On the Beatles:

“We’re not Beatles to each other, you know. It’s a joke to us. If we’re going out the door of the hotel, we say, ‘Right! Beatle John! Beatle George now! Come on, let’s go!’ We don’t put on a false front or anything.” — Look, 1966

“Paul (McCartney) and I made a deal when we were 15. There was never a legal deal between us, just a deal we made when we decided to write together that we put both our names on it, no matter what.” — Playboy, published in 1981

“I said we were more popular than Jesus, which is a fact.” — Look, 1966

“We were really professional by the time we got to the States; we had learned the whole game. When we arrived here we knew how to handle the press; the British press were the toughest in the world and we could handle anything. We were all right.” — Rolling Stone, 1971

“You see, we’re influenced by whatever’s going. Even if we’re not influenced, we’re all going that way at a certain time. If we played a Stones record now —and a Beatles record — and we’ve been way apart, you’d find a lot of similarities. We’re all heavy. Just heavy.” — Rolling Stone, 1968

“Carrying The Beatles’ or the Sixties’ dream around all your life is like carrying the Second World War and Glenn Miller around. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy Glenn Miller or The Beatles, but to live in that dream is the twilight zone. It’s not living now. It’s an illusion.” — Playboy, 1981

“They’ve been trying to knock us down since we began, especially the British press, always saying, ‘What are you going to do when the bubble bursts?’ That was the in-crowd joke with us. We’d go when we decided, not when some fickle public decided, because we were not a manufactured group. We knew what we were doing. — Rolling Stone, 1971, on The Beatles

“There is not one thing that’s Beatle music. How can they talk about it like that? What is Beatle music? Walrus or Penny Lane? Which? It’s too diverse: I Want to Hold Your Hand or Revolution Number Nine?Rolling Stone, 1971

“Why should The Beatles give more? Didn’t they give everything on God’s earth for ten years? Didn’t they give themselves?” — Playboy, 1981

“I’ve got used to the fact — just about — that whatever I do is going to be compared to the other Beatles. If I took up ballet dancing, my ballet dancing would be compared with Paul (McCartney)’s bowling.” — Rolling Stone, 1975

“I said to Paul ‘I’m leaving.’ ” — Rolling Stone, 1971, on quitting The Beatles

“It’s like saying, you know, ‘Did you remember falling in love?’ Not quite. It just sort of happens” — The Dick Cavett Show, 1971, on his memories of breaking up with the Beatles

On songwriting:

“All we are saying is, ‘This is what is happening to us.’ We are sending postcards. I don’t let it become ‘I am the awakened; you are sheep that will be shown the way.’ That is the danger of saying anything, you know.” — Playboy, 1981

“I was trying to write about an affair without letting me wife know I was writing about an affair, so it was very gobbledegook. I was sort of writing from my experiences, girls’ flats, things like that.” — Rolling Stone, 1971, on writing Norwegian Wood years before

“The first line (of I Am The Walrus) was written on one acid trip one weekend. The second line was written on the next acid trip the next weekend, and it was filled in after I met Yoko.” — Playboy, 1981

“They can take anything apart. I mean, I hit it on all levels, you know. We write lyrics, and I write lyrics that you don’t realize what they mean till after.” — Rolling Stone,1968, when asked about “philosophical analyses” of Strawberry Fields

“In Baby You’re A Rich Man the point was, stop moaning, you’re a rich man and we’re all rich, heh heh, baby!” — Rolling Stone, 1968

“I’m always proud and pleased when people do my songs. It gives me pleasure that they even attempt them, because a lot of my songs aren’t that doable.” — Playboy, 1981

“The images (in Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds) were from Alice in Wonderland. It was Alice in the boat. She is buying an egg and it turns into Humpty Dumpty. The woman serving in the shop turns into a sheep and the next minute they are rowing in a rowing boat somewhere and I was visualizing that. There was also the image of the female who would someday come save me … a ‘girl with kaleidoscope eyes’ who would come out of the sky. It turned out to be Yoko (Ono), though I hadn’t met Yoko yet. So maybe it should be Yoko in the Sky With Diamonds.” — Playboy, 1981

On himself:

“I’m cynical about society, politics, newspapers, government. But I’m not cynical about life, love, goodness, death. That’s why I really don’t want to be labeled a cynic.” — Look, 1966

“I’m a freakin’ artist, man, not a (expletive) race horse.” — Rolling Stone, 1975

“Yes, if there is such a thing, I am one.” — Rolling Stone, 1971, when asked if he thought he was a genius

