On the evening of Friday, December 5th, 1980, John Lennon spoke to Rolling Stone editor Jonathan Cott for more than nine hours at his apartment on New York’s Upper West Side and at the Record Plant recording studio. Three nights later, Lennon would be murdered as he was returning home from a mixing session. This is an excerpt of that Interview.
Watching the wheels. What are those wheels?
The whole universe is a wheel, right? Wheels going round and round. They’re my own wheels, mainly, but, you know, watching meself is like watching everybody else. And I watch meself through my child too.
The thing about the child is . . . it’s still hard. I’m not the greatest dad on Earth, I’m doing me best. But I’m a very irritable guy, and I get depressed. I’m up and down, up and down, and he’s had to deal with that too – withdrawing from him and then giving, and withdrawing and giving. I don’t know how much it will affect him in later life, but I’ve been physically there.
We’re all selfish, but I think so-called artists are completely selfish: To put Yoko or Sean or the cat or anybody in mind other than meself – me and my ups and downs and my little tiddly problems – is a strain. Of course, there’s a reward and a joy, but still . . .
So you fight against your natural selfish instincts.
Yeah, the same as taking drugs or eating bad food or not doing exercise. It’s as hard as that to give to a child, it’s not natural at all. Maybe it’s the way we were all brought up, but it’s very hard to think about somebody else, even your own child, to really think about him.
“Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey.” It’s one of my favorites: “Your inside is out, and your outside is in/Your outside is in, and your inside is out.”
Right, but what did the critics say? “A bit simplistic, no imagery in it.” Perhaps I should have said, “Your inside is like a whale juice dripping from the fermented foam of the teeny-boppers’ VD in Times Square as I injected my white clown face with heroin and performed in red-leather knickers.” Maybe then they’d like it, right?
That’s great, that sounds like Allen Ginsberg.
Right, we can all do Ginsberg – and I like Ginsberg. But try shaving it all off and getting down to the nitty-gritty – that’s what I always tried to write . . . except for the occasional “Walrus” bit. I’m not interested in describing a fucking tree. I’m interested in climbing it or being under it.
And what about your new songs?
No, because I don’t make that stuff [laughs]. I mean, what way could I come back into this game? I came back from where I know best, as unpretentious as possible . . . and with no experimentation, because I was happy to be doing it as I did it before. My song “Starting Over” – I call it “Elvis-Orbison” [sings: “Only the lonely/Know why I cry/Only the lonely”].