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50 Interviews – Give peace a chance

Jann S. Wenner probes for answers in this historical interview of John Lennon in 1971, and gets a surprising mixture of responses. This is selected by Andrew Miller as part of our '50 interviews' project.

Interviewer:  Jann S. Wenner

Interview subject:  John Lennon

Publication: Rolling Stone magazine

Publication Date:  January 21, 1971

Jann S. Wenner has experienced a fantastic career over many years at Rolling Stone, but one of his most praised efforts was the historical 1971 interview with Beatles member John Lennon. At a point not long after the breakup of the band, Lennon had much to say to Wenner about his career, use of drugs, and his personal life.

The ability of Wenner to let Lennon open up is one thing that makes this interview quite special. Being the member of arguably one of the most successful bands of all time, any interview with Lennon was bound to draw interest. But Lennon’s personal rebelliousness and activism surface throughout it, and make for a truly fascinating insight into the mind of a world-renowned music star.

Lennon gives a number of extensive and insightful responses as well as some blunt and dismissive ones. Wenner handles the unpredictable songwriter by either further inquiring on previous questions or taking new ones from a seemingly never-ending list of relevant topics.

Wenner manages to create a comfortable environment in which Lennon openly talks about his relationship with Paul and other members, and even of his drug use while writing his music.

He particularly criticises the nature of the band once they went big, describing it as a ‘sell out’, and that their best work was pre-fame in England, before all the ‘hype’ and ‘the edges were knocked off’.

The interview shows that despite the band eventually splitting, the success of the Beatles seemed dependent on the quirk and passion of its members.

See the full interview in two parts here: part one and part two.

Andrew Miller is a first-year Bachelor of Sports Journalism student at La Trobe University.

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