She Has Her Ways
This Playboy interview from twenty-eight years ago has been formatted to fit your screen, edited for content and to run in the time allotted.
PLAYBOY: Why did you become a househusband?
LENNON: There were many reasons. I had been under obligation or contract from the time I was 22 until well into my 30s. After all those years, it was all I knew. I wasn’t free. I was boxed in. My contract was the physical manifestation of being in prison. It was more important to face myself and face that reality than to continue a life of rock ‘n’ roll — and to go up and down with the whims of either your own performance or the public’s opinion of you. Rock ‘n’ roll was not fun anymore. I chose not to take the standard options in my business — going to Vegas and singing your great hits, if you’re lucky, or going to hell, which is where Elvis went.
ONO: John was like an artist who is very good at drawing circles. He sticks to that and it becomes his label. He has a gallery to promote that. And the next year, he will do triangles or something. It doesn’t reflect his life at all. When you continue doing the same thing for ten years, you get a prize for having done it.
LENNON: You get the big prize when you get cancer and you have been drawing circles and triangles for ten years. I had become a craftsman and I could have continued being a craftsman. I respect craftsmen, but I am not interested in becoming one.
ONO: Just to prove that you can go on dishing out things.
PLAYBOY: You’re talking about records, of course.
LENNON: Yeah, to churn them out because I was expected to, like so many people who put out an album every six months because they’re supposed to.
PLAYBOY: Would you be referring to Paul McCartney?
LENNON: Not only Paul. But I had lost the initial freedom of the artist by becoming enslaved to the image of what the artist is supposed to do. A lot of artists kill themselves because of it, whether it is through drink, like Dylan Thomas, or through insanity, like Van Gogh, or through V.D., like Gauguin.
PLAYBOY: Most people would have continued to churn out the product. How were you able to see a way out?
LENNON: Most people don’t live with Yoko Ono.
PLAYBOY: Which means?
LENNON: Most people don’t have a companion who will tell the truth and refuse to live with a bullshit artist, which I am pretty good at. I can bullshit myself and everybody around. Yoko: That’s my answer.
PLAYBOY: How do you feel about all the negative press that’s been directed through the years at Yoko, your “dragon lady,” as you put it?
LENNON: We are both sensitive people and we were hurt a lot by it. I mean, we couldn’t understand it. When you’re in love, when somebody says something like, “How can you be with that woman?” you say, “What do you mean? I am with this goddess of love, the fulfillment of my whole life. Why are you saying this? Why do you want to throw a rock at her or punish me for being in love with her?” Our love helped us survive it, but some of it was pretty violent. There were a few times when we nearly went under, but we managed to survive and here we are. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
PLAYBOY: But what about the charge that John Lennon is under Yoko’s spell, under her control?
LENNON: Well, that’s rubbish, you know. Nobody controls me. I’m uncontrollable. The only one who controls me is me, and that’s just barely possible.
“Para Lennon e Mc’Cartney” – Milton Nascimento (mp3)
PLAYBOY: Do you-
LENNON: No, wait a minute. Let’s stay with this a second; sometimes I can’t let go of it. [He is on his feet, climbing up the refrigerator] Nobody ever said anything about Paul’s having a spell on me or my having one on Paul! They never thought that was abnormal in those days, two guys together, or four guys together! Why didn’t they ever say, “How come those guys don’t split up? I mean, what’s going on backstage? What is this Paul and John business? How can they be together so long?” We spent more time together in the early days than John and Yoko: the four of us sleeping in the same room, practically in the same bed, in the same truck, living together night and day, eating, shitting and pissing together! All right? Doing everything together! Nobody said a damn thing about being under a spell. Maybe they said we were under the spell of Brian Epstein or George Martin. There’s always somebody who has to be doing something to you. You know, they’re congratulating the Stones on being together 112 years. Whoooopee! At least Charlie and Bill still got their families. In the Eighties, they’ll be asking, “Why are those guys still together? Can’t they hack it on their own? Why do they have to be surrounded by a gang? Is the little leader scared somebody’s gonna knife him in the back?” That’s gonna be the question. That’s-a-gonna be the question! They’re gonna look back at the Beatles and the Stones and all those guys are relics. The days when those bands were just all men will be on the newsreels, you know. They will be showing pictures of the guy with lipstick wriggling his ass and the four guys with the evil black make-up on their eyes trying to look raunchy. That’s gonna be the joke in the future, not a couple singing together or living and working together. It’s all right when you’re 16, 17, 18 to have male companions and idols, OK? It’s tribal and it’s gang and it’s fine. But when it continues and you’re still doing it when you’re 40, that means you’re still 16 in the head.
