express what we all feel. Not to tell people how to feel, not as a preacher, not as a leader, but as a reflection of us all. And it’s like that’s the job of the artist in society, not to… they’re not some alienated being living on the outskirts of town. It’s fine to live on the outskirts of town, but artists must reflect what we all are. That’s what it’s about – artists, or poets or whatever you wanna call it. And that’s what I’m tryin’ to express on behalf of all the men to all the women, through my own feelings about women – when it dawned on me, ‘God! It is the other half of the sky’ as the late-great Chairman MacDougal said, right? I mean, they are the other half of the sky, and without them there is nothing. And without us there’s nothing. There’s only the two together creating children, creating society. So what’s all this B.S. about, you know, ‘women are this’ and ‘men are that’ – we’re all human, man. We’re all human. And, I am tryin’ to say it to Yoko, but to all women, you know? On behalf of all men, in a way. If that’s taken it too much on meself, I feel that artists are that – they’re reflections of society… Mirrors.”
YOKO: “That’s true. But, what I went through when we were separated was amazing, I mean down to if, uh, I’m outside and reporters would ask, ‘Well, do you think John’s gonna ever get back to you?’ or that sort of nonsense, you know, or ‘Poor Yoko’, you know? ‘Lonely in the Dakota all by herself because her husband is’… or whatever. And it’s that image that is so humiliating. But I wasn’t gonna stand up and say something because that would humiliate his macho image, you know?… ”
JOHN: “Um, hum. Um, hum.”
YOKO: “… But the other thing is, well, so he was having a headache because he got drunk or something, and he had a hangover… that’s men, you know… ”
JOHN: “For eighteen months!”
YOKO: “… that’s his own headache. But I was getting a headache because of all these people saying, you know, sort of nonsense… ”
JOHN: “Well, me and Burt have owned up.”

