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John Lennon – Rock N Roll (1975)


John Lennon – Rock N Roll1975
Remastered & Bonus Tracks – 2004

When the night has come
And the land is dark
And the moon is the only light we’ll see
No I won’t be afraid, no I won’t be afraid
Just as long as you stand, stand by me

-Jerry Leiber/Mike Stoller/Ben E. King
I’m a freakin’ artist, man, not a fuckin’ racehorse!

-John Lennon (Rolling Stone 5/6/1975)

We saw a post with this fine release posted over at scarydaydreams

Rock ‘n’ Roll is a 1975 album of late 1950s and early 1960s-era rock songs covered by John Lennon. The recording of the album spanned a year and its dramatic and infamous sessions have since entered into rock music folklore. The title was actually a last-minute choice, coming from a neon sign crafted for the album cover.

In this new improved version of the album from 2004, all the tracks have been remixed and remastered, and while true to the original release, sound better than they ever have before. A few extra touches, such as a count-in on “Be Bop A Lula”, are good and the bonus tracks ain’t half bad either – particularly the fun arrangement and backing vocals on “My Baby Left Me”, and the extra spoken words on the previously unreleased outro to “Just Because”.

It may not be a perfect album, but it’s pretty damn good indeed and a must-have for fans of great music. It’ an uplifting album and the interpretations sound fresh and strong. The songs of course are stone-cold classics and the album itself is a great and warm Lennon tribute to the rock n’ roll roots that influenced him, seeped into his soul and stayed with him throughout his life.


The context and background for this album were very complex indeed and rather surreal!

John was in the midst of his so called, “Lost Weekend” when he started recording golden oldies for a new album.

After splitting with Yoko Ono in the fall of 1973, and arriving in Los Angeles with May Pang, Lennon teamed up with Phil Spector to record the album, working at both A&M Records Studios and Gold Star Recording Studios. Due to the boys-club nature of the sessions, the atmosphere quickly fell into disarray with alcohol, with Lennon in very aggressive form.

Paul McCartney had decided to go to court to dissolve the Beatles partnership, which froze their assets. All of the Ex-Beatles were given allowances, and this meant that none of them could make any money on their own until the Beatles had officially broken up on paper. All of the money that the Beatles were making on solo projects was being poured into one giant Apple pot.


Lawyers had begun to slice up the Apple pie, and each of the Beatles had their own lawsuits to fight. John Lennon started making the album “ROCK ‘N ROLL,” due to a lawsuit that was filed against him by Morris Levy, a renowned shyster, who owned the publishing to “You Can’t Catch Me” by Chuck Berry.

Levy claimed that John had ripped off Chuck Berry when he recorded, “Come Together.” The lawsuit was filed in 1973. John’s lawyer, “Harry Seider” was ready to fight, but Yoko didn’t want John to come back to New York, she wanted him to settle this out of court.

An agreement was reached that, in summary, Lennon would record three Chuck Berry numbers and thereby fill Levy’s coffers!

Furthermore, Lennon’s recent outings had not sold well so he felt he would return to his roots with classic Rock n Roll numbers with a view to increasing sales.

These two scenarios were the main factors leading to the recording of what became this album.


The LA sessions for the album are infamous and filled with so many strange and fucked-up details, it would take a novel to do them justice. Therefore, let’s just cover the main salient points.

John went to work on the album in LA with ‘wall of sound’ uber-producer, whack-job (and now potential murder felon!) Phil Spector. The sessions at various points ranged between chaotic to insane, entailing throughout, the consumption (allegedly!) of copious amounts of cocaine, alcohol, pot etc. and entailing, at various points, Spector gunshots in the studio, fierce arguments, Lennon fights, monster celebrity parties, etc. etc.

Furthermore, Lennon was so fucked-up that not only was his voice shot but he was changing his singing style, as well as the lyrics, so much between takes that continuity and cutting together of takes was impossible. Also Spector’s style of very slowly designing the arrangements in the studio, and technically his means of recording every take with all 24 tracks wide open, meant that very little from the sessions could be salvaged.

In the end, the sessions had cost a hell of a lot of money and had yielded very little. A further surreal complication was that, for a time, Spector absconded with the masters and claimed they had been destroyed in a motorcycle crash!


Eventually, the masters were returned to Lennon, but were in the most part unusable. Lennon basically re-recorded the entire thing in NYC over 9 days and the record company shipped it out pronto due to an impending similar release being made by the aforementioned Morris Levy of similar Lennon material called Roots. This was an unauthorised album recorded by Lennon and his band in Levy’s farmhouse and released on Levy’s Adam VIII label. Though it didn’t sell very well, original copies of Roots are now valuable collector’s items.


The album cover for Rock n Roll is of course the famous photo of John Lennon standing in a doorway while the other Beatles walk in front of him, and are blurred as they’re walking by. Photographer Jurgen Volimer took the great shot in 1961.

The photo was a favorite of John’s, and was one of the few Beatles photos that he had hanging in his Dakota pad. He actually kept the picture hanging over his jukebox there.

The album’s working title had been Oldies but Mouldies; no official title had been chosen until Lennon saw the neon sign prepared as cover art by John Uotomo, with Lennon’s name and the words “ROCK ‘N’ ROLL” beneath. This struck Lennon in a positive way, and it became the album title.

Some interesting links:



All tracks produced by John Lennon, except where noted.

1. “Be-Bop-A-Lula” (Tex Davis/Gene Vincent) – 2:39

* Lennon opened with a song he’d played the only time his mother Julia got to see him perform. This was the song he was playing when he met Paul McCartney in 1957.

2. “Stand by Me” (Jerry Leiber/Mike Stoller/Ben E. King) – 3:26

* The single’s B-side, “Move Over Ms. L”, was a non-album song written by Lennon, originally intended for Walls and Bridges.

3. “Medley: Rip It Up/Ready Teddy” (Blackwell/John Marascalco) – 1:33

* Two songs famously recorded by Little Richard, who had toured with the Beatles.

4. “You Can’t Catch Me” (Chuck Berry) – 4:51

* Produced by Phil Spector was the song that, according to Morris Levy, sounded very much like Come Together.

5. “Ain’t That a Shame” (Fats Domino/Dave Bartholomew) – 2:38

* Lennon met Fats Domino during a Las Vegas visit late in 1973; this was the first song Lennon’s mother taught him to play.