“One of my big things is that I wish to be a fisherman. I know it sounds silly — and I’d sooner be rich than poor, and all the rest of that … but I wish the pain was ignorance or bliss or something.” — Rolling Stone, 1971

“I never went to high school reunions. My thing is, out of sight, out of mind. That’s my attitude toward life. So I don’t have any romanticism about any part of my past.” — Playboy, 1981

“I’m not telling. Lots more than I ever had before.” — Rolling Stone, 1971, asked how much money he had

“Nobody controls me. I’m uncontrollable. The only one who controls me is me, and that’s just barely possible.” – Playboy, 1981

On marriage to Yoko Ono:

“It was very romantic. It’s all in the song, The Ballad of John and Yoko. If you want to know how it happened, it’s in there. Gibraltar was like a little sunny dream. I couldn’t find a white suit — I had sort of off-white corduroy trousers and a white jacket. Yoko had all white on.” — Rolling Stone, 1971

“When we got married, we knew our honeymoon was going to be public, anyway, so we decided to use it to make a statement. We sat in bed and talked to reporters for seven days. It was hilarious. In effect, we were doing a commercial for peace on the front page of the papers instead of a commercial for war.” — Playboy, 1981, on his and Ono’s 1969 “Bed-In”

“I was a working-class macho guy who was used to being served and Yoko didn’t buy that. From the day I met her, she demanded equal time, equal space, equal rights.” — Newsweek, 1980

“She inspired all this creation in me. It wasn’t that she inspired the songs; she inspired me.” — Playboy, 1981

“It is a teacher-pupil relationship. That’s what people don’t understand. She’s the teacher and I’m the pupil. I’m the famous one, the one who’s supposed to know everything, but she’s my teacher.” — Playboy, 1981

On fatherhood:

“If you know your history, it took (Ono and me) a long time to have a live baby. And I wanted to give five solid years to Sean. I hadn’t seen Julian, my first son (by ex-wife Cynthia), grow up at all. And now there’s a 17-year-old man on the phone talking about motorbikes.” — Newsweek, 1980

“Yoko became the breadwinner, taking care of the bankers and deals. And I became the housewife. It was like one of those reversal comedies! I’d say (mincingly), ‘Well, how was it at the office today, dear? Do you want a cocktail? I didn’t get your slippers and your shirts aren’t back from the laundry.’ To all housewives, I say I now understand what you’re screaming about.” — Newsweek, 1980

On faith:

“I believe Jesus was right, Buddha was right, and all of those people like that are right. They’re all saying the same thing — and I believe it. I believe what Jesus actually said — the basic things he laid down about love and goodness — and not what people say he said.” — Look, 1966

“I don’t believe in magic … I don’t believe in Jesus … I don’t believe in Buddha … I don’t believe in Elvis … I don’t believe in Beatles.” — God, 1970

“Imagine there’s no heaven/ It’s easy if you try/ No hell below us/ Above us only sky/ Imagine all the people/ Living for today.” — Imagine, 1971

On listening to music:

“There is nothing conceptually better than rock ‘n’ roll. No group, be it Beatles, Dylan or Stones, have ever improved on Whole Lot of Shaking for my money. Or maybe I’m like our parents: that’s my period and I dig it and I’ll never leave it.” — Rolling Stone, 1971

“All music is rehash. There are only a few notes. Just variations on a theme. Try to tell the kids in the Seventies who were screaming to the Bee Gees that their music was just The Beatles redone. There is nothing wrong with the Bee Gees.” — Playboy, 1980

“I’m still a record man. There’s nobody — including meself —on earth that I can sit down and listen to a whole album.” — Rolling Stone, 1975

“I don’t purchase records. I do enjoy listening to things like Japanese folk music or Indian music.” — Playboy, 1981

On other rock stars:

“It depends who they are. If it’s Mick (Jagger) or the Old Guard as I call them, yeah, they’re the Old Guard. Elton (John), David (Bowie) are the newies. I don’t feel like an old uncle, dear, ’cause I’m not that much older than half of ’em, hehe.” —Rolling Stone, 1975

“I didn’t come after Elvis and Dylan, I’ve been around always. But if I see or meet a great artist, I love ’em.” — Rolling Stone, 1971

“I stopped listening to Dylan with both ears after Highway 64 (sic) and Blonde on Blonde, and even then it was because George (Harrison) would sit me down and make me listen.” — Playboy, 1981

