Hear John Lennon’s Final Interview, Taped on the Last Day of His Life (December 8, 1980)

(Note: The clip above is the first of six parts. Hear the remain­ing parts here: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

John Lennon’s last days were filled with pro­fes­sion­al and domes­tic rou­tines char­ac­ter­is­tic of both a typ­i­cal wealthy New York­er and a leg­endary rock star and activist: mak­ing break­fast and watch­ing Sesame Street with his son Sean, going on epic shop­ping sprees, spend­ing late nights in the stu­dio, stag­ing demon­stra­tions, argu­ing with his ret­inue of ser­vants and hang­ers-on. After five years in semi-retire­ment, or “siege­like retreat,” spent rais­ing Sean, John Lennon seemed ready to emerge from seclu­sion and renew his career. On his final day, Decem­ber 8, 1980, he was feel­ing hope­ful about his cre­ative future. He had just learned that his album with Yoko, Dou­ble Fan­ta­sy, had gone gold, and he and Yoko were engaged in pro­mo­tion, and were look­ing for­ward to their next musi­cal endeav­or.

That morn­ing, Annie Lei­bovitz and her assis­tant came to the Lennon’s apart­ment build­ing, The Dako­ta, to shoot those now icon­ic pho­tographs for Rolling Stone of the Lennons in bed. Mean­while, a devot­ed fan named Paul Gore­sh, and Lennon’s mur­der­er Mark David Chap­man, start­ed to hang around out­side the build­ing. Less than two hours lat­er, a crew from San Francisco’s RKO radio arrived at The Dako­ta to inter­view John and Yoko. Inter­view­er Dave Sholin remem­bers meet­ing Lennon, who was get­ting dressed after the nude pho­to shoot: “the door opens and John jumps in with his arms extend­ed, like ‘here I am folks!’ We were meet­ing John Lennon and we were all maybe a lit­tle ner­vous but that just put us right at ease in prob­a­bly less than a minute.” “He was a reg­u­lar guy, very, very sharp and extreme­ly quick wit­ted,” Sholin con­tin­ued. “And he con­nect­ed with all of us. He had been out of the pub­lic eye for five years and he was open to speak­ing about any­thing. He did not hold back.”

You can hear that inter­view, in six parts, above, and read a tran­script here at Bea­t­les Archive. John and Yoko talk in great detail about Dou­ble Fan­ta­sy, about par­ent­ing, about meet­ing, falling in love, and work­ing togeth­er. Lennon also talks about his social vision and the need for “holis­tic” solu­tions to “stop this para­noia of 90-year old men play­ing macho games with the world and pos­si­bly the galaxy.” Notably, he offers his assess­ment of the cul­tur­al shifts from the six­ties through the sev­en­ties.

The bit about the six­ties we were all full of hope and then every­body got depressed and the sev­en­ties were ter­ri­ble – that atti­tude that every­body has; that the six­ties was there­fore negat­ed for being naïve and dumb. And the sev­en­ties is real­ly where it’s at, which means, you know, putting make­up on and danc­ing in the dis­co – which was fine for the sev­en­ties – but I don’t negate the six­ties. I don’t negate the sev­en­ties. The … the seeds that were plant­ed in the six­ties – and pos­si­bly they were plant­ed gen­er­a­tions before – but the seed… what­ev­er hap­pened in the six­ties the… the flow­er­ing of that is in the fem­i­nist, fem­i­niza­tion of soci­ety. The med­i­ta­tion, the pos­i­tive learn­ing that peo­ple are doing in all walks of life. That is a direct result of the open­ing up of the six­ties. Now, maybe in the six­ties we were naïve and like chil­dren every­body went back to their room and said, ‘Well, we didn’t get a won­der­ful world of just flow­ers and peace and hap­py choco­late and, and, and it wasn’t just pret­ty and beau­ti­ful all the time’ and that’s what every­body did, ‘we didn’t get every­thing we want­ed’ just like babies and every­body went back to their rooms and sulked. And we’re just gonna play rock and roll and not do any­thing else . We’re gonna stay in our rooms and the world is a nasty, hor­ri­ble place ’cause it didn’t give us every­thing we cried for’, right? Cryin’ for it wasn’t enough. The thing the six­ties did was show us the pos­si­bil­i­ty and the respon­si­bil­i­ty that we all had. It wasn’t the answer. It just gave us a glimpse of the pos­si­bil­i­ty, and the sev­en­ties every­body gone ‘Nya, nya, nya, nya’. And pos­si­bly in the eight­ies everybody’ll say, ‘Well, ok, let’s project the pos­i­tive side of life again’, you know? The world’s been goin’ on a long time, right? It’s prob­a­bly gonna go on a long time… ”

After the inter­view, Sholin board­ed a plane back to San Fran­cis­co, and John and Yoko went back to work, meet­ing with pro­duc­er Jack Dou­glas. When they returned home that night, they found Mark David Chap­man still wait­ing out­side The Dako­ta with his .38. At 11:15 that night, Lennon was pro­nounced dead at Roo­sevelt Hos­pi­tal. Sholin tells the sto­ry in a lengthy intro to the inter­view above. You can also lis­ten to a stream­lined ver­sion of the inter­view with­out the intro below.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

What We Heard 34 Years Ago on the Night John Lennon Was Shot: TV & Radio

Bed Peace Revis­its John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s Famous Anti-Viet­nam Protests

Down­load the John Lennon/Yoko Ono “War is Over (If You Want It)” Poster in 100+ Lan­guages

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

by | Permalink | Comments (2) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (2)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.