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BBC RADIO 4 ON MUSIC: JOHN LENNON: THE WENNER TAPES.

An in-depth portrait of John Lennon, told through the audio of Jann Wenner's seminal 1970 New York interview for Rolling Stone magazine.


Portrait of John Lennon by Annie Leibovitz, New York City, 4 December 1970
for Rolling Stone, founded and edited by Jann S. Wenner.

JOHN LENNON. THE WENNER TAPES.
8 DECEMBER 1970. BBC RADIO 4 DOCUMENTARY.
STREAM OR DOWNLOAD.

An in-depth portrait of John Lennon, told through the audio of Jann Wenner’s seminal 1970 New York interview for Rolling Stone magazine, conducted at the Apple/ABKCO offices in New York City on 8 December 1970.

The most famous interview Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner ever did was an extensive interrogation, on tape, of Lennon shortly after the Beatles had broken up.

Lennon and Ono had already given the magazine a blessing of sorts by posing nude for its first anniversary issue in late 1968. Theirs was a relationship of trust. An edited version of Wenner’s interview went to press in 1971, and the two issues in which it appeared both sold out overnight.

The Lennon interview remains one of the most important ever done with a popular musician. Lennon himself regarded it as definitive.

It documented the Beatles’ career and split with painstakingly emotional (at times excruciating) detail, and served as a major, and controversial, point of exorcism for Lennon in his coming to terms with the ’60s, the legacy of the Beatles and particularly his ruptured relationship with Paul McCartney.

He holds forth throughout on the subjects of art and politics, his own musical genius, his love for Yoko, drugs, primal therapy and mysticism.

He spoke with such candour; he’s on terrific form – acidly sharp, furious and funny, philosophical, exuding confidence, at times disarmingly vunerable.

The audio archive for the programme centres exclusively on Wenner’s own tapes. It also contains new interviews with both Yoko, who sat beside John throughout, and Jann, who look back on the interview and Lennon’s state of mind at the time.

Available on the BBC Radio 4 website to stream or download.

LISTEN ON SPOTIFY

John on two front covers of Rolling Stone magazine, photographed by Annie Leibovitz, with edited excerpts of founding editor Jann S. Wenner’s interview with John & Yoko on 8 December 1970, published in two parts, ‘The Working Class Hero’ on 21 January 1971 (left), and ‘Life With The Lions’ on 4 February 1971 (right).

Read the historic interview, as originally edited and published in Rolling Stone on 21 January and 4 February 1971, here.

Listen to excerpts in the Rolling Stone Podcast

Also available as an Apple Podcast here.

Read Jann S. Wenner and Annie Leibovitz’s stories about the historic interview (below) in the new Thames and Hudson book, JOHN & YOKO / PLASTIC ONO BAND, available here.

Read Jann S. Wenner and Annie Leibovitz’s stories about the historic interview (above) in the new Thames and Hudson book, JOHN & YOKO / PLASTIC ONO BAND, available here.

JOHN’S PERSPECTIVE ON THE INTERVIEW

Q: In retrospect, what do you think of the whole “Lennon Remembers” episode?

John: Well, the other guys, their reaction was public. Ringo made some sort of comment that was funny, which I can’t remember, something like, ‘You’ve gone too far this time, Johnnie.’ Paul said (stuffy voice), ‘Well, that’s his problem.’ I can’t remember what George said. I mean, they don’t care, they’ve been with me for fifteen or twenty years, they know damn well what I’m like. It just so happens it was in the press. I mean, they know what I’m like. I’m not ashamed of it at all. I don’t really like hurting people, but Jann Wenner questioned me when I was almost still in therapy and you can’t play games. You’re opened up. It was like he got me on an acid trip. Things come out. I got both reactions from that article. A lot of people thought it was right on. My only upset was Jann insisted on making a book out of it.

Rolling Stone, 5 June 1975