Artist: John Lennon
John Winston Ono Lennon (9 October 1940 – 8 December 1980) was an English musician, singer, songwriter, and peace activist, born in Liverpool, UK who gained worldwide fame as a founding member of The Beatles. With Paul McCartney, Lennon formed one of the most influential and successful songwriting partnerships of the 20th century and "wrote some of the most popular music in rock and roll history". He is ranked the second most successful songwriter in UK singles chart history after Paul McCartney.
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John Lennon: Please, Your Majesty, Can Our John Have A Free Pardon? NME, Jan 1974
Heavy breathing over the phone as ANDREW TYLER gets the lowdown from LENNON in L.A. Genius is police harassment, says the Walrus
I don't know if you ever read the New Improved NME if not, maybe some hepcat of the Royal Household will pass on the word.
Now that you've seen young Anne married off to her heartthrob cavalier, and what with Charles playing googlies with Lady Jane all around, maybe you'll have time to reflect on the dilemma of one John Lennon, a Liverpool slum-kid genius who used to play in The Beatles and who, at the peak of his career, committed a kind of revolutionary hara-kiri when he returned your MBE medal.
It was a far out medal, your majesty, ace Organic and nice on the chest, but it wasn't actually you as a mum and companion of the horses he was getting at. It was all that Services To Exports/Build A Better Britain/Screw the Man On The Factory Floor bit that brought a lump to his shaving bowl.
Anyway, after the medal-dumping ceremony he kept getting visited at queer hours by squadrons of policemen and, before you could say cold turkey John was being court-martialled for possession of marijuana a substance he swears was absent from his life around this time.
He now lives in New York City but because of his record the authorities over there won't give him a Green residents' card, which means if he leaves the country he'll never be allowed back in.
So now, our Queen, it's all down to you. All you have to do is say "OK, you nurds, enough's enough. I pardon thee John Lennon, on your feet and have a nice new year", and everything's back to normal.
John's not one to beg and grovel at your Royal appendages, but on the phone recently he did say it would be a great way out. So what do you think? There's a whole bunch of us who'd love to see John over here again for the odd visit.
And you know something, it's the only thing preventing John. Paul, George and Ringo working together again. Paul, you see, also got busted for substances and he's not allowed into the States any more. Ironic, isn't it?
"I WOULD HAVE thought I've done more good for Britain than harm, wouldn't you?" John enquired over a faint line from Los Angeles.
Yes, I would have thought so.
"Did I tell you about the commerical we've done for the new album? Hah. It's great. We have the Queen plugging the record for us. It starts inside the house with a gate swinging open, over a red carpet and then inside. It's all done in very good taste, Your Majesty. It's a friend of mine in drag, as it were.
"There's 'Land Of Hope And Glory' and someone says" (in a plummy warbling voice) "'I've been asked to do this commerical. It relates to a gramophone record...' and it goes on like that. I'm hoping her Majesty will be able to laugh at it."
He won't say who the friend is but here's a clue. He works for Apple and he's a real queen. The correct answer is not Allen Klein.
"A few vodkas and it was all over." John reports. "His identity will be revealed by himself. I'm not sure how much he wants people to know about it."
Did he see the bonding of Mark and Anne and was he profoundly moved?
Young Mark and Anne.
What was your reaction to that?
"I didn't really have one."
Did they show it over there?
"Yeah. They had it on from two o'clock till dawn, or something. So we had the single. We didn't get to see the album though. I thought they looked all right. But I didn't really feel that much about it. I thought Anne's figure looked nice. They should have held it in Belfast, though.
"I was thinking of writing to the Queen, you know. I hope she reads NME. Yeah. I was after a pardon for being planted by the cops and being hassled for three years and everything that happened. That's one way to solve the problem.
"That so-called bust I was involved in has left me with a criminal-record. That's the legal reason they're trying to throw me out. If that was taken away there'd be nothing they could do."
