LET'S get one thing straight. If you're looking for a John Lennon interview
- piss off back to your time machine. The rest of you, pay attention.
Julian Lennon's a 21-year-old doing what most 21- year-olds do, trying
to sort himself out and trying to earn a living the best way he knows
how. And right now, the best way he knows how is by flogging his debut
At the same time, he's very unlike most teenagers. Not that many get
to retire to a French chateau to put together their projects, about
the same number get recording contracts virtually forced on them before
they even have a record. Then there's the business about his vast, soon
to be inherited fortune, the truth of which we'll likely not know for
Just as you can't see or hear him without flashing on Master John,
it's hard to think of Julian Lennon without that ambivalent rich brat
/ wronged son perception. The whisperers say he's trading on his father's
gifts and secretly wish him to be more like John Lennon. Like the noted
photographer who had a list of Beatlehead questions he virtually demanded
I ask Julian. He couldn't understand how I could get any kind of a story
if I didn't.
For a guy who's had to do his sorting out in the hideous glare of the
media spotlight he's come through all right. The most apparent casualty
is a sense of humor,- the Julian Lennon I met at the Four Seasons Hotel
is a reserved young man, determined to get his points across but ever
mindful not to say 'too much.' With good reason.. look what public access
did for his dad. Still the boy's no shrinking violet and has no regrets
about his career choice. He's positive Julian Lennon and his music are
here to stay.
"I knew I was going into music because I like it
and let's face it, being in the family I can't avoid it. I was trying
out for studio engineering but I realized that was not what I really
wanted to do - I wanted to play and sing. So sitting behind a desk
watching somebody do something I wanted to do when I had the opportunity
to do it seemed a waste of time.
"This album is just my way of getting a foot in
the door. I've loads of stuff in entirely different styles. I'm going
to keep playing like this as long as I live but I'll still experiment
and fool around with other styles. I mean, I wrote a breakdancing
track for the movie Body Rock, but I refused them the rights
because I want to put it out myself. As to my voice, this is how I've
sounded from day one. I open my mouth and it just comes out. What
can I do?"
Did you ever want to make music that was totally different from
"I jammed around with different people, one of
them was Paul Inder, who's Lemmy's (Motorhead) son, but no, I never
set out to be different for that reason because people would have
criticized me for that too. All that punk and new wave stuff never
affected me because I had all different influences by then. My mom
used to play a lot of Steely Dan and Keith Jarrett around the house
so I stuck with that.
"I was 11 or 12 before I was really aware of John's
music. And when I visited with him in Now York and we'd sit on the
floor and jam, it was mostly old rock'n'roll songs we played. He'd
show me the odd song of his but he never got into any directing or
guidance as to my playing. I wasn't sure what I was doing at that
"I don't care what people say about the record
being so much like John Lennon. It's mine, I put a lot of hard work
into it. Those songs are my gut feeling. So what? There are going
to be comparisons no matter what style of music I do. I'm happy with
He ends defiantly, sits back and crosses his arms, a solid block of
resistance, impervious to the sticks and stones of Mediaslag. He's heard
it all before. There was his notorious penchant for blonde models and
the 19th birthday party at Stringfellows at which model Sian Adley-Jones
was photographed stripped to the waist. To scan the Brit tabloids, you'd
think young Lennon had girls dripping out his substantial ears.
"Everybody goes out drinking but because I was
a name, it was easy to pick on me. So OK, for awhile I went to clubs
a lot but so do lots of people. I'd read this 'Playboy Lennon Boozing
Again' stuff and I'd get really angry. It made people think I was
out there every night throwing money around when in fact I often didn't
have the price of a round.
"Listen, I was 18 and living on my own in London.
Sure I went out with a lot of girls but what am I supposed to do?
Sit at home like a hermit? It's like I wasn't allowed to have fun
or show a sense of humor in public."
Then there was the scandalous photo session atop the old Apple building
with the band Quasar. Never happened, he says.
"I was never in Quasar. They had a rehearsal
studio next to mine and I got to know the guys and jammed with them.
When I heard they were doing a gig on the roof of the old building
... curiosity, fascination, whatever, I went along. I just watched
for awhile, had a quick drink and left but I didn't play and I wasn't
photographed with the band. When it came out in the press, it was
me and this band doing a Beatles send-up an the old Apple building."
A famous name's both a blessing and a curse. Which is it these days?
"Mostly a blessing, I guess. I'm proud to be who
I am. I'm proud of what my dad did and I'm blessed with the musical
gifts he gave and the talent I think I have. It's a curse from the
point of view of standing up in public on my own merit. I carry a
load of expectations that get in the way of that ... If he were alive
today it would be a completely different situation. It's hardly my
fault, I couldn't have come out with music earlier because I was still
"it is nice to be able to get into places without
a quid in your jeans. And to get to meet people you admire. Though
I realize I'm just as much a curiosity for them."
