The late icon, who was shot dead in 1980, is heard on the tape recording calling the experience “torture” and adding: “We were going through hell.” He suggests every one of their 12 albums involved the same kind of pain.
He adds: “I don’t know if there will ever be another Beatles product with the four of us on again.”
And on the subject of touring, he suggests he’d be interested in a guest-star studded roadshow alongside Elvis Presley, Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan.
Village Voice journalist Howard Smith recorded the hour-long conversation with Lennon and wife Yoko Ono in 1969, but to was only recently rediscovered. It will be auctioned later this month with a reserve price of $300 – but will almost certainly sell for many times that figure.
Lennon says: “We were going through hell; we often do. It’s torture every time we produce anything. The Beatles haven’t got any magic you haven’t got. We suffer like hell anytime we make anything.
“We’ve got each other to contend with. Imagine working with the Beatles – it’s tough. There’s just tension. It’s tense every time the red light goes on.”
The interview took place before after the Fab Four had shared their last hours in the studio making Abbey Road, although Let It Be was their final record to go on sale. But the cracks are already visible in the band as Lennon calls Let It Be a “strange album” and continues: “We never really finished it. We didn’t really want to do it. Paul was hustling for us to do it. It’s the Beatles with their suits off.”
Asked how the band operated now that George Harrison was writing songs alongside he and McCartney, Lennon says: “We hustle for it. In the old days Paul and I wrote most of the songs because George wasn’t prolific. We encouraged him to an extent. Subconsciously we would have just made sure we got the LP for ourselves.
“Now there’s three of us all trying to squash ourselves onto 14 tracks. Do we make a double album every time? That’s why I broke out with the Plastic Ono Band.”
Addressing rumours the band has already split he replies: “Ringo’s left once; George has left once for a couple of days.”
He asserts it’s a 90-1 chance the band will never tour again, commenting: “It’s an anti-climax to the build-up of the myth. The myth is bigger than the three guitarists and a drummer. I’m inclined to leave them with the myth.
“If the Beatles would split open the group a bit and have Yoko, Billy Preston, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, and Elvis Presley in the group I might be interested. But as the Fab Four I’m not personally interested in going out like that.”
The interview is one of over 100 Beatles items in RR Auction’s Marvels Of Modern Music sale, running from September 19 to 26.