6. “Do You Wanna Dance?” (Bobby Freeman) – 3:15

* A reggae-flavoured remake.

7. “Sweet Little Sixteen” (Chuck Berry) – 3:01

* Produced by Phil Spector.

8. “Slippin’ and Slidin'” (Eddie Bocage/Albert Collins/Richard Wayne Penniman/James H. Smith) – 2:16

* Planned as the second single from the album (with “Ain’t That A Shame” as the B-side), but cancelled before its release. In the video, he sends a sweet message to son Julian.

9. “Peggy Sue” (Jerry Allison/Norman Petty/Buddy Holly) – 2:06

* Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison were Buddy Holly fans; McCartney purchased Holly’s song copyrights in the late 1970s.

10. “Medley: Bring It On Home to Me/Send Me Some Lovin'” (Sam Cooke)/(John Marascalco/Lloyd Price) – 3:41

11. “Bony Moronie” (Larry Williams) – 3:47

* Produced by Phil Spector

12. “Ya Ya” (Lee Dorsey/Clarence Lewis/Morgan Robinson) – 2:17

* A brief version appeared on Walls and Bridges, featuring eleven-year-old Julian Lennon on drums.

13. “Just Because” (Lloyd Price) – 4:25

* Produced by Phil Spector

* Lennon speaks before the fadeout, in the style of a 50’s D.J. closing out a radio programme, joking, “There’s two basses in this, and I hope you appreciate it!” adding “Good night from the Record Plant East, New York… Goodbye.” He said in a later interview that he was subconsciously bidding farewell to the music business.

* On the ‘Reprise’ version found on the 2005 re-issue, Lennon says “it’s all down to Goodnight Vienna, I’d like to say hi to Ringo, Paul and, George… how are you?” “All wounds are healed” said Lennon in 1974, and he was feeling sentimental toward his fellow bandmates. As he could not leave the U.S. because of immigration problems, he sent this message to them.

14. “Angel Baby” (Rosie Hamlin) – 3:44

* appears on 2004 reissue

15. “To Know Her is to Love Her” (Phil Spector) – 4:31

* appears on 2004 reissue

16. “Since My Baby Left Me” (Arthur Crudup) – 4:40

* appears on 2004 reissue

17. “Just Because (Reprise)” – 1:25

* appears on 2004 reissue



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December 11, 2008 Posted by | John Lennon, May Pang, Music_ClassicRock, Phil Spector, The Beatles, Yoko Ono, _MUSIC | Leave a comment

1975 Rolling Stone Interview with John Lennon / Other classic Lennon interviews

I’m a freakin’ artist, man, not a fuckin’ racehorse!

We caught the wonderful and rather scary The U.S. vs. John Lennon – by David Leaf and John Scheinfeld – again on TV the other night, and have been reading up on some stuff from that fascinating period.

This seminal RS interview with Lennon comes from 1975, from a turbulent period in Lennon’s life, personally and professionally and covers an array of stuff such as his split from Yoko Ono, his then recent musical projects and, of course, the infamous deportation attempts against him, as explored in The U.S. vs. John Lennon.


1975 Rolling Stone Interview with John Lennon

by Pete Hamill,
June 5, 1975

Journalist Pete Hamill spoke with John Lennon for an interview that was published in Rolling Stone Magazine’s June 5th 1975 issue.

John speaks of his recent separation and reconciliation with Yoko Ono, the recent Beatles legal settlement, and also speaks positively on the possibility of a Beatles reunion.

Other topics include his own recent solo albums, his pending immigration case, and working with Phil Spector, Elton John, and Harry Nilsson.

ImageQ: “What’s your life like right now?”

JOHN: “Well, life… It’s ’75 now, isn’t it? Well, I’ve just settled the Beatles settlement. It must’ve happened in the last month. Took three years. (pause) And on this day that you’ve come here, I seem to have moved back in here. In the last three days. By the time this goes out, I don’t know… That’s a big change. Maybe that’s why I’m sleeping funny. As a friend says, I went out for coffee and some papers and I didn’t come back. (chuckles) Or vice versa. It’s always written that way, y’know. All of us. You know, the guy walked. It’s never that simple.”

Q: “What did happen with you and Yoko? Who broke it up and how did you end up back together again?”

JOHN: “Well, it’s not a matter of who broke it up. It broke up. And why did we end up back together? (pompous voice) ‘We ended up together again because it was diplomatically viable…’ Come on. We got back together because we love each other.”

Q: “I loved your line: ‘The separation didn’t work out.'”

JOHN: “That’s it. It didn’t work out. And the reaction to the breakup was all that madness. I was like a chicken without a head.”

Q: “What was the final Beatles settlement?”

JOHN: “In a nutshell, what was arranged was that everybody gets their own individual monies. Even up till this year, till the settlement was signed, all the monies were going into one pot. All individual records, mine, Ringo’s, Paul’s – all into one big pot. It had to go through this big machinery and then come out to us, eventually. So now, even the old Beatle royalties, everything goes into four separate accounts instead of one big pot all the time. That’s that. The rest of it was ground rules. Everybody said the Beatles’ve signed this paper, that means they’re no longer tied in any way. That’s bullshit. We still own this thing called Apple. Which, you can explain, is a bank. A bank the money goes into. But there’s still the entity itself known as the Beatles. The product, the name, the likeness, the Apple thing itself, which still exists, and we still have to communicate on it and make decisions on it and decide who’s to run Apple and who’s to do what. It’s not as cut and dried as the papers said.”

Q: “Do the old Beatles records still go in a pot?”

JOHN: “No one of us can say to EMI, ‘Here’s a new package of Beatle material.’ We still have to okay everything together, you know, ’cause that’s the way we want it anyway.”

Q: “There’s still a good feeling among the guys?”

JOHN: “Yeah, yeah. I talked to Ringo and George yesterday. I didn’t talk to Paul ’cause he was asleep. George and Paul are talkin’ to each other in L.A. now. There’s nothin’ going down between us. It’s all in people’s heads.”

Q: “You went to one of George’s concerts, what are your thoughts on his tour?”

