Lennon on McCartney and Ono: interview recordings newly available
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We’re rolling, John
Salon is highlighting interview recordings made by Cass Calder Smith, including a few with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, that are now available via iTunes. Two Lennon/Ono excerpts are available for free streaming here. Smith was a New York radio host when he made the tapes; he’s now in his mid-70s, and his son has taken over the project of releasing the interviews.
One of the Lennon interviews was conducted by Smith the day “Imagine” went on sale. Smith evidently told Lennon that when he played “How Do You Sleep?” on his radio show, “a lot of people called and said, ‘What happened to his sense of humor?” Here’s Lennon’s response:
“I’m sure Paul will understand this, and George does, and so do I, that that song . . . is a moment of anger.”
“So I wrote a reciprocal song. And I think some of the funniest lines on the album are ‘the only thing you done was yesterday,’ and that was actually Klein’s line, one line of it. ‘And since you’ve gone you’re just another day.’ I think it’s the funniest thing ever. I don’t think that about Paul all my life or all the time, I wrote it in an immediate response to when I heard his messages coming off his album. You mightn’t hear them, but I can hear them . . . . It’s an angry song. It’s not serious. If Paul is really, really hurt by it, I’ll know by the vibes coming around, even if he doesn’t call. I’ll explain it to him, I’ll even write to him, if he really, really thinks it’s really, really serious. But I think it’s quite funny and I was laughing while we were making it and when we were listening to it. I was laughing at his later . . .”
The emotional landscape Lennon is traversing here is fascinating. On the one hand, he seems to want to back away from “How Do You Sleep?” being “really, really serious.” It’s a “moment of anger,” one he’s willing to “explain” to McCartney if he’s “really, really hurt by it.” But on the other, he’s clearly brooded over McCartney’s digs at him on “Ram.” (IMO some of these are really there—”you took your lucky break and broke it in two” and “too many people preaching practices”— while some aren’t. “We believe that we can’t be wrong” is, in context, obviously about the older generation trying to control the younger).Overall, it seems as if he’s taking McCartney’s gibes very seriously indeed, while framing his own response as “quite funny” and nothing McCartney needs to be fussed about. As in so many Lennon interviews, it sounds like he’s thinking out loud, not saying anything he’s formulated beforehand. He’s a riveting interview subject precisely because he’s winging it, every time, and not worrying about the consequences of what he says.
Right, John. It’s the funniest thing ever. God, his attitude pisses me off. Not once on Ram — not once — did Paul demean John’s music or songwriting. Paul made a few sharp comments about John but focused them on the band and on his own feeling that John had taken his lucky break and broken it in two (which is pretty much true). And Paul accused John of preaching.
But no where did Paul demean John’s music, or insult John as a songwriter. Jesus, what a self-absorbed jerk he is in this interview. Paul is supposed to “get” the jokes that basically encouraged Jann Wenner and an army of rock critics to demean Paul’s music for decades.
Sorry for the rant. But: SHUT UP JOHN! Those radio listeners were right. He had lost his sense of humor in the service of destroying his partner’s reputation and satisfying his own petty resentments. In the end, John only hurt his own reputation, as “How Do You Sleep?” revealed more about John than it did about Paul.
What he’s saying kind of makes sense to me. I don’t know if it’s a British thing but it’s what happens a lot between male friends, especially where the friendships are long established from youth. A lot of emotional expression – whether it’s anger or affection – takes the form of ‘pisstaking’. It’s humorous but barbed, and deliberately so – especially when it’s an outlet for anger. It’s kind of overtly aggressive but passive aggressive at the same time as it can be excused as ‘banter’.
As I say, it’s absolutely consistent with my experience, at least. I’m not surprised that John can brush it off like that, but equally I’m not surprised that Paul could be genuinely hurt by it. And John’s position in the ‘social’ group of the Beatles means he’s absolutely the guy who’s gonna do it. And the type of person John was, with his insecurities, means he’s going to use it to come down hard on any perceived digs such as those on Ram – and I agree, they are there.
Yep, I know this kind of behaviour so well. Too well.
