A slight present, on John Lennon’s 75th birthday: Interview self-interview, 1974

Michael Gerber
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Sun’s out, guns out, eh John?

There’s something interesting making the rounds during this, John Lennon’s 75th Birthday Week — and by “making the rounds,” I mean that commenter Karen and Kim from JohnHeartPaul contacted me about it within 48 hours of each other.

Who am I to resist the Collective Unconscious?

So here’s a self-interview typed out by the late great Johnny Ace, conducted in 1974 for Andy Warhol’s Interview. (Getting celebrities to interview themselves, and even type it up for you? Now that’s capitalist thinking.) It’s a prime cut of Walls and Bridges-era Lennon — which, if I can be impious on this day of all days, is the only post-Beatles version of John that seems truly authentic to me). Your mileage may vary on that score, but you’ll enjoy the interview, which is blissfully free of macrobiotics and comparisons of Yoko to great historical figures, but does touch on UFOs and (Man the typewriters, Rolling Stone!) Lennon’s sexual preferences.

Bubbling cauldron, that. Thank god there wasn’t Tinder.

Both Lennon and Warhol do an excellent job of making megastardom seem really godawful boring, which I suppose is a great public service in our ever-more celebrity-crazed era. That the public never pays attention to their warnings doesn’t make them less generous for doing it. Lennon and Warhol are excruciatingly clear that the fun is being the fan meeting (and perhaps sleeping with) the idol, not the reverse.

The ever-interesting Dangerous Minds mined this interview for some musings on Lennon’s UFO sighting. But the most interesting part, to this old jaded Lennon fan? I wonder if the radio project John mentions on page two is the genesis of the Lost Lennon Tapes? (I spent a happy week listening to all these podcasts.)

Enjoy, and happy birthday to the rarest bird rock ever produced.

Lennon UFO Interview 1974

Page 1. This scan h/t DangerousMinds.net

Lennon UFO Interview 1974

Page 2. This scan h/t DangerousMinds.net

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  1. Avatar Kim wrote:

    I tried posting earlier from my smartphone but I think the internet ate my comment..

    I was just thinking: What kind of questions would Paul ask himself if he were to do a self interview? John’s a wacky guy. I loved this interview. “Have you ever fucked a guy?” Haha, my god. And the immediately after he says, “There is talk about you and PAUL…”. Is this John just being John or is this John giving us a hint of something? Was there talk about John and Paul during this time in the mid 70s? If he hadn’t fucked any guys yet at this point, it seems he sure was thinking about it. Preferably with Paul, hmmm? I wonder if Paul has seen this interview.

  2. Avatar Stew wrote:

    Paul and John always used this technique in interviews: bring up homosexuality yourself completely out of the blue and apropos of nothing, then deny it. Paul did it most recently in Rolling Stone with his “Menlove Avenue” joke.

    • Avatar Kim wrote:

      Yeah, I’ve seen in before. It’s mind boggling. One other comes to mind. 1998 Q magazine question to Paul: “If John Lennon could come back for a day, how would you spend it with him?” His simple answer: “In bed.”
      Why do they do this?

  3. Michael Michael wrote:

    Possibly for the same reason they did this? https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/80/96/7c/80967c742cd6354e6987a1b9936c8aac.jpg
    There’s obviously SOMEthing, jokey or otherwise, in that friendship that the public doesn’t know about.

    • Looks Photoshopped to me, @Michael.

      As with the purported photo of JFK and Marilyn (see below), I think we should be very, very skeptical of any photos of John and Paul kissing or doing anything else so clearly sexual. And I don’t think it’s necessary, anyway — we already know they loved each other, we already know they spent hours and hours of intense time together. Whether or not John and Paul “did it” is really a reflection of what you think people are like — the world you live in.

      I personally live in a world where two extremely horny young guys who love each other and basically lived out of each other’s pockets for ten years, probably fooled around somehow. And I don’t think whether they did or not changes the basic tenor of the relationship at all. Surely they saw each other having sex all the time, saw each other naked and in every stage of undress — with that kind of intimacy, genital-to-genital contact isn’t the same thing as if they were two strangers who met in a public lavatory, Epstein-style. Do you see what I’m getting at, here? It’s fun to speculate, but in the end I don’t think “sex/no-sex” is that big a deal with these two. Is there any doubt Paul and John were one of the loves of each other’s lives?

      Now, the one time that I do sense bigger stakes is in the post-India fallout. I do think there might’ve been something in India which changed their relationship; and that’s because of John’s sudden, unquenchable rage towards Paul after May 1968.


      • Avatar Kim wrote:

        I agree about the post-India fallout. The whole story about John being angry with the Maharishi doesn’t ring true to me. I think it was in Geoff Emerick’s book, he talks about the post India period, how weird and tense the mood was between the group. He said John was so angry. I think he said Paul was very blase about it all. Something went on over there and once we know what happened, I think it will explain the nature of the John/Paul relationship.

