This is the first of a two-part interview with John and Yoko. For the sake of history and for the pure fact that Lennon was an important member of one of history`s biggest and best bands this needs to be out there. I wonder what causes Lennon would have been engaged in if he were alive today? One thing is for certain – he would have strong opinions regarding political subjects and he wouldn`t be afraid to express them.
`Capitalism killed the Beatles`
Jean-Francois Vallee talks to John and Yoko
John and Yoko, what is happening with you?
JOHN: Recently I have been doing a lot of Jam sessions without rehearsals. It’s been good. We have been appearing on the stage suddenly in the middle of a concert just to play with other musicians — e.g. at Fillmore East and Toronto, and then we disappear. But now I do not want to do this anymore. We are forming a new Group with Phil Spector on organ and Yoko and me. The band will be expandible according to the number of musicians who want to play with us. I do not want too big a nucleus, 10 musicians at the most. Local bands will be able to play with us if they want, either with the Plastic Ono band or on their own. The Plastic One band will be the one constant element on the tour. In each town we will ask musicians and theatre groups to appear on stage with us. We want people to participate and not just to stand there open-mouthed as if they were looking at God on the stage.
YOKO: If you throw a stone in the water, the important thing is not the stone, but the waves it creates.
Q: Yoko, what do you think of John’s songs?
YOKO: What I admire in John’s songs is that they are so simple that people can sing them and make their own songs out of them. They are as simple as a heart beat: bang, bang, bang. It does not come from the head, but from the heart.
Q: The ‘Imagine’ LP seemed to be divided into questions and answers with Yoko?
JOHN : Yes, I never really thought of that but it is true in a sense. There is only one thing that I can see as a response, and that is love. This is what I was saying when I wrote `All you need is love’.
Q: ‘Imagine’ gave the idea of somebody fighting a difficult battle.
JOHN: Everybody is fighting. Three years ago I would have been looking for a Guru or looking for the answer in Karl Marx, but not any more. I was looking for a father figure but I do not want that any more, thanks to Dr. Janov. That’s not the same thing. He gave me a kind of structure and I do not need him any more. He helped me to accept myself. He is like Freud really and he says, if people had understood Freud they would have attempted to relive the initial crisis instead of intellectualising in order to disperse their problems.
Q: Isn’t the essential message of ‘Imagine’: “Do not be enslaved by myths?”
Q: But politics is made up of myths. You would like to meet Mao. Is not he a myth?
JOHN: I would like to go to China just out of personal interest. Wouldn’t you?
JOHN: Well I shall go to China. I will take the opportunity to try to see Mao. If he is ill or dead or if he refuses to see me, too bad. But if I go there I want to meet people who are doing something important. It could just as easily be a youth leader. I am only saying Mao because may be that will help me to get to China.
YOKO: It is very important to go to China now, not only out of curiosity but because the world ought to go on getting smaller, and exchanges ought to be more and more open and be carried out more and more rapidly. China should not be isolated in a mystery. The mystery should be exposed and destroyed, and that will happen if we go there and they come here.
Q: The important thing is to communicate?
JOHN & YOKO: Yes.
Q: Do you not expect to find the answer in China?
JOHN: No, oh God no . . . I want to take a rock band to China. That is really what I want to do. To play rock in China. They have yet to see that.
YOKO: And we shall go there not only with musicians but with people like Jerry Rubin. As I have said, the message is music itself and Jerry has his own music and he wants to play.
Q: What is your political position at the moment?
YOKO: Same as yours.
Q: But it seems you are more involved than . . .
JOHN: . . . Than during the time of the Beatles?
JOHN: The Beatles — that was something so enormous you just had to be a Beatle and nothing else. Being a Beatle took all your life and that was the problem. What I mean is that the Beatle thing became so big that it got to be a monster. It was not a monster at the beginning. The group communicated with people. They were the good times; we played in clubs and ballrooms and we spoke to people. It was really great. But then it became a kind of machine; it is like a guy who makes millions, like Rockefeller, or Getty, they become totally obsessed by money. How to look after their millions and how to make more. That is how the Beatles became. Think about the Beatles, for the Beatles and by the Beatles, and that is what I could not come to accept. There just was not any time to think of anything else. So the Beatles was just a period in my life. You know I have still got a long way to go. I lived 14 years of my life before the Beatles happened, and during 10 of those years I knew nothing about world politics. Nevertheless, if I did not have a political conscience, Marx and all that, I was aware of my own position in the working class in Liverpool and of being about to try to get into University and all the stupidities that go with it. So the Beatles were not so important. And now the Beatles are dead.
Q: If we were to make an inquest what would we discover was the cause of their death?
YOKO: It is dangerous when something becomes a myth; because they are all the same, they are all equal you see. When you asked us just now what our political position was, I said that it was the same as yours. We all have responsibilities in this Society because it is we who create that Society and everything that happens illustrates something in ourselves so we try to do everything we can by ourselves.
Q: I wanted to speak of the Beatles because that was really something for us, for my generation, something exceptional . . .
JOHN: Oh, for us as well.
YOKO: The Beatles was a social fact and also political in a sense.
JOHN: The Beatles had a social influence, a social impact. Then it became sterile, like a Government, that has stayed too long in power. When that situation arises you have to abdicate. So we abdicated . . . and now there are Santana, Marc Bolan, T Rex and all the new musicians. It is for them to carry on.
Q: Do you use your music as a means of promoting your politics?
JOHN: I am first of all a musician with lot of other interests on the side. You know, I believe that the situation that my political conscience puts me in is somewhere between “All you need is love” with the Beatles and “Power to the people” by the Plastic-Ono Band. In fact, what this really means is that I still believe in “All you need is love,” but I think also that now it is necessary to have something else as an additional aid.
Q: What do you think of the latest Dylan song, ‘George Jackson’?
JOHN: Hurrah . . . (He sings ‘George Jackson’) . I think it is fantastic.
Q: Do you think that he has suddenly taken a new political position?
JOHN: He has always been aware. People say Dylan has abandoned the Movement but Dylan was there before the Movement.
YOKO: That’s true.
JOHN: You see, Dylan exists with or without the Movement. We owe him a great deal of things. You cannot demolish the Beatles or Dylan because they have had a big effect and impact. It does not matter that Dylan has done nothing for six months or that he chooses to rest for a year, or that he is going through a psychological crisis, or that he has had an accident, or that he wants to live with four children and his family. Dylan has done what he has done and he continues. We ought to let him have a little time to breathe. He wrote ‘George Jackson’ despite attacks from everybody and not because of the attacks from everybody.
Q: Do you see Weberman as a creation of his nightmares, just as Manson is a little bit of a nightmare creature of the Beatles fantasy?
JOHN: In a sense, yes, yes . . Although Weberman has qualities. It is just that he has gone too far.
YOKO: There is always this duality. The ying and the yang. For example, a great machine like the Beatles — they were to create some beautiful things and at the same time some terrible things, and those terrible things happen, then people give them too much importance.
Q: You have decided to live in New York. You have lots of money and you can choose a place much more welcoming. Why New York?
JOHN: Yoko lived here for 15 years. Then she returned to Japan, and then she went to London, and from London she brought me back to New York. New York remains the centre of the universe for me, the centre of the world. Yes, it is possible that America is going in the wrong direction. Like Rome, she will destroy herself and fall in ruins, and yet, I would rather be in the centre than in provincial places, in Britain, or Wales, or England.