From Frank Sinatra to Azealia Banks: 10 Fantastic Artist Interviews From 'Playboy'
Thanks to the Internet, Playboy finally threw in the (strangely crusty) towel on printing photos of nude women in its magazine in October 2015. For nearly a year and a half, Hugh Hefner's lifestyle mag only featured articles and interviews as opposed to X-rated shots. Come February 2017, Hefner's son Cooper took to Twitter to declare that the scandalous mag was "taking our identity back and reclaiming who we are," reintroducing pics of topless and almost fully exposed women.
While the magazine has re-established its naughty nature, that's not to take away from the non-picture content of the mag. The publication once boasted quite an impressive pedigree of deep-dive interviews and criticism, and in the wake of losing the iconic magazine's founder on Sept. 27 (Hugh Hefner passed away at the Playboy Mansion from natural causes, Playboy announced in a statement), it's a perfect opportunity to recognize some of the journalistic highlights.
From Metallica talking Napster to John Lennon chiding his fans for mistreating Yoko Ono to Azealia Banks' headline-making interview, here are excerpts from 10 fantastic artist interviews Playboy did over the years. (Years given are the year the article was published.)
Dolly Parton, 1978
Parton: The kids peed on me every night. There were so many of us. We slept three and four in the bed. I would wash every night, and as soon as I go to bed, the kids would wet on me and I'd have to get up in the morning and do the same thing. [But] that was the only warm thing we knew in the wintertime. That was almost a pleasure -- to get peed on -- because it was so cold. Lord. It was as cold in the room as it was outside.
Playboy: But what about the charge that John Lennon is under Yoko's spell, under her control?
Lennon: Well, that's rubbish, you know. Nobody controls me. I'm uncontrollable. The only one who controls me is me, and that's just barely possible.
Playboy: Still, many people believe it.
Lennon: Listen, if somebody's gonna impress me, whether it be a Maharishi or a Yoko Ono, there comes a point when the emperor has no clothes. There comes a point when I will see. So for all you folks out there who think that I'm having the wool pulled over my eyes, well, that's an insult to me. Not that you think less of Yoko, because that's your problem. What I think of her is what counts! Because... fuck you, brother and sister... you don't know what's happening. I'm not here for you. I'm here for me and her and the baby!
Ono: Of course, it's a total insult to me...
Lennon: Well, you're always insulted, my dear wife. It's natural...
Ono: Why should I bother to control anybody?
Lennon: She doesn't need me.
Ono: I have my own life, you know.
Lennon: She doesn't need a Beatle. Who needs a Beatle?
Ono: Do people think I'm that much of a con? John lasted two months with the Maharishi. Two months. I must be the biggest con in the world, because I've been with him 13 years.
Playboy: What sort of things did the fans say to your face?
James Hetfield: Some fans said, "Leave Napster alone, dude" -- if they were suicidal [laughs]. But that was after "Metallica rocks, dude." So you would turn your "thanks" into a "fuck you." I've gotten into plenty of arguments with fans who just wanted to "discuss" it. This poor girl in Atlanta, I made her cry. She felt money was evil. Why don't you go live in Canada or some socialist country?
Lars Ulrich: If you'd stop being a Metallica fan because I won't give you my music for free, then fuck you. I don 't want you to be a Metallica fan.
Kirk Hammett: I'm still shocked at the reaction people have. I thought it was so obvious: People are taking our music when they're not supposed to, and we want to stop them. Computers make it seem like you're not stealing, because all you're doing is pressing a button. The bottom line is, stealing is not right.
Elton John, 1976
Playboy: Why do you think the rumors about a Beatles reunion keep turning up? Why do people seem to need or want that to happen?
John: Well, it's like gossip. I mean, people are always wanting Elizabeth Taylor to go back to Richard Burton. And every so often she does it. The only thing good about getting the Beatles back together would be to watch how Lennon and McCartney write songs and how the four would get on. It's an absolutely impossible situation; there's no way they will. If somehow it did happen, there's no way of telling -- it could be a disaster or it could be great. I don't think anyone has come along since the Beatles to match their popularity, or their achievement, when you think of the songs that they wrote in that space of time that have become more or less standards.
Playboy: What do you think of their work since they split?
John: I love Lennon's work all along the line -- except I didn't like Sometime in New York City very much. It had a couple of nice things. I liked "Woman Is the N---er of the World." I'm basically a fan of John's writing more than I am of Paul's -- although I did like a couple of Paul's albums. I think he took a lot of criticism because people were expecting him above all others to be the brilliant one. He was the cute one and he was always the one who wrote the Beatles' classic songs, like "Yesterday."
Garth Brooks, 1994
Playboy: Do you have to force something to stay excited about hits like "Friends in Low Places" night after night?
