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The Lost Lennon Interviews

RS alum Jonathan Cott uncovers archive of historic John and Yoko tapes

Andy Greene Apr 04, 2013
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Lennon and Ono in England, 1968 Photo: Bob Thomas/Getty Images

Days That I'll Remember Photo: Michael PirroccoJohn Lennon sat for countless interviews during his career ”“ but few journalists got to spend as much time with him as ROLLING STONE’s original London correspondent, Jonathan Cott. The two became close after an interview at Lennon’s London basement flat in 1968. Cott went on to build a relationship with Lennon and Yoko Ono, interviewing them many times throughout the tumultuous Seventies. Just three days before Lennon’s murder in 1980, they spent a long night talking ”“ yielding a revealing interview that was available only in fragments until it was published in full in this magazine in 2010.

Cott’s new book, Days That I’ll Remember (in stores now in the US), chronicles all of his interviews with Lennon, featuring 20,000 words that have never been published. “I listened to all my old tapes and retranscribed them,” says Cott. “I figured if I didn’t do this now, I would never do it. It’s a book that I’ve been meaning to write for years.”

Cott first met Lennon on September 17th, 1968 ”“ not long after the Beatle went public with his love for Ono. Cott was midway through the interview when Lennon was called down to Abbey Road Studios to resume work on the White Album. He invited Cott to tag along. Needless to say, I wasn’t going to say no,” says Cott. “The whole session became a dreamlike blur. ”˜Glass Onion’ was very delicate ”“ and ”˜Helter Skelter’ was the opposite. It was like going from heaven to hell.” The rest of the band wasn’t exactly thrilled about letting a journalist watch them work: “They were not happy when I walked in,” he says. “I hid myself behind one of the speakers and just kind of pretended I wasn’t there.”

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About a year and a half later, he profiled Ono for RS in the wake of the Beatles’ breakup. A recent perusal of that tape uncovered long interviews with Lennon that Cott had completely forgotten in the intervening years. “We became friends after that,” says the writer. “He took me to [dinner] and asked me to bring my tape recorder. Nobody has ever read that interview. It was hidden away with all my other tapes.”

The book ends with the uncut interview from December 5th, 1980, featuring 6,500 previously unpublished words. Just like he did in 1968, Cott accompanied Lennon to the studio that night. This time, he watched the singer working on a remix of Ono’s “Walking on Thin Ice” ”“ the project that Lennon had just wrapped when he was gunned down less than a week later. “The moment they got together, they made their Two Virgins album,” says Cott. “And this was the last thing they did together, 12 years later. So their first date and last date were both musical collaborations. It’s extraordinary. They were two minds with one destiny.” 

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