Laurie Kaye: “Double Fantasy doesn’t seem to be – at all – the first fantasy, a ‘what-if’ situation. Imagine said, of course, ‘what if’ this ‘what if’ that. How did that come out for you?”
JOHN: “How do you mean. How did Imagine come out?”
Kaye: “Yeah, were you really wondering to yourself, or were you trying to get other people to look and say, ‘Hey, what if we… ‘”
JOHN: “Well, it was, uh, it should really have said ‘Lennon-Ono’ on that song, because she contributed a lot of that song. And Imagine was a straight lift out of her book, Grapefruit. There are pieces in there that say, ‘imagine this, imagine that’ but I, wh… ya’ know, so I didn’t give her credit… ”
YOKO: “Um, hum!”
JOHN: “La-la-la-la-la… but the point is… ”
YOKO: “The album was dedicated to me instead.”
JOHN: “… cause people… so I dedicated the album to her – which was a cop-out, but, you know, what..I was only as honest as I could be then, you see? You can only be as… you know what you think, as best you can at the time. But the point of the song, right, is… because people kept saying, ‘What are you doin’? What are you doin’ in the bed-in? What are you doing in Two Virgins? What are you doin’ together? What are you doin’, what are you doin’?’ That was where we first came out with ‘All we’re sayin’ is give peace a chance’ – literally came out of my mouth as a… as a spoken word to a reporter after being asked millions and millions of times, ‘what are you doin’?’ ‘Well, all I’m sayin’ is give peace a chance’. Not that I have the answer, or I’ve got a new format for society – ’cause I don’t, and I don’t believe anybody else has. ‘Show me the plan’ as Revolution said, you know? Uh, the Beatles Revolution, or my Revolution song: ‘show me the plan!’ Before we knock all the buildings down, you know? But Give Peace a Chance is… Imagine is the same thing, you hit it right on the head. It’s, ‘just imagine if there were no countries.’ Not, ‘no places where we each had our little spot’. But, imagine… there was a time, you know, when you didn’t have to have a passport to go from country to country. What kind of world are we creat… really! It used to be you go around! You know? What is this game that you can’t get… that somehow this is America and then just across the… the field is Canada and you have to have all kinds of papers and pictures and stamps and passports and… ya’ know, I mean, when you think about it it’s insane! It’s insane, carving up the world into little patches like that. We’re all different.”
Dave Sholin: “There will always be the Idi Amins and the Ayatollahs and whoever that kind of make that very difficult at some… ”
JOHN: “But, well, I don’t know my history well enough to know how people got on in the past, you know? But when Marco Polo went to visit the Chinese no doubt it was risky leavin’ Rome. And goin’ through all those countries. And when Crusaders left – not as a mass army – but just as peasants getting’ up and trickling off across, they must have gone through… and of course, you’re gonna come across some… maybe there’s always gonna be nuts, I don’t know. But still, the concept of imagining no countries, imagining no religion – not imagining no God, although you’re entitled to do that, too, you know? Imagine no denominations. Imagining that we revere Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Krishna, Melanippe, equally – we don’t have to workship either one that we don’t have to, but imagine there’s no Catholic/Protestant. No Jew/Christian. That we allow all… we allow it all – freedom of religion for real, I mean. For real. Just imagine it? Would it be terrible?”
YOKO: “You see because, the point is, people like George Orwell – and, by the way, incidentally – he’s a guy too. I mean, all these guys, have projected very negative views of the future. And, imagining a projection is a very strong magic power, you know? I mean that… that’s the way society was created. And, so, because they’re setting up all these negative images, and of course, that’s gonna create the society. So, we were trying to create a more positive image. Which is, of course, gonna set up another kind of society and, uh, you know, even in all this we always had this human race dream, you know? Like, we always wanted to fly, so now we have planes, you know? And the next probably dream is wanted to be peaceful, so of course… ”
JOHN: “Well, the other great dream of mankind, one was to fly – which might’ve taken us a long time, but it took somebody to imagine it first. The second was reach the moon, right? Which we reached. Now, sure, it was an American in an American rocket because that was the way history was at that time, but mankind reached the moon because they said, ‘one giant step for mankind’, it was for all of us… ”
YOKO: “We were always saying, like, ‘wanting the moon’… ”
JOHN: “… but nowadays even football players are doin’ it, right? Which we were doin’ then, which was projecting the future in a positive way. And people said, ‘you’re naïve, you’re dumb, you’re stupid’, we didn’t… ok, it might’ve hurt us on a personal level to be called names, but what we were doin’ – you can call it magic, meditation, projection of goal – which business people do, they have courses on it. The footballers do it. They pray, they meditate before the game. They visualize themselves winning. Billie Jean King visualizes every move of… on the court. What we were doin’, we were early pioneers of that movement. Which is to project a future which we can have goals which we can reach. Right? People project their own future. So, what we wanted to do was say, ‘let’s imagine a nice future’ . She’s right, the males like, even Aldous Huxley and George Orwell who produced 1984 you look into Orwell’s life it was all torture and this that and the other, and he was brought up in a certain environment and went into a male-dominated society full of Marxist stuff about Spain, and they were all from the thir… whatever, that period when they… when they had those dreams of socialism answering everything. Right? And their dreams fell to dust after the war. And then they wrote these books projecting this horrific, Big Brother, monsters controlled by robots and – even now – I think these people that project these space fantasies are projecting war in space continually, with women in mini-skirts, available sexual objects, men with super-macho John Wayne guns on their hips. I’m sayin’ it’s time for the people to get hip to that, man. Because they’re projecting our future. Do we want to go… our children to be out in space, or our grandchildren fighting – maybe not Russians – but Venusians in space? You see? If it works for a football player and a tennis player it can work for all of us. We have to project a positive future. I mean I think that’s what Christ and Mohammed and those people were saying in their way in their time for their society.”
Sholin: “If we look back, if we look to the sixties as somewhat more of a liberal time when the country or the world was leaning to the Left, if you want to say that. We just finished an election – if all the analysts are correct – the country, this country, has made a swing to the Right. England, with the election of Thatcher making that move, somehow, to a more conservative stance. And you wrote a song called Power to the People – the power to the people, if it is true that 53% of the people in this country voted at all, here, do the people think they have more power?”
YOKO: “Oh, sure, definitely. Yes. They’ve always had a lot of power. I mean, you know, people are politicians who rely on the fact that the people are not thinking. And, if each person, all of us, would really be centered, you know, and really start thinking for ourselves then they don’t have a chance. Because we’re really like very powerful Gods and Goddesses, you know?”
JOHN: “You know, in retrospect, if I was tryin’ to say that same thing again I would say the people have the power – I don’t mean power of the gun. They have the power to make and create the society they want. We all created this together, it wasn’t a few kings or a few generals. We might have invested the power in a Napoleon, or the Germans might’ve been hypnotized by Hitler – does that make the Germans different from the rest of the human race? No way! You know it coulda’ happened anywhere, it just happened there at that moment in time. Okay? And also the world… we do breathe in and breathe out. So, you go to the Left, you go to the Right, it’s all… in the long-term it’s meaningless. Even since I was a… conscious of politics. It was the Right in the fifties, the Left in the sixties, and sort of ‘Nothing’ in the seventies, goin’ to the Right – if everybody’s gonna panic and just react to an illusionary Right-wing that’s gonna kill everybody, well, that’s what you’re gonna get. I believe that it doesn’t have to be that way just ’cause the guy has a Right-wing or, supposedly has a different political view than other people. Now, personally, I’ve never voted in me life – how d’ya like that? There was a Beatles book that was handed out in the 1964 tour, a book of photographs. And on the top of it it says… it shows this young John Lennon in his usual big-mouth way sayin’ ‘No phony politician’s ever gonna get through to me.’ Well, I take the ‘phony politician’ out because I don’t think any, all politicians are phony. I don’t think… I won’t even categorize ‘politicians’ now. Because I’ve learned a lot since I was 23. But, I don’t think politics is the only answer, you see? And, I think, this idea that we elect these leaders and then expect them to do miracles for us. Now, Kennedy is a big dream for everybody because he didn’t live to fulfill or let us down. It’s not to negate what Kennedy was and what he means to people, but the reality is, had he lived, how do you know how well he would’ve done at the time? Right? Or how the War would’ve gone and how everything would’ve gone. So investing leaders with supernatural powers – whether they be pop stars, politicians or movie stars or football hero, it don’t work. It just doesn’t work, because we put them up on the pedestal and then immediately want to knock them off. So, Reagan’s gonna go in there, all the so-called Rightists are all gonna be waitin’ for him to do what they want, and when he doesn’t because it’s impossible because the presidency is such a vast awe-inspiring position for any man to be in, and it means a lot more than some local Right/Left group, that he cannot possibly fulfill the dreams of the Right-wing, the same way as Carter or Kennedy could never have fulfilled the dreams of the Left-wing, it… it is too much invested in one man, one group, and I don’t believe in that.”
Sholin: “Well, wait a minute, he says it’s basically all an outdated system… ”
JOHN: “It is an outdated system… ”
Sholin: “… but it’s been together over 200 hundred years, but it can’t work no matter who… ”
JOHN: “… it has no… that’s why I’m from the generation that don’t… doesn’t vote. I would never vote for one of those people because I know none of them can ever do anything for me.”
