Interview With J & Y December 8th, 1980
John Lennon & Yoko Ono
It inspired me completely.
I got… as soon as she would sing something to me or play the cassette down the phone I would, within 10 or 15 minutes, whether I wanted to work or not – if you call it work.
I would suddenly get this song coming to me.
And I always felt that the best songs were the ones that came to you rather than… I do have the ability to sit down… you know, if you ask me to write a song for a movie or something.
And they say, 'it's about this'.
I can sit down and sort of make a song.
I wouldn't be thrilled with it, but I can make a song like that.
But I find it difficult to do that.
But I can do it.
You know, I call it craftsmanship, you know?
I've had enough years at it to sort of put something together.
But I never enjoyed that.
I like it to be inspirational – from the spirit.
And, being with Sean, and switching off from the business sort of allowed that channel to be free for a bit.
I wasn't always 'ON!' It was switched off.
And when I sort of switched it on again, 'ZAP!' all this stuff came through.
So now we're already half… well, we did enough material for the next album and we're already talking about the third.
So we're just full of VIM AND VIGOR!'
I was takin' Sean and the nanny and the family to a little… uh – except for Mother, who was here sellin' cows – in Bermuda to The Botanical Gardens for lunch to an Italian restaurant, cause I could get some espresso and Sean could get some junk food.
And I was just walking in and I looked down and in the botanical garden it said… … we're in the office folks, that's why it's buzzin'.
It said 'Freezier Double Fantasy' and it was some flowers.
And I just thought, 'Double Fantasy – that's a great title!' 'Cause it has so many meanings that you couldn't even begin to think what it means, so it means anything you can think of.
I mean, it's a double couple.
It's, it's real life but it's still fantasy because it's now in plastic and in photograph.
And it's fantastic!
And it just sort of seemed to be perfect for a title to the album.
And there's two of us.
And it just sort of says it all – without really saying anything it says everything.
And it's a flower, actually.'
JOHN: 'so he's used to me being around all the time, cause it's no… it's a pleasure for me to hang around the house – I was always a homebody; I think a lot of musicians are.
You write and you play in the house anyway.
Or, when I wanted to be a painter – when I was younger – I was always in the house.
Or writing poetry: it was always in the house.
But, uh, I started the work and he started seeing a bit less of me.
I mean, I let him into the studio, but it was a bit boring for him.
He was excited but… long story short.
At the end of the session… I got back on a night schedule where I'd be coming in when he'd be getting up.
So he'd see me at breakfast but I was different; I was this sort of shredded 'What?
What?' Like that.
Then one day we just sort of sitting, lying down on the bed together.
Maybe watching some cartoon, or whatever.
And, he just sat up and said, 'D'ya know what I wanna be when I grow up?' I said, 'No, what's that?' And he looked me right in the eye and said, 'Just a daddy.' And I thought, 'ah, um, hum ya' mean ya' don't like it that I'm working now, right, and goin' out a lot?' He says, 'Right.' I said, 'Well, I'll tell you something, Sean: it makes me happy to do the music.
And I might be less… I might have more fun with ya' if I'm happier, right?'
I was saying to someone the other day, there's only two artists I've ever worked with for more than one night's stand, as it were: Paul Mc
Cartney and Yoko Ono.
I think that's a pretty damned good choice.
Because, in the history of the Beatles Paul met me the first day I did Be-Bop-A-Lu-La live onstage, okay?
And a fr… a mutual friend brought him to see my group, called The Quarrymen.
And we met, and we talked after the show and I saw he had talent.
He was playing guitar backstage, and doin' Twenty-Flight Rock by Eddie Cochrane.
And I turned around to him right then on the first meeting and said, 'Do you wanna join the group?' And he went, 'Hmmm, well, you know… ' And I think he said 'yes' the next day, as I recall it.
Now, George came through Paul, and Ringo came through George, although of course I had a say in where they came from, but the only person I actually picked as my partner – who I recognized had talent, and I could get on with – was Paul.
Now, twelve, or however many years later I met Yoko, I had the same feeling.
It was a different feel, but I had the same feeling.
So, I think as a talent-scout I've done pretty damned well!'
JOHN:'it was sort of 1966 and, uh, I got a call from a guy called John Dunbar, who used to be married to Marianne Faithful – you know, everybody's connected.
And he had a gallery in London called Indica Gallery, an art gallery.
And, I used to go there occasionally to see whatever art show was on, you see?
And he said, 'Oh, I've got this… there's this fantastic Japanese girl coming from New York, and she's gonna do this other thing but she's also gonna put on an exhibition at my gallery.