“Wouldn’t it be interesting to take Elvis back to his Sun Records period? I don’t know. But I’m content to listen to his Sun Records. I don’t want to dig him up out of the grave.” — Playboy, 1981

On health and mortality:

“I don’t want to grow up but I’m sick of not growing up — that way. I’ll find a different way of not growing up. There’s a better way of doing it than torturing your body.” — Rolling Stone, 1975

“We’re mostly macrobiotic, but sometimes I take the family out for a pizza.” — Playboy, 1981

“I could still be forgotten when I’m dead. I don’t really care what happens when I’m dead.” — The Dick Cavett Show, 1971

“Cat has nine lives/ Nine lives to itself/ But you only got one/ And a dog’s life ain’t fun.” — Crippled Inside, 1971

“Two branches of one tree/ Face the setting sun/ When the day is done.” — Grow Old With Me, released in 1984

On drugs:

“It was only another mirror. It wasn’t a miracle. It was more of a visual thing and a therapy, looking at yourself a bit.” — Rolling Stone, 1971, on how LSD affected his music after he began experimenting in 1964

“We were smoking marijuana for breakfast. We were well into marijuana and nobody could communicate with us, because we were just all glazed eyes, giggling all the time. In our own world.” — on The Beatles during their Help! period

“(Happiness Is A Warm Gun) is not about heroin. A gun magazine was sitting there with a smoking gun on the cover and an article that I never read inside called ‘Happiness Is a Warm Gun.’ I took it right from there. I took it as the terrible idea of just having shot some animal.” — Playboy, 1981

“If somebody gives me a joint, I might smoke it, but I don’t go after it.” — Playboy, 1981

On fame:

“I don’t mind looking to the camera — it’s people that throw me.” — Look, 1966

“You don’t have to be a star to get a cheese sandwich. You just have to be first.” — Look, 1966

“I’ve withdrawn many times. Part of me is a monk, and part a performing flea! The fear in the music business is that you don’t exist if you’re not at Xenon with Andy Warhol.” — Newsweek, 1980

“Half the time you don’t know what you’re talking about when you’re talking to reporters.” — The Dick Cavett Show, 1971

“No longer riding on the merry-go-round/ I just had to let it go.” —Watching the Wheels, 1980

On the human condition:

“You’re born in pain. Pain is what we are in most of the time, and I think that the bigger the pain, the more God you look for.” — Rolling Stone, 1971

“The unknown is what it is. And to be frightened of it is what sends everybody scurrying around chasing dreams, illusions, wars, peace, love, hate, all that … it’s all illusion.” — Playboy, 1981

“Remember though love is strange/ Now and forever love will remain.” — Bless You, 1974

“Better recognize your brothers/ Everyone you meet.” — Instant Karma!, 1970

“Every day in every way/ It’s getting better and better.” — Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy), 1980

“After all is said and done/ You can’t go pleasing everyone.” — I’m Stepping Out, released 1984

On politics and revolution:

“I don’t want to die, and I don’t want to be hurt physically, but if they blow the world up … we’re all out of our pain then, forget it, no more problems!” — Rolling Stone, 1971

“That radicalism (of the ’70s) was phony, really, because it was out of guilt. I’d always felt guilty that I made money, so I had to give it away or lose it. I don’t mean I was a hypocrite. When I believe, I believe right down to the roots.” — Newsweek, 1980

“In England, there are only two things to be, basically: You are either for the labour movement or for the capitalist movement. Either you become a right-wing Archie Bunker if you are in the class I am in, or you become an instinctive socialist, which I was.” — Playboy, 1981

“There is no denying that we are still living in the capitalist world. I think that in order to survive and to change the world, you have to take care of yourself first. You have to survive yourself.” —Playboy, 1981

“It’s quite possible to do anything, but not to put it on the leaders and the parking meters. Don’t expect Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan or John Lennon or Yoko Ono or Bob Dylan or Jesus Christ to come and do it for you. You have to do it yourself.” — Playboy, 1981

On the future:

“The sun will never disappear/ But the world may not have many years.” — Isolation, 1970

“I couldn’t think of the next few years; it’s abysmal thinking of how many years there are to go, millions of them. I just play it by the week.” — Rolling Stone, 1971

“I hope we’re a nice old couple living off the coast of Ireland or something like that — looking at our scrapbook of madness.” — Rolling Stone, 1971, imagining himself at 64 with Ono

‘It looks like I’m going to be 40 and life begins at 40 — so they promise. And I believe it, too.” —Playboy, 1981

“I hope some day you will join us/ And the world will live as one.” — Imagine, 1971


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