John Lennon was the very definition of box office. Whether in a recording studio or TV set, the Beatle had no filter and said whatever sprung to his mind. Perhaps his most controversial interview came when he and Yoko Ono settled some scores on the Dick Cavett Show.
In 1971, there weren’t the plethora of outlets like there are today in the age of social media to tell your version of events and to reach the widest platform possible; Lennon needed to go on to television. Following the split of The Beatles, he was clearly reeling with accusations that his beloved Yoko was the reason why the band were no more and needed to set the record straight on the topic.
He and Paul McCartney weren’t on speaking terms at the time, with no love lost between the duo. His vengeful track about his former partner in crime, ‘How Do You Sleep?’, had been released in the same week as the interview with Lennon was more than happy to stick the knife in even further.
Seeing Lennon in this kind of exhilarating form has the crowd in total awe, lapping up every word that fell out his mouth. It doesn’t take long for the interview to zip past the small talk stage and into the juicy stuff. He cheekily tells the host, “If she (Yoko) took them (The Beatles) 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.”
Cavett then digs a little deeper into their relationship and asks Yoko about being the “lucky one” to have married “one of the four”. This comment gets her back up, and she fiercely retorts, “I resent just thinking of him as ‘one of the four’ y’know or any one of the four etc. because I just met him as another artist and I didn’t particularly realise that part of it really.”
To further demonstrate her lack of affection for the Fab Four, Lennon revealed that she wasn’t even a fan of the band before they met. “She didn’t really know about any of us. The only name she knew was Ringo because it means Apple in Japanese,” he explained, stone-faced.
Things heated up further when the split became the topic of discussion, and Lennon explained that it was an inevitability. He ardently said, “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.”
In response, Cavett queried if there was one specific moment where he knew it was over. “No, it’s like saying do you remember falling in love? It just sort of happens,” he solemnly replied.
Continuing his point, Lennon added, “Everything is fun on and off y’know so it could have carried on being fun on and off or it could have got worse, I don’t know. It’s just that when you grow up we don’t want to be The Crazy Gang which they may not know over here as they are British, or the Marx Brothers, which is sort of being dragged on stage playing ‘She Loves You’ when we’ve got Asthma and Tuberculosis when we’re 50.”
He then said from the heart, “A long time ago, I said I don’t want to be singing ‘She Loves You’ when I’m 30, I said that when I was about 25 or something which in a roundabout way meant that I wouldn’t be doing whatever I was doing then at 30. Well, I was 30 last October and that’s about when my life changed really.”
The interview was explosive. Lennon knew that the rest of the band would be watching at home, which undoubtedly made him more fueled to unleash chaos and let people comprehend the split of The Beatles from his perspective.
While people still claim that Yoko was the driving force behind the group calling it a day, this appearance on Cavett showed two sides to the story, and there was a lot more nuance to it than first meets the eye.