PLAYBOY: Were falling in love with Yoko and wanting to leave the Beatles connected?
LENNON: As I said, I had already begun to want to leave, but when I met Yoko is like when you meet your first woman. You leave the guys at the bar. You don’t go play football anymore. You don’t go play snooker or billiards. Maybe some guys do it on Friday night or something, but once I found the woman, the boys became of no interest whatsoever other than being old school friends. “Those wedding bells are breaking up that old gang of mine.” We got married three years later, in 1969. That was the end of the boys. And it just so happened that the boys were well known and weren’t just local guys at the bar. Everybody got so upset over it. There was a lot of shit thrown at us. A lot of hateful stuff.
TAKE A BREAK FROM BEING TURNED ON AND LISTEN TO SOME MUSIC
“Jealous Guy” – Elliott Smith (mp3)
“Yesterday” – Elvis Presley (mp3)
“Imagine” – John Lennon (mp3)
“Parachute” – Sean Lennon (mp3)
BACK TO YOUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED INTERVIEW
ONO: Even now, I just read that Paul said, “I understand that he wants to be with her, but why does he have to be with her all the time?”
LENNON: Yoko, do you still have to carry that cross? That was years ago.
ONO: No, no, no. He said it recently. I mean, what happened with John is like, I sort of went to bed with this guy that I liked and suddenly the next morning, I see these three in-laws, standing there.
LENNON: I’ve always thought there was this underlying thing in Paul’s “Get Back.” When we were in the studio recording it, every time he sang the line “Get back to where you once belonged,” he’d look at Yoko.
PLAYBOY: Aside from the millions you’ve been offered for a reunion concert, how did you feel about producer Lorne Michaels’ generous offer of $3200 for appearing together on “Saturday Night Live” a few years ago?
LENNON: Oh, yeah. Paul and I were together watching that show. He was visiting us at our place in the Dakota. We were watching it and almost went down to the studio, just as a gag. We nearly got into a cab, but we were actually too tired.
PLAYBOY: How did you and Paul happen to be watching TV together?
LENNON: That was a period when Paul just kept turning up at our door with a guitar. I would let him in, but finally I said to him, “Please call before you come over. It’s not 1956 and turning up at the door isn’t the same anymore. You know, just give me a ring.” He was upset by that, but I didn’t mean it badly. I just meant that I was taking care of a baby all day and some guy turns up at the door. . . . But, anyway, back on that night, he and Linda walked in and he and I were just sitting there, watching the show, and we went, “Ha-ha, wouldn’t it be funny if we went down?” but we didn’t.
PLAYBOY: Was that the last time you saw Paul?
LENNON: Yes, but I didn’t mean it like that.
PLAYBOY: We’re asking because there’s always a lot of speculation about whether the Fab Four are dreaded enemies or the best of friends.
LENNON: We’re neither. I haven’t seen any of the Beatles for I don’t know how much time. Somebody asked me what I thought of Paul’s last album and I made some remark like, I thought he was depressed and sad. But then I realized I hadn’t listened to the whole damn thing. I heard one track — the hit “Coming Up,” which I thought was a good piece of work. Then I heard something else that sounded like he was depressed. But I don’t follow their work. I don’t follow Wings, you know. I don’t give a shit what Wings is doing, or what George’s new album is doing, or what Ringo is doing. I’m not interested, no more than I am in what Elton John or Bob Dylan is doing. It’s not callousness, it’s just that I’m too busy living my own life to be following what other people are doing, whether they’re the Beatles or guys I went to college with or people I had intense relationships with before I met the Beatles.