And it's gonna be this big event'.
Something about 'black bags!' and I thought, 'Ooooh, orgies', you know?
These artists, they're all ravers, you know?
It was in the days of happenings, paint, and all that stuff, right?
So I go right down there, you know, for the opening. 'Goody, goody!', you know?
Lennon goes down to see what's happening.
I get down there, and it's the night before the opening.
I mean, I thought there was going to be a big party, and an opening and the whole bit, you know?
A big hap… I didn't wanna get involved.
I wanted to watch, you know?
I get there and its all white and quiet and there's just these strange things all on display, like an apple on a stand for 200 pounds – when the pound was worth 8 dollars, or something.
And there's hammers, saying 'Hammer a nail in', all this very peculiar stuff, and a ladder with a painting on the sky… or it looked like a blank canvass on the ceiling with a spyglass hanging from it.
So, I'm lookin' 'round and there doesn't seem to be many people.
There's a couple of people downstairs.
And I didn't know who was who.
So, I get up the ladder, and I look through this spyglass and it says, 'Yes'.
And I took that as a personal, positive message, because most of the avant-garde artists of that period were all negative.
Like, breaking a piano with an axe; it was mainly male… I'm looking at the female… it was mainly male art, and it was all destructive, and sort of 'nay, nay-na-nay nay', you know?
But here was this little crazy message on the ceiling.
And then the guy introduced me to her.
And she didn't know who the hell I was.
She had no idea.
She was living in a different environment altogether.
And, uh, I was sayin' 'Well this is a good con, isn't it?
Apples at 200 pounds.
Hammer a nail.
Who's gonna buy this?', you know?
I didn't know what concept art was; which, in a nutshell is 'the idea is more important than the object'.
So that's why you won't see many rich concept artists around.
So anyway, I said, uh, the gallery owner was all fussin' 'round saying, 'Is he gonna buy something?' And she's not.
she's ignoring me.
So he introduced us, and I said 'Well, uh, where's the event?' you know, 'Where's the happening?' 'Cause I'd seen the bag.
So she just takes a card out and gives it to me and it just says, 'Breathe'.
So I said, 'like that?' She said, 'You got it'.
I said, 'Uh huh, alright'.
I'm beginning to catch on, here.
This was the big event.
I mean, all the way from New York for that?
So, I see the hammer hanging on the thing with a few nails.
And I said, 'Well, can I at least hammer a nail in?
You know, I've come all the way from the suburbs for this'.
And she says, 'No!''
YOKO: ''Cause it's before the opening… '
JOHN: '… it's before the opening and she didn't want the thing messed up.
So, anyway, the gallery owner has a 'little word' with her.
Then she says, she comes over to me and she says, 'Alright.' No smiling, or anything.
Because, you know how she is, she doesn't… she's not runnin' for office – she never was, though.
She looks at me and she says, 'You give me 5 shillings'.
Well, that's about $10 or maybe $20… '
Are you kidding?
5 shillings was about 50 cents… '
No, no, in those days the shilling,… well, whatever, she says 'Give me 5 shillings and you can hammer a nail in.' So I looked at her and I said, 'I'll give you an imaginary 5 shillings and hammer in an imaginary nail in, okay?' And that's when we connected really, and we looked at each other like… you know that sort of… something went off.
Well, I didn't see her again for a few weeks.
We went to a Claes Oldenburg opening and we were all… we… I went with Paul, and I don't know who she was with.
But I got separated from Paul, and I felt this sort of vibe behind me.
And I looked 'round and there she was.
And, we're both very shy – believe it or not.
And we… I don't know what I said.
We said something… uh, we didn't really get together until 18 months later.
I'm 40, I wanna talk to the people my age.
I'm happy if the young people like it, and I'm happy if the old people like it, I'm talkin' to guys and gals that have been through what we went through, together – the sixties group that has survived.
Survived the war, the drugs, the politics, the violence on the street – the whole she-bang – that we've survived it and we're here.
And I'm talkin' to them.
And the Woman song is to Yoko, but it's to all women.
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And, because my role in society – or any artist or poet's role – is to try to express what we all feel.
Not to tell people how to feel, not as a preacher, not as a leader, but as a reflection of us all.
And it's like that's the job of the artist in society, not to… they're not some alienated being living on the outskirts of town.
It's fine to live on the outskirts of town, but artists must reflect what we all are.
That's what it's about – artists, or poets or whatever you wanna call it.
And that's what I'm tryin' to express on behalf of all the men to all the women, through my own feelings about women – when it dawned on me, 'God!