As usual, John wanted it both ways. He wanted to take shots at Paul and then pull his glasses down and say, “It’s only me.”
I’m convinced the two of them were taking shots at one another as early as 1965. I feel John wrote “Nowhere Man” as a sort of “pizza and fairy tales” characterization of Paul.
By the same token, I feel Paul wrote “Paperback Writer” as a jibe at John’s literary pretensions because he was jealous that John was considered the intellectual Beatle.
As stated in an earlier post, George slammed both John and Paul in “Not Guilty” and Paul in “Wah Wah”.
And let’s not forget that John once made George so angry that Harrison snatched John’s glasses off his face and smashed them.
The other comment I’d make about How Do You Sleep – it’s great song. I love its darkness, both in terms of the music and the lyrics. It’s so harsh… but… part of me thinks, well, you know, go for it, let it all out. It’s knee-jerk but it’s visceral and very John.
I also wouldn’t be surprised if Paul didn’t take a little bit of satisfaction from it either. He knew what he was doing with his little digs on Ram and it would have confirmed that he hit the bullseye. And I’m sure he’s not as soft as some people think.
Well I have never viewed How Do You Sleep as a great song. Not just because of its vicious content but because it’s just not that interesting as a song. And I think the Spector production ruins the whole album but that’s another thread. Imagine the album sounds very dated and uninspired these days. Not to mention that this song undercuts everything Mr. Peace was trying to say in Imagine
But I repeat: Paul’s “little digs” were just that: little and mild. Paul said John destroyed his luck break and that he was preaching. That’s hardly harsh stuff. Of course John brings a machine gun to a knife fight because that was just John.
But I’ve always admired Paul for never sinking so low as to publicly insult his bandmates’ musical abilities or songwriting. Paul never tried to publicly hurt their careers like John did. Nothing Paul wrote on Ram insulted John as a songwriter. But that’s the only point of How Do You Sleep — to attack Paul as a person AND as a songwriter. And that’s just pretty inexcusable to me.
JR: I don’t agree at all that Paperback Writer was about John, or that Nowhere Man was about Paul. John said in many interviews that Nowhere Man was about himself — marooned out in a London suburb. John was the one “sitting in his Nowhere Land.” Meanwhile Paul was in the middle of Swinging 60s London — involved in all sorts of “happenings.” So I just don’t see the song as about Paul.
“Of course John brings a machine gun to a knife fight because that was just John.”
More like, he brings a machine gun to a fistfight.
One of the best explanations I’ve ever read about the weaknesses of How Do You Sleep? as a song was written by this excellent Beatles blogger who, sadly, doesn’t write her blog anymore. It was called A Year in the Life and she wrote about a different Beatles song every day. It’s still on the Web in case anyone is interested and she’s a terrific music critic. She’s a John girl but is fair to all four and pulls no punches as you’ll see in her explanation of why she doesn’t like How Do You Sleep. She wrote:
“How Do You Sleep?” Okay. Now. HERE is a song I have strong feelings about, and not one of those strong feelings is a positive one. The story in a nutshell: Paul McCartney wrote a couple of really opaque lines in “Too Many People,” the 1971 “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” B-side, that referenced John. They were barely offensive, and they could have been about anyone. But John, in one of the fits of rage that John-Cultists pretend didn’t exist, went freaking ballistic and wrote the nastiest song ever in response. This whole song is just a Fuck-You-Paul move, and it’s loaded with really obvious puns and insults to make it very clear who he’s talking about. It is, to put it mildly, unbeliveably uncalled for. More importantly, it’s not a very good song. See, when Bob Dylan or even Carly Simon writes a song for the sole purpose of insulting someone, they at least do it with some poetry, with some dignity, with some musical gravitas. But John is so lost to his own rage here that everything just becomes subsumed in it, and the song is overproduced and shallow. So, yeah, I’m biased, because I don’t like it when Beatles feud with each other in ways that end up being preserved forever. But I also don’t know how JOHN could sleep, or indeed look his peace-preaching self in the eye, while he was spewing/recording/producing this shit, the nasty little hypocrite. Seriously, it’s like he wants me to hate him. By the end of it, he’s almost gotten me there. This John Lennon song actively encourages hate, and not hate at the power structure in a “Gimme Some Truth” kind of way– real, actual hate at the people who were your friends. I mean, think about that.
