When John Lennon Lashed Out in a Bitter Post-Beatles Interview
John Lennon was always known as the most outspoken member of the Beatles. Whether it was issues related with racism, sexism or comparing his band’s popularity to Jesus Christ, he was never one to hold back in the press.
That certainly held true when Lennon sat down with publisher Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone in December 1970, less than a year after the Beatles' breakup, for his most extensive and revelatory interview.
Lennon and Rolling Stone already had a good relationship heading into the interview. John had adorned the magazine’s inaugural issue on Nov. 9, 1967, in character as Private Gripweed from the movie How I Won the War. That relationship was solidified when Rolling Stone published an unedited picture of the infamous nude cover to Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Two Virgins album.
This new interview, which was originally split into two parts and printed separately at the beginning of 1971, found Lennon in a completely candid mood. He proceeded to tear apart the feel-good public perception of the Beatles, repeatedly slamming his former songwriting partner: “Paul [McCartney] would say ‘Speak to my lawyer; I don’t want to speak about business anymore,’” Lennon recalled. “Which meant, ‘I’m going to drag my feet and try and fuck you.’”
A subsequent book titled Lennon Remembers featured the full and unedited transcript of this historic conversation. “The publication of these interviews was the first time that any of the Beatles, let alone the man who had founded the group and was their leader, finally stepped outside of that protected, beloved fairy tale and told the truth," Wenner said in the book's introduction. "He was bursting and bitter about the sugarcoated mythology of the Beatles and Paul McCartney’s characterization of the breakup.”
He also lashed out at Bob Dylan (“Dylan is bullshit; Zimmerman is his name”) and the state of music (“rock 'n' roll is going like jazz, as far as I can see, and the bullshitters are going off into that excellentness which I never believed in”), while revealing that the Beatles, as far as he was concerned, were over for good. “I’m not going to record with another egomaniac," Lennon declared. "There is only room for one on an album nowadays. There is no point; there is just no point at all. There was a reason to do it at one time, but there is no reason to do it anymore.”
When the issue hit the newsstands, the extensive feature was an immense bubble-bursting peek into the tumultuous inner-workings of the biggest group on the planet. In subsequent years, however, this interview has grown into one of the most vital glimpses we have into the mind of one of the greatest talents of the 20th century. “My name isn’t John Beatle,” he pointed out at one point. “It’s John Lennon.” Indeed.
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