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Beatles Interviews Database: John Lennon Interview: Hit Parader, August 1970
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In its August 1970 issue, Hit Parader magazine featured a conversation with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, entitled 'Our London Interview.' Richard Robinson talked with John and Yoko at the Apple Offices in London, discussing the current music scene, the underground, the Peace movement, social change, and the John's new project -- the Plastic Ono Band.

In this interview, John makes mention of performing live with a seventeen-piece band. This is in reference to a Plastic Ono Band performance for charity, in support of UNICEF, at the Lyceum Ballroom in London on December 15th 1969. On this evening, Delaney and Bonnie's band joined forces with the Lennons along with George Harrison and Eric Clapton.

In the 1960's, Hit Parader magazine was one of the few places pop music fans could find the lyrics to top radio hits. Also featured in the publication were album reviews, articles and interviews. Hit Parader's first issue was printed in 1943 and, changing with the times, it continued until its final issue hit the stands in 1991.

                                          - Jay Spangler,

Q: "This whole thing, ah, in terms of music right now, the general progressive people or the general rock thing which is getting down to be whether you're going to go with Led Zeppelin, you're going to go with this incredibly intellectual sound or whether you're going to go with Bonnie and Delaney and Ronnie Hawkins and so forth. 'Let It Be' is in the swamp music mainstream more than..."

JOHN: "We don't think in terms of schools of music, you know, we call it all rock. When we're just talking about it to ourselves. Either slow rock or fast rock, you know. Still down to that."

Q: "Do you think in terms of feelings? Do you think of music, popular music, in terms of emotional reaction as opposed to saying something..."

JOHN: "I think in any of those terms. You know, I just think it's either something I like or don't like or it's heavy or it's light. I like heavy music, I call it rock. I like Zeppelin, I've only heard a couple you know, they're okay. I like Bonnie and Delaney. I like the record they made with George and Eric. There's nobody I like all the stuff of including me or Beatles. I like bits and pieces. I don't like the intellectual school of music same as I don't like classical music or modern jazz for the same reasons. I don't dislike modern jazz or classical music in general, but the people that surround it."

Q: "The audience for, like, the intellectual school of music, which is a particular audience..."

JOHN: "Name some of the intellectual bands and then we'll know what we're talking about."

Q: "Oh, I'm talking about sort of what I call the over intellectualization which is this dependency on very complicated lyrics, you take the Doors or Iron Butterfly, the need to say something very complexly instead of universally."

JOHN: "They're only trying to say something universal only they're just heavy writers you know. It's just like some journalists can write it like the people can read it and some journalists can't. And I go for journalists that can say it like the Daily Mirror... cause that's the language we're talking."

Q: "Now there's that audience that can read the Daily Mirror and understand it immediately."

JOHN: "Everybody can read the Daily Mirror but not everybody can read The Times. So I go for the Mirror, you know."

Q: "But a lot of the people who read The Times will put down the Daily Mirror."

JOHN: "Yeah, but that's intellectual snobbery, you know. But a lot of people who read the Mirror put down The Times for the same reason."

Q: "But what has happened in the U.S. over the last couple of years is that a young audience has develooped that would rather read the Times and listen to the Doors then dance to Otis Redding and read the Mirror."

JOHN: "Well in the old days they would probably listen to some other kind of intellectual jazz or something, you know. It's not important."

Q: "But I think it's probably the initial audience that you will hit in terms of going out and saying you want to have a peace festival or a year one A.P. or whatever."

JOHN: "Yeah, if they're getting into that they'll notice that we talk in terms of give peace a chance, year one, peace. You know, we talk in promos, Daily Mirror headlines, or even Times headline with jingles. We sing and talk in jingles. It's not anti-intellectualism. It's just functional to talk like that. You know, that's the way I talk naturally anyway, that's the way I think. And I've met more people who think in those terms than think in any another terms. There are more of us then them so we must use the common language. It doesn't matter if people want to go home and embroider but when you're getting down to it, there's not time for long speech."

Q: "Would you, in terms of your entire peace movement and the effort you're making, ah... what's the major audience you want to reach? Do you want to reach my parents eventually or me?"

YOKO: "Anybody who digs it."

JOHN: "Yeah, I don't care what age they are you know, cause I suspect more young will be able to understand what we're saying than anybody else but that's only because they haven't got an identification hangup. The only difference is the older generation will have an identification hangup but that's our problem not theirs. We're the hip ones so let's see what we can do with them."