YOKO: “But there’s a grass-root movement, you know – I’m not talking about underground or radical or anything like that – but every community counts. I mean we have to first take care of our household, our family and our community, um, our city, you know. And if each person would think that way it’s gonna work. Instead of investing our energies to one person or a government.”
JOHN: “It doesn’t mean… ”
Sholin: “But when you speak of power, and you have people – a number of people at least – if you look at the polls and people who do research, that say, ‘Well, it’s the oil companies’ and everything, ‘it’s corporate structures running our lives, and we really can’t do anything, we’re totally powerless, so we’re just kind of apathetically giving up’. Which seems to be – if you believe what the media tells us – is taking place. I wanted to ask… that’s the question… ”
JOHN: “Yeah, but who believes in the media? That’s the… Investing the media with such power is a joke as well. You know? Who gave the media the… they are part of the power system anyway, but I’m not pointing fingers, you understand that I don’t believe that the media are separate from society, I… politics… politicians are separate from society. I don’t believe pop stars, football players and movie stars are separate from society. It’s just that we’ve developed this thing – for whatever reason – that we think they are… that each… that we’re broken up into these fragmented pieces: countries, sexes, races – it’s a joke! It’s as Neanderthal as the political system. It’s just, you know, it’s just like… I can’t say what it should be, you see. Because I can only say, ‘I don’t believe in that stuff’. You know? And that’s enough.”
YOKO: “In a way, we are all creating these illusions and then trusting the illusion. And the media is not the truth, politicians are not the truth, I mean truth lies in us. All of us, each of us, you know. And if we can just bring this power inside us to cope with the daily life and cope with the situation – whatever you’re in, you know – then they’ll be alright.”
Kaye: “That’s a very holistic approach. Not… ”
JOHN: “Exactly: holistic. Holistic is what we need not just in the health field – we need it in the political field, in the global field, and stop this paranoia of 90-year old men playing macho games with the world and possibly the galaxy. That’s what they’re doing.”
Sholin: “That’s a powerful position, the fact that you can make statements or put out on album… ”
YOKO: “We are fully aware of our power – whatever that is – and we nurture it and we try to be very careful about our own life because of that. And also try to communicate and, you know, communicate as much as we can with that power, you know? But all of you do, in a way… so, in degrees, that’s what you should use and that’s what it means: to communicate and to tell each other, reassure each other that we are here together.”
Sholin: “To underline what Yoko’s been saying, we do have a lot of power, but a lot of people just don’t know how to use it, don’t believe enough in themselves to use that power that they have inside of them.”
JOHN: “But it is changing, I must say. Look, when I say, ‘Oh football players are doin’ it and ‘businessmen are doin’ it’ I mean the fact is people are believing in projecting their own power, visualizing goals, visualizing positiveness and… and doing these things that are changing… changing the world. It… it all takes time. You see, I… the bit about the sixties we were all full of hope and then everybody got depressed and the seventies were terrible – that attitude that everybody has; that the sixties was therefore negated for being naïve and dumb. And the seventies is really where it’s at, which means, you know, putting makeup on and dancing in the disco – which was fine for the seventies – but I don’t negate the sixties. I don’t negate the seventies. The sixt… the seeds that were planted in the sixties – and possibly they were planted generations before – but the seed… whatever happened in the sixties the… the flowering of that is in the feminist, feminization of society. The meditation, the positive learning that people are doing in all walks of life. That is a direct result of the opening up of the sixties. Now, maybe in the sixties we were naïve and like children everybody went back to their room and said, ‘Well, we didn’t get a wonderful world of just flowers and peace and happy chocolate and, and, and it wasn’t just pretty and beautiful all the time’ and that’s what everybody did, ‘we didn’t get everything we wanted’ just like babies and everybody went back to their rooms and sulked. And we’re just gonna play rock and roll and not do anything else . We’re gonna stay in our rooms and the world is a nasty, horrible place ’cause it didn’t give us everything we cried for’, right? Cryin’ for it wasn’t enough. The thing the sixties did was show us the possibility and the responsibility that we all had. It wasn’t the answer. It just gave us a glimpse of the possibility, and the seventies everybody gone ‘Nya, nya, nya, nya’. And possibly in the eighties everybody’ll say, ‘Well, ok, let’s project the positive side of life again’, you know? The world’s been goin’ on a long time, right? It’s probably gonna go on a long time… ”
YOKO: “The sixties was sort of, uh, really going out and communicating and expanding, but in the seventies, people think that nothing happened. But, in a way, we went back inside us, there’s a lot of very interesting, magical psychic things that happened, you know, people got tuned in to. And, so, with the sixties expansion and seventies knowledge I think the eighties is gonna be another step up, you know? It’ll be beautiful, you know?”

