Monday, October 9, 2017

You're up and you're down

You're up and you're down:   an interview with John Lennon
By Robert Hilburn
Los Angeles Times Service
January 6, 1974

"Well it's possible," John Lennon said without hesitation when asked the inevitable question about the Beatles getting back together for another album.   
"If you had asked me last year, I would have said, 'No.  No way. I'm not going back one step.'  But I just think anything is possible now.  It's not like it is in the offing or anything, but I'm not ruling it out." 
"If it happens, I am sure we'll do something wonderful," he says with a dab of familiar Lennon wit surfacing.  "And I am just as sure that everybody would say that it wasn't good enough...that we were better separate or something." 

Far from the intense, brooding, even arrogant reputation that has sometimes been painted of him, Lennon was relaxed, open, even a touch shy as he sat of the patio of a friend's Bel-Air residence and talked of his colorful, often controversial career.

While each of the ex-Beatles has acknowledged the possibility of a one-time reunion, Lennon until now has been constantly outspoken of his opposition.  In both his music, and infrequent interviews, he argued against the wastefulness of clinging to what he called the "Beatles myth" and stress that he preferred  to move forward in his solo career.

The fact that Lennon is now open to the possibility of working with George, Paul and Ringo again (he is far from actively promoting such a move, however) is symptimatic of a larger change in his life. By his own admission Lennon, now 33, has become a bit more flexible.

"Oh, I'm still trouble," he said, sitting on the Bel-Air patio, softly strumming an acoustic guitar.  "I'm a complete neurotic, but I've got to swing with it a bit more like when I was younger.   There's nothing I can do about it, so I just have to go along with it. "

Since the break-up of the Beatles, Lennon has made four solo albums, including the current "Mind Games."  The first two "Plastic Ono Band"  (sometimes called 'Mother' the title of the opening selection) and Imagine - are quite possibly the best albums of the 1970's and as artistically impressive as anything done by the Beatles.

The first album, particularly,  was a frightfully honest, deeply moving work that dealt with various phases of experience, from early  childhood through adolescence through his days as a pop music superstar.

Lennon's third album, "Sometime in New York City," in 1972 was a disappointment, a collaboration with Yoko Ono that seemed at times to subjugate his art to his socio-political concerns.  "Mind Games," while a bit uneven, is a sharp improvement, an album that contains some moments that are as welcome as anything released last year.

Lennon's next album will be a collection of old rock n roll hits.  He has been recording in Las Angeles with producer Phil Spector.  The sessions emphasized the good-time, party-flavor of the early days of rock.

After the tensions and distractions of such varied but equally draining  matters as the complex business problems with Apple records and his deportation struggle (his case is still on appeal), Lennon was obviously glad to be back in his favorite role -  a musician.

Earlier in Bel-Air he talked about the new album, the aftermath of therapy, touring, Yoko, and, of course the Beatles.

Why did you decide to do an oldies album?

"I started thinking about it when I was doing 'Imagine.'  I started doing 'Ain't that a shame' and a few things like that, but I just put them down and forgot about them.  When we were doing 'Sometime in New York City,' I did about 15 oldies, but with all different words because I couldn't remember the original lyrics.  I just sort of adlibbed the words. Even the ones I used to do as a teenager, I could only remember half of it.  I try not to listen to the original versions because you remember them differently.  We're changing them anyway...

"The thing that always inhibited me before about doing an oldies album was that I thought people would say, 'Oh, he can't write anymore.'  It was this sort of ego problem and although I always profess not to care what anybody thinks -- which I don't in general -- now and then I do.   But now I feel this oldies album is all right, especially  doing it right after having finished an album of my own."

1 comment: