This remarkable interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono was conducted as background for a lengthy profile piece in the New York Times. At several points in this approximately 100-minute-long interview, Lennon refers to the fact that we've just finished an album, folks - the record in question being the double-LP Some Time In New York City, issued in June 1972. Lennon also talks about the very recent release of the single, 'Woman Is The Nigger Of The World', pinpointing the date of this recording as being at the very end of April or beginning of May 1972. Lennon begins the interview alone, but is joined by Yoko Ono about 25 minutes into the taping, and there are also several interruptions by the Lennons' assistant at the time, May Pang. Lennon sounds enthusiastic and engaged throughout the encounter, taking the questions seriously with obvious respect for the New York Times journalist.
Lennon was facing a battle in spring 1972 to avoid deportation from the USA, and this legal saga - though not discussed in any detail - provides the backdrop to the interview. It's a trial of minds going on, Lennon says. Another ongoing problem was the disappearance of Ono's daughter Kyoko, who had been taken away by the child's father, Tony Cox. Lennon admits that he is scared to say too much publicly about the case, because it was the initial publicity that had spurred Cox to vanish. He talks about how hard it is for Ono to see pictures of her daughter: I have to hide them. Asked about his own son, Julian, he says: I don't have that 'where the hell is he?' bit. But he reveals that when they were in England, and Julian visited them every weekend, it was difficult for Ono to be with him when her own daughter wasn't there: It was killing her.
Lennon talks about the impact that the immigration case has had on their work: if we hadn't been hassled, we planned to do . . . some concerts here and then try and get in Russia and China. He says that Yoko's working like mad and that he is still writing songs: just bits . . . when it's a bit busy, I can't finish them off.
Asked about how his musical outlook and Ono's had combined, he talks about listening to the 'Live Jam' section of their new album: she amazes me each time . . . I can never get over it. He explains that her avant-garde music hadn't taken him by surprise, as I always like listening to anything that's happening - like the radio off-key, or listening to Egyptian stations when you're 15 cos there's no radio in Britain. It certainly broadens your outlook. At the same age, he reveals, he had been given a tape recorder, and ever since he had made his own experimental tapes.
Donald Heckman asks about the Beatles' 'Revolution 9', and Lennon reveals that he had wanted to release 'Revolution 1' and 'Revolution 9' as a Beatles single, but the other Beatles wouldn't let it out . . . they said it wasn't commercial. He reflects on the controversial Two Virgins album, and the Beatles' reaction to that, and recalls EMI boss Sir Joseph Lockwood promising the album his full support, and then secretly contacting EMI's offices around the world telling them not to get involved with the record. Another contentious project, the Rolling Stone interview book Lennon Remembers, is also mentioned, with Lennon describing the magazine's editor as a pig and joking: Instant Karma's gonna get him!.
At this point in the proceedings, Yoko Ono joins the interview, and talks at length to the sympathetic journalist about her career in New York's avant-garde movement, including her collaborations with the likes of John Cage and Charlotte Moorman. Lennon notes the influence that Cage and other left-field composers had on the Beatles, which allows the interviewer to raise the subject of why the Beatles had broken up three years earlier. It was going round in circles, and it was straining us - well, it was straining me, Lennon explains. I couldn't stand it. But it was a good place to grow up in. He adds that he now views the Beatles as a build-up so I could meet Yoko, and Ono replies in kind, saying that she only realised why she had learned to speak English after she had met Lennon.
As the conversation winds back and forth between several subjects, Ono reveals that it would be nice to have children with Lennon, but that they had decided, after she had suffered several miscarriages, that we should wait and let my body rest - it's something to look forward to in the future. Lennon says that during Ono's previous pregnancies, he had set out to document the entire nine-month cycle on film, but that his deficiencies as a photographer had sabotaged the project.
In one of the most revealing sections of the interview, Lennon says how much New York reminds him of his hometown, Liverpool: it has that same feeling round the docks. He says that moving to the city has rejuvenated him: it's taken years off my life, to get out of the mansion in Ascot . . . we were old two years ago, but now he feels younger than he has for years.
Asked about his non-participation in George Harrison's 1971 Concerts for Bangla Desh, Lennon explains: Yoko would have gone, I was just too paranoid . . . now I think I should have gone. He talks excitedly about his recent live appearances on TV with local bar band Elephants Memory, and reveals: I want to get out [on tour] with Yoko, and blast out. He laments the fact that when he saw the band playing recently in New York, there was this tremendous pressure to get up and jam, and we wouldn't do it. He is enthusiastic about the prospect of seeing one of his earliest idols, Elvis Presley, perform live, and says that he keeps telling Yoko how wonderful live shows by his 50s rock'n'roll heroes are going to be, and that he's invariably a little disappointed.
As the conversation winds towards a close, Lennon phones the ABKCO office uptown to ask them to send down an acetate of his new album for the journalist, and then complains about the lack of airplay for his single, 'Woman Is The Nigger Of The World'. The music's being sacrificed for the adverts on FM radio, he says. They wouldn't let us buy [advertising] time. Finally, he talks about his professional relationship with record producer Phil Spector: He's a classic rock'n'roll man, he's a genius in his own right.