John Lennon Interview: New Musical Express 3/11/66
In March of 1966, John Lennon spoke with The New Musical Express about the reason for the unexpected break from work in their otherwise busy schedules. In what would be a brief but enlightening interview, he also describes his interest in electronic music and tape loops. John shares his expectation that their next album should be very different from the Beatles output to date. The chat took place at 'a nice little caff in Soho,' and was published in the March 11th 1966 edition of NME with the teaser 'LENNON TALKS!' on the front page. Asking the questions was Chris Hutchins.
SETTING THE SCENE: John Lennon and I tried something unusual last week - we went to lunch. Unusual for him because he never lunches out and unusual for me because I normally eat before 3:30 pm. But then journalists have to get up earlier than Beatles do. John arrived (on time) to test the new experience and we moved away in style in the luxury of his Rolls-Royce Phantom V, surveying Mayfair from behind darkened windows that allow you to see out but no one to see in. It's something like traveling in an ambulance, but ambulances are rarely fitted with TV and fridge. The phone in the back of the car hummed: 'Can't be for me,' said John, 'No one's got the number.' We arrived at the restaurant in Regent Street and John sent the car away, asking the driver to return in 90 minutes. Only when it had gone did we discover that the restaurant, where our table was booked for 3:15, closes at 3. ''Ere, it's John Lennon,' said a woman to her friend, but before her friend had turned round we were in the back of a taxi. The driver said he knew a nice little caff in Soho and that sounded better than sandwiches and tea at NEMS (the Epstein Emporium) so off we went. The place was empty and the food smelt good, though sherry in the soup was the closest we could get to alcohol at that time of day, much to the regret of our waiter. John asked for a paper serviette as he'd forgotten a handkerchief and removed his PVC mac ('Bought it in Tahiti for fifteen bob') and the Lennon interview began.
Q: "You have often said that you don't want to be playing in a pop group when you reach 30. You are now in your 26th year. The only firm date in the Beatles' 1966 diary seems to be the NME Poll Winners Concert on May 1. Is this therefore the start of the retirement process?"
JOHN: "No. We're going to Germany, America and Japan this year. It's an accident that we're not working now. We should have just had two weeks holiday after Christmas and then started on the next film, but it isn't ready and won't be for months. We want to work and we've got plenty to do - writing songs, taping things and so on. Paul and I ought to get down to writing some songs for the new LP next week. I hope he and Jane (Asher) aren't going away or God knows when we'll be ready to record. George thought we'd written them and were all ready. That's why he came dashing back from his honeymoon and we hadn't got a thing ready. We'll have to get started. There's been too much messing 'round. But I feel we've only just finished 'Rubber Soul' and I keep looking for the reviews - then I realize we did it months ago. We're obviously not going to work harder than we want to now, but you get a bit fed up of doing nothing."
Q: "Now that you've got all the money you need and plenty of time on your hands, don't you ever get the urge to do something different?"
JOHN: "I've had one or two things up my sleeve. I was going to make recordings of some of my poetry, but I'm not high-powered. I just sort of stand there and let things happen to me. I should have finished a new book. It's supposed to be out this month but I've only done one page. I thought why should I break me back getting books out like records?
Q: "Do you ever worry that the money you have won't be enough to last your lifetime?"
JOHN: "Yes. I get fits of worrying about that. I get visions of being one of those fools who do it all in by the time they're 30. Then I imagine writing a series for the 'People' saying 'I was going to spend, spend, spend...' I thought about this a while back and decided I'd been a bit extravagant and bought too many cars, so I put the Ferrari and the Mini up for sale. Then one of the accountants said I was all right, so I got the cars back. It's the old story of never knowing how much we've got. I've tried to find out but with income tax to be deducted and the money coming in from all over the place, the sums get too complicated for me, I can't even do my times table. Every now and again the accountant clears some money of tax and puts it into my account saying: 'That's there and it's all yours but don't spend it all at once!' The thing I've learned is that if I'm spending £10,000 I say to myself: 'You've had to earn £30,000 before tax to get that.'
Q: "What sort of people are your guests at home in Weybridge?"
JOHN: "We entertain very few. (P.J.) Proby was there one night and George Martin another. I think those are the only two we've specifically said 'Come to dinner' to, and made preparations. Normally I like people to drop 'round on the off chance. It cuts out all that formal entertaining business. We've just had Ivan and Jean down for a weekend - they're old friends from Liverpool, and Pete Shotton. The fellow who runs my supermarket came round on Saturday."
Q: "Is the house at Weybridge a permanent home?"
