This is part two of the interview done with John & Yoko. So read on!
It`s your message that counts
…not your money or your physical power says Lennon
Jean Francois Vallee concludes our two-part feature with John and Yoko
Q: Do you think that New York better expresses the realities of the Western world?
JOHN: Yes. It is the most advanced place in the world.
YOKO: Also, there are 10,000 Japenese, millions of Jews, Greeks . . .
JOHN : Peurto Ricans, blacks . . . .
YOKO: Italians . .
JOHN: . . All the nations of the world are here . . . .
YOKO: . . . All the nations of the world are here . . . .
YOKO: An international city.
JOHN: The most cosmopolitan city in the world.
Q: You contributed (in Rolling Stone) to the demythification of the culture created around rock and pop music, but at the same time you destroyed the platform, the vehicle of your politics and the potential power that the Beatles represented in this respect. Does not this constitute a dilemma?
JOHN: Yes, but even on my own I still have a lot of power. I can mobilise the media, and what is power without the media, without access to the mass of the public? This power exists because of the Beatles and I had my share. Now John and Yoko are bigger than John Lennon, bigger than George Harrison or Paul McCartney. This is our power now and this power belongs to everyone. We are making it available to everybody instead of using it by the Beatles for the Beatles. We destroyed the myths of the rock culture because the musicians – and this is true of The Who and the Stones as well as for the Beatles – all spoke of politics in their music but did nothing in reality. We now belong to the Rock Liberation Front.
Q: And what exactly is that?
JOHN: The Front was founded by David Peel, an anarchist musician, and A. J. Weberman. The object was to liberate the ‘princes’ of rock for themselves.
Q: To demythify them?
JOHN: To release them so that they could do something for the people.
YOKO: We do not try to speak because we have a special power but because what we have to say is very important.
JOHN: What Aristotle Onassis says is not imortant, 0.K? Onassis says nothing that is worth repeating. Nor does Agnew, nor Nixon. They have a physical power but what they say is not worth a damn. You see, it is not money that counts nor physical power but your message.
Q: You believe profoundly in this?
JOHN: Weberman has proved this starting with nothing. He got access to the media by using his grey matter and saying what he has to say. People say, “Of course you and Yoko, you have these bed-in campaigns for peace, but only celebrities could get away with this”; but this is not true, anybody can do this. Anybody with the talent of Weberman could have done it. Anybody can have access to the media because the media are easy to reach.
YOKO: The power is in the message not in the name. The name doesn’t mean a thing.
Q: What are the projections of the Rock Liberation Front?
JOHN: When the Stones go to make their tour in June for money, we shall do ours for free. What do you say to that Mick? (sarcastic laugh).
Q: ‘Revolution number nine’ has the image of ultimate confusion, a sort of end of the world. Do you think that this is going to happen?
JOHN: Oh yes.
Q: The apocalypse?
JOHN: Ah, the apopo, the apopo, what you said… is a very big word. That means the end of everything. Doesn’t it? I do not believe in the end. The end doesn`t exist, neither does the beginning.
Q: But there is so much confusion that the song seemed to sound like the end of the world.
JOHN: No. no, it was simply a sound image of May 1968, a simple collage of a revolution in progress.
Q: Do you still record sound experiences on tape recorders for yourself?
JOHN: Yes, and Yoko’s album contains a lot of this material.
YOKO: We work together.
JOHN: Before it was just for me, but Yoko persuaded me to release it. It was because of her that I made ‘Revolution number nine’. Now we are continuing with these ideas in Yoko’s work.
YOKO: Strawberry Fields was the first Beatles song I heard and it impressed me very much. I know nothing about rock or pop, but it touched me. There is that universality in John’s music. It is not necessary to know rock and all that culture unless it comes across, and this is what we are trying to do. To cut out intellectualism and modes and styles, and to communicate simply and directly.
Q: In most of your songs you allow the vulnerable side of your personality to appear: ‘I am a loser,’ Help,’ etc. It is like an appeal to someone or somebody.
JOHN: Yes, that’s true. When I wrote ‘Mother’ and ‘Working class hero,’ people said: “Ah, he’s becoming introspective suddenly.” But I was no more introspective than I was in ‘Help’ or ‘I am a loser’ or Strawberry Fields.’ The only difference was that they were no longer Beatles songs.
YOKO: The most important change now is the fact that we can communicate with people like Jerry. Before we were in an ivory tower.
JOHN: ‘Imagine,’ both the song itself and the album, is the same thing as ‘working class hero’ and ‘Mother’ and ‘God’ on the first disc. But the first record was too real for people, so nobody bought it. It was banned on the radio. But the song ‘Imagine,’ which says: “Imagine that there was no more religion, no more country, no more politics” is virtually the communist manifesto, even though I am not particularly a communist and I do not belong to any movement. You see, ‘Imagine’ was exactly the same message, but sugar-coated. Now ‘Imagine’ is a big hit almost everywhere – anti-religious, anti-nationalistic, anti-conventional, anti-capitalistic song, but because it is sugar-coated it is accepted. Now I understand what you have to do. Put your political message across with a little honey. This is what we do above all, Jerry, Yoko and the others, it is to try to change the apathy of young people. The apathy which exists in America but which is infiltrating everywhere because everyone follows the American pattern, above all because of the music. The life style of this century has been fashioned by America. Young people are apathetic. They think there is nothing worthwhile to do and everything is finished. They want to take refuge in drugs to destroy themselves. Our work is to tell them that there is still hope and still a lot to do. We have to change their minds; we have to tell them that it is O.K. Things can change, and just because flower-power did not work it doesn’t mean that everything is finished. It is only the beginning. The revolution has only just begun. It is just the beginning of big changes.