PLAYBOY: You make it sound like a teacher-pupil relationship.
LENNON: It is a teacher-pupil relationship. That’s what people don’t understand. She’s the teacher and I’m the pupil. I’m the famous one, the one who’s supposed to know everything, but she’s my teacher. She’s taught me everything I fucking know. She was there when I was nowhere, when I was the nowhere man. She’s my Don Juan [a reference to Carlos Castaneda’s Yaqui Indian teacher]. That’s what people don’t understand. I’m married to fucking Don Juan, that’s the hardship of it. Don Juan doesn’t have to laugh; Don Juan doesn’t have to be charming; Don Juan just is. And what goes on around Don Juan is irrelevant to Don Juan.
PLAYBOY: How has she taught you?
LENNON: When Don Juan said — when Don Ono said, “Get out! Because you’re not getting it,” well, it was like being sent into the desert. And the reason she wouldn’t let me back in was because I wasn’t ready to come back in. I had to settle things within myself. When I was ready to come back in, she let me back in. And that’s what I’m living with.
PLAYBOY: You’re talking about your separation.
LENNON: Yes. We were separated in the early Seventies. She kicked me out. Suddenly, I was on a raft alone in the middle of the universe.
PLAYBOY: What happened?
LENNON: Well, at first, I thought, Whoopee, whoopee! You know, bachelor life! Whoopee! And then I woke up one day and I thought, What is this? I want to go home! But she wouldn’t let me come home. That’s why it was 18 months apart instead of six months. We were talking all the time on the phone and I would say, “I don’t like this, I’m getting in trouble and I’d like to come home, please.” And she would say, “You’re not ready to come home.” So what do you say? OK, back to the bottle.
PLAYBOY: What did she mean, you weren’t ready?
LENNON: She has her ways. Whether they be mystical or practical. When she said it’s not ready, it ain’t ready.
PLAYBOY: Back to the bottle?
LENNON: I was just trying to hide what I felt in the bottle. I was just insane. It was the lost weekend that lasted 18 months. I’ve never drunk so much in my life. I tried to drown myself in the bottle and I was with the heaviest drinkers in the business.
MORE MUSIC BEFORE THEY ASKED YOKO WHY SHE KICKED JOHN OUT
“She Came In Through the Bathroom” – The Beatles (mp3)
“In My Life” – The Beatles (mp3)
“For No One” – Elliott Smith (mp3)
Thanks to Chad and his wonderful blog for the covers.
“Blackbird” – The Beatles (mp3)
“Blackbird” – Elliott Smith (mp3)
BACK TO YOUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED INTERVIEW
PLAYBOY: Why did you kick John out, Yoko?
ONO: There were many things. I’m what I call a “moving on” kind of girl; there’s a song on our new album about it. Rather than deal with problems in relationships, I’ve always moved on. That’s why I’m one of the very few survivors as a woman, you know. Women tend to be more into men usually, but I wasn’t…
LENNON: Yoko looks upon men as assistants… Of varying degrees of intimacy, but basically assistants. And this one’s going to take a pee.
PLAYBOY: How about George’s solo music?
LENNON: I think “All Things Must Pass” was all right. It just went on too long.
PLAYBOY: What are your musical preferences these days?
LENNON: Well, I like all music, depending on what time of day it is. I don’t like styles of music or people per se. I can’t say I enjoy the Pretenders, but I like their hit record. I enjoy the B-52s, because I heard them doing Yoko. It’s great. If Yoko ever goes back to her old sound, they’ll be saying, “Yeah, she’s copying the B-52s.”
ONO: We were doing a lot of the punk stuff a long time ago.
PLAYBOY: Lennon and Ono, the original punks.
ONO: You’re right.
PLAYBOY: John, what’s your opinion of the newer waves?
