Sunday, March 24, 2019
John Lennon: A Natural High
John Lennon: A Natural High
By Alan Smith
The sun burns brightly through the Savile Row window and it's a hot and sticky busy day at Apple, with Yoko hammering away at the electric typewriter and John Lennon in conversation and all the while the beautiful No 1 smash sound of an unreleased Lennon song called, "Give Peace a Chance," soaring and thumping around the room.
A statement of fact is that this record will sell several million and that, like "All You Need Is Love," it will echo like an anthem across the world.
A pleasant and intriguing Irishman named Cecil McCartney has been in, not to claim some long-forgotten Beatles' relationship but to talk about war and peace and his loathing for the fiery death they call Napalm.
Lennon has been inspired and the result is that several hundred plastic dolls have been bought and now await mutilation and destruction in a grisly protest burning in London's King Road the following day. One of them lies on the table, naked and pink and innocent and with its feeding bottle aloft.
"We're only at the beginning of selling our peace product," John is saying, "and I think and I hope it's beginning to work. Yoko and I can only go on the reactions we get from people when we're going down the street together - of course. I know we don't' get people really against us. some of them do give us a dirty look, but the others ..... bus drivers and lorry drivers and that... some of them say, "Ow yer doin'?' and 'Good luck,' and all that stuff.
"The way I see it is, even if they don't get the gist of us, or why are those people hamming in nails or staying in bed... they know we're in favor of peace. They know what we stand for. This is only the start of the campaign. And they'll soon all know our message, and what we're trying to say. Sure, I know we've been criticized by some papers. but you know some of these journalists and people talk as if they feel they represent somebody.
"One journalist might think we need more communication...but that's unfortunate. They must get out of the habit -- newspaper men and pop stars, anybody -- must talk for themselves. I mean, how does one journalist know how most people feel? O.K., so the people in his office might agree with him. But how many straights does he know -- how many people that aren't boozy journalists?"
I nod, swigging swiftly at the bottle of whiskey I whip from my pocket in a sudden secretive scoop.
"In the same way, I can only judge from my side in that how many straights do I know besides of Apple, or those I meet? I can only judge the reaction I get by people waving or sending me letters. and that happens. Sure, Yoko and I both know the criticism about us spending $4,000 at the Hilton on a bed-in when we could spend it feeding babies in Biafra.
"The situation is, I've done that as well -- the charity bit. And I respect the sentiments behind charity, and I will continue to do things like that. But it doesn't solve the problem. It's like nursing the cancer after somebody's got it. There's a lot of cancer to be cured. But it still doesn't stop research. And we look on what we're trying to do for peace as research -- to prevent Biafra happening next time.
"I could give all my money to Biafra and maybe a few thousand kids would be safe for that day. But the war would still go on. I'm using my money as an overall campaign to advertise the cause of peace. You know, these people who criticize ... what are they doing? You've got to remember -- all of you -- that this is me and Yoko's best effort. It's with both of our minds.
"So if any of you out there can think of a better idea, then we'll do that. But until you come up with an alternative, and not just why don't you give it to the spastics and not the deaf then we'll stick to the way we are. The thing about trying to bring change in that everybody in the world sits back and blame everybody else. The whole human race is like that. We vote people into Parliament and to run the Government for us, and then we sit back and claim how badly they're doing it. We always use a scapegoat, and the whole system's just like that. Everybody sits in the armchair and says Harold Wilson did this and Harold Wilson did that ... but it's our fault, not Harold Wilson's. "
He picks up the pink doll and pull its plastic arm out of the socket, and pauses for a moment and looks at the table and listens as Yoko speaks rapid Japanese into the telephone.
"Once," I told him, "you used to frighten the hell out of me. There was a time when I'd expect your next words to be 'you four-eyed git,' Now, I find myself more at ease in your company. You're far more mellow."
He tries to push the doll's arm back into place as he says, "That's because I'm more myself now. I'm introverted and in saying that, it would have been to prevent you saying 'four-eyed git' to me. It's just a case of simple games. The Games People Play. It's just that I had the game of aggression. Aggression was my defense. As soon as somebody came near me, I'd make the first punch. If they couldn't handle that then maybe I'd be cruel or maybe I'd be kind.
Now I'm relaxed enough to be myself and be less frightened of what people are going to say. Another thing is when I didn't wear glasses I used to be more uninhibited. In Hamburg, for instance, when I could never see the audience -- I'd just get carried away on my own."