Laurie Kaye: “Do you think people… if people had realized holistic potential for healing and growth within them that that would have stopped, say, a lot of people from running to… oh, certain movements – religious or psychological – for whatever sudden answers?”
JOHN: “Yeah. I think… but that’s part of us all, including meself, that wants to belong to some group. Now, I don’t mean a rock group, but a group in society because it… it makes you feel secure when times are hard, or there seems to be a threat of war, or a threat of monetary crisis, and… the media, with help from the public and the politicians, hype it up that it’s the end of the world, or the end of America, or the end of financial empire or whatever it is. And everybody gets insecure and wants to belong to a group – including me. I’m… you know, I was always wanting something, even though I always wanted to be the rebel on the outside, part of me always wanted to be a part of it. And it… it’s an insecurity. I’m not sayin’ that anybody who’s become a born-again Christian or a born-again whatever the other groups are… but, in general, to me it looks like a sign of insecurity because I recognize it in meself. That, when I do go through that terrible insecurity of ‘the world is collapsing’ or goin’ crazy, or doesn’t make sense anymore, wouldn’t it be easier if I was just along with these people – these few hundred or few thousand that all think the same way and it makes life easier like that. And I think if people realize that it’s not the end of the world, the Apocalypse is not gonna happen – no matter what some person might threaten us with, those people have been wavin’ those ‘end of the world’… I remember those ‘end of the world is nigh’ cartoons when I was 12, you know? The… my whole generation… our whole generation was brought up with the H-bomb. I remember Bertrand Russell and all the H-bomb… the reason we were rock and rollers – apparently – in the fifties was ’cause the bomb might go off any minute. OK… but, I don’t think that’s gonna happen. I really don’t think it’s gonna happen. And what happens if it happens? Just what happens if they drop the bombs all over the Earth – what’s gonna happen? Hmm? Is somebody gonna answer that? We’re either gonna live or we’re gonna die. If we’re dead we’ll have to deal with that. If we’re alive, we gotta deal with bein’ alive. So, worryin’ about whether Wall Street or the Apocalypse is gonna come in the form of the ‘Great Beast’ is not gonna do us any good day-to-day.
David Sholin: “You mentioned that with this album you were talking to people in their thirties… mainly thirties who just happen to be the bulk… er, there’s that Baby Boom generation and the aging of America – we all are getting older. But is… if the cliché is true – supposedly we all become more conservative and mellow whatever you want to call it as we get… as we get older – that’s what our parents said, ‘Wait ’till… sure, you’re a radical now, but wait until twenty years or ten years and you look back, you’re gonna be… ‘ Do you see that happening, or do you see it in yourselves? I mean, listening to this album, which is obviously a little mellower… ”
JOHN: “Well, is it mellower than… um… ”
Sholin: “I don’t know if ‘mellower’ is the word… ”
YOKO: “All You Need is Love?”
Kaye: “Softer. The pictures of the two of you… ”
JOHN: “Well, I’ll tell you what: you see, you don’t have to atrophy because you get older – if that’s the right way of sayin’ it. You see… now, the thing about when you get older you become this, if you believe that myth – again, it’s the belief system of, you know, peop… when we were kids thirty was death, right? The whole culture was like… right? I’m 40 now and I feel just… I feel better than before. You know? I mean, you can atrophy your ideas of life at 20 or 30 or 40. I know some kids that left school at the same time as me who were – within six month of gettin’ a job – absolutely locked in. You could say ‘conservative’. They might’ve been conservative socialists, in England. There’s just as many conservatives on the Left as there are on the Right. It’s not a matter of politics, conservative. It’s a matter of things… you don’t get so emotionally up and down when you’re older. Because, when you’re younger, your genes are different or your hormones are different. So it absolutely has to express different… you can become mellower without becoming rigid. I’m still open to anything. I still believe – almost – in anything until it’s disproven. I don’t have any set pattern. I don’t have any set answers. I’m as open as ever, but I just… maybe not so… my hormones don’t work the same, that’s all.”
