John Lennon's lost six-hour interview
Student's meeting with member of the Beatles in 1968 reveals furious response to claims the group had sold out
Thursday 17 December 2009
http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2009/de ... -interview
It took more than 40 years, but John Lennon has finally got in his furious response at having Revolution, one of his most famous songs with the Beatles, unfavourably compared to the BBC radio drama Mrs Dale's Diary.
The jibe that the Beatles had sold out to the establishment was made in 1968 in a letter to Tariq Ali's radical journal Black Dwarf – which had concluded that the Beatles' mortal rivals, the Rolling Stones, had superior radical credentials.
Now, an apparently forgotten interview reveals how Lennon felt about the criticism at the time. "It's no good knocking down a few old bloody Tories!" Lennon raged, at the end of a year when Europe had been convulsed by student, trade union and political demonstrations and strikes. "The system's a load of crap. But just smashing it up isn't gonna do it."
Today's music fans will be stunned by the circumstances of the interview: Lennon spoke for six hours at his home in Surrey, sustained only by macrobiotic bread and jam made by Yoko Ono, to an overawed first-year student from Keele University who had hitchhiked hundreds of miles to meet him after applying by a letter sent to a fan magazine.
A snippet was duly published in the Keele student magazine, but most of the material stayed in the files of Maurice Hindle, now an author completing a book on Lennon and an academic at the Open University – until today, when he finally publishes the full version in the New Statesman.
"Outside Weybridge station a Mini Cooper with smoked-glass windows skidded to a halt like something out of The Italian Job. In the driver's seat was Lennon, looking much as he does in the colour photograph included with the Beatles 1968 White Album faded blue Levi's jacket, white T-shirt and jeans, dirty white sneakers, his shoulder-length hair parted in the middle, and , wearing the now famous granny glasses.
"We students crammed into the back of the Mini and John drove us up the bumpy private road that led to his house, Kenwood. In a sitting room at the back of the house we sat down on thick-pile Indian carpets around a low table, cross-legged. Yoko said little, as we all knew this was primarily John's day – and he said a lot.
Apart from a short break, when Yoko fed us macrobiotic bread and jam she had made, Lennon talked continuously for six hours."
Lennon was enraged by the open letter by John Hoyland published in Black Dwarf. The Beatles might have changed their image, but had lost none of their fire, he insisted.
"OK so we mop-topped it to get where I am – I'm here," he said. "There have been millions of changes, of course, but I'm still doing exactly the same thing I was doing at school, or at art school, and as a Beatle. "I'm not going to get myself crucified if I can help it, and so I've compromised. But I just want to see someone who hasn't, and who's still alive.""I've always said that 'don't drop out man – just stay in and subvert it!'"
Memories of the altercation were revived last year when most of the surviving protagonists were interviewed for various documentaries marking the anniversary of the 1968 protests and uprisings.
John Lennon died on December 8 1980, shot on the doorstep of his Dakota building home in New York by Mark Chapman - but by then had long since made his peace with Tariq Ali, and regained his radical laurels.The American journal Counterpunch four years ago finally published in full a long 1971 interview by Ali and Robin Blackburn, originally for the Trotskyist Red Mole, in which Lennon agreed with Ali that he was becoming "increasingly radical and political".
There was nothing new about this, Lennon insisted. "I've always been politically minded, you know, and against the status quo. It's pretty basic when you're brought up, like I was, to hate and fear the police as a natural enemy and to despise the army as something that takes everybody away and leaves them dead somewhere."