"So, what's it like being the son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, one of the most famous couples of the 20th century?"
It's a question Sean Lennon has heard, no doubt, one million annoying times before. Surprisingly, he answers not only courteously, but thoughtfully.
"I never knew anything else, so it's not that strange to me," the 22-year-old musician says. "It really gets down to defining 'normal.' For example, I was born with astigmatism, but it wasn't until I was 10 years old that I realized I wasn't seeing properly. I didn't know any different.
"I don't feel that special," he elaborates. "I feel like everybody's situation is very weird. It's weird to be human. It's weird to exist, period: to have two eyes and four limbs, to love and hate die and be born. I don't think it's any more weird to be the Shah of Iran than it is to be an average person in suburban Ohio. Everybody's experience is completely surreal. Everyrhing is weird, everybody's weird and everbody's life is weird, and I don't feel weirder than anybody else."
Also weird is the fact that John and Yoko's only child is one unaffected guy. The sunny and whimsical perspective so much in evidence on it brilliant debut album, Into The Sun, recorded last year and released on the Beastie Boys' Grand Royallabel, is absolutely genuine. As is his obvious respect for his remarkable parents.
In The following Sean remembers his father, John Lennon, and speaks frankly of the impact he has had on his life - and all of our lives.
Guitar World: Were you aware of your celebrity status as a child?
Lennon: My dad was shot and killed when I was five years old, and the whole world was there. I would look out my window and see a thousand people outside crying because they were so upset about it. That's how I grew up - I grew up John Lennon's kid and John Lennon was killed when I was five and that was my life and it was insane.
GW: Did you ever resist the idea of following in your father's footsteps?
Lennon: Yes but it wasn't so much that I felt I could never top my dad's accomplishments but more that I resented the pressure to become a musician. Everybody was always asking, "Are you going to play music? We hope you play music!" It was sweet, but initionally it made me not want to pursue it.
But the idea of think, "I'll never be the greatest musician ever so why bother," is ridiculous. That's like not becoming a writer because Shakespeare was so good, or not becoming an actor because De Niro is just the tops. So just because my dad was great doesn't mean that I can't be good, or great in my own way. Actually, I'm pretty ambitious. On my first album, Into The Sun, I wrote all the songs, played 90 percent of the instruments, including drums and bass and keyboards and guitar. I think I'm good now, and five records from now on I'm going to be doing something really great. So I don't feel intimidated.
GW: Not even when you lisen to Beatles' records?
Lennon: Well, it's a little intimidating, just because they were so unbelievably brilliant. It's like there was some magical thing happening in the late Sixties. Like all these geniuses were born around the same time and came together. All this incredible stuff was going on simultaneously, and it seems to me like some astrological miracle or something took place.
GW: Do you believe in miracles?
Lennon: I think evrything is a miracle. I mean, we're traveling at a billion mile an hour through space right now, yet every object on the table is as if it was still. And it's not. This glass is composed of an infinity of atoms and particles, and they're all oscillating at a certain rate and held together by intermolecular bonding. I think every moment of life, everything, is a complete fucking miracle.
And I think there might have been some kind of evolutionary/historical/ astrological miracle or phenomenom occuring in the late Sixties. Not only were all these people talented but the conciousness of the world was ready and the soceity these people were growing up in was supporting some kind of major revolution. The Sixties were like a renaissance - Brian Wilson, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Beatles, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix...
GW: But the Sixties didn't "work" in the end, did they?
Lennon: Just because the entire world isn't socialist and holding hands doesn't mean the Sixties failed It's that cup is half empty, half full kind of thing. To me, the Sixties did revolutionize the entire world. We have a president who's smoked pot. Yasser Arafat quotes my dad - he said, "Give peace a chance" during the peace talks with the Israelis. That's very far from England, you know what I mean? I think the Sixties did have an effect on every single human being on the planet.
I go to Indonesia, and some guy on the street with a guitar will start playing "Give Peace a Chance" because he recognizes me. And it's not just my dad, it's everybody - all the artists, the film-makers, the writers, the poets. The world did change, man! And I think we made a step in the right direction. We didn't solve every problem, we didn't eliminate war, we didn't eliminate corruption in politics, we didn't eliminate repression, but I don't think that was the point, really. The point was to change things, and they did - that generation of kids changed the whole world, and the world is still changed today.
GW: Do you feel that this generation has been swindled in the sense that there are no great revolutionaries today, at least compared to the incredible ferment of the Sixties?
Lennon: I think there's some serious revolution going on right now. I think the kids today are 10 times more intelligent than kids were in the Sixties. We're much more educated, much less naive, and there's a definite global conciousness happening. I do feel that bands like the Beastie Boys and Beck, for example. I don't know any other band that has invested so much time and energy into a political cause as the Beasties have with the Tibet issue. And 10 years ago they were hub-cap pinchin' young punks with a bad attitude. And that's why they're so great!
But I do feel like my dad is still alive. Everywhere I go, he's singing to me.
GW: Like...inside your head?
Lennon: No, no, on the radio! Literally! I walk into a store, a hotel, and he's singing to me! Literally, he's alive. I think people can live through their art, and my dad comes alive through his music, his vision and his political views. His persona is alive, a public persona outside of the music still lives. That completely affects the whole fucking world, right down to the President of the United States. Which is unbelievable! I don't want to sound grandiose, like I'm overly glorifying what he did. Because I don't think I am. I think it's really true. I think he did have a global effect, and his persona is alive in every moment of my life and in the life of everyone else concious of him. He's alive in every musician's head, definitely.