YOKO: “Look, I think it’s totally the opposite. All these menopausal men – either really violent or thinking about killing five thous… five million people. What’s mellow about that, you know? And, the thing is, young people in love and they’re tender… I mean, go back to I Wanna Hold Your Hand, they’re very mellow songs, what are you talking about? You know? And we’re talking about starting over, which is talking about falling in love again… to each other, you know? And that’s the most beautiful, young fresh thing to do. Nobody in the menopausal age can do that. And you’re having it totally reversed. So, this conventional idea that if people are talking about love that means they’re out of the game, you know; and people who are talking about, uh… I wanna kick your pants, or whatever, you know… ”
JOHN: “I wanna kick your p-a-a-a-a-ants… ”
YOKO: “… or, you know, something like that. Or some violent song is ‘right on, youth!’ is totally a wrong idea. The most youthful thing is to be in love, to be tender, to know about sensitivity, you know? And as you grow older your become less sensitive. And then you start thinking about ordering around people, pushing buttons and making atomic bombs go, you know. So, you know, I think your question is already wrong, you know?”
Sholin: “I was speaking mainly… I probably didn’t word it correctly, but I was speaking mainly of music. Uh, in one way… ”
JOHN: “Oh, I see. Well, listen to Kiss, Kiss, Kiss, and she’s 47, right, so c’mon.”
Sholin: “But, a lot of radio people somehow have this idea that once people reach the age of 25 or 30, and they’re appealing to these formats… we can only play Barry Manilow… because the people who once wanted to hear Elvis Presley and Little Richard and Beatles rock and roll, whatever… ”
JOHN: “I don’t believe that… ”
Sholin: “… now, all of a sudden, can only listen to… ”
JOHN: “… if I listen to the oldies… if the oldies but goldies come on, it’s one of my favorites… I hear Be-Bop-A-Lu-La – I can hear it over, and over, and over. Whenever it comes on, I switch up the tape – and I have the records, still. If I hear Elvis… I heard him singing I Want You, I Need You, I Love You the other day, I mean was just in heaven. I mean, of course I was goin’ back to my youth and remembering the dates, and what was goin’ on when I heard that music. So I don’t believe that the A/C or what I used to know as M.O.R., only wanna hear Barry Manilow. I think they just as well might enjoy hearing Little Richard.”
YOKO: “But, music-wise, even… music is just a format, and we’re adding many different formats and that’s interesting. But New Wave is gonna be old one day, too… ”
JOHN: “Old hat, any minute… ”
YOKO: “The minute it’s out there and its number one, that means that it’s old hat, you know? And I think it’s nice to discover all different forms of music and that’s nice. But, at the same time, that doesn’t meant that the old form doesn’t mean anything. In fact, if a young-generation person picked up a very old form – like Elvis, or something – and did it, you wouldn’t call it ‘he’s mellowing’… ”
JOHN: “I’ll give you a for-instance: Bruce Springsteen’s Hungry Heart – which I think is a great record – is, to me… it’s the same kind of period-sound as Starting Over. I think The Cars’ Touch and Go is right out of the fifties ‘Oh, oh… ‘ A lot of it is fifties stuff. But with eighties styling, but, but… and that’s what I think Starting Over is; it’s a fifties song made with an eighties approach.”

