Julian Lennon the Secret Value of Daydreaming

Julian Lennon
A Candid Conversation

1986 Atlantic Promotional Interview PR 893

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Interview by: Dan Neer
Produced by: Torus Communications
Engineered and edited by: David Bailes
Administrative Assistance by: Nancy Cox
Executive Producers: Perry Cooper, Judy Libow

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So, first Julian, I want to talk about your new album, The Secret Value of Daydreaming. I feel on this record, and I hope you feel the same way, that you've taken a big step forward. Do you feel that?

Julian: Yes, I do. It's very difficult because the first album was good and it had a nice direction with it, but the energy in this album feels good and, just, it's hard to explain, but I just like this album so much, because I have to like it, because I'm the one who has to perform it and listen to it over and over again, on radio, you know, so it really turned out nice, it really did.

The other question I had is it's a big step forward, I think, for you. Do you think the public is taking a big step forward with you?

Julian: It seems that way from the reactions I've seen so far yeah. They're following behind quite nicely. I think that they enjoy it a lot. I don't think they expected me to go in this direction you know. They thought I'd come out with another album similar to Valotte, you know. That's my interpretation...but obviously, they groove to it and it's doing well.

Do you think this record will mean for you, and I hope this really comes true, is that you have arrived on your own terms.

Julian: Yes, I hope so, I really do. Although one guy in London, when I was doing an interview, did say that he thought this sounded more like dad than the first.. "No, come off it," you know, but that's his opinion. He can stick with it is all.

What was the difference going into recording and getting it together for this record as opposed to Valotte?

Julian: Well, with Valotte I had an idea what I was going to record, you know, because I'd had a lot of chance to ah - a lot of time to work on the material. But, with this one, I didn't have so much time, you know. After the tour I went to Barbados for a month and shipped all my gear down because it was going to be a working holiday but none of the gear arrived until the last week.

Of course.

Julian: Yeah of course!

But, that was actually good. You got to enjoy a little vacation.

Julian: No, not a chance! I was pulling my hair out for three weeks because I called the Customs and I called all the people that, you know, the shipping people - "Oh, we don't know where it is sir," you know, so I literally had one week outside the studio to record. So I did two songs...they were very rough at that stage but then I did the rest in the studio so there was little time and lots of pressure.

Yeah, an awful lot of pressure that must have made, but you came through.

Julian: Yeah, yeah I must work well under pressure.

What did the experience of the last two years teach you?

Julian: Well, I learned to be confident. I learned to be upfront, you know, outgoing... because before I was very, very shy and used to hide in my little shell and not say anything and just smirk once in a awhile, you know. So, these days, these days I'm here!

You're just friendly, wide open...

Julian: That's right. That's right.

....mellow kind of guy. The record itself has a much more happy mood to it.

Julian: Um Energetic mood.

Energetic and happy, I think.

Julian: And happy...

There's some beautiful love songs and it seems like there's fun things going on and you're humor is in a couple of songs.

Julian: Ah a few um yeah (laughs)...Yes. Yes. Especially in the third song "Let Me Tell You," with the mumbling at the end and the secrets and whatever.

Why is the record happier-more energetic?

Julian: Because, with the first tour and building up the confidence and just being able to really relax and be or say what I feel, you know. That's basically it really.

You mentioned the first tour... Do you want to elaborate a little bit more on why that affected this record?

Julian: Well, I mean the first album Valotte was great, you know. I always think of it ah you know - it's always in my head that it's a slow melancholy or whatever album, really (snores). But, every time I actually play it back I enjoy it, you know, but when we did it on the road you know, the energy on stage compared to what the album was, was like "Oh, yeah, yeah, I like this, give me more!" So I thought if all these guys on stage can really make that much of a difference then let's try and drag them into the studio and put them on tape... and it worked.

I agree. Let's go through some of the songs from the record - "Stick Around" - Now, I understand this song almost didn't make it on the record.

Julian: Well, yeah... When I started right at the beginning I just had the line which comes into the beginning of the song (sings) and finally, after quite awhile I came up with the rest of the tune and I just couldn't think of a melody. I thought, "What the hell do you write on top of (sings). It just wasn't working for me so I literally had to put it aside and I came back to it and sat down and sat down and sat down and me and Justin sat down and just listened to it over and over again. And he'd go, what about (sings) and we'd be doing that back and forth for ages and then all of a sudden, I said (sings the phrase "If you wanna")... oh, I like that, I like that, so I said "damn, I didn't tape it - what was it again? I can't lose it!" But you know, I forgot one bit and he reminded me and so I finally got it together.

