Saturday, July 25, 2009

John Lennon: 1968

By Jonathan Cott/November 23, 1968

Wasn't it about the time of Rubber Soul that you moved away from the old records to something quite different?

Yes, yes, we got involved completely in ourselves then. I think it was Rubber Soul when we did all our own numbers. Something just happened. We controlled it a bit. Whatever it was we were putting over, we just tried to control it a bit.

Are there any other versions of your songs you like?

Well, Ray Charles' version of "Yesterday" - that's beautiful. And "Eleanor Rigby" is a groove. I just dig the strings on that. Like Thirties strings. Jose Feliciano does great things to "Help!" and "Day Tripper."
"Got To Get You Into My Life" - sure, we were doing our Tamla Motown bit. You see, we're influenced by whatever's going. Even if we're not influenced, we're all going that way at a certain time. If we played a Stones record now, and a Beatles record - and we've been apart - you'd find a lot of similarities. We're all heavy. Just heavy. How did we ever do anything light?
What we're trying to do is rock & roll, with less of your philosorock, is what we're saying to ourselves. And get on with rocking because rockers is what we really are. You can give me a guitar, stand me up in front of a few people. Even in the studio, if I'm getting into it, I'm just doing my old bit - not quite doing Elvis Legs but doing my equivalent. It's just natural. Everybody says we must do this and that but our thing is just rocking - you know, the usual gig. That's what this new record is about. Definitely rocking. What we were doing on Pepper was rocking - and not rocking.
"A Day in the Life" - that was something. I dug it. It was a good piece of work between Paul and me. I had the "I read the news today" bit, and it turned Paul on. Now and then we really turn each other on with a bit of song, and he just said "yeah" - bang bang, like that. It just sort of happened beautifully, and we arranged it and rehearsed it, which we don't often do, the afternoon before. So we all knew what we were playing, we all got into it. It was a real groove, the whole scene on that one. Paul sang half of it and I sang half. I needed a middle-eight for it, but that would have been forcing it. All the rest had come out smooth, flowing, no trouble, and to write a middle-eight would have been to write a middle-eight, but instead Paul already had one there. It's a bit of 2001, you know.

Songs like "Good Morning, Good Morning" and "Penny Lane" convey a child's feeling of the world.

We write about our past. "Good Morning, Good Morning," I was never proud of it. I just knocked it off to do a song. But it was writing about my past so it does get the kids because it was me at school, my whole bit. The same with "Penny Lane." We really got into the groove of imagining Penny Lane - the bank was there, and that was where the tram sheds were and people waiting and the inspector stood there, the fire engines were down there. It was just reliving childhood.

You really had a place where you grew up.

Oh, yeah. Didn't you?

Well, Manhattan isn't Liverpool.

Well, you could write about your local bus station.

In Manhattan?

Sure, why not? Everywhere is somewhere.

In "Hey, Jude," as in one of your first songs, "She Loves You," you're singing to someone else and yet you might as well be singing to yourself. Do you find that as well?

Oh, yeah. Well, when Paul first sang "Hey, Jude" to me - or played me the little tape he'd made of it - I took it very personally. "Ah, it's me!" I said. "It's me." Hey says, "No, it's me." I said, "Check, we're going through the same bit." So we all are. Whoever is going through a bit with us is going through it, that's the groove.

In the Magical Mystery Tour theme songs you say, "The Magical Mystery Tour is waiting to take you away." In Sgt. Pepper you sing, "We'd like to take you home with us." How do you relate this embracing, come-sit-down-on-my-lawn feeling in the songs with your need for everyday privacy?

I take a narrower concept of it, like whoever was around at the time wanting to talk to them talked to me, but of course it does have that wider aspect to it. The concept is very good and I went through it and said, "Well, okay. Let them sit on my lawn." But of course it doesn't work. People climbed in the house and smashed things up, and then you think, "That's no good, that doesn't work." So actually you're saying, "Don't talk to me," really.
We're all trying to say nice things like that but most of the time we can't make it - ninety percent of the time - and the odd time we do make it, when we do it, together as people. You can say it in a song: "Well, whatever I did say to you that day about getting out of the garden, part of me said that but, really, in my heart of hearts, I'd like to have it right and talk to you and communicate." Unfortunately we're human, you know - it doesn't seem to work.

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