A good one where the interview subject gets to dominate the text. I like these articles a lot. And one can only speculate if Lennon`s fate would have been completely different if he didn`t like the USA and New York so much.
Exile on Sunset Strip
Steve Peacock talks to John Lennon in Los Angeles
A mind game for you: “We announce the birth of a conceptual country, Nutopia… Nutopia has no land, no boundaries, no passports, only people.” – Yoko Ono Lennon, John Ono Lennon, New York, April 1, 1973.
“It is about – once you say it that`s it.” – John Lennon, Los Angeles, November 3, 1973.
Nutopia is the Lennons` statement on John`s immigration hassles – attempts to throw him out of the States, backed up by the knowledge that if he leaves the country at the moment, he won`t get back in.
No passports, no land, no boundaries… America? “Oh yeah, but that`s physical. That won`t go on for ever – que sera, sera. The world changes so fast you can`t keep up with it anyway, so I`m sure a little piddly thing like my immigration won`t go on for ever.
“It`s like Leonardo drawing a submarine, it`s no good saying `oh look, it`s going to take a thousand years before they build it`: that`s not the point. Nutopia was Yoko`s trip, I agree with her, so I wanted to put it on (the album sleeve) and do it as just another event, another J&Y event. We mean it, it`s not naive or anything like that, it`ll happen when it happens. If you say it enough it`ll happen – if you don`t say it it won`t.”
The exile is in Los Angeles. He went there to put some finishing touches to “Mind Games”, which is now out in America: he did a track on Ringo`s album, and he`s currently engaged in realising a fantasy – a mouldy oldies album, produced by Phil Spector. “Who do you get if you`re going to do a mouldy oldies album – Phil Spector or Sam Phillips, right? I don`t know Sam.”
Spector has been doing it in style: five electric guitarists, five rhythm guitarists, two drummers, two bass players… a veritable cast of thousands, which “changes every night as people drop out or just can`t stand the pace.” Among the cast are Leon, Steve Cropper, Jesse Ed Davies, Jim Keltner, Nino Tempo, Jim Horn, Hal Blaine: “Everybody in the goddam world, it`s the biggest band you`ve ever seen. I can hardly fight my way into the studio.”
An innocent enquiry as to Mr. Spector`s health elicits the answer that tells what it`s like: “He`s making the music sound great, which is what matters, but what kind of shape he`s in I wouldn`t like to say. He`s in his usual whatever that strange world is that he lives in, and I happen to be living in it with him. It`s really insane, there`s people running around saying `who can I tell it to, who can I tell it to… nobody`d ever believe me`.
“Los Angeles is crazy – it looks so normal when you get there, but what it is is there`s all these roomfuls of crazy people moving from room to room. In New York you feel it on the streets a bit, but here it just looks normal and you think there`s nothing happening, and then you find all this madness going on in rooms.”
The songs on the album are secrets at the moment – “someone else might do `em” – but they`re American oldies. “I only go for the best.” And yes, he knows Bowie and Bryan have just done mouldies albums: “I always leave it too late, but ours`ll be different. What happened was between tracks on every album I`ve done, I always do oldies, just play around between tracks, but I always forget the words. I must have thousands and thousands of feet of tape of me forgetting the words…”
The album will be his next release, once “Mind Games” has had its run. He finds he has little to say about that one, except that as usual he wouldn`t have released it if he didn`t like it, and he`s still too close to it to think about it objectively. It took eight weeks to record, which is long for him, and he used the same band as Yoko had for “Feeling The Space”.
OK – so we`ll listen to “Mind Games”, not talk about it. We talked about America, about living there, working there, playing games with the Government: he`s been pretty quiet recently, deliberately not giving his enemies any ammunition, and when I asked if he was planning to play live at all, he said he wasn`t making plans.
“Last time I planned it, the Government attacked me, so I`ll do it on impulse if I do it.” The Government what? “Oh, they just psyched me out – following me, tapping the `phone… I`m paranoid enough without all that.”
So was he still getting the same buzz out of living in the States – it`s been three years now? “Yeah – this is where the music is for me. I think the farthest out I`d want to go is to have a place in Massachusetts or New England or somewhere, somewhere to escape to now and then. New York is where I live – I just don`t think about it any more, I just don`t think of any alternative. It`s like coming to London from Liverpool.”
Though in view of Nutopia, did it actually matter where he was? “I think it`d only matter if I couldn`t be here when I wanted to because… I mean I don`t think I could get it on in, say, Paris – which I love – or even London. You only have to look out of your window… there`s just a vibe in the air that I like. I`d have liked to have lived in Rome in the days of the Roman Empire, not on the outskirts of the empire somewhere, and now I wanna live in New York: it`s definitely the capital of the world, and I wanna be where that is.”
Had he felt rather cocooned in England? “No – I didn`t even plan to leave. When I came to New York I wasn`t planning to live here, I was just visiting, maybe stay a few months… it just sort of happened. I`d probably be back in England a lot more if it didn`t mean that I couldn`t get back here – I`d probably be coming and going a lot more.
“Because I know it`s happening in England – I hear the music coming out of there and I hear the news, or read it, so I know England has plenty of things going on, it`s just… well, I know the English don`t like to hear it, but it is the 59th state.
“But we speak the same language and have the same culture – Heinz beans and ketchup and Doris Day and Elvis… what the hell, it`s one of the islands, just a bit farther away.
“And I like the multi-racial thing over here, it`s like living in Europe with Britain really in the Common Market, like Europe might be in 20 years or something, people coming and going all the time, crossing borders… it`s all Europeans here, and Africans, of course, but it`s really like Europe, only with the main language being English.”
No land, no boundaries, no passports, only people. Anyway, what`s next for John Lennon? “You know me, I don`t have plans. Maybe I`ll take this album on the road – if we ever finish it – maybe I`ll just rest and write some songs. There`s business things going on as usual…
“Hey, when`s Dylan going on the road? Maybe I`ll go along and play rhythm.”
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Nils Lofgren, Paul Kossoff, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie Lane, Alice Cooper, Carlos Santana, Average White Band, Dale ‘Buffin’ Griffin, Magna Carta.
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