That's a good collaboration there.

Julian: It was... if I had forgotten.. if he hadn't been there, it would've been half a song at the moment.

How much do you actually play on this record, because you always say how bad you are.

Julian: (laughs) I played all the demo tapes and I put it down and played all the parts myself on the demos, which is pretty much exactly the same as the album. You know so I could have done it myself, in a way, but basically - you know - I played everything in front of - like if I had that (sings), I'd play it to Chuck and then Chuck would go (sings) and I'd go "No, no, the other note." And so actually - and they put their own thing into it as well, their own feel or vibe or whatever you want to call it. But I didn't play that much on this one. While I'd teach them once and they'd go over it, I was busy trying to write another one as quick as I could you know because of the time. So I did play some of the keyboards in the chorus on "Stick Around" (sings the phrase "If you Go Away") all behind that and Chuck did some as well. And I played the bass on "You Don't Have to Tell Me"-the fretless (sings).

Have you played fretless before? I mean, it seems to me...

Julian: That's how I wrote Space from the last album.

That's right...that's right.

Julian: I wrote "Coward to the End" on bass but I let Carmine do it, you know.

He's a decent player.

Julian: He's a decent player.... so he took that over for me.

Speaking of pretty decent players... you got an OK piano player for "You Get What You Want."

Julian: Um, Yeah, Billy.

I assume you got Billy through the producer Phil Ramone.

Julian: Yeah, well he popped in a couple of times because he wanted to check out what I was doing, you know, so he stood at the back of the room like "hmm, hmm", so I mean, originally, "You Get What You Want," was like a South American... like... I don't know what you call it...

Salsa Mambo?

Julian: Yeah all that sort of (sings) It was all that before. I mean it had the basic three chord rock or blues bit underneath, but in the break it turned into a total (sings) - one of those jobs. So Phil said, "Well, it feels like a rock 'n roll song," you know, so he said "Let's get Billy in and take all that (sings) out and see what Billy could do." So Billy came in... five minutes, three solos... but, I'll tell you an interesting thing... the beginning bit, you know, the rock 'n roll beginning bit, now that originally wasn't there, nor was the guitar bit. It just came in (sings) and one day while nobody was there, I was listening back through some of the tracks and the assistant engineer rolled it back too far and I said, "What the hell is that doing there, what is it?"... we just caught the end of it (sings). So, we rewinded it and found this little piece in the middle of nowhere so we said, "Right, this is going to be nice and clever." I didn't tell Phil about it for awhile and then I played it to him and he said, "Oh yeah, that's a good idea" so we got John McCurry in to do a bit of guitar work and it just turned out great, you know. That shocked Billy because Billy didn't know because he was just doing that for a practice you know, to get warmed up. He had a heart attack. He said, "Where'd you get that from?"

That's his practice, huh?

Julian: That's his practice, yeah.

That's pretty good rock and roll there at the beginning. One of the most amazing songs on the record I think is "Coward to the End." Now first of all, you collaborated with Clayton on this one right?- Justin. Could you describe your song writing relationship with him first of all?

Julian: Yeah. It's very weird, you know. Either he or I would come up with a basic idea for a song, i.e. a verse, or whatever, and then we'd sit around and he'd fiddle about and I'd fiddle about and whichever one was the best out of the two we'd put it in the middle you know. And then we'd get around to the lyrics and then we'd argue over the lyrics saying "No, that's useless. No, that's good." and all that you know. So, we'd always argue but it always came good you know, good came of it.

So it is an argumentative type creative process.

Julian: Yeah, it doesn't always turn out to be that way but ummm 75% of it does.

The song "Coward to the End", when did you write that?

Julian: I wrote that for the first album, or with the first album, but didn't feel it settled in with the first album, for some reason, because it just didn't feel right because the way we did it as well - the way we recorded it for the first album it turned out nice, but not as good as we hoped for you know. So, we kept it aside and brought it out to the files again for this album and just rerecorded it and it turned out 100% better.

The lyrics are very powerful there.