JOHN: “It wasn’t the greatest thing in history. The guy went through some kind of mill. It was probably his turn to get smacked. When we were all together there was periods when the Beatles were in, the Beatles were out, no matter what we were doing. Now it’s always the Beatles were great or the Beatles weren’t great, whatever opinion people hold. There’s a sort of illusion about it. But the actual fact was the Beatles were in for eight months, the Beatles were out for eight months. The public, including the media, are sometimes a bit sheeplike and if the ball starts rolling, well, it’s just that somebody’s in, somebody’s out. George is out for the moment. And I think it didn’t matter what he did on tour.”

Q: “George told Rolling Stone that if you wanted the Beatles, go listen to Wings. It seemed a bit of a putdown.”

JOHN: “I didn’t see what George said, so I really don’t have any comment. (pause) Band on the Run is a great album. Wings is almost as conceptual a group as Plastic Ono Band. Plastic Ono was a conceptual group, meaning whoever was playing was the band. And Wings keeps changing all the time. It’s conceptual. I mean, they’re backup men for Paul. It doesn’t matter who’s playing. You can call them Wings, but it’s Paul McCartney music. And it’s good stuff. It’s good Paul music and I don’t really see the connection.”

Q: “What do you think of Richard Perry’s work with Ringo?”

JOHN: “I think it’s great. Perry’s great, Ringo’s great, I think the combination was great and look how well they did together. There’s no complaints if you’re Number One.”

Q: “George said at his press conference that he could play with you again but not with Paul. How do you feel?”

JOHN: “I could play with all of them. George is entitled to say that, and he’ll probably change his mind by Friday. You know, we’re all human. We can all change our minds. So I don’t take any of my statements or any of their statements as the last word on whether we will. And if we do, the newspapers will learn about it after the fact. If we’re gonna play, we’re just gonna play.”

Q: “In retrospect, what do you think of the whole “Lennon Remembers” episode?”

JOHN: “Well, the other guys, their reaction was public. Ringo made some sort of comment that was funny, which I can’t remember, something like, ‘You’ve gone too far this time, Johnnie.’ Paul said (stuffy voice), ‘Well, that’s his problem.’ I can’t remember what George said. I mean, they don’t care, they’ve been with me for fifteen or twenty years, they know damn well what I’m like. It just so happens it was in the press. I mean, they know what I’m like. I’m not ashamed of it at all. I don’t really like hurting people, but Jann Wenner questioned me when I was almost still in therapy and you can’t play games. You’re opened up. It was like he got me on an acid trip. Things come out. I got both reactions from that article. A lot of people thought it was right on. My only upset was Jann insisted on making a book out of it.”

Q: “‘Walls and Bridges’ has an undertone of regret to it. Did you sit down consciously to make an album like that?”

JOHN: “No, well… Let’s say this last year has been an extraordinary year for me personally. And I’m almost amazed that I could get anything out. But I enjoyed doing Walls and Bridges and it wasn’t hard when I had the whole thing to go into the studio and do it. I’m surprised it wasn’t just all bluuuugggghhhh. (pause) I had the most peculiar year. And… I’m just glad that something came out. It’s describing the year, in a way, but it’s not as sort of schizophrenic as the year really was. I think I got such a shock during that year that the impact hasn’t come through. It isn’t all on Walls and Bridges though. There’s a hint of it there. It has to do with age and God knows what else. But only the surface has been touched on Walls and Bridges, you know?”

Q: “What was it about the year? Do you want to try talking about it?”

JOHN: “Well, you can’t put your finger on it. It started, somehow, at the end of ’73, goin’ to do this Rock ‘n’ Roll album (with Phil Spector). It had quite a lot to do with Yoko and I, whether I knew it or not, and then, suddenly, I was out on me own. Next thing I’d be waking up, drunk, in strange places or reading about meself in the paper, doin’ extraordinary things, half of which I’d done and half of which I hadn’t done. But you know the game anyway. And find meself sort of in a mad dream for a year. I’d been in many mad dreams, but this… It was pretty wild. And then I tried to recover from that.

And (long pause) meanwhile life was going on, the Beatles settlement was going on, other things, life was still going on and it wouldn’t let you sit with your hangover, in whatever form that took. It was like something, probably me-self, kept hitting me while I was trying to do something. I was still trying to do something. I was still trying to carry on a normal life and the whip never let up – for eight months. So… that’s what was going on. Incidents: You can put it down to which night with which bottle or which night in which town. It was just sort of a mad year like that… And it was just probably fear, and being out on me own, and gettin’ old, and are ye gonna make it in the charts? Are ye not gonna make it? All that crap, y’know. All the garbage that y’really know is not the be-all and end-all of your life, but if other things are goin’ funny, that’s gonna hit you. If you’re gonna feel sorry for yourself, you’re gonna feel sorry for everything. What it’s really to do with is probably the same thing that it’s always been to do with all your life: whatever your own personal problems really are, you know? So it was a year that manifested itself (switches to deep actor’s voice) in most peculiar fashion. But I’m through it and it’s ’75 now and I feel better and I’m sittin’ here and not lyin’ in some weird place with a hangover.”

Q: “Why do you feel better?”

JOHN: “Because I feel like I’ve been on Sinbad’s voyage, you know, and I’ve battled all those monsters and I’ve got back. (long pause) Weird.”

Q: “Tell me about the Rock ‘n’ Roll album.”

JOHN: “It started in ’73 with Phil and fell apart. I ended up as part of mad, drunk scenes in Los Angeles and I finally finished it off on me own. And there was still problems with it up to the minute it came out. I can’t begin to say, it’s just barmy, there’s a jinx on that album. And I’ve just started writing a new one. Got maybe half of it written…”

Q: “What about the stories that Spector’s working habits are a little odd? For example, that he either showed off or shot off guns in the studios?”

JOHN: “I don’t like to tell tales out of school, y’know. But I do know there was an awful loud noise in the toilet of the Record Plant West.”

Q: “What actually did happen those nights at the Troubadour when you heckled the Smothers Brothers and went walking around with a Kotex on your head asking the waitress, ‘Do you know who I am?'”

JOHN: “Ah, y’want the juice… If I’d said, ‘Do you know who I am?’ I’d have said it in a joke. Because I know who I am, and I know she knew, because I musta been wearing a Kotex on me head, right? I picked up a Kotex in a restaurant, in the toilet, and it was clean and just for a gag I came back to the table with it on me head. And ’cause it stuck there with sweat, just stayed there, I didn’t have to keep it on. It just stayed there till it fell off. And the waitress said, ‘Yeah, you’re an asshole with a Kotex on,’ and I think it’s a good remark and so what? Tommy Smothers was a completely different night and has been covered a million times. It was my first night on Brandy Alexanders and my last (laughs). And I was with Harry Nilsson, who was no help at all (laughs).”