Q: "Do you consider the peace festival in the same terms as the promotion of a jingle?"

JOHN: "Yeah, well hustlin' peace, you know, that's all we do. We hustle for peace. We can't see any other way, you know."

Q: "What do you think the ramification can be... say, setting up offices all over the world."

JOHN: "We don't need offices everywhere in the world, all we need is a couple or two people that are interested in promoting peace either straight from source which would be saying 'Hey we're going to be in a bag in Trafalgar Square. Will you be in a bag at Champs-Elysee at the same time?' And that's all we need. We don't need anything greater than that. Unless we started earning vast monies for peace which is possible. But until something like that happens, all we need is a couple of people in each country to pretend to be John and Yoko or do their own ideas. Like we tried to do the war poster all at once everywhere. It's pretty expensive. But next time we could do something with people you know. We just get a couple or a contact in each country and they could all do something at once and it would all be one event. But ah..."

Q: "Are you thinking in terms then of, sort of like, using the same principles that are being used against everything you're doing?"

JOHN: "Yes, they sell war beautifully. I mean, they've really got it sown up, you know. TV and everything. They've conned a lot of our people into... they're busy shaking their fist at the Daily Express saying what they wanted in any disguise they like -- either topless or paper bag or whatever publicity gimmick you're using. We're interested in building 'round it. I don't see the point of smashing it down and then trying to build it up again for the next generation because we haven't got time and it doesn't work... I don't think it works."

Q: "Do you see any point in infiltration?"

JOHN: "Yeah, the Commies are the best at it. I think we should work like Commies. I mean if we're really seriously trying to change it, let's get in there and change it. I believe, 'drop IN.'"

Q: "Become President of the company then go from there..."

JOHN: "Sure, I mean you don't have to sell your soul to do it, there's ways of doing it. There will be one or two human beings in amongst all those companies somewhere. The thing is to make contact.

You know what all John and Yoko have been doing 'round the world is making contact, with people from different countries on all levels, you know, and that's all we're doing, to see who's around. But you'd be surprised where they are. They could be in Blackburn or... they're not all 'where it's happenin' man' you know. They're not all 'where it's at man' all that. There's as much junk in the underground as anywhere. Or more so. I think the underground are guilty of inverted snobbism. They just make me sick. It's just as bad as in the Daily Express. It's JUST THE SAME.

Wherever we are, what I call the real underground, they could be anywhere. In the Welsh hills or in India or Australia or anywhere and the thing is to just show your colors and it happens."

Q: "Do you see anything disappointing about...I know like over a period of three or four years a lot of the people that I met were members of the underground and slowly it got to the point if I didn't dress like them I wasn't part of the underground and this type of thing."

JOHN: "Yeah."

Q: "But, it was like the only super cultural and political revolution was the underground and yet, when they got through, they turned out to be even worse than the men on Wall Street."

JOHN: "It's just like flower power. The message was right -- 'make love not war,' 'flower power' and all that, but it got sort of lost in the hype you know and so did the underground. And it'll resurrect itself. Whoever were the instigaters of certain movements or ideas will come up with something new, you know. It's like all the businessmen wearing Beatle haircuts. Nobody but old guys now have Beatle haircuts. And the underground's in that state. The people that are addressing it as the underground, most of the people who are the underground have moved on somewhere else. And it's always like that. Everybody can't get turned on all in the same second and that's the drag. Until we think of something." (laughs)

Q: "Would you accept some gimmick or promo so that you could get everyone to join your underground...I mean would you take people on their trend level. If you got everyone in the world to think that the best trend right now to be trendy would be 'peace.' You would accept them on that level even though they wouldn't?"

JOHN: "Oh, yeah, yeah. Yeah sure because that process seems like a natural process. If we make peace trendy for six months that'll give us enough energy to carry on. It's like the original flower power people are still saying the same thing. The original underground are still saying the same thing. The original working class are still saying the same thing. That problem isn't over, the race problem isn't over. What 'Look Back in Anger,' the film did in Britain isn't over. It got lost, the kitchen sink idea, but it isn't over. The problems aren't solved and all those problems still exist, and all those messages have to be regurgitated and kept on. you know. Nothin' has changed that much."

Q: "Let me ask you one question about your music in terms of the Plastic Ono Band. Collecting musicians together as you've done for the Plastic Ono Band, do you see this as what is going to be happening, that people will express their own music in relation to other people instead of forming bands."

