John Lennon on Why People Like Rock Music and What Rock Should Be

Why does rock ‘n’ roll appeal to people decades after it was invented? Anyone can try to answer that question — but John Lennon was more qualified than most people. John had his own thoughts on why rock ‘n’ roll resonates — and what the genre should have evolved into during the 1970s.

All the Beatles in a row
The Beatles | John Pratt/Keystone/Getty Images

John Lennon on the power of rock music

Sometimes rock journalists guess why rock music is important. Jann S. Wenner of Rolling Stone took a different approach. He simply asked John in an interview titled Lennon Remembers

“It gets through to you, it’s beat, go to the jungle and they have the rhythm,” John answered. “It goes throughout the world and it’s as simple as that, you get the rhythm going because everybody goes into it.” John also said the best rock music is “primitive.”

“She Loves You”

RELATED: John Lennon ‘Didn’t Feel Anything’ After a 1960s Rock Icon He Knew Died

John’s answer might surprise some people. Although the Beatles became famous with simple-sounding songs like “She Loves You” and “Do You Want to Know a Secret,” many of their later songs are complex. Few would call songs like “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” “primitive” yet John advocates for rock ‘n’ roll to be primitive. He elaborated further on his feelings about the genre.

“[Rock ‘n’ roll] gets through; it got through to me, the only thing to get through to me of all the things that were happening when I was 15,” John added. “Rock ‘n’ roll then was real, everything else was unreal. The thing about rock ‘n’ roll, good rock ‘n’ roll – whatever good means and all that sh*t – is that it’s real and realism gets through to you despite yourself. You recognize something in it which is true, like all true art. … If it’s real, it’s simple usually, and if it’s simple, it’s true.”

John Lennon in a shirt and tie
John Lennon | Harry Benson/Express/Getty Images

RELATED: Yoko Ono Said John Lennon Would’ve Become a Rapper

How John Lennon said rock music should evolve

In the same interview, Wenner asked John how he wanted rock music to evolve. John said the genre should avoid “intellectualism.” It’s interesting one of rock’s most acclaimed avant-gardists would feel this way. In addition, he hoped rock music would get over its “revolutionary image” and that rockers would start cutting their hair. Although John had certain guidelines for rock musicians, he also said “rock ‘n’ roll will be whatever we make it.”

John might not have liked where rock ‘n’ roll went in the years following his death. The entire genre of progressive rock was about making rock more complex than it was initially. According to The New Yorker, philosopher Bill Martin ironically said the Beatles helped create the genre. Specifically, he felt Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band inspired many subsequent bands to try to combine many different sounds into their albums.

In addition, many rock stars after John wore their hair long, from Slash to Jack White. However, John did say rock ‘n’ roll is what we make of it — the myriad of developments in the genre certainly prove that.