He looks around for a prying instrument and then he puts down the baby's arm and takes hold of the feeding bottle, and then he tries to jam the bottle into the empty armpit. He doesn't say anything, but he gets it in, in the end -- one arm, one feeding bottle.
"The thing about performing now is," he says, "we still just don't agree on it. We're just four middle-aged teenagers, who don't agree on it. We're all professional musicians, sure, but musicians aren't necessarily performers. I mean, I'd go out. But you're talking to me, and The Beatles as such, don't want to go out on the road. I don't mind having a bed-in is being out on the road as far as I'm concerned. I think George and Ringo don't really fancy it, but I don't want to point a finger at them and say they're the reason. Maybe there's a little something inside me saying the same thing.
"Singing in front of an audience and playing, I'd enjoy. But the rest of it all ... that's the problem. Maybe in ten years, like Elvis, who knows?"
He takes hold of the spare arm and he pulls it and presses it and molds it to a pliable plastic.
"I'm happy with life," he answers me, "as happy as anybody can be. The only blots are violence and war and starvation and all that. You can't be happy with all that going on. If I have a good percentage of happiness, it's because I'm grateful for life, and I'm in love and I'm happy with my wife and I thank God for it. And all that bit.
"In fighting and doing my bit for peace. I don't believe that thing that man will always fight because it's in his nature. That's just the Establishment, for thousands of years, telling us that. They say that because it suits the Establishment, it suits the military, to tell us we're all basically soldiers. We're just as much non-violent as we are violent. It's all that 'be a man my son' thing we get a 'you wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for me, my son.' 'I fought..." you know the whole thing. I believe you can use music as some sort of a platform to bring people together, but so can you use dancing and painting and even walking and all of the media."
Musically, adds John Lennon, the Beatles have more than ever before to say, and they have one album ready and another one-half ready.
"The Beatles album that's ready is like an unfinished rehearsal for that show that we never did. It's The Beatles show that never was. There's bits of dialogue on it and 'Get Back's' the most finished tune. So you can imagine what some of it's like. We've no date for it yet because there's a book with it and that's not ready yet. There is another album and that's by John and Yoko -- and that's also got a book with it. It's like a wedding album. And it's great."
"In all this new Beatles' stuff there's obviously McCartney hits there...and there's one beautiful ballad called 'Let it Be' which is a cert for somebody. A cert. And there's quite a few cert hits on it for other people."
He twists the doll's arm inside out and looks down at it with some satisfaction.
"I think Apple's running much better," he says. "I don't know if you can tell. We're rectifying the past mistakes. Clearing up. It's also been convenient for people to leave at this time. I like that expression, 'Convenient to leave at this time.' I'd like Apple to be more commercial for sure. I'd like it to be economically viable. I don't care about respect. We'd still like to attract talent but we want it to be self-contained and to be able to look after itself. In the past, all we got when we said 'Come to Apple' was people who'd been turned down everywhere else.
"At the moment, there's only really us and Mary Hopkins as names on Apple, although George's done some good stuff with Billy Preston and I think he's got good possibilities."
It is time to go and he smiles warmly and proffers the inside-out doll's arm, with its hand which now faces in the wrong direction. I get the impression he only now appreciates the subconscious havoc he has piled upon it.
These days, John Lennon is happy to talk but not to drop himself into some new, fresh drag of controversy. And on some topics, he's becoming pleasantly and null evasive in the way that only Paul McCartney has really developed to a fine art.
He told me: "there's one film idea we're interested in, but I'm not telling you what it is. There's certainly hope for us doing another film. It's being kicked around. The only reason I don't want to talk is that other people are naturally involved and I don't want to screw 'em up. Anyway, we got a fantastic film out of making our next LP. It really is incredible. Just the sweat and strain of four guys making an LP. It's being pared down to about four hours. It could make a major movie.
"About our music...these characters who talk about us progressing or not, really null mind their own business. Progressing to what? Music is music. All these characters complain about us and Dylan not being progressive, but we're the ones that turned them on to the other stuff -- so let 'em take our word for it. This is music, baby. When we feel like changing, then fine.
"Not that I'm interested in classical music. I think it's history, and I'm not interested in history, only as a hobby. I'm interested in NOW. And the future."
About America: "I can't disguise that to get my visa back means a lot. A lot. I need to go there, for business at least. I'll just have to keep trying. Anyway these days, I don't take drugs, alcohol or meat. They all interfere with my head. And that's straight. Or sugar --- I think it's all bad. These days, I'm completely macrobiotic. I know it sounds strange, but it's great and it keeps you high all the time. you don't just get high now and then, this way you're permanently high."