Now here's a weird twist to the murky affair. The cop who starred in the Lennon bust has, himself, been incarcerated for four years for perjury relating to a drug bust case.
Detective Sergeant Norman Pilcher has has just been put down for four years. At the trial all sorts of stuff came up. Conspiracy and the like.
But Lennon suspects the case of the malfunctioning blue meanie is unlikely to directly affect his own case...
"The thing is, that in those days we were clean. We didn't have any stuff. But they kept on hassling and hassling and bothering Yoko and the deal was that if they left Yoko alone and she was pregnant at the time I'd cop a plea.
"And now the real answer is for me to get a pardon...but because I'm a naughty boy I don't suppose they want to give me one."
What he's still trying to figure out all these years later is what those gloating reporters and photographers were doing outside his place when he and Yoko were being escorted to their cells. Jack Warner and Edgar Lustgarten had always intimated that an arrest was a reasonably private business...restricted to the "guilty parties" and the officers concerned. Why the jamboree?
Lennon has an explanation: "A friend of mine from Fleet Street gave me a call after he'd overheard a cop in a pub saying how he was going to get The Beatles. Yeah, was was gonna get The Beatles. Which meant me. I mean, he's not about to bust Ringo or Paul. I was really up for grabs what with Two Virgins and living in sin with a foreigner and all."
Is our Queen about to be sympathetic to Lennon's plight? Can she relate to her stone-turning expatriot? They'd hardly make suitable tango partners but they do have at least one common point of interest: The Goons.
Yessir. Like Prince Charlie, Sister Margie and Tony Legsstrong-Jones, the Queen is alleged to have chuckled along with the Goons after her Sunday joint...not unlike Lennon who recently reviewed The Goon Show Scripts for the New York Times.
"It was a bit like doing a school essay." he say. "But like all my generation I was really drawn to The Goons. In many ways they influenced The Beatles as much as rock 'n' roll Elvis and Little Richard. They were, to my generation, what we were to the next.
"I admire them all but I've always reckoned Spike was the real lunatic."
WHAT ABOUT the trench-coat warfare. Is he still being visited and molested by the American gendarmerie?
"A year or so back they were following me around everywhere I went But I suppose they must have got bored going to the studio and hanging around for hours at a time. And they were tapping my phone. I think they wanted me to know they were doing it too because I kept hearing heavy breathing. It scared me at first but now it's a bot of a joke.
"No, I wasn't on Nixon's list of unfriendlies but I was on somebody's list, that's for sure."
There's a pattern to it all, he suggests. Not necessarily a coordinated conspiracy but a series of connected happenings that have numbered all the leading 60's cult figures.
Lennon's marooned in America, McCartney outside of it. The Stones are having to tread very lightly indeed, and Hendrix, Morrison and Joplin are dead.
"If they can separate all the big names in pop they effectively cut off the, quotes, "revolution" at its source. No more Woodstocks. No more mass gatherings. The real changes aren't gonna come from politicians. It's going to come from the artists and musicians.
"Even Bowie is a threat in a way."
Explain yourself, sir.
"Well, if you get Bowie on TV and somebody switches on in Ohio or Bradford and they see this person looking out at them, it's going to affect their whole way of life. He doesn't have to say Power To The People Right On. He is the message in himself. It's like holding a mirror up to society. It makes people react in a specific way that's better than having them half dead listening to Sandy McPherson.
"I just think it's all great. I'm not saying I'd do it but people like Bowie are an extension of rock 'n' roll. He still rocks like shit and keeps us going until the next phenomenon, ho ho, which is going to be this year, isn't it?"
Maybe the very next sensation will be curvaceous Ringo whose single is hot stuff in the States and whose album leapt into the Billboard charts at 4 two better than John's Mind Games.
"I sent him a telegram last week saying: 'Congratulations. How dare you. Write me a hit song.'
"It's the first real pop album he's made and it's a good album. He deserves it. He's going to need all the royalties he can get to paper Ascot" (The home he just bought from Lennon). "He's going to need that hit just to keep up the garden."