It is the other half of the sky' as the late-great Chairman Mac
Dougal said, right?
I mean, they are the other half of the sky, and without them there is nothing.
And without us there's nothing.
There's only the two together creating children, creating society.
So what's all this B.
about, you know, 'women are this' and 'men are that' – we're all human, man.
We're all human.
JOHN: 'where's it got us all these thousands of years?
Are we still gonna have to be clubbin' each other to death… do I have to arm-wrestle you to have a relationship with you as another male?
Do I have to seduce her or come on with her, that I'm gonna lay her because she's a female, or come on as some sexual… can we not have a relationship on some other level besides that same old stuff all the time?
I mean it's kids stuff, man; it's really kids stuff.
And I don't wanna go through life as a… pretendin' to be James Dean or Marlon Brando, you know?
In a movie, not in real life, even – in a movie version of them.'
JOHN: 'not only the fact that we got together and BOOM it was like an explosion, but there was also the Beatle-thing, about us getting' together, and whether they split up because of us – or not – whatever the reason; all that stuff.
The Beatles were splittin', the Beatles were arguin', John and Yoko was getting together.
The anti-Vietnam crusades were goin' on all over.
And we were involved in so many things, and we were puttin' out so much work, and makin'… we were making movies, making public appearances, uh, performin' at shows and all, and travelin' the world, and doin' all that – there was no time to reflect.
There was only time to put out immediate impressions of what was a happening.'
Well, we were really honest about it.
You can say that maybe we were naïve, or something, but still we were very honest about it, about everything we did, you know?'
That's why I referred to 'the word is love' on Rubber Soul straight through to All You Need is Love to Give Peace a Chance to 'imagine there's no countries' – imagine no war, in other words to… to right to this moment now.
But the thing is, instead of this album doesn't say 'imagine the whole world' like that, because I've said that – in a way – what I'm sayin' now is let's put the spotlight on the two of us and show how we're tryin' to imagine there's no wars.
To live that love and peace.
But, imagine… there was a time, you know, when you didn't have to have a passport to go from country to country.
What kind of world are we creat… really!
It used to be you go around!
What is this game that you can't get… that somehow this is America and then just across the… the field is Canada and you have to have all kinds of papers and pictures and stamps and passports'
the concept of imagining no countries, imagining no religion – not imagining no God, although you're entitled to do that, too, you know?
Imagine no denominations.
Imagining that we revere Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Krishna, Melanippe, equally – we don't have to workship either one that we don't have to, but imagine there's no Catholic
That we allow all… we allow it all – freedom of religion for real, I mean.'
the channels on the radio were jammed, you know?
I was not getting clear signals.
And after ten, fifteen, almost twenty years of being under contract, and having to produce at least two albums a year and – at least in the early days – and a single every three months, regardless of what the hell else you were doing.
Or what your family life was like, or your personal life was like – it was like nothing counted – you just have to get those songs out.
And Paul and I turned out a lot of songs in those days.
And, uh, it was easier because it was the beginning of our business… you know, relationship and career.
Paul and I developed in public, as it were.
We had a little rehearsal in private, but mainly we developed our abilities in public.
But then it got to be format.
And, sort of, not the pleasure that it was.
That's when I felt that I'd lost meself.
Not that I was on purpose, purposely being a hypocrite or a phony, but it… it took like… it took something away from what I set out to do.
I started out to do rock and roll because I absolutely liked doing it.
So, that's why I ended up doin' a track like (Just Like) Starting Over.
It's kinda tongue-in-cheek.
You know it's 'w-e-e-e-e-l-l-l-l-l, w-e-e-e-e-l-l-l-l-l'.
It's sort of a la Elvis and that; and I hope people accept it like that.
I think it's a serious piece of work but its also tongue-in-cheek, you know?
I mean I went right back to me roots.
All the time we were doin' it I was callin' it 'Elvis Orbison', you know?
And it's not going back to being Beatle-John in the sixties, it's being John Lennon who was… whose life was changed completely by hearing American rock and roll on the radio as a child.
And that's the part of me that's coming out again, and why I'm enjoying it this time.
I'm not trying to compete with my old self, or compete with the young new wave kids, or anything like that that are comin' on, I'm not competing with anything.
I'm trying to go back and enjoy it, as I enjoyed it originally.'
we always had this human race dream, you know?
Like, we always wanted to fly, so now we have planes, you know?
And the next probably dream is wanted to be peaceful, so of course… '
Well, the other great dream of mankind, one was to fly – which might've taken us a long time, but it took somebody to imagine it first.