… tape ran out … a new tape is prepared …

JOHN: “Are we on?”
Sholin: “… can you comment on that?”
JOHN: “Well, you know, I… ”
YOKO: “We have to make the other album first… ”
JOHN: “I’d like to make at least another… I’m so hungry for makin’ records because of the way I feel. I wanna make some more records before I tour. So I’d like to make at least one more album before actually making that dec… that final decision of calling those very expensive session musicians and takin’ them on the road, you know? But, when I went in there, I had no intention of going live, because I’ve noticed a lot of things like The Clash don’t do any personal appearances – hardly – anymore and they just make a video and a record. And, so, part of me was thinking, ‘Well, alright.’ But when we were playin’ in that studio… and then, I don’t know if it was Tony the bass player or the drummer after we’d done Starting Over, he said, ‘can we do this again? I mean, let’s take it on the road!’ and I… that’s the first time it came on, ‘My God, this would be fun, wouldn’t it?’ And if we can do it in the way we’ve done the album, which is have fun, enjoy the music, enjoy the performance, be accepted as John and Yoko, then I’d be happy to go out there. ”
Sholin: “In a large… ”
JOHN: “That’s the thing, you know, I don’t… that’s the bit I don’t want to think about, you know. I don’t know if Madison Square Garden is what I really want to do, but then can I really go into a small club and am I gonna have to deal with ‘Oh, he couldn’t make Madison Square Garden anymore… ‘ Do I have to care? Do I care? I don’t know. But it’s certainly a very big possibility that when we get the next album tucked away, and people know the songs from Double Fantasy we can go out and perform from Double Fantasy and the new album rather than having to go back to even Imagine – although we might do it. Or even before Imagine. I don’t really wanna go out and do ‘Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away.’ I mean only if I particularly wanted to do an old Beatles’ song, would I wanna do it. I don’t really wanna get into that, you know?”
Sholin: “Great, thanks. We don’t wanna hold you up.”

JOHN: “What is that?!”
YOKO: “It’s a present form Laurie and the TV show… ”
JOHN: “That’s great! Thanks. That’s very kind.”

JOHN: “I’d love to sign it. I did the introduction…  Oh wow, he’ll love it!”
Kaye: “They make them in ‘Godzilla’.”
JOHN: “Oh he … they love monsters, you know? All this peace and love talk he loves weapons and space fights and all, you know… ”

Kaye: “Sign here… ”
JOHN: “Yeah, I got a pen.”
Sholin: “Could you just sign this to, uh, ‘Debbie’? She wanted… ”
YOKO: “Debbie?”
Sholin: “‘Debbie – hope to see you in San Francisco’, or something. She would love that.”
JOHN: “It was enjoyable. When’s this gonna be on, or whatever? I like to listen to these… if I’m… ”
Kaye: “We’ll get you a copy… ”
JOHN: “Oh, well I like to… I like to listen to it. It’s like the record – I listen to the test-pressing but I don’t really listen until they put it on the radio. ”
Sholin: “You wanna hear it on the radio?”
JOHN: “Yeah.”
Bert Keane: “Well, I’ll call, John, and find out what stations in New York and what time… ”
JOHN: “Ok, great! Because it’s always… I’d love to have it but it’s not real unless it’s on the radio – it’s like the record.”
Sholin: “You can hear it on either WROR or WXLM.”
JOHN: “Yeah, ok, I know both those stations.”
Sholin: “John, what is your personal opinion of Rockpile ?”
JOHN: “Rockpile? What’s that?”
REPORTER: “Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds.”
JOHN: “Oh I love Dave Edmunds. I love their stuff. Uh, one of my favorite all-time… you know, one of my favorites is his version of, uh, he did it a few years ago, I Hear You Knockin’. One of the great records of all time, man.”
Sholin: “His stuff now with Nick Lowe… ”
JOHN: “Oh, I love their stuff. ‘Crawling from the… ‘, yeah, great stuff.”

JOHN: “I got one… oh, we need a ball point?”

