Friday, June 16, 2006

Interview: John Lennon, London - June 22, 1963

Juke Box JuryLennon was invited early in the Beatles’ career to appear on Juke Box Jury, a records review show that allowed a panel of guests to deliver opinions on the latest songs of the day. Lennon’s appearance became infamous for his negative comments regarding every song that was presented. His reviews are honest, and the negative reviews he provides are largely due to the fact that the songs were not in the R&B or rock ‘n’ roll genres that he preferred. Though some viewers wrote in to the British press complaining about John’s harsh words, the audience at this particular appearance certainly seemed to enjoy his jokes and put downs of the records. His comments on Elvis here he would repeat for the rest of his life – how Elvis had changed after he joined the Army, and became “middle-aged” – and the other Beatles agreed with this sentiment. The other panel guest John converses with at one point is Katie Boyle, a TV presenter who was a regular guest on the show. The first song reviewed, “Southend” by Cleo Laine, does not appear on the available recordings, and so Lennon’s comments begin with the second song presented.

The Tymes – “So Much In Love”

Lennon: I thought it was a Rolf Harris at first. And then I thought, oh, it’s the Drifters. The style was all right, but it wasn’t good enough in that idiom.

Elvis Presley – “(You’re The) Devil In Disguise”

Lennon: Well, you know, I used to go mad on Elvis, like all the group. But, you know, not now, I don’t like it. And I hate songs with “walk” and “talk” in it, you know, those lyrics. “She walks, she talks,” you know, don’t like that. And I don’t like the double beat, um-cha-um-cha, that bit, it’s awful. Poor old Elvis.

[audience laughs]

Lennon: I’ve got all his early records, and I keep playing them thinking, he must make another like this. But somebody said today he sounds like Bing Crosby now and he does.

[audience laughs]

Lennon: You’ll get these people writing in now I know and saying, “What do you mean?” But I don’t like him anymore.

Q: Thank you. Katie.

Boyle: If he did sound like Bing Crosby, would it be bad?

Lennon: Well, for Elvis, yes.

[audience laughs]

Miriam Makeba – “The Click Song”

Lennon: If it was in English, it would mean even less. It’s intriguing because it’s foreign, you know, but you can pick them out a mile away, all the gimmicks and all the different styles.

Tom Glaser – “On Top Of Spaghetti”

Lennon: Well, I can’t stand these “all together now” records, you know. I like the idea of back-…one shouting and one answering, but, you know, not that. I prefer the recent Little Eva, “Smoky Locomotion,” folks.

[audience laughs]

Lennon: But not that. It’s like, you know, an outing, a coach trip.

Q: Coach trips are very popular.

Lennon: Yeah, they don’t sell, though.

[audience laughs]

Russ Conway – “Flamenco”

Lennon: I like pianos and things, you know, but not sort of pub pianos playing flamenco music…it still sounds honky, you know. Didn’t sound anything like flamenco…he hasn’t pinched the best bits out of real Spanish music, I don’t think. Sorry.

Paul & Paula – “First Quarrel”

Lennon: Well, I like their first record [“Hey Paula”]. Because I like the octave singing, her singing, you know, one above him, and it wasn’t bad, I didn’t buy it. And the second one, you know, wasn’t worth bothering. This…and this had Jim in, you know, and all these American records are always about Jim and Bobby and Alfred and all this.

[audience laughs]

Lennon: I don’t like it, you know.

Julie Grant – “Don’t Ever Let Me Down”

Lennon: I can’t think of a thing to say. At the beginning I thought, oh, it’s one of those with an intro, but the intro wasn’t strong enough. No, you know, I don’t want to say anything about…

Q: Do you like girls records or not?

Lennon: Yeah, well I like girl singers, I like the Shirelles and the Chiffons, you know, they’re different. But I don’t…I can’t think of any girl in particular.

Q: But not that particular record.

Lennon: No.

The show took up most of John’s evening up until 9:15 pm, and he was also scheduled to appear at a show in Abergavenny later that evening. The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein arranged for a helicopter to take Lennon to the concert, which arrived at the Penypound football ground at 9:50 pm, in time for the show which earned the Beatles £250.
Three records reviewed on the show that never aired included “Lies” by Johnny Sandon and the Remo Four, “Too Late To Worry” by Richard Anthony, and “Just One Look” by Doris Troy. Both the Remo Four and Doris Troy would later work with George Harrison, with Troy releasing an album on the Beatles’ Apple label in 1970.

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