Back in December 1970, just a few months after The Beatles announced their decision to break up, John Lennon sat down with Rolling Stone co-founder and editor Jann Wenner for a no holds barred interview.
In what was intended as a conversation designed to promote Lennon’s debut solo John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band turned into a wide-ranging, tell-all insight into his emotions, his future plans, home truths about the band’s split and plenty more. The interview was so in-depth that Wenner held back plans to run the story in Rolling Stone magazine and instead published the quotes as a book.
Lennon, accompanied by Yoko Ono for the interview, opened up in brutally honest fashion as he made repeated cutting comments about his former bandmates and, it has to be remembered, took aim at his songwriting partner Paul McCartney with an unrelenting sense of animosity. While his comments about the Beatles were met by disappointment by his fans at the time, Lennon’s defence of the band against Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger all but made up for it.
When asked what he thought of the Rolling Stones, Lennon answered: “I think its a lot of hype. I like ‘Honky Tonk Woman’ but I think Mick’s a joke, with all that fag dancing, I always did. I enjoy it, I’ll probably go and see his films and all, like everybody else, but really, I think it’s a joke.”
Wenner, sensing that Lennon had more to get off his chest in regards to Jagger, pursued the subject and asked if the two ever crossed paths: “No, I never do see him,” Lennon answered abruptly. “We saw a bit of each other around when Allen was first coming in – I think Mick got jealous. I was always very respectful about Mick and the Stones, but he said a lot of sort of tarty things about the Beatles, which I am hurt by, because you know, I can knock the Beatles, but don’t let Mick Jagger knock them.”
Taking things a step further, Lennon made the not-so-subtle hint that Jagger and the Stones regularly copied the Beatles: “I would like to just list what we did and what the Stones did two months after on every fuckin’ album. Every fuckin’ thing we did, Mick does exactly the same – he imitates us. And I would like one of you fuckin’ underground people to point it out, you know Satanic Majesties is Pepper, ‘We Love You’, it’s the most fuckin’ bullshit, that’s ‘All You Need Is Love’.
“I resent the implication that the Stones are like revolutionaries and that the Beatles weren’t. If the Stones were or are, the Beatles really were too. But they are not in the same class, music-wise or power-wise, never were. I never said anything, I always admired them, because I like their funky music and I like their style. I like rock and roll and the direction they took after they got over trying to imitate us, you know, but he’s even going to do Apple now. He’s going to do the same thing.”
Lennon concluded: “He’s obviously so upset by how big the Beatles are compared with him; he never got over it. Now he’s in his old age, and he is beginning to knock us, you know, and he keeps knocking. I resent it, because even his second fuckin’ record we wrote it for him. Mick said ‘Peace made money’. We didn’t make any money from Peace. You know.”
Listen to the audio, below.