Q: “What’s your relationship with Nilsson? Some critics say that he’s been heavily influenced, maybe even badly screwed up by you.”

JOHN: “Oh, that’s bullshit.”

Q: “…and that you’ve also been influenced by him.”

JOHN: “That’s bullshit, too. I haven’t been influenced by Harry, only that I had a lot of hangovers whenever I was with him (laughs). I love him. He’s a great guy and I count him as one of me friends. He hasn’t influenced me musically. And there’s an illusion going around about my production of Harry’s album. That he was trying to imitate me on his album.”

Q: “You mean that he’d gone into his primal period…”

JOHN: “That’s it. They’re so sheeplike – put this in – and childlike about trying to put a tag on what’s going on. They use these expressions like ‘primal’ for anything that’s a scream. Brackets: Yoko was screaming before Janov was ever even heard of– that was her stint, usin’ her voice like an instrument. She was screamin’ when Janov was still jackin’ off to Freud. But nowadays, everything that’s got a scream in it is called primal. I know what they’re talkin’ about. The very powerful emotional pitch that Harry reaches at the end of ‘Many Rivers to Cross’ on the album I produced for him (Pussy Cats). It’s there, simply enough, because when you get to a certain point with your vocals, there ain’t nowhere else to go. Was Little Richard primaling before each sax solo? That’s what I want know. Was my imitation Little Richard screams I used to put on all the Beatles records before the solo – we all used to do it, we’d go aaaarrrrgggghhhh! Was that primaling? Right?”

Q: “Richard Perry has described you as a superb producer but maybe in too much of a hurry.”

JOHN: “That’s true [laughs].”

Q: “But supposedly, when making the Beatles records, you were painstaking and slow.”

JOHN: “No, I was never painstaking and slow. I produced ‘I Am the Walrus’ at the same speed I produced ‘Whatever Gets You Thru the Night.’ I would be painstaking on some things, as I am now. If there’s a quality that occasionally gets in the way of my talent, it’s that I get bored quick unless it’s done quick. But ‘I Am the Walrus’ sounds like a wonderful production. ‘Strawberry Fields’ sounds like a big production. But I do them as quick as I possibly can, without losing (a) the feel and (b) where I’m going.

The longest track I personally spent time on was ‘Revolution 9,’ which was an abstract track where I used a lot of tape loops and things like that. I still did it in one session. But I accept that criticism and I have it of myself. But I don’t want to make myself so painstaking that it’s boring. But I should (pause) maybe t’ink a little more. Maybe. But on the other hand I think my criticism of somebody like Richard Perry would be that he’s great but he’s too painstaking. It gets too slick and somewhere in between that is where I’d like to go. I keep finding out all the time – what I’m missing that I want to get out of it.”

Q: “Is there anybody that you’d like to produce? For example, Dylan?”

JOHN: “Dylan would be interesting because I think he made a great album in Blood on the Tracks but I’m still not keen on the backings. I think I could produce him great. And Presley. I’d like to resurrect Elvis. But I’d be so scared of him I don’t know whether I could do it. But I’d like to do it. Dylan, I could do, but Presley would make me nervous. But Dylan or Presley, somebody up there… I know what I’d do with Presley. Make a rock & roll album. Dylan doesn’t need material. I’d just make him some good backings. So if you’re reading this, Bob, you know…”

Q: “Elton John has revived ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.’ How do you feel about him as an artist?”

JOHN: “Elton sort of popped in on the session for Walls and Bridges and sort of zapped in and played the piano and ended up singing ‘Whatever Gets You Thru the Night’ with me. Which was a great shot in the arm. I’d done three quarters of it, ‘Now what do we do?’ Should we put a camel on it or a xylophone? That sort of thing. And he came in and said, ‘Hey, ah’ll play some piano!’ Then I heard he was doing ‘Lucy’ and I heard from a friend – ’cause he was shy – would I be there when he cut ‘Lucy’? Maybe not play on it but just be there? So I went along. And I sang in the chorus and contributed the reggae in the middle. And then, again through a mutual friend, he asked if it got to be Number One, would I appear onstage with him, and I said sure, not thinkin’ in a million years it was gonna get to Number One. Al Coury or no Al Coury, the promotion man at Capitol. And there I was. Onstage.”

Q: “I read somewhere that you were very moved by the whole thing.”

JOHN: “I was moved by it, but everybody else was in tears. I felt guilty ’cause I wasn’t in tears. I just went up and did a few numbers. But the emotional thing was me and Elton together. Elton had been working in Dick James’s office when we used to send our demos in and there’s a long sort of relationship musically with Elton that people don’t really know about. He has this sort of Beatle thing from way back. He’d take the demos home and play them and… well, it meant a lot to me and it mean a hell of a lot to Elton, and he was in tears. It was a great high night, a really high night… Yoko and I met backstage. And somebody said, ‘Well, there’s two people in love.’ That was before we got back together. But that’s probably when we felt something. It was very weird. She came backstage and I didn’t know she was there, ’cause if I’d known she was there I’d’ve been too nervous to go on, you know, I would have been terrified. She was backstage afterward, and there was just that moment when we saw each other and like, it’s like in the movies, you know, when time stands still? And there was silence, everything went silent, y’know, and we were just sort of lookin’ at each other and… oh, hello. I knew she’d sent Elton and I a flower each, and we were wearin’ them onstage, but I didn’t know she was there and then everybody was around us and flash flash flash. But there was that moment of silence. And somebody observed it and told me later on, after we were back together again, and said, “A friend of mine saw you backstage and thought if ever there was two in love, it’s those two.” And I thought, well, it’s weird somebody noticed it… So it was a great night.”

Q: “There seems to be a lot of generosity among the artists now.”