Brooks: James Taylor said something in a video that made a lot of sense. He said, "We've done 'Fire and Rain' a thousand times. When I do it in sound check, we make up different words and stuff, screwing around with it. But in the show, because it is the first time some people have heard me do it live, it's fresh to me again." When I heard that, I said, "That's exactly it." I mean, I've heard "Friends in Low Places" more than anybody has. At sound check we can't even run over a part of it. Nobody wants to play it, nobody wants to think about it. And I've thought, Man, I'll never make it. I'm finally just gonna pull out a gun at some concert and go crazy on that song. But what I find every night when "Friends in Low Places" comes around, the smiles, the laughter -- it's a blast to do.
Miles Davis, 1962
Playboy: Linked with your musical renown is your reputation for bad temper and rudeness to your audiences. Would you comment?
Davis: Why is it that people just have to have so much to say about me? It bugs me because I'm not that important. Some critic that didn't have nothing else to do started this crap about I don't announce numbers, I don't look at the audience, I don't bow or talk to people, I walk off the stage, and all that.
Look, man, all I am is a trumpet player. I only can do one thing -- play my horn -- and that's what's at the bottom of the whole mess. I ain't no entertainer, and ain't trying to be one. I am one thing, a musician. Most of what's said about me is lies in the first place. Everything I do, I got a reason. The reason I don't announce numbers is because it's not until the last instant I decide what's maybe the best thing to play next. Besides, if people don't recognize a number when we play it, what difference does it make?
Frank Zappa, 1993
Playboy: Is the irreverence and outrageousness in your music a reaction to being a good Catholic boy?
Zappa: Well, I think it was possible to do what I've done only because I escaped the bondage of being a devout believer. To be a good member of the congregation, ultimately you have to stop thinking. The essence of Christianity is told to us in the Garden of Eden story. The fruit that was forbidden was on the tree of knowledge. The subtext is, All the suffering you have is because you wanted to find out what was going on. You could still be in the Garden of Eden if you had just kept your fucking mouth shut and hadn't asked any questions.
Frank Sinatra, 1963
Playboy: All right, let’s start with the most basic question there is: Are you a religious man? Do you believe in God?
Sinatra: Well, that’ll do for openers. I think I can sum up my religious feelings in a couple of paragraphs. First: I believe in you and me. I’m like Albert Schweitzer and Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein in that I have a respect for life -- in any form. I believe in nature, in the birds, the sea, the sky, in everything I can see or that there is real evidence for. If these things are what you mean by God, then I believe in God. But I don’t believe in a personal God to whom I look for comfort or for a natural on the next roll of the dice. I’m not unmindful of man’s seeming need for faith; I’m for anything that gets you through the night, be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. But to me religion is a deeply personal thing in which man and God go it alone together, without the witch doctor in the middle. The witch doctor tries to convince us that we have to ask God for help, to spell out to him what we need, even to bribe him with prayer or cash on the line. Well, I believe that God knows what each of us wants and needs. It’s not necessary for us to make it to church on Sunday to reach Him. You can find Him anyplace. And if that sounds heretical, my source is pretty good: Matthew, 5 to 7, The Sermon on the Mount.
Playboy: You haven’t found any answers for yourself in organized religion?
Sinatra: There are things about organized religion which I resent. Christ is revered as the Prince of Peace, but more blood has been shed in His name than any other figure in history. You show me one step forward in the name of religion and I’ll show you a hundred retrogressions. Remember, they were men of God who destroyed the educational treasures at Alexandria, who perpetrated the Inquisition in Spain, who burned the witches at Salem. Over 25,000 organized religions flourish on this planet, but the followers of each think all the others are miserably misguided and probably evil as well. In India they worship white cows, monkeys and a dip in the Ganges. The Moslems accept slavery and prepare for Allah, who promises wine and revirginated women. And witch doctors aren’t just in Africa. If you look in the L.A. papers on a Sunday morning, you’ll see the local variety advertising their wares like suits with two pairs of pants.
Azealia Banks, 2015
Banks: I hate everything about this country. Like, I hate fat white Americans. All the people who are crunched into the middle of America, the real fat and meat of America, are these racist conservative white people who live on their farms. Those little teenage girls who work at Kmart and have a racist grandma -- that’s really America.
Bob Dylan, 1978
Playboy: Let's take one last dip back into the material world. What about an artist's relationship to money?
Dylan: The myth of the starving artist is a myth. The big bankers and prominent young ladies who buy art started it. They just want to keep the artist under their thumb. Who says an artist can't have any money? Look at Picasso. The starving artist is usually starving for those around him to starve. You don't have to starve to be a good artist. You just have to have love, insight and a strong point of view. And you have to fight off depravity. Uncompromising, that's what makes a good artist. It doesn't matter if he has money or not. Look at Matisse; he was a banker. Anyway, there are other things that constitute wealth and poverty besides money.