The fourth part of my 1973 interview with John.
John admits he’s dropped out a little recently, and has deliberately stopped making explosive statements that would make newspaper headlines. He says this may have something to do with his visa situation, that he doesn’t want to draw attention to himself in ways that might jeopardise his position. In any case, there has, he says, not been much to talk about. “I think I’ll always be the same whenever there’s an issue. In the olden days, the MM would carry headlines like ‘Lennon Blasts Hollies’ and, not that I’d regret saying what I’d said, it would reverberate back to me for months afterwards.
“So then I’d drop back a little. I’m going through one of those phases now. Either Lennon is all over the place or he’s invisible. Like other things, I don’t plan it. It just happens naturally.”
The next project coming up for John, though, is an album of oldies he’s due to make with Phil Spector. “Phil and I have been threatening to do this for years.
“I want to go in and sing some ‘Ooo eeh baby’-type songs that are meaningless for a change. Whenever I’m in the studio, between takes, I mess around with oldies. I even used to do it in the studio in the Beatle days, so now I’m finally getting round to doing a John Lennon sings the oldies album.
“This will be my next album. I hope people won’t think I’ve run out of songs, but sod it, I just want to do it. I’m not going to tell you what numbers I’ll be doing; I don’t even know for sure myself. Phil and I are sorting through loads of songs right now.
“I enjoy working with him, but I equally enjoyed doing the latest album on my own. There was nobody to lean on, and this was a good exercise for me. I always control everything anyway, but this time I thought I’d do it all on my own.”
Conversation turned to the recent double Beatles compilation albums [the ‘Red’ and ‘Blue’ albums] that have been so successful, a fact which pleases Lennon almost as much as when ‘Imagine’ occasionally creeps back into the charts. He gets a bigger kick, however, out of his own albums doing well rather than Beatle material.
“George controlled the choice of the material on those albums more than any of us. They sent me lists and asked for my opinion, but I was busy at the time. I think it was the pressure of the bootlegs that finally made us put them out after all this time.
“Did you know that there’s a bootleg out now of the Decca audition which The Beatles did? I have a copy of it, but I’m trying to find the tape. It’s beautiful. There’s us singing ‘To Know Her Is To Love Her’, and a whole pile of tracks, mostly other people’s but some of our own. It’s pretty good, better than that Tony Sheridan thing on Polydor.
“Every time I go on TV here somebody tapes it and within a week it’s in all the shops. In a way I dig it because it’s good for your ego, but I know I’m not supposed to because it’s against the business. I got copies made from this Decca audition and sent it to them all. I wouldn’t mind actually releasing it.”
I told John I had a copy of The Beatles Live At Shea Stadium. “Yes, I’ve got that,” he said. “I think I’ve got them all. There’s one of a Beatles show at the Hollywood Bowl which was an abortion, and there’s others from everywhere we played, obscure places here in the States. It seemed someone was taping it everywhere.
“I think the official reissue albums came out around the right time. Maybe we’d have sold more if we’d got them out before the bootleggers, but they didn’t do too badly at all. They got gold records each. They brought back the sixties.”
With talk having moved to The Beatles, not a subject I’d intended to discuss, I asked John if he had a favourite Beatles song. “Not really,” he said. “I usually preferred whatever was current at the time. I have a favourite of Paul’s, and a favourite of George’s and a favourite of my own.
“Of mine I like ‘Strawberry Fields’ and ‘Walrus’, of Paul’s I like ‘Here, There And Everywhere’, of Ringo’s I like ‘Honey Don’t’ and of George’s I like ‘Within You, Without You’. Of course I still like ‘Eleanor Rigby’, and another I liked was ‘For No One’.
“I have favourites from different periods. When I first received a copy of the compilation albums, I was too nervous to play them in case they were mixed badly. I thought the sound was a bit rough.
“I heard they’ve tried to stereoise the old albums. I wish they hadn’t. I also think they could have put some of the tracks out that were B-sides and aren’t available any more. Maybe they still will. I hope so.”
My last question was the inevitable... any chance of us seeing the four Beatles on a stage or record together again?
“There’s always a chance,” grinned John. “As far as I can gather from talking to them all, nobody would mind doing some work together again. There’s no law that says we’re not going to do something together, and no law that says we are.
“If we did do something I’m sure it wouldn’t be permanent. We’d do it just for that moment. I think we’re closer now than we have been for a long time. I call the split the divorce period and none of us ever thought there’d be a divorce like that.
“That’s just the way things turned out. We know each other well enough to talk about it.”
And just as John said that the tape ran out. In fact he’d leaned over to push the stop button on my tape recorder after I’d asked him the question about The Beatles getting back together in some form or other, and I’d grabbed his hand to prevent him. I guessed he didn’t really want quoting on the issue in case I wrote up another ‘Beatles to reform story,’ a bad habit of mine in those days.
We’d been nattering for about 90 minutes by the side of Lou Adler’s swimming pool. In the living room of the house was a Gibson Melody Maker guitar, a good omen I thought. This interview was the beginning of a friendly relationship I enjoyed with John that lasted until 1975 when I saw him get his green card at a hearing in New York. I’ll post about that tomorrow.