John and Sean celebrate their birthdays [above], October 9, 1980 - John's 40th, Sean's 5th. John donned an oversized birthday hat while allowing Sean to do the "heavy lifting" in blowing out the candles.
John Lennon - The Last Interview - December 8,1980
Laurie Kaye: “I want to ask you about getting the urge to make music again….”
JOHN: [Using affected deep but effeminate voice]: “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: [Still using affected voice] “I was possessed by this rock and roll devil, you know! [Back to using regular voice] I’m sorry, did I interrupt you? Was that the question?”
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 [for Double Fantasy] 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 always, 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 [to New York] 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 [prior to John's joining the interview] 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 [putting on deep voice] 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 its 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, et cetera. 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 [Got] 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 [puts on Elvis-like voice] ‘w-e-e-e-e-l-l-l-l-l, w-e-e-e-e-l-l-l-l-l’. [Back to normal voice] 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!”
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