JOHN: "No, it's not. I'm dying to move into town but I'm waiting to see how Paul gets on when he goes into his town house. If he gets by alright then I'll sell the place at Weybridge. Probably to some American who'll pay a fortune for it! I was thinking the other night though that it might not be easy to find a buyer. How do you sell somebody a pink, green and purple house? We've had purple velvet put up on the dining room walls. It sets off the old scrubbed table we eat on. Then there's the 'funny' room upstairs. I painted that all colors changing from one to another as I emptied each can of paint. How do you show somebody that when they come to look the place over? And there's the plants in the bath. I suppose I could have a flat in town but I don't want to spend another £20,000 just to have somewhere to stay overnight when I've had too much bevy to drive home."
Q: "What kind of TV programs do you watch?"
JOHN: "'The Power Game' is my favorite. I love that. And next to it 'Danger Man' and 'The Rat Catchers.' Did you see that episode the other night when that spy, the clever one, shot a nun by mistake? I love that and I was so glad it happened to the clever one."
Q: "What's going to come out of the next recording sessions?"
JOHN: "Literally anything. Electronic music, jokes... One thing's for sure - the next LP is going to be very different. We wanted to have it so that there was no space between the tracks - just continuous. But they wouldn't wear it. Paul and I are very keen on this electronic music. You make it clinking a couple of glasses together or with bleeps from the radio, then you loop the tape to repeat the noises at intervals. Some people build up whole symphonies from it. It would have been better than the background music we had for the last film. All those silly bands. Never again!"
1957 - At the age of sixteen, John Lennon forms the Quarry Men with friends from his school, Quarry Bank Grammar.
July 6, 1957 - After meeting Paul McCartney during a Quarry Men performance at Woolton Parish Church fete, John invites him to join the band.
February 1958 - George Harrison joins the Quarry Men.
January 1960 - A friend of John's from Liverpool College of Art, Stu Sutcliffe is asked to join the group as the bass guitarist. The band decides to change its name to Silver Beatles.
August 1960 - Pete Best becomes the group's drummer. The group makes a final change to their name and are now known as simply the Beatles. They go on to play various venues in Hamburg including such clubs as Indra, Kaiserkeller, Top Ten and Star.
December 27, 1960 - The Beatles return to Liverpool and play at Litherland Town Hall. With their popularity becoming secure, they go on to play gigs North West of Britain for the next two years.
April 1961 - Stuart Sutcliffe decides to quit the Beatles.
November 1961 - Brian Epstein becomes the Beatles' manager. January 1, 1962 - The Beatles audition unsuccessfully for Decca Records in London.
April 10, 1962 - Stuart Sutcliffe dies of a cerebral hemorrhage.
June 6, 1962 - After auditioning for George Martin, a producer at EMI, he signs them. He goes to be their producer for their entire career.
August 16, 1962 - Pete Best is dismissed from the Beatles.
August 18, 1962 - Ringo Starr joins the band.
October 5, 1962 - "Love Me Do", the Beatles' first single, is released in the United Kingdom. It rises to #17 on the British charts.
January 11, 1963 - The Beatles' second single, "Please Please Me," is released in the U.K.. On February 22 it reaches number one on the British charts and stays there for two weeks.
February 11, 1963 - The Beatles record their first full album, "Please Please Me." The complete recording only took them one day.
March 22, 1963 - The album "Please Please Me" is released in the U.K. and becomes a huge success. It remains number one on the UK charts for 29 weeks.
July 12, 1963 - The album "Please Please Me" is released in the United States under the title of, "Introducing the Beatles".
October 1963 - Beatlemania spreads throughout Europe.
October 13, 1963 - Beatles appear on ITV's "Sunday Night at the London Palladium" which is televised to over 15 million viewers.
November 4, 1963 - Performing for the Queen Mother, Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon, the Beatles play at the Royal Command Performance. Before starting the song "Twist and Shout", John entertains the crowd with a comment, "Will the people in the cheaper seats clap their hands? And the rest of you, if you'll just rattle your jewelry."
November 22, 1963 - The Beatles release "With the Beatles" in the U.K., It reaches the number one spot on the British charts and stays there for 21 weeks.
November 29, 1963 - The single "I Want To Hold Your Hand" is released in the U.K. and immediately hits number one on the charts.
December 26 , 1963 - "I Want To Hold Your Hand" is released in the United States and spends seven weeks in the number one spot on the charts.
1964 - 66
January 20, 1964 - "Meet the Beatles" is released in the United States. It remains in the number one position on Billboard's chart for 11 weeks.
