How John Lennon Reacted to ‘Rolling Stone’ Calling Him ‘Second Fiddle’

During his post-Beatles career, John Lennon occasionally worked with other artists like Ringo Starr, Elton John, and David Bowie. Around that time, Rolling Stone magazine said John was now “playing second fiddle.” 

John Lennon being interviewed by journalist Steve Turner of Beat Instrumental magazine
John Lennon | Michael Putland/Getty Images

How John Lennon lashed out at ‘Rolling Stone’

Firstly, a little background. The 1970s were an unusual time for John. While he was technically starting his solo career during the decade, he spent that time collaborating with a number of notable artists, including Elton, Bowie, and Ringo. During an interview with Spin, Francis Schoenberger mentioned that Rolling Stone said John had become the second fiddle to other artists for working with them. How did John react to this statement?

“That’s garbage,” he said. “What second fiddle? I’m not playing second fiddle to Ringo when I play rhythm guitar. It’s all right for me to play rhythm guitar in back of Ringo’s record, but if I play rhythm guitar in back of Elton’s record, or in back of David Bowie’s somehow I’m lowering myself … I think they are good artists. And they are friends of mine, and they asked me to go and play. It’s like in the old days. Like Brian Jones is on a track of The Beatles years ago. And he played saxophone. In those days you weren’t allowed to say, the record companies wouldn’t allow it. So it was never mentioned. Everybody used to play on each other’s sessions, but nobody ever said anything.”

“Fame”

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He compared Rolling Stone’s reaction to him working with other artists to how Mick Jagger providing backing vocals for Carly Simon’s hit “You’re So Vain.” Why is it not belittling for Mick Jagger to sing in back of Carly Simon?” he asked. “Why am I some kind of God that isn’t allowed to do anything?? It’s bullsh*t.”

How the world reacted to his collaborations with Elton John, David Bowie, and Ringo Starr

John gave fans a little insight into how he collaborated with Elton on a cover of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” He said Elton was too nervous to ask John to play on the cover, so he asked a third party to reach out to John. Did the collaboration pay off?

Elton John’s “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”

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Elton’s version of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. On the other hand, The Beatles’ version of the track did not hit the chart at all. This was not the only time John working with another artist proved successful

In a similar vein, John co-wrote Bowie’s classic funk-rock song “Fame.” This track became Bowie’s first No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and his only one besides “Let’s Dance.” In addition, John worked on Ringo’s album Ringo which reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200. John knew how to find success — even if he was supposedly “playing second fiddle” to other artists.