JOHN: “It was around before. It’s harder when you’re on the make, to be generous, ’cause you’re all competing. But once you’re sort of up there, wherever it is… The rock papers love to write about the jet-setting rock stars and they dig it and we dig it in a way. The fact is that, yeah, I see Mick, I see Paul, I see Elton, they’re all my contemporaries and I’ve known the other Beatles, of course, for years, and Mick for ten years, and we’ve been hangin’ around since Rock Dreams. And suddenly it’s written up as they’re-here-they’re-there-they’re-everywhere bit, and it looks like we’re trying to form a club. But we always were a club. We always knew each other. It just so happens that it looks more dramatic in the paper.”

Q: “How do you relate to what we might call the rock stars of the Seventies? Do you think of yourself as an uncle figure, a father figure, an old gunfighter?”

JOHN: “It depends who they are. If it’s Mick or the Old Guard, as I call them, yeah, they’re the Old Guard. Elton, David are the newies. I don’t feel like an old uncle, dear, ’cause I’m not that much older than half of ’em, heh heh. But… yeah, I’m interested in the new people. I’m interested in new people in America but I get a kick out of the new Britons. I remember hearing Elton John’s ‘Your Song,’ heard it in America – it was one of Elton’s first big hits – and remember thinking, ‘Great, that’s the first new thing that’s happened since we happened.’ It was a step forward. There was something about his vocals that was an improvement on all of the English vocals until then. I was pleased with it. And I was pleased with Bowie’s thing and I hadn’t even heard him. I just got this feeling from the image and the projections that were coming out of England of him, well, you could feel it.”

Q: “Do you think of New York as home now?”

JOHN: “Yeah, this is the longest I’ve ever been away from England. I’ve almost lived here as long as I’ve lived in London. I was in London from, let’s see, ’64, ’65, ’66, ’67, actually in London ’cause then it was your Beatlemania bit and we all ended up like a lot of rock & rollers end up, living an hour away from London in the country, the drivin’-in-from-the-big-estate bit. ‘Cause you couldn’t live in London, ’cause people just bugged the ass off you. So I’ve lived in New York longer than I actually lived in London.”

Q: “In view of the immigration case, is one reason you’ve stayed here so long because if you left, they’d pull a Charlie Chaplin on you and not let you back in?”

JOHN: “You bet. There’s no way they would let me back. And… it’s worth it to me. I can last out, without leaving here, another ten years, if that’s the way they want to play it. I’ll earn enough to keep paying them. I’m really getting blackmailed. I’m paying to stay. Paying takes, on one hand, about a half million dollars, and I’ve hardly worked very hard for that. I mean, that’s with sittin’ on me arse and I’ve paid a half million in taxes. So I’m paying them to attack me and keep me busy and harass me, on one hand, while on the other hand I’ve got to pay me own lawyers. Some people think I’m here just to make the American dollars. But I don’t have to be here to make the dollars. I could earn American dollars just sittin’ in a recording studio in Hong Kong. Wherever I am, the money follows me. It’s gonna come out of America whether they like it or not.”

Q: “Right. And the government doesn’t choose that John Lennon makes money. The people who buy your music do that.”

JOHN: “The implication that John Lennon wants to come to the land of milk and honey ’cause it’s easier to pick up the money, so I can pick it up directly instead of waiting for it to arrive in England. Or Brazil. Or wherever I decide to do it. I resent the implication, especially as I’m payin’ through the nose. I don’t mind paying taxes, either, which is strange. I never did. I don’t like ’em using it for bombs and that. But I don’t think I could do a Joan Baez. I don’t have that kind of gut. I did never complain in England either, because, well, it’s buying people teeth… I’m sick of gettin’ sick about taxes. Taxes is what seems to be it, and there’s nothin’ to be done about it unless you choose to make a crusade about it. And I’m sick of being in crusades because I always get nailed up before I’m even in the crusade. They get me in the queue while I’m readin’ the pages about it: ‘Oh, there’s a crusade on, I wonder should I…’ I mean, I get caught before I’ve ever done anything about it.”

Q: “You went through a period of really heavy involvement in radical causes. Lately you seem to have gone back to your art in a more direct way. What happened?”

JOHN: “I’ll tell you what happened literally. I got off the boat, only it was an airplane, and landed in New York, and the first people who got in touch with me was Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman. It’s as simple as that. It’s those two famous guys from America who’s callin’: ‘Hey, yeah, what’s happenin’, what’s goin’ on?’ And the next thing you know, I’m doin’ John Sinclair benefits and one thing and another. I’m pretty movable, as an artist, you know. They almost greeted me off the plane and the next minute I’m involved, you know.”

Q: “How did all of this affect your work?”

JOHN: “It almost ruined it, in a way. It became journalism and not poetry. And I basically feel that I’m a poet. Even if it does go ba-deeble, eedle, eedle, it, da-deedle, deedle, it. I’m not a formalized poet, I have no education, so I have to write in the simplest forms usually. And I realized that over a period of time – and not just ’cause I met Jerry Rubin off the plane – but that was like a culmination. I realized that we were poets but we were really folk poets, and rock & roll was folk poetry – I’ve always felt that. Rock & roll was folk music. Then I began to take it seriously on another level, saying, “Well, I am reflecting what is going on, right?” And then I was making an effort to reflect what was going on. Well, it doesn’t work like that. It doesn’t work as pop music or what I want to do. It just doesn’t make sense. You get into that bit where you can’t talk about trees, ’cause, y’know, y’gotta talk about ‘Corruption on Fifty-fourth Street’! It’s nothing to do with that. It’s a bit larger than that. It’s the usual lesson that I’ve learned in me little thirty-four years: As soon as you’ve clutched onto something, you think – you’re always clutchin’ at straws – this is what life is all about. I think artists are lucky because the straws are always blowin’ out of their hands. But the unfortunate thing is that most people find the straw hat and hang on to it, like your best friend that got the job at the bank when he was fifteen and looked twenty-eight before he was twenty. ‘Oh, this is it! Now I know what I’m doing! Right? Down this road for the next hundred years…’ and it ain’t never that. Whether it’s a religious hat or a political hat or a no-political hat: whatever hat is was, always looking for these straw hats. I think I found out it’s a waste of time. There is no hat to wear. Just keep moving around and changing clothes is the best. That’s all that goes on: change.”

