John Lennon, Yoko Ono & Jerry Rubin Q-A with Rock Media after Co-Hosting ‘The Mike Douglas Show’ Week of Feb. 14-18, 1972
Note: The following Q&A was first published in Stephen K. Peeples’ book accompanying Rhino Home Video’s “John Lennon & Yoko Ono on ‘The Mike Douglas Show'” VHS boxed set, released in May 1998.
Flash back to the afternoon of Friday, February 4, 1972, just after John Lennon and Yoko Ono wrapped taping of the fifth and final episode in their stint as cohosts of The Mike Douglas Show. The week’s-worth of programs would air days later, Monday-Friday, February 14-18.
The scene is the Valley Forge Room of the Warwick Hotel in Philadelphia. With Pete Bennett, Apple’s New York-based national promo director presiding, more than a dozen reporters from rock radio and the music and underground press have been invited to talk with the Lennons about the Douglas experience, among other things, including his sketchy immigration status as a British citizen visiting the United States.
Jerry Rubin, who helped the Lennons compile their Douglas guest list and joined them on the Day 2 show, is also on hand to field a few questions.
[February 4, 1972, was the same day then-U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-South Carolina) sent a secret memo to then-U.S. Attorney General John Mitchell. Thurmond alerted the A.G. to John Lennon’s reported plans to participate in efforts to defeat President Richard M. Nixon’s bid for re-election in the upcoming November election.
[Thurmond warned the matter was “important” and should be “considered at the highest level,” and that “many headaches might be avoided if appropriate action is taken in time.” This is the infamous memo that sparked the Nixon Administration’s effort to leverage the U.S. immigration authorities to throw Lennon out of the country, using his 1968 British pot bust (later overturned as bogus) as the official excuse.
[The memo was among the documents made public years later via scholar Jon Wiener’s books Come Together: John Lennon in His Time (1984) and Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files (2000) after Wiener sued the government under the Freedom of Information Act.
[But no one gathered at the Warwick knows anything about that yet.]
Since John and Yoko are into recording or filming just about everything they do, a cassette tape is rolling for their archives, too; let’s listen in…
Question: Now that it’s over, how do you feel about the Douglas shot?
Yoko Ono: It was beautiful.
John Lennon: It seemed like three months, at one point. We think it’s worth it. And I think when we see the shows we’ll really know. But I wouldn’t have missed it.
Q: Jerry Rubin was talking last night before the show that there were a lot of political-type negotiations as far as [choosing] of guests…
John Lennon: [to Yoko] What do you say, 50-50?
Yoko Ono: Yes. We wanted to do the shows to show that we are working for peace and love, and also to change the world, not with violence, but with love. And everybody that we selected is participating in efforts to change the world.
We were trying to show that not just slogans and demonstrations are gonna change the world, but we have to change the whole lifestyle. So that’s why we brought in [the] macrobiotic [cook] and this blood-pressure [biofeedback] thing, etc., to show that we’re not just freaks just sort of shouting and screaming about it, but that we think in terms of a balanced life, of changing it gradually through our daily lifestyle.
There were about 20 people that we wanted to bring in, but we felt it would be unwise to bring that many in. Usually, they have about five people [each] show. Instead, John and I felt like concentrating on about two or three people, so that we can do it in-depth, instead of just saying, “Hi!” – you know, that showbiz thing. So we limited the number of people.
John Lennon: There were no particular people that [the Douglas bookers] were more upset about. ‘Course they were upset originally about the idea of Jerry [Rubin] and Bobby Seale being on, but we explained that they were the first [guests] we’d like to bring on if we do the show. And they got over that, it was just nervousness. But there was a point when they said, “Well, haven’t you got any friends that aren’t political? Have you got any other interests?” So we said, “OK, OK, we do have other interests,” and so that’s when we went into the [biofeedback] thing, and things which you’ll see are other interests of ours.
Q: Did you get anybody to talk about the ecology?
Yoko Ono: No, but food is definitely connected with ecology. That’s also why I wanted to go into macrobiotic cooking. And ecology has a lot to do with our minds. You see, usually, people think in terms of just changing the chemical or physical situation. But our minds really control our bodies, and therefore, with a problem of ecology, too, we can develop a beautiful scene if we have a real awareness in our minds. That’s why we brought [in] the blood pressure [biofeedback expert], showing that it’s not just special people who can lower their blood pressure. We have this idea about Indian gurus and all that, but it’s not that. It’s no mystery that every one of us has the power to control our body with our mind.
Q: Do you think you were successful in reaching the Mike Douglas audience?
John Lennon: Well, we won’t know till it’s all over, but let’s say that some of the people around the back of the show who were nervous about certain aspects of what we were doing were happy about it at the end. They felt it was worth it themselves, although they went through a lot of changes while they were doing it. We won’t know till the five shows go on one after another, ’cause it was somehow spread over three weeks or so, and it didn’t have that feeling of being five shows, but it is five shows, and I guess when we see them we’ll know.
