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- For me, I can still say music is God, music is the face of God. That's everybody, that's the hearts of men. And that's important to me. But that's not the way everybody sees it. And, of course, what happened in interviews, especially in collective interviews, was that people would ask me questions and I would talk about development and ideals, about which I already have talked too much this afternoon, and these questions would be posed to the other musicians and they would say, "We don't want to feel that way at all, we're not into that."
- On the visionary differences between McLaughlin and amongst other members of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, as quoted in Fripp, Robert. "Coffee and Chocolates for Two Guitars". Musician No. 45, July 1982.
- Whether people accept this music or not, I don’t give a damn. I know how good—and right—the group is. We all sell out to a point. And don’t get me wrong, I like living comfortably and having a nice car. But if money determines your art, then what’s the point?
- On the criticism of his acoustic band Shakti, after temporarily retiring his electric period with the Mahavishnu Orchestra, as quoted in Jerome, Jim. "John McLaughlin Pulls the Plug on His Guitar, but He's as Electrifying as Ever", People Magazines. 21 June 1976.
- I practice all the scales. Everyone should know lots of scales. Actually, I feel there are only scales. What is a chord, if not the notes of a scale hooked together? There are several reasons for learning scales: one, the knowledge will unlock the neck for you -- you'll learn the instrument; second, if I say I want you to improvise ofer Gmaj7+5, then go to Eaug9-5, then to bmaj7-5 --well, if you don't know, what those chords are in scale terms, you're lost. It's not all that difficult, but you have to be ready to apply yourself...
- There's no record industry, and so musicians I know, because I get mail from young musicians, I mean, they're really just struggling to survive, because they're not gonna get a record contract! So what are they doing? To survive? Like I did? I mean, okay I drove trucks, and sold caviar and repaired instruments just to survive. But in the end, you know, I'm in the studio, you know, recording rock music, pop music, whatever! Whatever gives me money to put in my, you know, food in my mouth. And so there's a lot of great musicians today, they're just looking for a gig! And what are the gigs that are going around? The gigs with pop bands or with smooth jazz, funky jazz, you know, a lot of this kind of cliched music. I'm sorry to criticize it like that, but I grew up with Tony (Williams) and you know Miles (Davis), (John) Coltrane, and real things, where there's blood all over the floor, blood all over the stage, that's what the passion's all about.
- On record industry, as quoted in "John McLaughlin: State of the Musical Arts", by The Snapshots Foundation; directed by Jonathan Bewley, YouTube, Jul 11, 2014
- ...The music was evolving with society, and society, if you recall, there was a narcissism that entered society in the 80s. Saturday Night Fever, you know, hey! This whole LOOK, the LOOK about things, and the look almost became more important of the content...
- On music and society in the 1980s, as quoted in "John McLaughlin: Challenges to creative music", by The Snapshots Foundation, YouTube, Nov 8, 2016
Quotes about McLaughlin
- John McLaughlin. He's the one, that's the killer. You might hear anything; that's because John has the knowledge.