John Lennon on Fame

John Lennon & David Bowie

Fame by John Lennon & David Bowie

John Lennon and David Bowie cowrote the song “Fame” which opens with they lyric, “Fame, makes a man take things over. Fame, lets him loose, hard to swallow. Fame, puts you there, where things are hollow. Fame”

John took to the idea of being famous rather easily. He’d always been confident about his talent, believing that he was an undiscovered genius even when he was a child. In one interview he said that when he was a teenager he used to read reviews of great artists and wonder why he hadn’t been mentioned, even though he hadn’t yet created anything. He told Mimi that she’d regret throwing out his early drawings and poetry because one day he was going to be famous. When he received poor reports at school, he believed that this was the fault of the teachers who weren’t smart enough to see his gifts.

What did concern him was that he’d become a Beatle in order to be free, to avoid having to socialize with people he didn’t like. Now, precisely because he was a Beatle, he’d lost that freedom and had to be polite to dignitaries, socialites, politicians, and businesspeople. He was free to take part in orgies, spend large amounts of money on adult toys, and order room service at any time of day, but he wasn’t free to walk the streets without a disguise, make ordinary friends, or take time off whenever he wanted to. The demands of being a Beatle were becoming greater than the demands of being a head teacher or a Member of Parliament. There were schedules to keep, albums to deliver, and shareholders to please.

John would later explain his position like this: “The idea of being a rock’n’ roll musician sort of suited my talents and mentality, and the freedom was great. But then I found I wasn’t free. I’d got boxed in. It wasn’t just because of my contract, but the contract was a physical manifestation of being in prison. And with that I might as well have gone to a nine-to-five job as to carry on the way I was carrying on. Rock ‘n’roll was not fun anymore.”

He said that being a Beatle was like living in “a moving hothouse.” The environment of flashbulbs, screams, spotlights, microphones, and camera lenses seemed artificial. The outside world had become something the group could only glimpse from hotel windows or on TV. A change was bound to come. “We’ve been mushroom grown, forced to grow up a bit quick,” said John. “It’s like having 30- to 4O-year-old heads on 20-year-old bodies. We had to develop more sides, more attitudes. If you’re a bus driver, you usually have a bus driver’s attitude. But we had to be more than four mop-heads up on a stage. We had to grow up or we’d have been swamped.”

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