The second part on my 1973 interview with Johnny Beatle.
John considers Mind Games to be better than Imagine, although he says he’s never completely satisfied with his records. “For the last ten years I’ve said that if I didn’t like something I wouldn’t put it out, but whenever I played the record back I’m thinking of ways to change it and make it better still. It’s good, but you can always do better and that’s why I go on making records.
“I was disappointed at the reaction to the last album [Sometime In New York City]. Over here they banned it and made such a fuss about the songs, and it was never played because they said it insulted blacks which it didn’t at all. I know a lot of black people, and they know what’s going on.
“I know it was political with a capital “P”, but that was what I had in my bag at the time and I wasn’t just going to throw them away because they were political. ‘Imagine’ did pretty well, so after that I wanted to just do one that I felt like.
“I still like the song ‘Woman Is The Nigger Of The World’. I like the sound of it and it gets me off, but it just happened that it didn’t please people.”
At present, John has no immediate plans to tour or appear live anywhere. He had plans until the much-publicised visa situation reared up, and now he’s content to wait until these problems are sorted out before going on the road.
“At the time they were trying to throw me out, I really felt like going on the road, but having to go to court and go to Washington put me off the idea. I had no time to think about work, which was maybe what they were trying to do to me – wear me down.
“I wouldn’t mind doing it, but the organisation frightens me. I could probably earn a lot of money, which wouldn’t be a bad thing because all my money is tied up in England and they won’t let me have it. I get lots of people wanting me to do things for charity, but usually when I show, it turns out the whole thing is a fiasco and I end up running the whole show.
“Not many people know how to put a show on properly: most of them think that if they get a famous name, he’ll call everybody he knows and they won’t have to worry about anything else.
“The Bangla Desh show started this big charity thing. Now people ring me and they think that if I say ‘yes’ then Dylan, George and God will appear, too. If Yoko appears anywhere, they automatically expect me to appear, so I now say screw it for the time being.
“I’m in no particular hurry, I don’t miss not being on stage and one way or the other I always seem to be performing somehow, no matter where I am.
“When I did the Madison Square Gardens show, I had a sort of deja-vu feeling that I’d done it all before and this was no better or no worse than it had ever been before. It felt strange and I felt like a robot doing the same thing over and over again.
“I’ll probably go out on the road again before too long, but it’s just the itty-bitty things about it that I can’t stand. If something comes up that interests me, then I may do it. I think I’d sooner play the Roxy here than a ballpark, but the complications of someone like me doing a show anywhere are endless.
“I couldn’t do what Paul did with Wings and just turn up at Bradford University and play. It’d have to be something more organised than that.”
Right now, John is waiting for the appeal hearing for his application to remain in the USA. While the appeal is pending, he’s just behaving naturally, and relying on a team of lawyers to keep him informed of how the case is proceeding.
To this end, he’s kept out of the papers recently, living quietly in an apartment in Central Manhattan, New York, anxious not to offend those who want to see him leave America. His only publicised public appearance recently was when he went to watch the Watergate hearings in Washington.
“I only went once to see Watergate, but it made the papers because I was recognised straight away. I thought it was better on TV anyway because I could see more. When it first came on I watched it live all day, so I just had the urge to actually go. I had other business in Washington, anyway.
“The public was there and most Senators have children, so every time there was a break in the proceedings I had to sign autographs. I was looking like a Buddhist monk at the time with all my hair chopped off, and I thought nobody would spot me. They spotted Yoko before me, and assumed – rightly – that I must be with her. It was quite a trip.”
John took part in some of the sessions for Ringo’s forthcoming album which brought three ex-Beatles together – and almost all four – for the first time since the split. “Yea, the three of us were there and Paul would most probably have joined in if he was around but he wasn’t,” said John.
“I just got a call from Ringo, asking me to write a track so I did. It seemed the natural thing to do. George has written a track and Paul has written one, but most of them are Ringo’s. I like his songs. For the track that I wrote, I was on piano, Billy Preston was on organ, Ringo was on drums, George was on guitar and Klaus Voorman was on bass.”
John says he talks to at least one of the other three ex-Beatles every two weeks. “I’ve talked to Ringo a lot recently because he’s just moved into my house at Ascot, which is nice because I’ve always got a bedroom there. I haven’t talked to Paul since before he did the last tour with Wings, but I heard Red Rose Speedway and it was all right.
“I liked parts of his TV special especially the intro. The bit filmed in Liverpool made me squirm a bit, but Paul’s a pro. He always has been. I hear two people have left Wings now. The only news I hear is what I get from the English trade papers. Nobody tells me things, unless I ask and really, it’s nothing to do with me anyway what Wings are doing.”