When I was a kid John Lennon was one of my biggest heros. At 16 years old I read the Rolling Stone interview, and JL said something like ‘I’m the kind of person, when I have a hero, if I find out they wear green socks, I’ll run out and buy green socks’ and I immediately started to wear green socks myself. Wore ’em for years. I know that’s fucked up.
He did a photo spread in Look Magazine, with Yoko, it must have been around the time of the making of the White Album, and the pictures made a big impression on me. Him and Yoko were posing in a big empty house that they’d just moved into. She was sitting with him and he was playing the guitar, and I just really admired him, with his girl and guitar in a big house where nobody could tell him what to do. It was one of the things that clarified, at the time, my ideas about life. Of course, my image of him was rubbish. He was mad, painfully insane, destroying his mind with drugs, about to break up his great band. But that flux was part of what was great about him. I would consciously, and unconsciously, imitate all of that before too long myself.
I identified with the depth of his problems, as expressed in Yer Blues. That was my favorite for a while. My band ‘Pig Nation’ performed it at every gig we did, through 1969 and 1970. Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan were my other biggest living heros, and that song kind of summed it all up for me.
‘I’m lonely, want to die,’ Pig Nation used to rehearse in my parents basement and my Mom once called down the stairs: ‘Boys, play that nice song about suicide again!’
I’d seen the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show every time they were on. That was the first time I ever talked back to a grown up. My Dad was making cracks about their hair and I told him to be quiet. He got me good for that one! That was the first trouble JL got me in. I still have a 1964 diary somebody gave me for Christmas. ‘Saw the Beatle last night on TV. Mom and Dad think they stink. I think they’re great!’ Then me and a couple guys skipped outta school at lunch, and went downtown. I was 9, what is that, 4th grade? And we stood in the drugstore reading the first Beatle magazines ’til the guy asked us to buy something or leave. My first adventure with truancy, thanks John.
So you see, he was a big one for me. I became a songwriter in 1965, right after ‘I Feel Fine’ came out. Me and George Pope, my first songwriting partner, wrote ‘Stay Away,’ that was my first tune. We played it in my band, The Telstars, and that was it: all I ever wanted to do, after that.
I could go on and on. But I think you see. I spent three years living and playing on the streets of San Francisco. That was sort of my ‘Hamburg’ period. Me and my pals would play 12 or or more hours a day, everyday. During this time, I didn’t give a fuck about anything, just like I knew JL didn’t when he was a young rocker. It was a dark time in a way, but it taught me that I could project rock and roll.
When he died I was in the Plimsouls. That night me and Eddie Munoz had just written our song Shaky City. When the news sunk in, I cried my guts out. What a disaster. Eddie didn’t cry. He just said ‘ They kill all our heroes.’