The second was reach the moon, right?
Which we reached.
Now, sure, it was an American in an American rocket because that was the way history was at that time, but mankind reached the moon because they said, 'one giant step for mankind', it was for all of us… '
We were always saying, like, 'wanting the moon'… '
JOHN: '… but nowadays even football players are doin' it, right?
Which we were doin' then, which was projecting the future in a positive way.
what we were doin' – you can call it magic, meditation, projection of goal – which business people do, they have courses on it.
The footballers do it.
They pray, they meditate before the game.
They visualize themselves winning.
Billie Jean King visualizes every move of… on the court.
What we were doin', we were early pioneers of that movement.
Which is to project a future which we can have goals which we can reach.
People project their own future.
So, what we wanted to do was say, 'let's imagine a nice future' .
She's right, the males like, even Aldous Huxley and George Orwell who produced 1984 you look into Orwell's life it was all torture and this that and the other, and he was brought up in a certain environment and went into a male-dominated society full of Marxist stuff about Spain, and they were all from the thir… whatever, that period when they… when they had those dreams of socialism answering everything.
And their dreams fell to dust after the war.
And then they wrote these books projecting this horrific, Big Brother, monsters controlled by robots and – even now – I think these people that project these space fantasies are projecting war in space continually, with women in mini-skirts, available sexual objects, men with super-macho John Wayne guns on their hips.
I'm sayin' it's time for the people to get hip to that, man.
Because they're projecting our future.
Do we want to go… our children to be out in space, or our grandchildren fighting – maybe not Russians – but Venusians in space?
If it works for a football player and a tennis player it can work for all of us.
We have to project a positive future.
I mean I think that's what Christ and Mohammed and those people were saying in their way in their time for their society.'
when I do go through that terrible insecurity of 'the world is collapsing' or goin' crazy, or doesn't make sense anymore, wouldn't it be easier if I was just along with these people – these few hundred or few thousand that all think the same way and it makes life easier like that.
And I think if people realize that it's not the end of the world, the Apocalypse is not gonna happen – no matter what some person might threaten us with, those people have been wavin' those 'end of the world'… I remember those 'end of the world is nigh' cartoons when I was 12, you know?
The… my whole generation… our whole generation was brought up with the H-bomb.
I remember Bertrand Russell and all the H-bomb… the reason we were rock and rollers – apparently – in the fifties was 'cause the bomb might go off any minute.
OK… but, I don't think that's gonna happen.
I really don't think it's gonna happen.
I don't negate the sixties.
I don't negate the seventies.
The sixt… the seeds that were planted in the sixties – and possibly they were planted generations before – but the seed… whatever happened in the sixties the… the flowering of that is in the feminist, feminization of society.
The meditation, the positive learning that people are doing in all walks of life.
That is a direct result of the opening up of the sixties.
The thing the sixties did was show us the possibility and the responsibility that we all had.
It wasn't the answer.
It just gave us a glimpse of the possibility, and the seventies everybody gone 'Nya, nya, nya, nya'.
And possibly in the eighties everybody'll say, 'Well, ok, let's project the positive side of life again', you know?
The world's been goin' on a long time, right?
It's probably gonna go on a long time… '
I'm so hungry for makin' records because of the way I feel.
I wanna make some more records before I tour.
So I'd like to make at least one more album before actually making that dec… that final decision of calling those very expensive session musicians and takin' them on the road, you know?
But, when I went in there, I had no intention of going live, because I've noticed a lot of things like The Clash don't do any personal appearances – hardly – anymore and they just make a video and a record.
And, so, part of me was thinking, 'Well, alright.' But when we were playin' in that studio… and then, I don't know if it was Tony the bass player or the drummer after we'd done Starting Over, he said, 'can we do this again?
I mean, let's take it on the road!' and I… that's the first time it came on, 'My God, this would be fun, wouldn't it?' And if we can do it in the way we've done the album, which is have fun, enjoy the music, enjoy the performance, be accepted as John and Yoko, then I'd be happy to go out there. '
And the reason this one goes, 'ting, ting, ting' is to show that I've come through.
And whoever's listening must've come through, or they wouldn't be here.
And that's the… because I always considered my work one piece, whether it be with Beatles, David Bowie, Elton John, Yoko Ono… and I consider that my work won't be finished until I'm dead and buried, and I hope that's a long, long time.
So, to me it's one part of one whole piece of work from the time I became public 'till now.
And that's the connecting point between that, and the eighties is like we got a new chance.'