John Lennon revealed he didn’t think The Beatles were good musicians to a student journalist who talked his way into a press conference before a gig.
In a remarkable recording, the legendary lyricist let slip the Fab Four counted themselves more as entertainers than musicians, and he said they had to fight to write their songs as their record company wanted them to perform cover versions.
In a wide-ranging, never-broadcast interview, Liverpool-born Lennon also said he’d be a layabout (loafer) if he weren’t such a successful musician.
He said The Beatles hoped they could get rich quick before their fame subsided – and even joked about hiding their money from future Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson.
He made the staggeringly candid comments to 18-year-old John Hill during a gig in Hull, East Yorkshire, England, in 1964.
Art student Hill, who wrote for Hull Art College magazine, paid to get into the concert but talked his way into the pre-gig press conference where he recorded their chat.
Asked if the Beatles regarded themselves primarily as musicians or entertainers, Lennon mused: “I’ve never thought about it really, but I suppose we don’t count ourselves as good musicians, so I suppose we’re entertainers.
“But we don’t entertain much ‘cos we just stand there, so I suppose we must be musicians. We’re in the union anyway.”
Lennon also told Hill: “We were told at the beginning to record other stuff, but it was us who forced the issue to record our own songs.
“We nearly recorded ‘How Do You Do it,’ Gerry and the Pacemakers, and some other crap they gave us.”
During the chat, he told Hill he had friends take his university art exams for him when he was away touring with the group in Scotland, and he revealed he never told the school he was going to Germany because he “wanted his grant.”
He also declined to send a message to the art students of Hull to keep working because he “never did much myself.”
The recording of the remarkable interview, taped as Beatlemania swept Britain, has come to light almost 60 years later.
It’s expected to fetch around £4,000 ($4,904) when it goes up for auction this week.
Hill was tasked to do a report for the art college magazine and the student rag mag. He paid to get into the show and then bluffed his way into the room where group members were talking to the press.
Hill later recalled: “I couldn’t do shorthand, so I had borrowed a Fi Cord, an early portable reel-to-reel tape recorder, from a friend and took that along.
“I was the youngest person in the room and the only one with a microphone. That got John Lennon’s attention.
“He was really interested in the machine and we ended up in a corner doing an interview with passing newsmen throwing in the odd question.”
The extraordinary recording lay unplayed in a drawer for the next 50 years until Hill, a former teacher and university lecturer, was tidying up.
He sold it to the current owner, a collector of Hull antiquities and memorabilia.
Auctioneer Graham Paddison said: “One of the most striking things about the recording is just how relaxed the two of them were together, just two art college students chatting.
“At one point, the Beatle ended up holding the microphone whilst the student struggled with his kit.
“Lennon was as friendly as could be – not flippant or jokey or clever dick – treating his young interviewer’s questions with respect, which of course, makes his answers interesting.
“It was of course another age. Some of John’s comments would give the PR teams that surround modern stars heart failure.”
The tape, the recording machine, and student magazine articles will go under the hammer at David Duggleby Auctioneers in Hull this Friday at 2 p.m.
This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.
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