Q: John, did you make it easier for the next person coming on that show to get these kinds of guests on? Do you think you kind of pioneered a little bit?
John Lennon: Well, we hope so. We hoped what it did was to make them less frightened of the fact that a Black Panther would like to say something, which doesn’t mean he’s gonna come and shoot you to put his point of view across. Maybe we’ve opened their eyes a little to that.
Yoko Ono: The initial fright that we had when we were going to meet Jerry, for instance…
John Lennon: We had the same prejudices almost…
Yoko Ono: …the same fright they share with us. So we wanted the [Douglas audience] to go through the same process that we went through, to discover that they’re just beautiful.
Q: How did Chuck Berry become a guest?
John Lennon: When [the Douglas bookers] first said, “Will you do the show?” we said, “Yeah, can we bring Jerry and Bobby…?”And we mentioned a few other names — Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Little Richard. And the only ones they could get, or find, were Chuck Berry and Little Richard, but Little Richard was ill that day or something, so he couldn’t come. I wanted Bo Diddley and Jerry Lee, too, and just every day have something like that, you know. None of us got exactly what we wanted, but it was worth it just to be with Chuck Berry, man, it was just worth it!
Q: Yoko, have you made plans to further your relationship with Ralph Nader?
Yoko Ono: Yes, we have plans to get in touch with him again. We have the same kind of interests, and probably our work and his will be a parallel kind of thing. But I don’t believe in centralization, and probably rather than coming together, I think it’s nice that he’s there working independently and we’re working here, and we should all start working…
John Lennon: …our own area, wherever that is.
Q: You’ve seen “The Mike Douglas Show” and how he gets to the Middle American people. Did you have specific things [to do] in mind, or were you just trying to get some people out there to start thinking…?
John Lennon: Well, that, partly, and the fact that [Douglas] offered [the chance to reach his audience]. They’d sort of offer things, and then we’d go, “Oh, OK, OK.” And also, they know they’ve got Middle America, but they’re also slightly interested in youth, believe it or not. And the idea was that maybe we could bridge that gap for them. They’ll have to change their policy after these shows if they want to get youth, obviously. But that was their idea, and ours was that, what you said.
Yoko Ono: Jerry, you were with us for five days at the show, and you were watching it…I’d like to know what you think about it.
Jerry Rubin: I thought that on the whole, it was really good. I think John and Yoko have a great ability to speak to all kinds of people, to straight America. If they represent young people…you saw how the [studio] audience changed. The first two days the audiences were…
John Lennon: …purple-haired…!
Kal Rudman, Friday Morning Quarterback: Jerry, what specific points did they communicate? What did you get across?
Jerry Rubin: I’ll tell you a specific thing that did happen. I saw the first show and got angry, I didn’t like it. I thought that John and Yoko had been co-opted by the format. I don’t like the format of these talk shows. They’re totally rehearsed, totally planned. Nothing spontaneous can happen. People watching it don’t get challenged in any way. And I thought that on the first show John and Yoko had become part of that format.
And so I told them that, and they said, “But look at how many people we’re reaching, and maybe we should, like, lower people’s fears until everyone listens, and then bring [the controversial guests] in, because you’re gonna be on, and Bobby Seale is gonna be on, and Chuck Berry, etc.”
And so I began to think that maybe I was just acting out of reflexes – you know, if you can’t do what you want to do, you shouldn’t do it. But maybe the existence of John and Yoko offers a new possibility to reach millions of people.
John Lennon: But what happened then, the next week [when the second show was taped]?
Jerry Rubin: I was on the second show…
Yoko Ono: Yeah, you were great.
Jerry Rubin: Yeah, and I thought that was okay [laughter]…but then John was saying that he was getting fed up…
John Lennon: I was getting fed up. I was taking the position [Jerry] took the [show] before. Because with the first show, they asked us on the first show to cool it, you know, and then gradually get a bit heavier. So I finished the first show, but after the second show, I was gettin’ annoyed.
Jerry Rubin: Each time [John] was positive, but it was not as good as if John and Yoko had their own television show, and for an hour could do whatever they wanted to do. Then they could really blow our minds. It wasn’t as good as that, because it was this format, within that format. Bobby Seale usually isn’t on with, you know, what’s happening musically.
And then the two non-political shows were really very political. Talking about the food people eat, and talking about what people do to their bodies, that’s very political. So you take the five shows as a whole, and it was a total cultural offering to the American people, that they’d never get [otherwise], and I don’t think “The Mike Douglas Show” will ever be the same. So I think, on the whole, it was really positive.
John Lennon: The idea was what I liked, you know, the mixture [of guests]. Except it should be somehow compressed and packaged a bit better, so’s people would take it.
Jerry Rubin: More special.
John Lennon: Yeah, yeah.
Q: There was an incident with the Surgeon General [Dr. Jesse Steinfeld, also a guest on Day 2]?