“At one time I thought, well, I’m avoidin’ that thing called the Age Thing, whether it hits you at twenty-one, when you take your first job – I always keep referrin’ to that because it has nothing to do, virtually, with your physical age. I mean, we all know the guys who took the jobs when we left school, the straight jobs, they all look like old guys within six weeks. You’d meet them and they’d be lookin’ like Well, I’ve Settled Down Now. So I never want to settle down, in that respect. I always want to be immature in that respect. But then I felt that if I keep bangin’ my head on the wall it’ll stop me from gettin’ that kind of age in the head. By keeping creating, consciously or unconsciously, extraordinary situations which in the end you’d write about. But maybe it has nothin’ to do with it. I’m still mullin’ that over. Still mullin’ over last year now. Maybe that was it. I was still trying to avoid somethin’ but doin’ it the wrong way ’round. Whether it’s called age or whatever.”

Q: “Is it called growing up?”

JOHN: “I don’t want to grow up but I’m sick of not growing up – that way. I’ll find a different way of not growing up. There’s a better way of doing it than torturing your body. And then your mind. The guilt! It’s just so dumb. And it makes me furious to be dumb because I don’t like dumb people. And there I am, doing the dumbest things… I seem to do the things that I despise the most, almost. All of that to – what? – avoid being normal. I have this great fear of this normal thing. You know, the ones that passed their exams, the ones that went to their jobs, the ones that didn’t become rock & rollers, the ones that settle for it, settled for it, settled for the deal! That’s what I’m trying to avoid. But I’m sick of avoiding it with violence, you know? I’ve gotta do it some other way. I think I will. I think just the fact that I’ve realized it is a good step forward. Alive in ’75 is my new motto. I’ve just made it up. That’s the one. I’ve decided I want to live. I’d decided I wanted to live before, but I didn’t know what it meant, really. It’s taken however many years and I want to have a go at it.”

Q: “Do you think much of yourself as an artist at fifty or sixty?”

JOHN: “I never see meself as not an artist. I never let meself believe that an artist can run dry. I’ve always had this vision of bein’ sixty and writing children’s books. I don’t know why. It’d be a strange thing for a person who doesn’t really have much to do with children. I’ve always had that feeling of giving what Wind in the Willows and Alice in Wonderland and Treasure Island gave to me at age seven and eight. The books that really opened my whole being.”

Q: “Is there anything left to say about the immigration case?”

JOHN: “People get bored with hearin’ about Lennon’s immigration case. I’m bored with hearin’ about it. The only interesting thing is when I read these articles people write that were not instigated by me. I learn things I didn’t know anything about. I didn’t know about Strom Thurmond. I had no idea – I mean I knew something was going on, but I didn’t have any names. I’m just left in the position of just what am I supposed to do? There doesn’t seem to be anything I can do about it. It’s just… bloody crazy. Terry Southern put it in a nice sort of way. He said, ‘Well, look, y’keep ’em all happy, ya see? The conservatives are happy ’cause they’re doin’ somethin’ about ya and the liberals are happy ’cause they haven’t thrown you out. So everybody’s happy! (pause) Except you!’ (laughter) I’m happy I’m still here. I must say that. And I ain’t going. There’s no way they’re gonna get me out. No way. They’re not gonna drag me in chains, right? So I’m just gonna have to keep paying. It’s bloody ridiculous. It’s just… beyond belief.”

Q: “So nothing has changed with the departure of Nixon.”

JOHN: “I’m even nervous about commenting on politics. They’ve got me that jumpy these days. But it’s a bit of an illusion to think ’cause Old Nick went that it’s all changed. If it’s changed, prove it, show me the change.”

Q: “Does the case get in the way of your work?”

JOHN: “It did. It did. There’s no denying it. In ’72, it was really gettin’ to me. Not only was I physically having to appear in court cases, it just seemed like a toothache that wouldn’t go away. Now I just accept it. I just have a permanent toothache. But there was a period where I just couldn’t function, you know? I was so paranoid from them tappin’ the phone and followin’ me. How could I prove that they were tappin’ me phone? There was a period when I was hangin’ out with a group called Elephant’s Memory. And I was ready to go on the road for pure fun. I didn’t want to go on the road for money. That was the time when I was standing up in the Apollo with a guitar at the Attica relatives’ benefit or ending up on the stage at the John Sinclair rally. I felt like going on the road and playing music. And whatever excuse – charity or whatever – would have done me. But they kept pullin’ me back into court! I had the group hangin’ ’round, but I finally had to say, ‘Hey, you better get on with your lives.’ Now, the last thing on earth I want to do is perform. That’s a direct result of the immigration thing. In ’71, ’72, I wanted to go out and rock my balls off onstage and I just stopped.”

Q: “Have you made any kind of flat decision not to ever go on the road again?”

JOHN: “No. I’ve stopped making flat decisions. I change me mind a lot. My idea of heaven is not going on the road.”

Q: “Will you ever be free of the fact that you were once a Beatle?”

JOHN: “I’ve got used to the fact – just about – that whatever I do is going to be compared to the other Beatles. If I took up ballet dancing, my ballet dancing would be compared with Paul’s bowling. So that I’ll have to live with. But I’ve come to learn something big this past year. I cannot let the Top Ten dominate my art. If my worth is only to be judged by whether I’m in the Top Ten or not, then I’d better give up. Because if I let the Top Ten dominate my art, then the art will die. And then whether I’m in the Top Ten is a moot point. I do think now in terms of long term. I’m an artist. I have to express myself. I can’t be dominated by gold records. As I said, I’m thirty-four going on sixty. The art is more important than the thing and sometimes I have to remind meself of it. Because there’s a danger there, for all of us, for everyone who’s involved in whatever art they’re in, of needing that love so badly that… In my business, that’s manifested in the Top Ten.”

Q: “So this last year, in some ways, was a year of deciding whether you wanted to be an artist or a pop star?”
JOHN: “Yeah. What is it I’m doing. What am I doing? Meanwhile, I was still putting out the work. But in the back of me head it was that: What do you want to be? What are you lookin’ for? And that’s about it. I’m a freakin’ artist, man, not a fuckin’ racehorse.”


Two Other Rolling Stone Interviews With John Lennon

1980 Rolling Stone Interview
With John Lennon
by Jonathan Cott … erview.htm

1968 Rolling Stone Interview
With John Lennon
by Jonathan Cott … erview.htm

Other classic Interviews With John Lennon

1980 Playboy Interview
With John Lennon And Yoko Ono
by David Sheff … okoono.htm

‘Man of the Decade’
Interview With John Lennon … lennon.htm

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December 11, 2008 Posted by | John Lennon, May Pang, _ARTICLE, _MUSIC | Leave a comment

John Lennon and May Pang

“I may have been the happiest I’ve ever been … I loved this woman (Pang), I made some beautiful music and I got so fucked up with booze and shit and whatever.”