JOHN'S OWN album didn't receive quite the same dazzling response, although it's nowhere near the bunch of horselicks Tony Tyler suggested in his review a few weeks back. Tracks like 'Out The Blue', 'I Know (I Know)' and 'Bring On The Lucie' are sumptuous groovers that fairly parallel his work on Imagine. Honest.
Was he after the grumbling T. Tyler's noodles?
"I'm going to send 'im a deaf aid and a book of instructions on How to Write. Obviously I'd prefer it if he, or whoever it is, liked it but I'm not about to cut my throat, if that's what you mean.
"A lot of times you get critics reviewing themselves, so if they do slag you off it doesn't mean anything or, if they overdo the praise bit, that means nothing either.
"Praise is never satisfactory unless you can be sure the person has actually listened to your work and knows it inside out. I'm not saying people should spend their lives making in-depth appraisals of me albums but praise, or the other thing, doesn't count for much unless they've take the time to understand what you're doing."
Actually John was due for a critical trampling. After the suffocating Best Album In The Universe stuff tipped over Imagine and The Plastic Ono Band LP, coupled with the knifings Paul has had to deflect since The Split. Lennon only had to put one foot wrong as he did with Sometime In New York City for the blades to be turned on him.
Critics were feeling remorse at the way they growled at McCartney and Lennon was the obvious target upon which to assuage their embarrassment.
"I would say New York City stands as a piece of work. It sold 200,000 instead of half a million. The whole thing's relative. If I'd been a smaller artist I'd have been pleased to get that amount of sales. I have no regrets...only that it didn't get a lot of airplay on the so-called FM stations of the Left.
"The only one that really got into it was Pacifica which has heavy programmes on politics, lesbians and things like that anything people want to do. It's a pretty good station. Nationwide. They've even got tapes of Yoko and me from the Sixties singing Japanese folk songs."
Talking of oldies, he is now well into his Oldies Mouldies album, currently being waxed at A & M in Los Angeles with a spellbinding cast of several millions. On the guest list so far are, among others: Steve Cropper, Jim Keltner. Hal Blaine, Jose Felciano, Leon Russell, Jeff Barry, Barry Mann, and Jesse Ed Davies.
We called George the other day and said he was having a great time and wish you were here. George said he was on his way and hasn't been heard of since. Paul, of course, won't be able to make it.
"Yeah, I miss Paul a lot. It's been a year since I've seen him. He came over with Linda to me place in New York. Course I'd like to see him again. He's an old friend, isn't he?"
He says he can move around a bit more freely now...for meals and odd visit to the movvies.
"I still get recognised though. I think it's me nose. But I can generally go to the movies. The last film I saw was Behind The Green Door. (An extraordinarily rude film.)
How was it?
"The first 45 minutes were interesting, then it got a bit boring. When you've seen one cock you've seen them all."
John Lennon: Plastic Ono Band (Apple)/ Yoko Ono: Plastic Ono Band (Apple) Creem, Mar 1971
BOTH OF THESE records are remarkable in some aspect, a sort of East-West five years after Butterfield and Allan Watts. Certainly, until this point, John and Yoko had not been among my favorite artists, most certainly not the mind-blowing couple they appear to be here.
John's record, of course, has been righteously raved over ever since its release, justifiably. It's interesting and even enlightening to see a man working out his trauma on black plastic but more than that, it's totally enthralling to see that Lennon has once again unified, to some degree, his life and his music into a truly whole statement. I don't know how far the political implications of that will carry us, or carry John (which is the really cogent point), but they are none-the-less present in a perspective that is much more revelatory of the change in the Ono/Lennon fabric of perception than any in ours, I'm afraid. I'm unsure whether this record is going to be appreciated for what it is a very, very political statement, even if on the most personal level. Certainly, it is as political as some that jazz artists have been making for the last ten years and in the same individual vein. (In other words, Archie Shepp pulled it off first, or rather Charlie Parker and Charles Mingus did.)