LENNON: I love all this punky stuff. It’s pure. I’m not, however, crazy about the people who destroy themselves.
PLAYBOY: You disagree with Neil Young’s lyric in “Rust Never Sleeps” — “It’s better to burn out than to fade away…”
LENNON: I hate it. It’s better to fade away like an old soldier than to burn out. I don’t appreciate worship of dead Sid Vicious or of dead James Dean or of dead John Wayne. It’s the same thing. Making Sid Vicious a hero, Jim Morrison — it’s garbage to me. I worship the people who survive. Gloria Swanson, Greta Garbo. They’re saying John Wayne conquered cancer — he whipped it like a man. You know, I’m sorry that he died and all that — I’m sorry for his family — but he didn’t whip cancer. It whipped him. I don’t want Sean worshiping John Wayne or Sid Vicious. What do they teach you? Nothing. Death. Sid Vicious died for what? So that we might rock? I mean, it’s garbage, you know. If Neil Young admires that sentiment so much, why doesn’t he do it? Because he sure as hell faded away and came back many times, like all of us. No, thank you. I’ll take the living and the healthy.
PLAYBOY: For no reason whatsoever, let’s start with “I Wanna Be Your Man.”
LENNON: Paul and I finished that one off for the Stones. We were taken down by Brian to meet them at the club where they were playing in Richmond. They wanted a song and we went to see what kind of stuff they did. Paul had this bit of a song and we played it roughly for them and they said, “Yeah, OK, that’s our style.” But it was only really a lick, so Paul and I went off in the corner of the room and finished the song off while they were all sitting there, talking. We came back and Mick and Keith said, “Jesus, look at that. They just went over there and wrote it.” You know, right in front of their eyes. We gave it to them. It was a throwaway. Ringo sang it for us and the Stones did their version. It shows how much importance we put on them. We weren’t going to give them anything great, right? That was the Stones’ first record. Anyway, Mick and Keith said, “If they can write a song so easily, we should try it.” They say it inspired them to start writing together.
PLAYBOY: “I am the Walrus.”
LENNON: The first line was written on one acid trip one weekend. The second line was written on the next acid trip the next weekend, and it was filled in after I met Yoko. Part of it was putting down Hare Krishna. All these people were going on about Hare Krishna, Allen Ginsberg in particular. The reference to “Element’ry penguin” is the elementary, naive attitude of going around chanting, “Hare Krishna,” or putting all your faith in any one idol. I was writing obscurely, a la Dylan, in those days.
PLAYBOY: Was “I’m a Loser” a similarly personal statement?
LENNON: Part of me suspects that I’m a loser and the other part of me thinks I’m God Almighty.
PLAYBOY: Do you use any drugs now?
LENNON: Not really. If somebody gives me a joint, I might smoke it, but I don’t go after it.
LENNON: I’ve had cocaine, but I don’t like it. The Beatles had lots of it in their day, but it’s a dumb drug, because you have to have another one 20 minutes later. Your whole concentration goes on getting the next fix. Really, I find caffeine is easier to deal with.
LENNON: Not in years. A little mushroom or peyote is not beyond my scope, you know, maybe twice a year or something. You don’t hear about it anymore, but people are still visiting the cosmos. We must always remember to thank the CIA and the Army for LSD. That’s what people forget. Everything is the opposite of what it is, isn’t it, Harry? So get out the bottle, boy — and relax. They invented LSD to control people and what they did was give us freedom. Sometimes it works in mysterious ways its wonders to perform. If you look in the Government reports on acid, the ones who jumped out the window or killed themselves because of it, I think even with Art Linkletter’s daughter, it happened to her years later. So, let’s face it, she wasn’t really on acid when she jumped out the window. And I’ve never met anybody who’s had a flashback on acid. I’ve never had a flashback in my life and I took millions of trips in the Sixties.
PLAYBOY: What does your diet include besides sashimi and sushi, Hershey bars and cappuccinos?
LENNON: We’re mostly macrobiotic, but sometimes I take the family out for a pizza.
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