In 1962, future Pulitzer Prize–winning author Alex Haley sat down with jazz musician Miles Davis for what would become an institution of American journalism—the Playboy Interview. To celebrate the Interview’s 50th anniversary, Playboy has culled 50 of its most (in)famous Interviews and will publish them over the course of 50 weekdays (from September 4, 2012 to November 12, 2012) via Amazon’s Kindle Direct platform. Here, a glimpse at our conversation with musican John Lennon and artist Yoko Ono from the January 1981 issue.
Lennon: It was in 1966 in England. I’d been told about this “event”—this Japanese avant-garde artist coming from America.
I was looking around the gallery and I saw this ladder and climbed up and got a look in this spyglass on the top of the ladder—you feel like a fool—and it just said, yes. Now, at the time, all the avant-garde was smash the piano with a hammer and break the sculpture and anti-, anti-, anti-, anti-, anti. It was all boring negative crap, you know. And just that yes made me stay in a gallery full of apples and nails.
There was a sign that said, hammer a nail in, so I said, “Can I hammer a nail in?” But Yoko said no, because the show wasn’t opening until the next day. But the owner came up and whispered to her, “Let him hammer a nail in. You know, he’s a millionaire. He might buy it.” And so there was this little conference, and finally she said, “OK, you can hammer a nail in for five shillings.” So smartass says, “Well, I’ll give you an imaginary five shillings and hammer an imaginary nail in.” And that’s when we really met. That’s when we locked eyes and she got it and I got it and, as they say in all the interviews we do, the rest is history.
Ono: More than anything, it was the time and the place when the Beatles came up. Something did happen there. It was a kind of chemical. It was as if several people gathered around a table and a ghost appeared. It was that kind of communication. So they were like mediums, in a way. It’s not something you can force. It was the people, the time, their youth and enthusiasm.
Lennon: When Rodgers worked with Hart and then worked with Hammerstein, do you think he should have stayed with one instead of working with the other? Should Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis have stayed together because I used to like them together? What is this game of doing things because other people want it? The whole Beatle idea was to do what you want, right? To take your own responsibility.
Ono: I’m not searching for the big daddy. I look for something else in men—something that is tender and weak and I feel like I want to help.
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