John Lennon - The Last Interview - December 8, 1980:
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 [Yoko] 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!” [Laughs]
JOHN: [singing as if pretending to ignore Yoko]: “La-la-la-la-la...but the point is...”
YOKO: “The album was dedicated to me instead [laughing]."
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 [Kaye] 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 [Idi Amin Dada was the military dictator and President of Uganda from 1971 to 1979. The number of people killed as a result of his regime is estimated by international observers and human rights groups to range from 100,000 to 500,000] and the Ayatollahs [Syed Ruhollah Mousavi Khomeini was the leader of the 1979 Iranian revolution which saw the overthrow of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran. Following the revolution, Khomeini declared himself Iran's Supreme Leader, a role held until his death in 1989] 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.[Marco Polo was actually from Venice. A merchant, he traveled from Venice on an epic journey to Asia lasting 24 years - from 1269 until 1293] 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 [a figure from Greek mythology], equally – we don’t have to worship 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 [Orwell was a British writer who opposed totalitarianism and supported democratic socialism] – 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 [in Imagine] 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 [John lights cigarette] 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 [Yoko] right, the males like, even Aldous Huxley [Huxley was another British writer and proponent of psychedelic drugs; his other claim to fame was dying on the same day as President Kennedy's assassination in 1963; a fate he shared with writer C.W. Lewis; both authors' deaths were largely overshadowed by coverage of Kennedy's death] ] 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 [World War II]. 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 [the 1980 U.S. presidential election] – if all the analysts are correct – the country, this country [America], has made a swing to the Right. England, with the election of [Prime Minister Margaret] 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 [politicians] 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. [In England] 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 [President-elect Ronald Reagan] 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 [in 1980] 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, [President John F.] 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 [Vietnam] 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 [John pronounces it “Ree-gan”] gonna go in there [the presidency], 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 [President Jimmy] 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 [Reagan] says it’s basically all an outdated system...”
JOHN: “It is an outdated system...”
Sholin: “...but [in America] 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 [putting on voice of a whining child] 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’ [back to normal voice] and that’s what everybody did, [whiny voice again]‘we didn’t get everything we wanted’ [back to normal voice] just like babies [child’s voice] 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’ [normal voice], 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 [sic] ‘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 [laughs], 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?"
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