Thursday, July 30, 2009

John Lennon: 1968

By Jonathan Cott/November 23, 1968

Do you feel free to put anything in a song?

Yes. In the early days I'd - well, we all did - we'd take things out for being banal, clichés, even chords we wouldn't use because we thought they were clichés. And eve just this year there's been a great release for all of us, going right back to the basics. On "Revolution" I'm playing the guitar and I haven't improved since I was last playing, but I dug it. It sounds the way I wanted it to sound.
It's a pity I can't do it better - the fingering, you know - but I couldn't have done that last year. I'd have been too paranoiac. I couldn't play dddddddddddd. George must play, or somebody better. My playing has probably improved a little bit on this session because I've been playing a little. I was always the rhythm guitar anyway, but I always just fiddled about in the background. I didn't actually want to play rhythm. We all sort of wanted to be lead - as in most groups - but it's a groove now, and so are the clichés. We've gone past those days when we wouldn't have used words because they didn't make sense, or what we thought was sense.
But of course Dylan taught us a lot in this respect.
Another thing is, I used to write a book or stories on one hand and write songs on the other. And I'd be writing completely free form in a book or just on a bit of paper, but when I'd start to write a song I'd be thinking dee duh dee duh do doo do de do de doo. And it took Dylan and all that was going on then to say, oh, come on now, that's the same bit, I'm just singing the words.
With "I Am the Walrus," I had "I am he as you are he as we are all together." I had just these two lines on the typewriter, and then about two weeks later I ran through and wrote another two lines and then, when I saw something, after about four lines, I just knocked the rest of it off. Then I had the whole verse or verse and a half and then sang it. I had this idea of doing a song that was a police siren, but it didn't work in the end [sings like a siren]: "I-am-he-as-you-are-he-as . . ." You couldn't really sing the police siren.

Do you write your music with instruments or in your head?

On piano or guitar. Most of this session has been written on guitar 'cause we were in India and only had our guitars there. They have a different feel about them. I missed the piano a bit because you just write differently. My piano playing is even worse than me guitar. I hardly know what the chords are, so it's good to have a slightly limited palette, heh heh.

What did you think of Dylan's "version" of "Norwegian Wood"? ("Fourth Time Around.")

I was very paranoid about that. I remember he played it to me when he was in London. He said, "What do you think?" I said, "I don't like it." I didn't like it. I was very paranoid. I just didn't like what I felt I was feeling - I thought it was an out-and-out skit, you know, but it wasn't. It was great. I mean, he wasn't playing any tricks on me. I was just going through the bit.

Is there anybody besides Dylan you've gotten something from musically?

Oh, millions. All those I mentioned before - Little Richard, Presley.

Anyone contemporary?

Are they dead? Well, nobody sustains it. I've been buzzed by the Stones and other groups, but none of them can sustain the buzz for me continually through a whole album or through three singles even.

You and Dylan are often thought of together in the same way.

Yeah? Yeah, well we were for a bit, but I couldn't make it. Too paranoiac. I always saw him when he was in London. He first turned us on in New York actually. He thought "I Want to Hold Your Hand" - when it goes "I can't hide" - he thought we were singing "I get high." So he turns up with Al Aronowitz and turns us on, and we had the biggest laugh all night - forever. Fantastic. We've got a lot to thank him for.

Do you ever see him anymore?

No, 'cause he's living his cozy little life, doing that bit. If I was in New York, he'd be the person I'd most like to see. I've grown up enough to communicate with him. Both of us were always uptight, you know, and of course I wouldn't know whether he was uptight, because I was so uptight. And then, when he wasn't uptight, I was - all that bit. But we just sat it out because we just liked being together.

What about the new desire to return to a more natural environment? Dylan's return to country music?

Dylan broke his neck and we went to India. Everybody did their bit. And now we're all just coming out, coming out of a shell, in a new way, kind of saying, remember what it was like to play.

Do you feel better now?

Yes . . . and worse.

What do you feel about India now?

I've got no regrets at all, 'cause it was a groove and I had some great experiences meditating eight hours a day - some amazing things, some amazing trips - it was great. And I still meditate off and on. George is doing it regularly. And I believe implicitly in the whole bit. It's just that it's difficult to continue it. I lost the rosy glasses. And I'm like that. I'm very idealistic. So I can't really manage my exercises when I've lost that. I mean, I don't want to be a boxer so much. It's just that a few things happened, or didn't happen. I don't know, but something happened. It was sort of like a [click] and we just left and I don't know what went on. It's too near - I don't really know what happened.

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