JOHN: “You see, that was the thing about the Beatles – they never stuck to one style. Just blues or just rock. We loved all music. And I still do. I mean I can get off on… ”
Sholin: “You’re rock and roll… .”
JOHN: “I got that image, but when you think I did In My Life, Anna on the early things and lots of ballady things, you know? It’s just, my image was more rocky, you know? But if you look down those Beatle tracks I’m right there with all the sentimental – just the same as Paul or anybody else. I love that music just as much.”

JOHN: “Where’d she sign, I don’t see it? Who’s the poster for?”

JOHN: “Maybe you’ll have to spray it or something. That’s why… they never make album covers that you can write on, either. I’ll go over it in ballpoint, as well, and between the two you’ll have the impression and then you can…  Yoko, I’m doin’ it here right now. Oh, I don’t… why won’t it write? Maybe we should do it on a bit of paper and then you can sort of stick it on or something. I’ll go over it like that, you see? And then… yeah, that’s always the hard thing about signing things is that they won’t write on these things.”

Kaye: “Thank you, that means a lot.”
JOHN: “Oh, it’s a pleasure… I… I’m a fan of people, too, you know? I like people to sign their books when they give ’em to me and all that… “

33 comments on “John Lennon’s last interview, December 8, 1980

  1. John’s final interview presented here is extremely interesting. Thank you for taking the time to transcribe it. It must have taken at least a few days. You can listen to the whole interview on-line. Portions of this interview also came out on cd in the 90s (the record version in the late 80s) I had the chance to listene to the cd version. John’s speech is not necessarily easy to transcribe because of his way of speeking. Although his Scouse accent was somewhat neutralized after he moved to New York, I still find it difficult to understand everything he says in this interview. Since I’m not a native English speaker, perhaps it is my problem. I’m not spitting haris, but I’ve noticed that there are a few errors in your transcription. For example, “He (George Orwell) was brought up in a certain environment and went into a male-dominated society full of Marxists, stuff about Spain…” In the interview, John doesn’t say “and went into.” Perhaps, you did some editing. I don’t know. At any rate, this is a great interview. Thanks for the transcription.

      1. Can email you a link to a copy I have if you permission to post it admin.
        Another priceless historical document, along with BBC Andy Peebles interview.

    1. I Loved Listen to John and Yoko Ono; to remember 💖 a Wonderful Man Whose Life Was Cut Short. I wondered over the years with so much that has changed it would have been a Spectacular thing if John Would have Survived that night. What would John have said about 9-11 and so many other events. And what if John Lennon Would have taken the Stage With Julian and Sean and Sang Together ❤️. What would John have Thought About President Trump or President Obama. So many things that could have been Beyond our wildest imagination. But Since John Died 2 days before my 20th birthday. It was tough. Not as tough as it was for Yoko Ono and Sean and Julian and Everyone Else Who Loved Him and Love Him Still “” I say God Please Bless John Lennon 🙏 ❤️ and Give Him Peace ” Amen “

  2. I have enjoyed reading this. I haven’t heard it since I think it was December 15 or 16. 1980 Whatever the day was when it was played. That week was a blur to me as I had only 2 months earlier photographed Yoko & John in NewYork.
    A photo that took a couple years to arrange with one of their assistants.
    “That” morning after (December 9th)
    Friends kept calling me and someone even called the local news about me. So the local ABC affiliate called me and wanted to use my photos and I said sure. Then next thing I knew, they wanted to interview me as well. And I didn’t want to do it. But my friends said it would be good for me as no one else in Baltimore had met them…and photographed them…
    Any way, I’m glad I found this!

  3. Yes, he is not very lucid here, which is strange because usually Lennon was very articulate. There is a lot of incoherent rambling in this interview.

  4. I think it is an incredible interview, it was real and raw. It would be boring to some, because of not being edited down to 40 minutes. They even said that people say they’re boring. I like the way they seen the world, family time and politics!

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