John Lennon - Final Interview, December 8, 1980
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 [Sean] 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 [his son] 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: "[Laughing] Whoops, sorry!”
YOKO: “He [Sean] 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 [putting on voice of disoriented, confused person] 'What? Oh, huh? What?' [Back to normal voice] Like that. [John lights a cigarette]. Then one day we just [sic] 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. Abosolute...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 [the nanny]. 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 meself. 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 [John lights a cigarette] 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 [Sean] sees them; he knows what time they get off school. He’s on that phone. Max [Sean’s friend], he comes back at 3:30. He [Sean] 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. [Laughs]”
YOKO: “I’ll tell him [Sean], '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 [the interview] 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.”
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