Julian: Originally, it started out very, well not very, political - but just a vague look at governments and how they keep secrets and how annoying it is and what they do to people you know. That's how it started off. But, in the long run, if you listen to the very last line, "In the end she's the only one you can trust." Basically, it turned out the whole world is a mess. The only one you can trust or have faith in is the one you love or the one that's next to you, you know. So, all that on the outside and then back to love again on the very last line... I thought it was quite cute. Another interpretation of that was I was writing on behalf of my father and what his expressions were - that he was trying to promote peace and everything like that and he stood up for it and look what happened in the end. Because there was a whole big scam about Mark Chapman and who he really was, you know, so he wasn't just the average guy from down the road.

"This is My Day".. It sounds like you got lucky in it.

Julian: Well, it's wishful thinking. (laughs) It was very dreamy, sort of looking at someone... wanting someone and ah and um well, basically ah um that's what it's about, you know.

But there was a breakthrough at the end. It changed to "the day you let me stay."

Julian: Yes, yeah that's right.

Tell me about "Always Think Twice."

Julian: It was basically a song about trying to gain trust in someone, you know, another one of those romantic sort of songs. You're being there for someone, you know. That's basically it, really.

Is it also though that you have to worry about that, you know, trusting someone?

Julian: Yeah, sure. I'm always worried about trusting someone. You never know what might happen.

Now can we go to "I Want Your Body?"

Julian: But of course

Alright, that is a beautiful beautiful song, especially in its simplicity. The harmonies in particular, very beautiful.

Julian: Well, actually, originally I didn't have the harmonies and didn't want it because I felt the harmonies might break it off a bit more, you know, might not make it so strong, but I had a friend around I will say thank you to, Robin Beck, she's a singer. You know, I'd gone over them before in my head but thought it would take away too much and she started singing the same ones I'd come up with, but I never heard anybody else because I didn't put it on tape... and I thought "Actually, that does sound real nice" so I went in the studio the next morning and put the idea down.

Why did you call such a gorgeous song - a love song "Want Your Body?"

Julian: Well originally, I just had that line... that was the only line I had for the whole song and I didn't know what I was going to do because it could've gone anywhere from there and then I thought "Well ummm I better be fair" so "want your mind" came up, so I thought, "That's fair, that's fair, that's nice," so it just went on from there and I didn't - I really wasn't looking for another name. "Want Your Body" sounded so nice because after you listen to the song it sounds OK but when you first, if you haven't listened to it yet, (laughs) if you haven't listened to it yet, you think, "Well, this is smut, dirt", things like that, so its a surprise you know.

Yeah, I mean that is the reaction that people see. It's on the label "featuring "Stick Around" and "Want Your Body" and people look at it - "Want Your Body?"

Julian: They tend to get a bit upset until they hear it.

Let's go back just a little bit. What are your first musical memories?

Julian: As far as playing goes or as far as listening to music?

Either. I think I know your first performance.

Julian: You do?

It was in grammar school wasn't it for Shakespeare.

Julian: How did you know?! Yeah, actually we were doing... the school was putting on a play "Twelfth Night" by Shakespeare and there was a poem in it. It was by the joker or the jester in the actual play so I thought, wouldn't it be clever to write a song, put some music behind that and make it into a song, so I sat down and worked for awhile and finally came up with this song using Shakespeare's words and I called it "Twelfth Night" you know and performed it on stage but forgot the second verse so I sang the first one again because I'm so nervous - all these parents there.

Shakespeare the musical

Julian: Shakespeare the musical yeah by J.L. Right-throw an apple at me!

You didn't do much musical training. I mean, nothing really formal.

Julian: No, not at all.

You had drums when you were very young - what became of them?

Julian: Well, I didn't know much about value or values in those days so at the age of 7 I painted them white with house paint and threw them in the swimming pool - that's what became of those drums.

I see.... then when you were at school you met Justin. I have that you... there was a teacher at the school that was into...

Julian: Mr. Wynn.

Mr. Wynn was the teacher?

Julian: Mr. Wynn. W-Y-N-N.

Tell us a little about Mr. Wynn.

Julian: Mr. Wynn was the gymnastics teacher, well the PE teacher - physical education - and ah he used to go on about playing rock songs all the time so we kind of said "C'mon, you can teach us. C'mon, please Mr. Wynn" so he checked it out with the school to see what they thought about it because he wanted to use a room behind the swimming pool where they kept all the floats and stuff like that so they agreed to it. And so there would be about four or five of us learning to play rock guitar in the breaks - the school breaks in the back of the swimming pool.

