He may have written some of the greatest songs of the 20th century, but John Lennon could be loopy as any hippie fruitcake when it came to his socio-political views. Lennon had no trouble coming up with screwy ideas on his own, but, egged on by two drug-muddled Marxists and his own even loopier wife in this 1971 interview, the former Beatle sounds about as deep and thoughtful as a St. Mark's Place or Telegraph Avenue space cadet.
In Lennon's defence, the half-assed "revolutionary" views expressed here are no more bizarre than those being bandied about at the time by the White Panthers or the Weathermen or the Manson Family (or, for that matter, by any number of thoroughly ordinary young drug-taking hippies like, oh, say, myself). And someone shouldn't be expected, just because he's a brilliant musician, to be a great philosopher or even a well-balanced human being. What's more, Lennon's fire-breathing revolutionary phase was a fairly brief and ineffectual one.
What strikes me more is the fact that his interlocutors, Tariq Ali and Robin Blackburn, are still, almost 35 years after the fact, spouting the same sort of nonsense. Sure, they've learned to soft-pedal it enough to maintain careers, particularly Blackburn, who has managed to pass himself off as a "distinguished" professor at two prestigious schools despite clinging to ancient Marxist superstitions with a tenacity rivalling that of any Flat Earth fundamentalist.
Tariq Ali is no prize, either. His latest book, Street Fighting Years, adorned with a ridiculous cover photo of multi-zillionaires John Lennon and Yoko Ono posing in something apparently meant to be battle helmets but more closely resembling construction worker hard hats, uncritically romanticises and eulogises the pseudo-revolution of the 1960s. Like far too many members of his generation, the 60-something Ali seems never to have escaped his teenage trustafarian past, and almost revels in having learned absolutely nothing from the intervening four decades.