February 7, 1964 - The Beatles arrive in the United States.
February 9, 1964 - The Beatles perform on "The Ed Sullivan Show". According to the Nielsen ratings, they are watched by over 73 million people. During the show they perform five songs, "She Loves You," "I Saw Her Standing There," "All My Loving," "Till There Was You" and "I Want To Hold Your Hand."
February 11, 1964 - The Beatles perform at the Washington Coliseum in Washington, D.C.
February 12, 1964 - The Beatles perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
February 16, 1964 - The Beatles make their second appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show." They perform "From Me to You," "This Boy," "All My Loving," "I Saw Her Standing There" and closed with "I Want to Hold Your Hand."
February 23, 1964 - The Beatles appear for the third time on "The Ed Sullivan Show," this time with a taped performance "Twist and Shout" and "Please Please Me" and closed the show once again with "I Want To Hold Your Hand".
March 2, 1964 - The Beatles begin filming their first film, "A Hard Day's Night." They take eight weeks to complete it.
March 31, 1964 - The Beatles hold the top five slots on Billboard's chart: (1) Can't Buy Me Love, (2) Twist and Shout, (3) She Loves You, (4) I Want To Hold Your Hand (5) Please Please Me.
April 4, 1964 - The Beatles hold 14 slots on Billboard's Hot 100 chart.
July 6, 1964 - "A Hard Day's Night" premieres in London.
July 10, 1964 - The album "A Hard Day's Night" is released in the United Kingdom. It shortly reaches number one on the charts. In August the album is released in the United States where it also reaches number one.
August 11, 1964 - "A Hard Day's Night" opens in America.
August 19, 1964 - The Beatles begin a USA/Canada tour with a concert at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, California.
December 4, 1964 - The album "Beatles For Sale" is released in the U.K. and as with previous releases it hits number one.
February 23, 1965 - Shooting begins on the Beatles' second film, "Help!"
June 12, 1965 - The Beatles are named Members of the British Empire by the Queen, and in October they are presented with medals at Buckingham Palace.
July 29, 1965 - The Beatles second movie, "Help" opens in London.
August 6, 1965 - The album, "Help" is released in the U.K. and reaches number one both in the U.K. and the United States.
August 15, 1965 - The Beatles perform at New York's Shea Stadium. The concert grosses $304,000 U.S. dollars. The Beatles' share was $160,000.
December 3, 1965 - The album, "Rubber Soul" is released in the U.K. and reaches number one both in the U.K. and the United States.
August 5, 1966 - The album, "Revolver" is released in the U.K. and reaches number one both in the U.K. and the United States.
August 29, 1966 - The Beatles perform their last live concert, in San Francisco, California.
1967 - 70
June 1, 1967 - The album, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" is released in the U.K. and reaches number one both in the U.K. and the United States. It also receives four Grammy Awards including Best Album.
June 25, 1967 - The Beatles perform "All You Need is Love" in "Our World," a two-hour satellite television program transmitted live by satellite to five continents and 24 countries.
August 27, 1967 - Brian Epstein dies. The Beatles are told of his death while they are visiting Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Bangor, Wales.
November 27, 1967 - The album, "Magical Mystery Tour" is released in the U.S. and hits number one. It is released in the U.K. eleven days later missing three of the songs found on the U.S. release.
December 26, 1967 - "Magical Mystery Tour," an hour-long television special airs in the U.K.
February 1968 - The Beatles spent a few weeks in Rishikesh, India, to attend a seminar hosted by Maharishi.
May 14, 1968 - John and Paul appear on "The Tonight Show" to announce that their new company, Apple.
July 17, 1968 - "Yellow Submarine" premieres in London. It opens in America several months later.
November 22, 1968 - The album, "The Beatles" (better known as the White Album) is released and reaches number one both in the U.K. and the United States.
January 13, 1969 - The soundtrack album, "Yellow Submarine" is released in the U.S. and reaches number two both in the U.K. and the United States. Number one is still held by the White Album.
January 30, 1969 - The Beatles perform together for the last time live on the roof of Apple's London office. The performance can be seen in the movie documentary "Let It Be."
September, 1969 - John decides to leave the Beatles, but he does not announce it publicly because of current contract negotiations with EMI.
September 26, 1969 - The Beatles last album, "Abbey Road" is released in the U.K. and reaches number one both in the U.K. and the United States.
April 10, 1970 - Paul announces that he has left the Beatles.
May 8, 1970 - The Beatles last album, "Let It Be" which unknown to many was recorded before "Abbey Road"
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