John Lennon had the capacity to be downright nasty when he found himself in a foul mood, and Paul Simon got the brunt of his anger on one occasion when the former Beatle referred to him as the “singing dwarf”.
It’s unclear exactly why Lennon held a grudge against Simon or whether this was an off-the-cuff remark that was designed to be humorous. If it was meant to be funny, he missed the mark. However, the bizarre comment is intriguing as it arrived from a home recording that Simon was never supposed to hear and is an indictment of the bitterness that had begun to cripple the singer.
His ramblings were captured on a dictaphone in 1979, and it wasn’t just the miniature New Yorker who felt the wrath of Lennon. He also managed to squeeze in an attack at his former right-hand man, Paul McCartney, plus he managed to fire brutal shots at Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, and even an unlikely dig at Truman Capote.
The recording shines a light on the envious side of Lennon, which helped fire him into becoming a mercurial talent, but on a personal level, it was always his Achilles heel. The musician had this jealous streak within him that could cause him to tear himself apart from those closest to him, and in truth, comments like these only reflect poorly on him.
During the footage, Lennon bizarrely started talking about the “sense of panic and competition” that he used to experience when a creative rival released a record. He noted that “now at least I get pleasure in it instead of panic, the main pleasure being of course that it’s all a load of shit.”
“So here we sit, watching the mighty Dylan and the mighty McCartney and the might Jagger slide down the mountain [with] mud and blood in their nails,” Lennon scorned.
“McCartney, Dylan, Jagger et al. are all company men in various disguises,” he harshly stated before cruelly remarking with nastiness in his voice, “Not forgetting the singing dwarf Mr Simon,” he added.
Simon has never been the biggest fan of Lennon, and in 1972, he told Rolling Stone about why he found ‘Power For The People’ distasteful. He commented” “It’s a poor record, a condescending record. Like all of these cliché phrases, they’re dangerous. What does that mean — power to the people? And who is he saying it to? Is he saying it to people who have any idea what it means?”.
However, Simon didn’t have any issues with Lennon as a person, diplomatically commenting: “Many things he’s done, I think, have been pointless. Some have been in bad taste. Others have been courageous. I think he’s generally a well-intentioned guy.”
Whether there was great intent behind Lennon’s comments is unknown, yet the most significant takeaway is the glimpse into his mindset at this juncture in his life. He felt like he was above his contemporaries, which Lennon sneered down upon, and seemingly believed he was the only one of them with an ounce of credibility, which he used to excuse his attack.