I agree. And I apologize if I’ve come on too strong in my views on this thread but this song sets me off EVERY single time. I’m too much like John. 🙂
Peter, I think Paul was genuinely hurt by “How Do You Sleep” and in my opinion McCartney seemed to answer back in a song called “Dear Friend”.
There’s a weird dynamic between John and Paul during and after the breakup, and I don’t believe any writer has addressed this in a Beatle book to my knowledge. Has anyone ever noticed that John and Paul essentially switched their 1964-1967 lifestyles during the breakup?
Paul detonated a relationship with an actress with artistic pretensions and promptly took up with a woman who wanted nothing more than to be a wife and mother to him. Paul and Linda withdrew from London and spent increasing amounts of time in Scotland.
John detonated a relationship with a woman who wanted nothing more than to be a wife and mother to him and promptly took up with an artist with acting pretensions. John and Yoko moved from the stockbroker belt to Montague Square and spent increasing amounts of time in London.
I noticed that too. Remarkable and fascinating. Two sides to a coin, yin-yang, SOULMATES!
Thanks for the comments, Drew, J.R., and Peter. The whole war of words/songs between Lennon and McCartney in the early 70s fascinates me, in kind of a slowing-down-to-look-at-an-accident way.
If “How Do You Sleep?” proves one thing, it’s that Lennon cared deeply what McCartney thought of him. That level of defensiveness, that umbrage—I think it reveals much more about Lennon than McCartney, as Drew remarks.
I also find Lennon’s claim that the song expresses a “moment of anger” disingenuous. This song was worked up, worked on, and thought out, if you look at the stories around its recording.
No question that McCartney was asking for an angry response with his criticisms of Lennon on “Ram,” and had to know at some level that he’d get it. But Lennon’s reading “Dear Boy” and lines in “The Back Seat of My Car” as attacks on him seems paranoid. Yes, McCartney was targeting him with lines like “too many people preaching practices,” etc., but I think Lennon had not only lost his sense of humor but his interpretive abilities if he was hearing “Dear Boy” as about him. [Cue Carly Simon . . . .]
I also think it’s interesting that McCartney didn’t put “Dear Friend” on “Ram,” even though it was recorded at the time. It’s as if he was (subconsciously, at least) saving it for after John’s response to “Ram.”
I wouldn’t necessarily put those Lennon interpretations down to paranoia. Just because Paul says they’re not targeted doesn’t mean they’re not (he’s guarded about his songs at the best of times) and the whole song doesn’t have to be about John – just bits here and there. And remember these guys knew each other inside out and had so much history. You know how it is with people like that in your life. Little phrases take on certain meanings, seemingly innocuous statements refer to specific things.
I also think Yoko might have a point when she says things they might say to each other can seem harsher to people on the outside. I mean, I think she was excusing it in a convenient way, but I think there might be something in it, too.
The blog Drew references is great, and the relevant post is here: http://beatles-365.blogspot.com/2010/04/creeeeeak-also-imagine-album.html
…or maybe, Nancy, it’s because he didn’t REALLY want to fight?
Let’s keep in mind that it was Paul who wanted the Beatles to continue; Paul who spent the six months after Abbey Road in various states of depression, ranging from mild to suicidal; and Paul who had to sue the others–and endure their ridiculous public lying–to protect the Beatles catalogue from Klein. To my mind, that gives him a lot of leeway. Was McCartney a shit sometimes? Undoubtedly (like when he bought more shares of Northern on the sly), but by the time of RAM, John Lennon had been waging war against Paul McCartney since May 1968, for reasons ONLY JOHN KNEW. When did the two of them ever really truly have it out as Beatles? What did Paul do to have the basic groundrules of the group changed on him in such a high-handed way? Which other Beatle ever spoke up and said, “Yeah, John, songs about heroin addiction really aren’t what The Beatles should be doing.”
