John Lennon World of Books Interview (1965, June 16)
|This radio interview with John Lennon was recorded on June 16th, and was later broadcast on July 3rd as part of the BBC radio program 'The World Of Books.' Lennon was promoting his second book 'A Spaniard In The Works,' which would be released in the UK on June 24th, 1965.
Q: "Let me ask you first of all - How do you write? Do you write in a disciplined way, or do you write when it comes into your head?"
John: "It's more disciplined. The second book was more disciplined because it was starting from scratch. They sort of say, 'You've got so many months to write a book in.' The first book, alot of it I'd written at odd times during my life."
Q: "Do you set aside certain hours in the day to write?"
John: "No, none of that. I haven't written enough. It's not a job, you see."
Q: "Would you like to discipline yourself? Do you feel a need to discipline yourself as a writer?"
John:" "No. I'm not very keen on being disciplined. It seems odd being a Beatle, because we're disciplined - but we don't feel as though we're disciplined. I don't mind being disciplined and not realizing it."
Q: "You know, these little pieces in the book - they give an appearance of great finish - of perfection. Do you revise them?"
John: "Do they?"
Q: "Yes. Now I mean, they're not... they don't look all that spontaneous. They look as though they've been worked over. Do you work them over?"
John: "They're not at all. I never - nobody's ever said that to me. Wonderful. There are spontaneous, and I hardly ever alter anything because I'm selfish about what I write or bigheaded about it. Once I've written it, I like it. and the publisher sometimes says, you know, 'Should we leave this out, or change that?' and I fight like mad 'cuz once I've done it I like to keep it. I might add things when I go over it before it's published, but I seldom take anything out. So it is spontaneous."
Q: "Now the puns, and all the other technical things. The puns. The onomatopoeia. The changing..."
John: "The what? What?"
Q: "That's a long word. I'll tell you - Onomatopoeia is, you know, when... like 'buzz.'"
John: "That's three words I've learned today."
Q: "You know, when I say a word like buzz. Buzz is an onomatopoeia, because in the word is captured the noise of the bee. That's onomatopoeia, and you, probably without realizing it, your book is full of them. Do you know what I mean?"
John: "Is it? Well, I'm glad to know that. Lot of onomatopoeias."
Q: "Well, you've rather answered my question because I was going to ask you whether these were contrived, whether they came natural."
John: "No. I just haven't got a clue what you're talking about really. Automatic peer - sounds like to me. That's probably why I change words. 'Cuz I haven't a clue what words mean half the time."
Q: "I know you hate this question, but what are the influences? All the names that people toss out when they read your things..."
Q: "Nursery rhymes, Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear. You'd deny all this, would you?"
John: "I deny it because I'm ignorant. I was ignorant of Lear. I'd heard the name obviously, you know, somewhere. But we didn't do him at school, and the only sort of classic kind or very highbrow kind of things I'd read were at school. and... what is it? Joyce and Chaucer - I might have read a bit of Chaucer at school, 'cuz I think they do that. So I bought all the books that they said it was like. I bought one book on Edward Lear, I bought 'Finnegan's Wake,' A big book on Chaucer. and I couldn't see any resemblance to any of them. A little bit of 'Finnegan's Wake,' but 'Finnegan's Wake' was so way out and so different. Just a few word changes, but anybody who changes words is gonna be... has got to be compared. His stuff is just something else."
Q: "Can I ask you about Lewis Carroll?"
John: "Oh, Lewis Carroll. I always admit to that because I love 'Alice In Wonderland' and 'Alice Through The Looking Glass.' But I didn't even know he'd written anything else. I was that ignorant. I just happened to get those for birthday presents as a child and liked them. and I usually read those two about once a year, because I still like them."
Q: "Alot of people say your pieces are sick. What do you say to them?"
John: "If it makes people sick - they're sick. But I can read it without... It doesn't appear sick to me."
Q: "That marvelous cartoon - you know - 'I am blind.' This is my favorite thing in the whole book."
Q: "The other one - the street musician. 'I am blind' and the other one - 'I can see perfectly well.' Is this typical of your kind of humor? Is this the way your mind works?"
John: "In certain moods. We used to do a lot of gags like that at school. I was just drawing and I just happened to make him blind - the fella - and gave him a dog. and then I just drew another one next to him who wasn't. and then I didn't think of the joke, and then put it down. Because at school we used to draw alot and pass it 'round. I remember we'd had blind dogs with sunglasses on - leading ordinary people, or you know, just all variations on the theme. and I just found me-self drawing something that I'd done at school, but without the tagline."
Q: "Let me ask you - The difference I noticed between the first book and the second - the thing that struck me most possibly was there's an awful pompous expression. There's more social conscience somehow in this second book, more awareness of what's going on. What about this preoccupation 'We must not forget, we must not forget, we must not forget?' There's almost a kind of message here, a kind of purpose. You know, in spite of yourself, this almost - I'd call it - social conscience emerges."
John: "Ah, well. I'm not a 'do gooder' about things. I won't go around marching or... I'm not that type. It just so happens that my feelings about colored people, or religion, or anything like that, do happen to work with the way I write. I make fun of colored people in the book, and christians and jews, but really, I'm not against them."
Q: "I think you keep..."
John: "But I use them to get laughs."
Q: "I think you keep very abreast of what's going on, actually. You must do. It comes in all the time."
John: "Well, obviously I read most newspapers all the time, you know. 'Cuz we're often in newspapers, and it's still nice to read about yourself. and then after I've looked and seen we're not in it, then I go through the rest of it. and then I finally end up reading the political bit, when I've read everything else. So I'm... you know. I can't help being up with the times, because I am part of the times through what we've been up with, really."
Q: "John, read something for us, will you?"
John: "Right. I'll read a bit of 'The Fat Budgie.'"
(reads) I have a little budgie. He is my very pal. I take him walks in Britain. I hope I always shall. I call my budgie Jeffrey. My Granddad's name's the same. I call him after Granddad. Who had a feathered brain.
John: "Is that enough?"
Q: "What about the drawings? Let me ask you about those. Did you draw like that from when you were tiny, or have you developed?"
John: "For a long time, yes. But not with so fine a line. I used to draw with almost anything - usually black pen, or just an ordinary fountain pen with black ink in it. and then when it came to doing the book, I said, 'Well, I draw as well,' you know. 'cuz they've mainly got all the writing. and the drawings are very scrappy 'cuz I'm heavy handed."
Q: "Does the drawing spring out of the story or does the story come from the drawing?"
John: "Sometimes, but hardly ever. Because I draw like I write - I just start and draw, and if it looks like something vaguely to do with a story, I do it."
Source: Audio copy of original broadcast