Penthouse Retrospective

by John Green Originally Published: July, 1983

John Lennon and Yoko Ono

“Yeah, okay. What about career?”

“What about it? The more specific the question, the more specific the answer.”

“Okay.” He seemed to be warming to the reading a little. “I’ve got a record I’m going to release. I want to know how it’s going to do.” He explained that he was talking about an album to be called Rock ’n’ Roll. It was to be a collection of classic songs from the early days of rock.

So I spread and read the cards, spread after spread, hour after hour. I read on the record’s distribution, its promotion, its radio support, and anything and everything else I could think of.

The cards didn’t look good, so I tried to be as succinct as possible. “It says you got the three of shit, the four of nothing, and the five of get-out-of-town. You’re unsure about distribution and there’s no organized promotion. You mistrust half the people you’re working with and aren’t even sure who the other half are. You have created a series of events through calculated neglect, which will cause the ruin of the project that you claim to love.” This was the first warning of trouble with this album, which a year later would have John facing a lawsuit for $42 million.

“Christ, don’t spare my feelings.” He stood and walked around the back of his chair, wrestling with the information and resenting it.

Finally he asked, “And what do you suggest I do about it?”

“Correct it, change it.”

“How?”

“Well, I ’d start out by remembering that you ’re John Lennon… “

“Not anymore, I ’m not.”

“Then who are you?”

“Oh, right, sure, I’m John Lennon, alright. But it’s not what you think. I’m not the heavyweight rock star anymore. You think, sure, go make a record, sell a billion copies, just like that. But it’s not like that. The record companies don’t care that much anymore. The quote, fans, unquote, don’t care that much either.” He wasn’t spinning UFO stories now. He meant it. “I hate the whole damn business.”

“So quit,” I suggested. “Why bother? You’ve made it.”

“You don’t understand. It’s expected of me.”

“By whom?”

“By me, and fuck you very much!”

“So, do it.”

“ ’So, do it, ’ says Little Mystic Sunshine.” He mimicked my tone sarcastically. “Well, I can’t do it. I don’t know how anymore. It’s gone. My muse is gone. Poof! Up the chimney. Up your ass. Gone. You got any answers for that, Oracle?”

“Is that a question? Do you want me to read on it?”

He sighed and sat down. “No, I’m tired. I don’t want to play anymore.”

He sat beside me, looking magnetic no longer. I waited, and in a moment he changed again.

“You know, Charles, of all the mystics and psychics or seers or whatever it is you people call yourselves …“ He paused. “Sensitives! I guess that’s the word that sums you all up. I think you’re the best I’ve met so far.” He meant it as a compliment, showing he wasn’t angry with me. “Well, you know, Charles,” he intoned playfully, anyone can go out and buy a deck of cards and call themselves a reader, but that doesn’t make them one.”

“And anyone can go out and buy a guitar and call themselves a rock star and that doesn’t make them one either.”

He snorted, even laughing a little. The reading over, I swept up the cards. “I always like this part. It makes me feel like a croupier in the Twilight Zone.”

Yoko burst into the room. “Oh, Charlie,” she called, “before you go I have a few questions that I need to ask you.”

“I bet,” said John in an exaggerated stage whisper. Then with great formality, he rose and turned to me. “Well, Charles, it certainly has been an unpleasant experience. I hope we don ’t have to repeat it.”

Back inside the White Room and resubmerged in the sofa, Yoko zeroed in on me.

“What did he say?”

“About what? ’ ’ I was determined to play dumb. “About me, to start with.”

“Well … “ I thought about it. “I don’t recall that he said anything about you at all.”

A compelling view from a unique perspective on a rock music icon and the absurdities that surround him.

Leave a Reply