That's a funny place to learn.

Julian: Yeah, it's a funny place to learn.

What was he teaching you basically?

Julian: Basic rock 'n roll songs you know... I don't know them now but...

G-D-E

Julian: Yes, all that sort of stuff.

It's been said of course and you've said it, that your father's music was an influence on you but didn't your mom have an influence on your musical as well?

Julian: That's true yeah. She turned me on to Steely Dan and everybody because she used to listen to all that stuff quite a lot and I got into it straight away. Enjoyed it. Enjoyed it...yes. So it was good.

When you first told your mom you wanted to pursue music what was her reaction?

Julian: "No, No, stop it!" I didn't really tell her. I just did it, really. I said, "Mum, listen to this tape." She said, "Oh, that's OK." So at first, she was a bit reluctant, so to speak to support me, because she wanted me to have some grades in school where I was skiving off school to go mess around play guitars you know and I'd stay up late with the rest of the guys and just jam away. But, after hearing certain songs and stuff, she started saying, "You can write a little bit," so that's when she started saying "Good luck. Go on. Go. Push. Push."

Okay, A lot of people also don't realize, before you got a record deal, you were struggling quite a little bit. You took some...

Julian: Well, actually, what happened I was going to go into music before that but after dad just died I couldn't very well move into the scene then you know. That would look very stupid and using the name and writing so - so I took two years away from that so that things would die down a little bit and at that time I had nothing to do while waiting for those two years so what I did was just write a couple of songs in my spare time and hang around clubs getting really bored, you know.

So, you also though... I had that you even took an odd job here and there didn't you?

Julian: Yeah, before that. I used to be a farmer. I used to work on a farm you know - pick the turnips, put the hay out, check out the sheep. (laughs)

How do you check sheep?

Julian: Well, you check that there's enough food out there for them, make sure they have enough grass and stuff. And then my mother used to have a bistro and I used to be a chef - not a chef - what am I talking about - I used to be a waiter with Justin there.

Before you met Dean you had gotten into some bad deals.

Julian: Yes just a little bit.

Can you tell us about them?

Julian: I just got cut up with a guy that thought he could manage me which was - all he basically wanted to do was throw around my name for his benefit and ah. I mean he still thinks I owe him $50,000 dollars you know, which I said "What for? What for?" you know. But ah he still tries saying "Well, you said you'd give me something, some money." So he keeps trying. He'd been pushing and pushing and pushing and I'd been out one night, slightly inebriated and he pushed and pushed so he said "C'mon" and I said "Get off my back." I just said, "All right." so he wrote a contract out on a piece of paper right in front of me and I signed it being the stupid idiot that I was and Yoko saved me from that. I recorded some material and stuff - some of my dad's material - and so she said "give me those tapes, get out of his life, don't go near him again or we'll see about you, we'll put you out" because he really did mess me up, he really did, and he still tries.

Where'd you meet Dean?

Julian: In a nightclub (laughs). And he saw what was going wrong as well. I owed - I did some demo tapes with Tariq but he didn't help pay for them or anything. He just set it up. I said with these demo tapes I can go around to record companies and try and get a deal. So I did the tapes - some of my own material, it was about 5 songs - and I couldn't get a deal with anybody. It just wasn't working so what happened was that Tariq set me up with this nasty french recording company out in the middle of nowhere and the boss of the studio said, "Well if you don't pay up the $6,000 now then you're gonna have to sign this contract" and I didn't want to do that so Dean saw that and said "OK maybe it's my chance to come in and help" and he did.

He shopped the demos anonymously, right?

Julian: That's right, well some of them were. the way I got the deal was the tape was actually being played in a studio and some people walked in from Charisma Records not knowing who it was singing the material. They go "I like this." They said, "Who is it?"...Julian Lennon..."Oh, I see." But they sat and listened again and said "Well, this is pretty good stuff" and that's how I got a deal.

Now you're finally kind of making your own way... your own living now. Are you feeling now that you're truly an independent person?

Julian: I'm getting that way yeah.

Does it feel good? Is it a reward?

Julian: Yeah, It is. Because I'm - with that I'm feeling confident and stronger within myself and I feel a lot happier these days because I know what to do you know.

With that though, does that also make you work harder?

Julian: Yeah, it does. It makes me think, well, this has got to be good, so sure, I've got to work harder.

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