Unquestionably, Lennon comes from an elitist perspective on the entire matter. He might not interpret his situation in the political light at all (though, after reading the second part of the Rolling Stone interview, one can be pretty sure he doesn't deny it totally) but the fact remains that anyone that blatantly realistic cannot be involved with the traditional stance (Beatle-wise) of denying politics any place in his own personal universe.
There are few individual statements here that aren't exciting, and there are also few that stand out. To be sure, the two most obvious are 'Working Class Hero' and 'God'. They are also the two most discussed and over-interpreted; one would really be farther ahead to deal with some of the other statements and leave these alone. On the other hand, the entire album has been over-worked to a vast degree, such that any individual assessment of the work must stand more in comparison to other interpretations than to the work itself. Almost.
Thus Yoko and her importance. Now, as far-out as John is becoming, Yoko has transcended him and she's done it with a back-beat. Yoko is the first rock scat singer. A major portion of her increased validity must be credited to the fact that she works on one cut ('Aos') with the Ornette Coleman group. Coupled with the fact that this cut was recorded several years ago, long before it became "hip" in the youth community to be involved with avant-jazz figures, one begins to get a real feeling that it is Yoko who was brought artistically downward by her Beatles' involvement rather than vice-versa.
This is a brilliant work in several senses. The pain John Lennon measures so tenuously with his occasional yelp, is further developed and more primitive (thus more honest) on the Yoko sides. Her work on 'Why' is especially impressive. She uses her voice here much as John Coltrane used his horn; that is, in order to explore every possible nuance of the word-sound (chord) she scats about, using the word as a base for all but never quite saying it simply.
These are not lovely records and for those who still find Yoko appalling, it isn't going to sink in the first time around. Still, Yoko's record is unquestionably farther out and you have to be there along with her, let her take you along for the ride...you have to give it up, as they used to say, or the whole thing gets really impossibly horrid, and your own demons are conjured up and swirl around you like some Aleister Crowley nightmare. At best, she conjures the demons and shows you their powerlessness.
It is interesting that Yoko, too, has turned from her obviously Eastern approach of the past (even as John has left the nascently Oriental work of the Beatles) to a true return to the post-Western climate in which we presently exist. Certainly, in the sense that this is not an artificial reading or the quasi-humor of the paper bag, in the sense that this is the real torture of the soul, the music (or whatever appellation occurs as most suitable) is totally transcendant. But again, one can't really escape from the fact that it is totally relevant.
The very primitive factors that make Yoko so exciting are exactly the factors that make traditional rock and roll so energizing. And, at a time when rock values are being pandered and solipsized all over the planet, when the contention that rock is music that must be formalized and formulated to be apprehended is most powerfully in vogue, Yoko's work could not be more important. For those who can hear it (and I don't mean listen) it should serve as the final proof positive that great artificial constucts do not necessarily make great art; that rock and roll is not in any sense to be judged by the standards of any previous form (thereby pretty much negating the necessity of the Nice, Deep Purple, the New York Rock Ensemble, et. al.) and that rock and roll will stand, if we'll only get the fuck out of its way.
Strange, then, that in the most male chauvinist medium ever devised that a woman should strike the killer blow to liberate it. Yoko Ono cannot be ignored any longer, on any grounds. And, I'm afraid, those who can't relate to her are going to find themselves relegated to the absolute back of the bus. This is the wave of the future and there is no denying it. Not that all music need be this un-defined, structurally, but that all music should be able to be. (And of course, to impose confines of structurelessness is to put yourself right back in the trap of structure even structureless structure.) As Chairman Mao says, one must pick up the gun to put down the gun. Perhaps one must pick up the challenge in order to see that the challenge doesn't exist. And in the sense that Yoko Ono is an extremely challenging artist, she is also a very revolutionary performer. If she can deal with the situation on that level, we're in a very good shape indeed.