Today is the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s death, an indelible mark on the history of music and the legacy of what is arguably its biggest band. In remembrance of Lennon – for both fans who recall his life and those too young to have witnessed his career – Rolling Stone magazine has published an interview conducted with the artist just three days before his murder. Though pieces of the interview ran in a 1980 issue released the month following Lennon’s death, this is the first time it has been published in its entirety; in fact, interviewer Jonathan Cott hadn’t transcribed all the tapes, which sat in his closet for 30 years, until now.
The words within paint a picture of Lennon as a man fairly embittered by his treatment by fans and critics who criticized him for taking time off to be with family and raise his son. He laments, “These critics with the illusions they’ve created about artists — it’s like idol worship. They only like people when they’re on their way up. I cannot be on the way up again.” And he seems particularly disenchanted with the business of music when he adds, in an eerily prophetic assessment, “What they want is dead heroes, like Sid Vicious and James Dean. I’m not interested in being a dead fucking hero. So, forget ’em. Forget ’em.”
But there are lighter moments too, like when Lennon shakes off his world weariness and says he “still believe[s] in love, peace and understanding, as Elvis Costello says.” And there are even allusions to playing to live audiences again: “[T]here will be no smoke bombs, no lipstick, no flashing lights. It just has to be comfy. But we could have a laugh. We’re born-again rockers, and we’re starting over.”
You’ll have to buy this month’s issue of Rolling Stone (it hits newsstands December 10) to read the full interview in print. But the Rolling Stone site features other highlights – including audio snippets and a podcast of the interview, a gallery of Lennon photos and related articles from the archives.