        • Avatar linda a. wrote:

          Kim I seem to remember Emerick describing Paul’s post India demeanor not blase, but tense as if he was walking on egg shells around John. I remember Emerick describing them convening in the studio right after India; John was angry and Paul was tense, staring into space and not talking. The anecdote made an impression on me. Is my memory failing me again?

  4. Avatar Ruth wrote:

    “Now, the one time that I do sense bigger stakes is in the post-India fallout. I do think there might’ve been something in India which changed their relationship; and that’s because of John’s sudden, unquenchable rage towards Paul after May 1968.”

    Joshua Wolf Shenk speculates that John’s sexuality may have influenced his breakup-era actions in his book “Powers of Two,” where he examines the Lennon/McCartney creative partnership. There’s more, but here’s the most relevant section:

    “The other thing I have to mention – it would be authorial malpractice not to – is the obviously not-typical heterosexual profile of John Lennon. This was a man who said of his lover, Yoko Ono, at the apparent height of his obsession with her: ‘It’s just handy to fuck your best friend.’
    “I don’t see John as closeted in the typical sense, but there was a weirdness between him and women, and he had a yearning for a certain kind of closeness with men that one feels in the pit. Its not part of the project to discern the details of his sexuality. But the idea that John’s attention simply wandered from Paul and the band because of his other interests, that he just fell in love with Yoko in the traditional way, doesn’t ring true.”

    Combined with Sheff’s other speculation, which theorizes that the timing of John and Yoko’s relationship was no coincidence — “It’s hard to believe, for example, that its mere coincidence that John’s Jesus freak out, immediately followed by his Yoko freak out, occurred just after he’d witnessed, at extremely close hand, a jolt of electricity between Paul and a woman named Linda Eastman … Two days after brought his future wife in front of John, John found himself a new woman. He always had to top Paul.” — Shenk appears to be implying that at least some of John’s breakup-era actions were motivated by some form of explicit or implicit sexual/intimate rejection of John, by Paul.

    • Karen Hooper Karen Hooper wrote:

      I’m late to the party on this one.

      Just wanted to pop in and say that I find Shenk’s comments fascinating. That’s a whole post in itself.

      • I agree! Write one, Karen?

      • Avatar Ruth wrote:

        If you’re interested in writing a post on it, Karen, I’d suggest reading Shenk’s entire book, Powers of Two. (I’d volunteer to write a review of it, but I’ve already been drafted for the Klein bio). Shenk includes a great deal of analysis of the Lennon/McCartney partnership in his book — they are the primary couple he examines, although he also discusses partnerships such as the Curies, or Wozniak/Jobs — and I think he adds some valuable insights.

        One in particular struck me; Shenk argues that, in almost all creative partnerships, there exists what he refers to as a “mood-balancing function;” where both members of the partnership refuse to descend into depression/despair at the same time; one always stays strong so that they can “throw out the life preserver” to the other partner. Given John’s “When I’m feeling weak, I think Paul feels strong” I think Shenk’s speculation allows us to look at John’s statement in a different light; John may have regarded Paul’s strength negatively, at least at this time, but I don’t think there’s any doubt that John’s psychology pretty much demanded that Paul be the one to throw out the life preserver in that particular partnership. Also, Shenk explicitly rejects the “Ballad of John and Yoko” and their version of the split, as you can see from the quotes I gave earlier. He argues that John’s fear of being usurped by Paul prompted his actions, such as choosing Klein, and bluntly declares that John brought Yoko into the studio in order to demonstrates his dominance over Paul. That’s the point where he then speculates on the role John’s sexuality may or may not have played in his actions towards Paul.

        • Nancy Carr Nancy Carr wrote:

          Just want to say that I LOVE the idea of the both of you writing reviews for the site, Ruth and Karen. I’d be happy to help you in any way I can. Just leave a comment and ask me to email you.

  5. Avatar Craig wrote:

    Wow, those are some kick-ass comments/analysis by Shenk. I could listen/read someone intelligently discussing and breaking down the intricacies and minutia of the John/Paul relationship forever. I’ve just purchased Shenks’ book and can’t wait to read it.
    That interview with and by John was also awesome. Totally agree Michael that he seems so genuine in this period. He seems like Beatle-John almost….and then Yoko reappeared in his life. Also thought it was interesting he didn’t name May and called her his “friend in the other room” when discussing the UFO. Poor May. Oh if only he would’ve stayed with her…

  6. […] This may strike some of our readers as giving a outrageous topic more serious attention than it deserves, and to some degree I agree with them. Male gender roles are pathetically restrictive; any close friendship between men is plagued with rumors of sex. That’s bullshit, and we shouldn’t make those restrictions stronger. Certainly John and Paul were the victim of such talk — Lennon himself mentioned it in the Interview self-interview. […]

  7. […] An old family friend sent me a link to an article: “Five Things You Didn’t Know About John Lennon.” I knew them, and you would too, so I’m not linking to it. But that led me to another site about Lennon’s famous 1974 UFO encounter (which we talked about here). […]

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