Jerry Rubin: Well, by accident we just found ourselves in the same place at the same time. No one planned it. He was a Nixon administration official…
John Lennon: They always insisted on having one of that ilk on each show…
Jerry Rubin: He came on first and said his piece, and then I came on, and then I was just talking about the war [in Vietnam], the repression of the government. And he made a point that he came from Europe and he made it. Then I said, “What about the Indians and the blacks and the Vietnamese?” And then, when the show was over, he was really petrified of losing his job, because he sat with me [on camera] for 15 minutes and didn’t really respond. It wasn’t pretty. I don’t know what happened; he went back to Washington…[laughter]
You have to realize that people like us never get on television.
John Lennon: That’s what really surprised me about [American] TV…
Jerry Rubin: The only chance we have to get on television is on the Walter Cronkite show when we make news. For us just to be on, just to express our…
John Lennon: Five minutes of a freak and they shout, “Equal time! Equal time!” And they’ve got it all, man, they already got 99% of it…
Jerry Rubin: I mean, Nixon’s on TV every night making some new announcement…
Yoko Ono: There are two things that we tried to accomplish with [the Mike Douglas shows]. One is that we wanted to bring some people in, like Jerry, who really can’t go on TV otherwise. And the other is the fact that there’s such a gap between the young generation and the old generation now, and because this is a show that really communicates more with the older generation, we wanted to reach our hands out to them and say, “Don’t be afraid of us. And we shouldn’t be too hostile to you either. Let’s work it together because we have to work it together.”
John Lennon: We are supposed to be the young, hip generation that knows what’s going on, and they’re the ones that don’t. So we can’t expect them to try and communicate with us. I don’t know what chance we have to communicate with them, but it’s up to us to try, rather than the other way around.
Jerry Rubin: Unfortunately, they have all the power, don’t they?
John Lennon: Yeah, but not them housewives out there. I’m talking about them, about the middle, you know, the ordinary people.
Yoko Ono: We have to keep trying to reach. At first, they may be afraid, but the next day, they’ll change. People are changeable, and it’s great.
Q: What have you learned from Jerry Rubin, in terms of media tactics?
Yoko Ono: Well, he’s an artist, you know. When I came back to New York, I met many artists who looked so commercial, like Madison Avenue-type people. And then I met [Jerry], and he looked like an artist. And then he said that we were the politicians…
Jerry Rubin: Yeah, they said that Abbie [Hoffman] and I are the artists, and we said that they’re the political revolutionaries.
Yoko Ono: And our awareness level is the same, and we just feel very close to them.
Jerry Rubin: Now, from my point of view, the honesty that John and Yoko express in music and in art, and just in this interview, is exactly what I’ve been trying to do politically. So it’s like art, music, and politics come together. And I’ve seen the Yippies as doing politically what John and Yoko are doing musically and artistically.
John Lennon: Yeah, he said it well. That’s what I feel too.
Q: John, can we assume more events are coming up?
John Lennon: Yeah, we’d like to, [but] we’re not allowed to say we’re gonna do this event, or work, because we ain’t got our permission to work. We’d like to do things like that, sure.
Q: Can we expect a Lennon album soon?
John Lennon: Well, it’s a long story…
Yoko Ono: It’s a political one that might come out very soon.
John Lennon: Yeah. And there’s a few bits of pieces of live recordings that we want to put out.
Yoko Ono: And I hope you all realize the marvelous performances that Elephant’s Memory gave in these past five days as well.
Q: What are you and Elephant’s Memory planning, if anything?
John Lennon: I’ve said this before, but Elephant’s and Yoko and I are having a trial marriage. I don’t want to make them become an invisible band, you know, I think they should retain their own identity, still make their own albums, and do their own gigs. I think we can have a relationship like that. I call it like Dylan had with The Band. I don’t actually know what their human relationship was, but the way it appeared, The Band kept their own identity, and so did Dylan, but they worked together, and neither lost anything, but they gained a lot.
Yoko Ono: [Elephant’s Memory] is a very strong band.
John Lennon: I hope we can work that way with them because they’re a really good band.
Q: When can we expect some concerts?
John Lennon: In the second half of February, we hope to be able to do that. And I want to stress a point to anybody that’s gonna talk to the kids about it – I’m gonna be performing with Yoko, and she’s gonna be performing, too, and anybody that doesn’t want to see us both perform, please don’t come.
Yoko Ono: They say, “Well, why don’t you go back and let John come out?!”…
John Lennon: I don’t feel like doing it if I can’t do it with her. We enjoy working together, and we don’t intend to stop. I don’t care if the crowd goes to 50 a concert, I’ll still groove.
Q: At the moment are your hands kind of tied from doing a tour of some sort ’cause of [work visa] problems?
John Lennon: Yeah, that could be sorted out within a couple of weeks, actually…oh, I can’t wait, you know, I can’t wait!
Q: Do you have any plans in the near future to return to England?
John Lennon: I’d like to stay here for a while, so’s we…I’d like to be able to just go and come as I like.
Article: Lennon, Ono, Rubin Talk About ‘Mike Douglas Show,’ Feb. 1972
Author: Stephen K. Peeples
Article Source: StephenKPeeples.com