JOHN: "It is happening. I'm not forming a Plastic Ono Band, I mean, the original idea was you are the Plastic Ono Band. I've used two people practically every session, that's Klaus and Alan, but there's a chance I won't. you know. They're not permanent, and the audience is the band, you know. Like in one film we made, 'Smile,' the instructions at the beginning of the film was to make your own music. The music was them, you know, and they did it in Chicago or somewhere. And if Yoko and I went on with the so-called Plastic Ono Band and instead of the audience just sitting there or waiting for us to perform like seals, cause everybody wants to be a star, so let them be a star. Let's all groove together. When we performed with George and Eric and Bonnie and Delaney and everybody at Lyceum, I don't care what the pop press said, it was a funky show. And if the audience had, some of them were, right in with us, we were sky high, it was an amazin' high. A seventeen-piece band. It's great with four musicians groovin', but when you got seventeen it's somethin' else. And when you got the audience as well.

The day we go on, the audience is the rhythm section, Then we're really groovin', that's what I want. So it wouldn't matter whether I was on the stage or if I got fed up and went down in the audience for a bit too. Let's take it in turns to be superstar."

YOKO: "And you know the best trend is, of course, that everybody do their own thing. I mean, to realize that they count, you know. And what they do and they think is gonna change the world. And it really does you know. I mean, even if you have nasty thoughts in the corner of the room or something, that vibration is going to really affect the whole world. And so that if everybody would start to think that they're the hope of the world, then that's when something would start to happen.

So it's not like they should do what we're doing or anything, we're just saying we have a particular problem that, the way we're expressing it is just right for us, you know -- like doing the bed event and all that. But everybody has to find their own way and join us."

Q: "What about the mediums available. Do you think that like being in the news is the best medium you have available to you as opposed to say making an album or making a film?"

JOHN: "We're doing it all. We try and sustain newsworthy peace gimmicks and we haven't slowed up production of music or film so we're doing it all, you know. It's just like we were saying, 'Grow your hair for peace.' Well now chop it off for peace or cut your teeth for peace, you know just to set up that mantra. In the old days, they used to say 'Workin' for God and bless the food.' Well, let's call God peace and do it that way, you know."

YOKO: "It was like a mantra, a super-mantra that was going on between us all, just going on and on and on. It was just fantastic. And so, what we don't do, we never form anything, we just open the door. And when we open the door it's very easy, you know -- just gives people freedom. They come along, they just gather."

JOHN: "And people do that for us, you know. It's not like we have the answer. (laughs) There isn't one, whatever, and what we do world-wide as I say making contact, and we meet people like Leary or Dick Gregory or whoever it is or a guy in Blackburn who opens the door for us you know, and we compare notes and 'I say yeah uh' and we compare a year's experience or whatever highs we've had or how to sustain high, or exchange energy or whatever it's called, whatever your gig is. And then we move on, you know, with the new knowledge. And if we open the door with music or with a film or something, all we're doing is saying, 'Hey this is what we just discovered, anybody diggin' it, does it mean anything to ya?' And somebody will say, 'Yeah,' and they'll make a comparable record or sort of answer to it or whatever it is. It could be from anywhere in the world. Ya suddenly hear a record and you know that they've just been through the same door as you have or they're just one door ahead or back or whichever way it is. And we're just all comparing credentials all the time. And that's the way it is folks."

Q: "And leaving the door open when you go through as well."

JOHN: "Yeah, it seems to be the law of the universe, that as you move forward you must move something back. Like I spent a lot of time teaching her ex-husband a few chords on the guitar and the reward's gonna be I'm gonna learn a few more tricks on the guitar. It's as simple as that to me. Do unto others bit. And whatever you've found out, you've got to pass it on to your next of kin to make your next move up."

YOKO: "And people say, well, you have this power and you're using it and all that. But power's a very strange thing. I mean if we used our power or whatever to control people... I mean no one man has enough power to control something, you know. It's like ah, saying, ah, like trying to stop a river from flowing, you know. So it's very difficult, but instead of doing that, if you just use your power to open it so that the river flows, the river flows naturally. So that's what we're doing to people. We're saying, 'Open up and just shout, say something.' And that's very easy. But if we say, 'Shut up' and try to shut somebody up, I mean we don't have enough power to do that. So it's a matter of just making things natural."

Source: Transcribed by from original magazine issue

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