– John Lennon

As well as the great Lennon Doc The U.S. vs. John Lennon we also caught another programme on TV again exploring Lennon’s becoming a threat to the US political establishment and the consequent attempts to deport him. There were some clips where May Pang spoke about that period. It was our first time hearing her speak and she came across as a very intelligent and impressive lady. Of course, she was a hotty back in the day too!

May and Lennon famously were lovers for an extended time during Lennon’s off the rails 73-75 period! Bizarrely, Yoko Ono strongly encouraged this relationship and urged May to take up with Lennon!! Strange days indeed … most peculiar, momma!

May Fung Yee Pang (born October 24, 1950) is best known as the former lover of John Lennon. She had previously worked as a personal assistant and production coordinator for Lennon and Yoko Ono.

In 1973, Lennon and Ono separated and Lennon and Pang had a relationship that lasted over 18 months, which Lennon later referred to as his “Lost Weekend.” Pang produced two books about their relationship: a memoir called Loving John, (Warner, 1983), and a book of photographs, Instamatic Karma, (St. Martins 2008).

Pang was married to producer Tony Visconti from 1989 to 2000, and had two children, Sebastian and Lara.

Lennon called his 18-month relationship with Pang his “Lost Weekend“, a reference to the The Lost Weekend film, which starred Ray Milland, Jane Wyman and Phillip Terry. The film was based on a novel of the same title by Charles R. Jackson, about a writer who drinks heavily because of the accusation that he had had an affair with one of his male friends while in college. The reference to the gay affair was removed in the film, and the main character’s descent into an alcoholic binge is blamed on writer’s block.

In summer 1973, Pang was working on the recording of Lennon’s Mind Games album. Lennon and Ono were having marital problems and decided to separate, and Ono suggested to Pang that she become Lennon’s companion.

Ono explained that she and Lennon were not getting along, had been arguing and were growing apart, and said that Lennon would start seeing other women. She pointed out that Lennon had said he found Pang sexually attractive. Pang replied that she could never start a relationship with Lennon as he was her employer and married. Ono ignored Pang’s protests and said that she would arrange everything. Ono later confirmed this conversation in an interview.

In October 1973, Lennon and Pang left New York for Los Angeles, living at the homes of friends.

Lennon collaborated with Spector in December 1973, to record an album of Lennon’s favourite oldies Rock N Roll – which we posted about here.

Pang was credited on the finished album as “Production Coordinator and Mother Superior”, in recognition of the difficult time she had organising the production schedule and musicians.

In May 1974, Lennon and Pang returned to live in New York City. Lennon stopped drinking and concentrated on recording.

In the early summer of 1974, while Lennon was working on his Walls and Bridges album, the couple moved into a penthouse apartment at 434 East 52nd Street.

Pang is the voice whispering Lennon’s name on #9 Dream. Pang claims that Lennon’s song, “Surprise, Surprise (Sweet Bird of Paradox)“, was written about her.

Lennon achieved his only number one single in his solo career with “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night“. Pang received an RIAA gold record award for her work on Walls and Bridges and continued her work as production coordinator of Lennon’s Rock ‘n’ Roll album.

Pang also worked on albums by Nilsson, Starr, Elton John and David Bowie.

Although Lennon would publicly lament this period, he did not do so in private. Journalist Larry Kane, who befriended Lennon in 1964, wrote a comprehensive biography of Lennon which detailed the “Lost Weekend” period. In the interview with Kane, Lennon explained his feelings about his time with Pang:

You know Larry, I may have been the happiest I’ve ever been… I loved this woman (Pang), I made some beautiful music and I got so fucked up with booze and shit and whatever.”

Pang published her memoir, Loving John, in 1983. It was later updated and re-named, John Lennon: The Lost Weekend.

The original 500-page Loving John book focused more on Pang’s role on Lennon’s albums and sessions. It was edited down to 300 pages, concentrating mostly on the sensational aspects of their relationship. It also included postcards that Lennon had written to Pang during his travels throughout the world in the late 70s.

Pang claims that she and Lennon remained lovers until 1977, and stayed in contact until his death.

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December 11, 2008 Posted by | John Lennon, May Pang, Yoko Ono, _PHOTOGRAPHY | Leave a comment

Former Girlfriends Dish on Dylan & Lennon / Or Attack of the Killer Leeches!

A genre has evolved: Books by Rock Star love interests

Yap, it’s like an appalling Z-Movie shocker from the 50’s, Attack of the Killer Leeches!

These exes are now being encouraged by publishers to crawl out from wherever they disappeared to after their fifteen minutes in someone else’s spotlight elapsed!

As well as Suze Rotolo (whose claim to fame apparently is that she appeared in a picture with Bob Dylan!), there’s Eric Clapton’s ex (and before that, George Harrison’s ex!) , serial mistress Patti Boyd … to John Lennon’s “lost weekend” girlfriend May Pang (who the fuck’s she?) … to Nancy Lee Andrews, Ringo Starr’s former fiancée (again, who the fuck ?) ……

A typical quote from one of these characters;

Rotolo – “Yes. I could say I was a Muse.

Wow, thanks Suze! I guess that, without you, we’d never have had the genius of Bob Dylan!! Not one album, not one song, not one verse, not one line, not one word, not one note!

We owe you the world, baby!
Two things to note about being a “muse”;

    – No talent whatsoever is required, and,
    – You don’t actually need to do anything at all!

Seems that this would be the only job spec that most of these could qualify for!

I mean, a dog or a sheep or a flower or a steeple or a goldfish or a stick could just as equally be a “muse”!!

Another wonderful fragment, this time from mistress Pang!;

“It was the most productive time in his solo career,” Pang says, which was marked by the release of “Walls and Bridges.” “And that was his number one album with his only number one single in his lifetime, ‘Whatever Gets You Through the Night.'”

His only number one single in his lifetime? Has this bimbo ever heard of a little group called The Beatles?!

Back on topic, there is one huge question about this whole leech phenomenon!