How did the name affect your classmates?
"When I was little, they didn't treat me any different.
They knew the fact of who I was and that gave me a kind of novelty
appeal. But there wasn't anything really strange. That came when I
was a little older. Or maybe I just noticed it then that certain people
would resent or dislike me just for who I was. I still get some of
that but they're in the minority. Growing up, it was a very confusing
thing to deal with."
What is Justin Clayton's role on Valotte?
"He's my mate, my partner in crime. We met at school
and we both liked old rock'n'roll so we set off playing together straight
away. He's a great guy to have in a band because he's full of ideas.
"Justin co-wrote a lot of the songs with me. It
wasn't a case of me putting my tastes onto him. Yeah, there are only
two on this album but we've got lots of tracks for the next one. He
and Carlton, the other guitar player, are always snarling at each
other. It's kind of competitive but in the long run it's a good thing
because they play off each other well."
Is Valotte the record you thought it'd be?
"You have to understand that I wasn't planning
to record anything. I had material to no end but I didn't have any
real intentions of using it. After listening to opinions of close
friends and people in the business, I thought maybe I should have
a go. So there was nothing written specifically for the album. So
we went to this chateau in the woods, Valotte, and took a look
at what we had that could go together on this sort of album.
"When it came time to cut it, we recorded in a
number of places in the U.S. I think it was good doing that because
we got feelings from all over the country and from working with different
musicians. We didn't want the sound to get too insulated because Justin
and myself had lived with those songs for so long."
The tunes were written over a time span from about year and a half
ago, to just before the album was cut. What ties them together is their
mood of introspection. It's not all gloomy; heavens, in places it's
downright playful, but it is thoughtful. It's an intense thoughtfulness
of the kind that comes easy to 21-year-olds and gives the album its
power. But it's not enough to carry along the weak spots, of which there
are more than a few. And enough to take away from the high-quality pieces,
so that the record's selling point will become the resonances of that
Who's going to buy this record?
"I hope all kinds of people do; I don't think it'll
be limited to John Lennon fans. Those songs are strong enough to stand
on their own merit. I could even get a hit; there aren't many records
like this one about and there's always a market for, I dunno, romantic
stuff, it you will."
The record's remarkably free of your well-publicized anger. Are
you past that?
"It comes and goes, it's so-so. Sometimes I go
mad and want to smash things up or just get out of it and hopefully
wake up in another space. But most of the time now I feel really calm.
I feel I can see down the road of what I'm doing; I feel I'm in control
of the pace at which things are happening. I'm dying to be in a position
where I can sit at home comfortably writing and composing."
Have you reconciled with Yoko?
"Well, we're talking, but I'm busy doing my own
thing and she has hers. I get a little allowance from her that pays
for my flat but other than that ... I am her beneficiary but it's
up to her if she wants me to have it ... I know something is going
to come my way at some time but I don't think about it.
"I'm a little bugged that I still don't have any
of my father's guitars. I had one for a while, an acoustic with a
gold dragon inlay, really beautiful. But then Yoko was taking an estate
inventory and she sent some guy 'round to get it."
What do you know about the seances she arranged?
"I never attended; I didn't even want to talk to
her about that. I've different feelings about that approach but I
didn't know enough so I didn't want to get into it with her.
"I do believe there's an afterlife but of what
sort, I've no idea but ... I listen, I look, I talk to people and
I'm slowly forming my own ideas. I still look for signs and a lot
of things happen to me that I think are more than coincidence but
I still don't know what to think of it all ... I guess if things keep
happening I'll have to think about it all more seriously."
What are your tour plans?
"None 'til the next album. I won't be going out
in support of this one. I want there to be some slightly different
material out before I go on tour. I want a bit of a change first.
Honestly, I don't think I'm ready for it yet. There's a lot of work
goes with a tour and I want to be ready. I'm in no rush.
"Touring's part of this business and I will do
it but what I really want to do is compose and write at my own little
studio at home. I'm sure I'd have lots of fun performing live but
that's not what I'm about."
What are you about?
"I'm about earning my own way both musically and
financially. I'm very proud of earning my keep as a working musician
and if the inheritance thing comes along, it's not going to make me
chuck it and stop writing music. It may make the process of recording
easier but that's about it.
"I don't have much of a life outside music nowadays,
which is probably a good thing. I just stay in and write all day,
drives people up the wall. I'll be doing that until I die. My quest
is to write myself into the grave."
© 1984 Music Express