During his lifetime, John Lennon was the name that would sit right on the top of most people’s dream list if they could pick guests for a TV chat show. Not only did he live a crazy life and had the battle wounds to show for it, but he’d also not be afraid to drop a verbal grenade or two that would send shockwaves around the world.
Lennon was never controversial for the sake of being so, but he was well aware of the repercussions his words would have once they left his mouth and instantly travelled on to newspaper front pages. Everybody hung on Lennon’s words, and there was nobody on the planet that had the same sense of intrigue around him as The Beatle.
Back during Lennon’s era, there wasn’t the same amount of coverage for famous people as there was no social media or rolling news where you could follow every step of their career. Therefore, Lennon’s TV appearances were perhaps the only glimpse they’d get into his life for a whole year.
As people didn’t get to hear from Lennon very often, this only added to the mystique around him, and he had the whole studio audience in the palm of his hands and the millions watching patiently on their TV sets at home.
John Lennon’s wildest TV interviews
The David Frost Show (1969)
Before The Beatles had officially split, John Lennon and Yoko Ono had found their own niche away from the group. They were inseparable and went everywhere as a pair. Their outing on The David Frost Show in 1969 would be a sign of things to come.
Things got rather confusing when Frost asked Lennon to define ‘Bagism’, a term invented by Lennon to describe a world without prejudice, and his answer left people with more questions than answers.
“What’s Bagism? It’s like a tag for what we all do, we’re all in a bag, you know, and we realised that we came from two bags—I was in this pop bag going round and round in my little clique, and she was in her little avant-garde clique going round and round, and you’re in your little telly clique, and they’re in their…you know?
“We all intellectualise about how there is no barrier between art, music, poetry… but we’re still all – ‘I’m a rock and roller’, ‘He’s a poet’. So we just came up with the word so you would ask us what bagism is – And we’d say we’re all in a bag, baby!”
The Dick Cavett Show (1971)
John Lennon and Yoko Ono would use The Dick Cavett Show to air any grievances they had with the world, with the host allowing them to share their side of the story. In 1971, Lennon provided the definitive answer when asked the age-old question, did Yoko Ono break up The Beatles?
“If she took them apart, then can we at least give her all the credit for all the nice music that George made, Ringo made, and Paul made, and I’ve made since they broke up,” Lennon declared.
He continued: “Anyway, she didn’t split The Beatles because how could one girl or one woman split The Beatles, they were drifting apart on their own.”
The host asked whether there was one specific moment when he knew it was game over for The Beatles, to which Lennon responded, “No, it’s like saying do you remember falling in love? It just sort of happens,” he solemnly said.
The Dick Cavett Show (1972)
Lennon’s appearance on Cavett in 1972 was a more hostile and tense occasion than a year prior when he was on top of the world after releasing Imagine. The former Beatles man now was at the centre of a political storm and facing possible deportation for his outspoken stance on the Vietnam War.
In the clip, Lennon even suggests that the FBI have them under surveillance, which left the audience’s jaws dropped to the floor and in utter disbelief. While it sounded like tin-foil hat stuff, it was all true, and they were being watched.
Jon Wiener later brought to light that the FBI documented over 300 pieces of evidence on John Lennon around this time, with virtually none of it having any substance whatsoever.
Weekend World (1973)
In 1973, Lennon appeared on Weekend World, and he had an apology to issue out. Lennon’s appearance on the programme came after he dismissed Allen Klein as his manager, key personnel in the split of The Beatles. Lennon and McCartney fell out over their management situation following the death of Brian Epstein, with Klein eventually taking over the reins, much to Macca’s frustration.
Following his dismissal by Lennon as his manager in 1973, he appeared on Weekend World to explain why he chose to stop working with Klein.
“Well, there were many reasons to finally give him the push. Although I don’t want to go into the details of it, let’s say that possibly Paul’s suspicions were right, and the time was right,” he breathtakingly admitted. “My position has always been the devil in the deep blue sea, and at the time, I do whatever I feel is right,” he vaguely added.
The Tomorrow Show (1975)
At the time of the interview, Lennon faced potential deportation proceedings from America over his 1968 controversial conviction for cannabis possession in London and would end up being his final TV interview.
Lennon was in a calm and reflective mood. He was even happy to discuss The Beatles and looked back fondly on their time together. “People have always been trying to stamp out rock ‘n’ roll since it started,” he passionately said at one point. “I always thought that it’s because it came from black music, and the words had a lot of double entendre in the early days.
“It was all this ‘our nice white kids are gonna go crazy moving their bodies’, y’now the music got to your body, and The Beatles just carried it a bit further, made it a bit more white, even more than Elvis did because we were English.”
Another moment of reflection, Lennon opened up about his more relaxed lifestyle following the split of The Beatles, and he seemed to be in a good place. “Having gone through the whole Beatlemania thing, now it’s nothing like that,” he noted. “I can walk down the street, and someone will go ‘Hi John’, and they usually say ‘How’s your immigration?’.
“If it’s in New York and they don’t hassle me, I might sign one or two autographs, and I don’t get hassled. I went through a period where I couldn’t go anywhere. Now I can go eat, go to the movies, and we go wherever we want.”