Who the fuck buys this shit?!

They Loved These Music Icons, And Now They Tell Their Stories

//” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.The year was 1963. And she was Bob Dylan’s girlfriend. The image of them together is one of many from a Columbia Records publicity shoot.

“And the photographer said, ‘Bob, sit here. Move here. Pick up your guitar. Put down the guitar.’ And then he said, ‘Suze, get in the picture.’ So, I said, ‘Okay.'”

“You had no idea?” Altschul asked.

“No idea, and was very surprised that they chose that one to be the cover,” Rotolo said. “I thought they’d take one of Bob by himself.”

Forty-five years later, Rotolo has written a memoir, “A Freewheelin’ Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village In the Sixties” (Random House), putting her in tune with a new trend.

From Eric Clapton’s ex, Patti Boyd … to John Lennon’s girlfriend May Pang … to Nancy Lee Andrews, Ringo Starr’s former fiancée, a genre has evolved: Books by rock star love interests.

“What can we learn about Bob Dylan from your book that we’re not gonna learn from all of the others?” Altschul asked.

“It was through my eyes,” Rotolo said. “Anyone could write about that period. But through my eyes, it’s personal. It was my personal history, my personal story, in seeing this man who became an icon.”

He may be an icon now, but his first Greenwich Village apartment – which he shared with Rotolo in 1961 – was anything but grand. She took CBS News Sunday Morning to the building.

“We were on the top floor, in the rear,” she said. “It was hot in summer, and cold in winter.”

“Little apartment?” Altschul asked.

“Very little apartment,” Rotolo said without hesitation. “One tiny bedroom, and a tiny kitchen, and the main room. We used to eat a lot at The Bagel, which was across the street. And there was a guy who made wonderful hamburgers. He was in the window grilling the hamburgers. So we’d go there a lot.”

Rotolo first laid eyes on Dylan only a few blocks away, at a club called Gerde’s Folk City. He was playing back-up harmonica. When they met she was 17, he was 20. A romance ignited quickly, fueled by their mutual love of poetry, and lasted almost four years.

“So within that first year of knowing him, he became very famous,” Altschul said.


“That’s so much pressure on a relationship, too.” Altschul added.

“Yes,” Rotolo answered. “Well, I think it’s very difficult for the artist, too. People would take him as gospel – that he could give the word on anything. And why would that be? He was basically an entertainer.”

An entertainer obsessed with writing lyrics.

When not penning songs, Dylan wrote romantic inscriptions to Rotolo, like this one in a poetry book he gave her as a gift. And he was still penning words of affection about her four decades later, in his 2004 memoir.

“He characterizes you in a particular way that’s quite moving,” Altschul said. “He says, ‘Meeting her was like stepping into the Tales of 1,001 Arabian Nights. She had a smile that could light up a street full of people, a Rodin sculpture come to life.’ How does it feel for him to say that and to characterize you like that?”

“That’s nice, no?” Rotolo said.

“Were you his muse?” Altschul asked.

“That makes sense,” she answered. “Yes. I could say I was a muse.”

Rotolo is not the only rock star muse with a book. There’s also May Pang’s new volume of John Lennon photographs, “Instamatic Karma: Photographs of John Lennon” (St. Martin’s Press).

(St. Martins Press)She was Lennon’s mistress between 1973 and ’75, when he was separated from Yoko Ono. It was known as his “Lost Weekend,” and he was rumored to be depressed, but Pang says just the opposite: Those were years of re-birth.

“It was the most productive time in his solo career,” Pang says, which was marke dby the release of “Walls and Bridges.” “And that was his number one album with his only number one single in his lifetime, ‘Whatever Gets You Through the Night.'”

“What do we learn about him from these photographs that we haven’t known?” Altschul asked.

“I guess the vulnerability,” Pang answered. “He was like you and me, you know? When he was away from all the cameras, he just liked to do the normal things. His favorite thing in life was just to sit around, take in the sun, and go swimming. I couldn’t swim; that’s why I took the pictures instead.”

Pang took pictures of just about everything, in both New York and Los Angeles, where the couple split their time:

There’s Lennon’s reunion with his young son Julian after several years apart, and the signing of the papers that officially disbanded the Beatles.

“Was he resolved about it?” Altschul asked.

“Yeah, he was resolved,” Pang answered. “I mean, he took a deep breath. You know, if you look at that picture, he’s the last one to sign it, you know. He started it and he’s ending it. And his signature was the last one.”

Pang has since been married and divorced, but she’s always kept her Lennon photographs stowed away at home, a home that at times feels more like a John Lennon museum.

There are pieces of history …

“This is my ‘Walls and Bridges’ gold record which I treasure a lot,” Pang said.

And there are personal mementos.

“This was John’s favorite poetry book, by Elizabeth Barrett Browning,” she said.

And then there’s a larger item you’d never expect to see firsthand:

“This was the bed that John and I bought together,” Pang said. “This was in our apartment. So when you look in the book and you see us laying in this bed, where he’s looking at TV, this is the bed.”

And if you look hard enough, you can almost see the world through Lennon’s eyes.

“He wore these,” she said, holding a pair of Lennon’s eyeglasses.

“So he had very poor vision?” Altschul asked.

“He was really, like, almost blind,” Pang answered.

“When was the last time you spoke with him?” Altschul asked.

“Well, 1980, memorial weekend,” she said. “I had some friends over, and the phone rang. And all I heard was, “Hi, May.” My heart just skipped a beat and I said, ‘John.'”

John Lennon died later that year.

Pang says his legend – and that of The Beatles – will always remain.

“They changed the world, not of only music, but they changed the world of how we dress, how we look, how we talk,” she said.

As for Suze Rotolo, she is now a visual artist exhibiting her work at a Manhattan gallery. Married, with a grown son, she says she tries to avoid nostalgia about Bob Dylan. But it’s hard not to look back and reflect on a decade of such profound cultural change.

“It was a very fruitful period, in all the arts,” Rotolo said. “And also, socially. The civil rights movement was going on. The war in Vietnam was firing up. So it was a hot bed of all these different things. And Dylan became kind of the mover and the shaper of the period.”

May 13, 2008 Posted by | John Lennon, May Pang, OTHER_ARTICLE, Suze Rotolo, _BOB DYLAN, _MUSIC, _OTHER | Leave a comment