January 21, 1971
Q: We only have a few revolutionary songs and they were composed in the 19th century. Do you find anything in our musical traditions which could be used for revolutionary songs?
John: When I started, rock and roll itself was the basic revolution to people of my age and situation. We needed something loud and clear to break through all the unfeeling and repression that had been coming down on us kids. We were a bit conscious to begin with of being imitation Americans. But we delved into the music and found that it was half white country and western and half black rhythm and blues. Most of the songs came from Europe and Africa and now they were coming back to us. Many of Dylan's best songs came from Scotland, Ireland or England. It was a sort of cultural exchange.
Q: Would you tour?
John: I would, yeah. What I’ve been thinking lately is I’ll go see Dylan after he comes back from that month and say, ‘Okay, come on, what was it like? Was it worth it? Was it good or was it the same old shit?’ And see what he thinks. If you could just go and play, but it’s all that brr brr brr. It looks like Graham and Geffen convinced him it’ll be all right and it’s not like it used to be. Touring is like anything. If I book time for the studio, then I’ll write. Now there isn’t a manager figure around, be it Epstein or Klein, to try to tell you what to do.
Q: How did Paul react [to "How Do You Sleep"]?
John: I don’t know because I never saw him, but I think he made a comment last year which was pretty spot-on which was ‘whatever I’m saying about him is my problem, or vice versa.’ The only regret I have about it is that it should never have been about Paul because everybody’s so bothered with who’s it about that they missed the track. That’s what bugged me. I’m entitled to call him what I want to, and vice versa. It’s in our family, but if somebody else calls him names I won’t take it. It’s our own business. And anyway, it’s like Dylan said about his stuff when he looked back on it, it was all about him.
October 10, 1974
Q: You know, it's always been a fantasy of mine, and I underline the word fantasy, to get the Beatles and Dylan and the Stones and the Who, and anybody else that would come together, and telecast a worldwide event. And say in effect that look, we've put down all of our ego trips, all of our personal hassles, and whatever, to get this thing together to show that we really believe in a positive and collective good. Now, why don't you all get busy and let's make it happen. You know, I wondered if this had ever crossed John Lennon's mind.
John: Yeah, yeah, I've been there, many times. I think Bangla Desh was a culmination of thoughts like that. Because years ago, all of the Beatles, there was a feeling of that in the sixties, like when we did a broadcast, a live broadcast on Telstar or one of those satellites of "All You Need Is Love," the Stones and everybody in London was there. And there was that feeling in the air, and there was a lot of possibilities then. And we often talked about, imagine if we got Elvis and you know, we included Elvis of course, you know. And all the people that we loved as teenagers, and everybody that was current. You know, the Dylans and the Stones, come together . . . the biggest mother show on earth for peace or love or whatever you'd call it. And it was always talked about, but nobody could ever quite get it together, and the nearest thing was George's Bangla Desh, you know. But for the Beatles, it was not the right time, because we were not exactly, you know, in each other's pockets at the time, we were still trying to unstick the glue of togetherness, you know. But yeah, it's a wonderful fantasy, but I'd go along with the ride, but I do not have the strength to put it together.
Q: Is there anybody that you'd like to produce? For example, Dylan?
John: Dylan would be interesting because I think he made a great album in Blood on the Tracks but I'm still not keen on the backings. I think I could produce him great. And Presley. I'd like to resurrect Elvis. But I'd be so scared of him I don't know whether I could do it. But I'd like to do it. Dylan, I could do, but Presley would make me nervous. But Dylan or Presley, somebody up there . . . I know what I'd do with Presley. Make a rock & roll album. Dylan doesn't need material. I'd just make him some good backings. So if you're reading this, Bob, you know . . .
John: When I’ve been drunk or disembowelled in one way or another, there’re always friends and hangers-on who sit around applauding as they hand me more and more stuff to kill myself with. It’s like Bob Dylan says in that song, “pull you down in the hole that he’s in.” But whenever I say these things, I’m careful not to blame other people. Somebody once said that artists mirror society and that if people/society don’t like it that’s too bad, because we’re all in that reflection together. Artists are poetic historians. They’re like doctors. Some doctors do heads, some do arms; artists do emotions and feelings.
Q: With the exception of the oldies songs, are there any others that other people write that you’d like to record?
John: Yeah – well, if I like a record then I might think, wow, it would be dynamite to sing that, but I can write one just like it. But it never turns out just like it, and I end up just writing a song. I keep meaning to do other people’s stuff – but I always end up writing it instead. That’s why I wanted to do the oldies thing, you know. I had just finished “Mind Games” and I was ripe and tired of singing my own lyrics and Deep Meaning. Also – about doing other people’s songs – well, the things that I know are ones like the old rock and roll songs, like Buddy Holly songs. But if I were going to do an Elton thing or even a Dylan thing then I’d have to learn it. I don’t know them like I do the others. I mean I’m a fan of those two people if I’m a fan of anybody – but it just isn’t that intense worship that you have when you’re 16, where you learn everything about the record inside and out and you sit with it and you sit with it. I can’t do that anymore.
December 5, 1980
John: All through the taping of 'Starting Over,' I was calling what I was doing 'Elvis Orbison: 'I want you I need only the lonely.' I'm a born-again rocker, I feel that refreshed, and I'm going right back to my roots. It's like Dylan doing Nashville Skyline, except I don't have any Nashville, you know, being from Liverpool. So I go back to the records I know - Elvis and Roy Orbison and Gene Vincent and Jerry Lee Lewis. I occasionally get ripped off into 'Walruses' or 'Revolution 9,' but my far-out side has been completely encompassed by Yoko.