REVIEW album Old Subbacultcha Old Subbacultcha

John & Yoko go on, and on, and on...

Old Subbacultcha

Old Subbacultcha

8 CDs of interviews with Village Voice journalist Howard Smith recorded 1969-72


John Lennon & Yoko Ono - Smith Tapes: I'm Not The Beatles: John & Yoko Interviews 1969-72 - Wienerworld 8CD Box Set, 21st April 8/10

Lennon loved to talk, a crucial part of his personal therapy as he found his way out of the sixties, the Beatles, his marriage and a damaging heroin addiction, this verbal diarrhoea allowed him to better understand himself and coalesce his ideals in a very public way. Fans of this era of his career are already inundated with interview material, whether it be the famous Jann Wenner Rolling Stone interviews, released in book form as Lennon Remembers, or any number of other articles and tapes which have appeared over the past forty years or so. Due to different copyright restrictions on spoken word material, these interviews have often been repackaged and re-sold many many times, so the fact that this 8CD set has never appeared on CD before and is mastered from Howard Smith's original tapes makes it worthy of attention. Lennon was always acutely aware of the power he held as one quarter of the biggest band on the planet as well as what could happen when his words were taken out of context, most famously the 'bigger than Jesus' quote which overshadowed the Beatles 1966 US tour. Genuinely shaken by the controversy caused and lost in a haze of acid and meditation through 67 and 68, Lennon withdrew to an extent for the next few years but encouraged and emboldened by the arrival of Yoko, he decided as the decade came to a close, to use this power for more overtly political reasons. Indeed he seemed willing to talk to anyone at any time on his quest for peace, his concern about the James Hanratty case, Northern Ireland, the Attica State Prison riots, the list goes on and many of these are covered on the 6+ hours of material included here. If Lennon's message of peace seems hopelessly naive 45 years on, what keeps it interesting is that the more you listen to him the clearer it is that most of the time he was well aware of how ridiculous his position sounded. Lennon is no soft headed hippy espousing peace and love as an empty sound bite, he's a smart operator who is quite prepared to play the world's fool in order to raise awareness of whatever issue is vexing him at any particular time. He doesn't expect people to adopt his approach, he just wants them to question their own and he is consistently compelling throughout these six hours. He's also of course consistently inconsistent, maddeningly illogical, contradictory, ignorant and plain stupid at times but he knew that too, his posthumous canonisation would have annoyed him far more than it does any of his detractors. Compared to our current culture of sound bites, social media, PR spin and manufactured controversy at every perceived misstep, Lennon's ramblings become even more remarkable. Unquestionably one of the most famous people in the world at the time, you may not like or even respect him more after listening to these tapes but it's difficult not to admire someone who plays so fast and loose with his reputation. One is constantly reminded of him returning his MBE (which is covered on disc 2)  in late 1969, accompanied by a note reading "Your Majesty, I am returning my MBE as a protest against Britain's involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam and against 'Cold Turkey' slipping down the charts. With Love, John Lennon." Even when trying to make a political point on this scale he can't help undermining it all by plugging his latest single.