Latest posts by Michael Gerber (see all)
We’re rolling, John
Salon is highlighting interview recordings made by Cass Calder Smith, including a few with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, that are now available via iTunes. Two Lennon/Ono excerpts are available for free streaming here. Smith was a New York radio host when he made the tapes; he’s now in his mid-70s, and his son has taken over the project of releasing the interviews.
One of the Lennon interviews was conducted by Smith the day “Imagine” went on sale. Smith evidently told Lennon that when he played “How Do You Sleep?” on his radio show, “a lot of people called and said, ‘What happened to his sense of humor?” Here’s Lennon’s response:
“I’m sure Paul will understand this, and George does, and so do I, that that song . . . is a moment of anger.”
“So I wrote a reciprocal song. And I think some of the funniest lines on the album are ‘the only thing you done was yesterday,’ and that was actually Klein’s line, one line of it. ‘And since you’ve gone you’re just another day.’ I think it’s the funniest thing ever. I don’t think that about Paul all my life or all the time, I wrote it in an immediate response to when I heard his messages coming off his album. You mightn’t hear them, but I can hear them . . . . It’s an angry song. It’s not serious. If Paul is really, really hurt by it, I’ll know by the vibes coming around, even if he doesn’t call. I’ll explain it to him, I’ll even write to him, if he really, really thinks it’s really, really serious. But I think it’s quite funny and I was laughing while we were making it and when we were listening to it. I was laughing at his later . . .”
The emotional landscape Lennon is traversing here is fascinating. On the one hand, he seems to want to back away from “How Do You Sleep?” being “really, really serious.” It’s a “moment of anger,” one he’s willing to “explain” to McCartney if he’s “really, really hurt by it.” But on the other, he’s clearly brooded over McCartney’s digs at him on “Ram.” (IMO some of these are really there—”you took your lucky break and broke it in two” and “too many people preaching practices”— while some aren’t. “We believe that we can’t be wrong” is, in context, obviously about the older generation trying to control the younger).Overall, it seems as if he’s taking McCartney’s gibes very seriously indeed, while framing his own response as “quite funny” and nothing McCartney needs to be fussed about. As in so many Lennon interviews, it sounds like he’s thinking out loud, not saying anything he’s formulated beforehand. He’s a riveting interview subject precisely because he’s winging it, every time, and not worrying about the consequences of what he says.