And yet Paul did things like write the liner notes to Two Virgins–something which sounds like nothing until you try to reverse it; could you imagine John doing something like that for McCartney? Of course not.
John was actively trying to destroy the group for two years. Then shat he all over it in Rolling Stone. And McCartney’s the bad guy because he finally, in 1971, obliquely references Lennon’s behavior in a song or two?
Bottom line for me though is that Paul’s musical criticisms of John were not only accurate, they laid bare the decay he showed from that period for the rest of his life. John WAS “preaching practices” that he didn’t follow in his own life; he WAS a “hungry person losing weight”; he DID “take [his] lucky break and break it in two.” Even if one thinks, as Lennon apparently did in 1971, that he could be a hypocrite because he was a genius; that his relationship to food wasn’t weird and getting weirder; and The Beatles were some kind of grand creative torture; the criticisms are factual, and that matters.
But what Lennon says in “How Do You Sleep?” is simply not true.
“The only thing you’ve done was Yesterday” WRONG
And now you’re gone” WRONG
You’re just Another Day” WRONG
“You live with straights who say you were king” is perhaps the closest to being true, but “Jump when your mamma tells you anything”…where does John get off lecturing Paul about THAT?
I actually like the song musically–it’s pleasingly tough–but it’s a mean-spirited, inaccurate, egotistical hit job that showed that John was by then totally surrounded by syncophants and users. Is there more to the story than we know–ie, perhaps was Paul simply sneakier than John in his assholishness? Maybe. But the bottom line is, when you start preaching, you must accept a higher standard of personal behavior than before. Paul McCartney was then, and has always been, just a rockstar; John Lennon aspired to be considered much more, and “How Do You Sleep?” is, more than anything, a clear indication of how much that desire was rooted in ego, rather than wisdom. And that’s much more damning (and frankly more dangerous, given how seriously people took what John Lennon said) than anything Paul said in a song.
Oh how I wish I hadn’t been so late to this discussion party (2016 as opposed to 2013) and now MG is sick to death of this subject. I must ask him what he means by
Paul bought more shares of Northern “on the sly”. Says who? John?
@WaterFalls, during the wrangles to gain control of Northern Songs in 1969, Paul heard about and purchased a chunk of shares, without informing John. This fact was discovered by Allen Klein (Doggett, p72), who revealed it in a meeting.
“Then Klein informed Lennon that McCartney had secretly been increasing his stake in Northern Songs. ‘John flew into a rage,’ recalled Apple executive Peter Brown. ‘At one point I thought he was really going to hit Paul, but he managed to calm himself down.’ One unconfirmed report of this meeting had Lennon leaping towards Linda McCartney, his fists raised in her face.” (Doggett, p. 79)
This, from Wikipedia on Northern Songs: “Lennon and McCartney sold their stock (Lennon’s 644,000 shares and McCartney’s 751,000) in October 1969, for £3.5 million.” Note different numbers of shares.
“This, from Wikipedia on Northern Songs: “Lennon and McCartney sold their stock (Lennon’s 644,000 shares and McCartney’s 751,000) in October 1969, for £3.5 million.” Note different numbers of shares.”
First time poster here but I had to correct this inaccuracy and the presumption you make that the difference in shares is due to Paul’s secretly buying them up. This is yet another example of how Klein and the press, and John Lennon, colluded to unfairly smear McCartney. In fact, the difference in the number of shares between John and Paul is almost entirely due to the fact that Lennon had to sell over 100,000 of his shares to set up a $100,000 trust fund for Julian, which was part of the divorce settlement.
Paul’s “secret” purchase of “extra” shares amounted only to about 1,000 shares — in short LESS THAN 1 PERCENT of the total shares in Northern Shares. So much for McCartney’s “secret” campaign to seek “control” of Northern. Those 1,000 shares he bought amounted to nothing. And John had only himself and his divorce to blame for having 100,000 fewer shares than Paul.
Amazing how these facts are still misreported in people’s eagerness to make Paul the villain. Here’s a quote from one of many blog posts you can find explaining what really happened: “At the time of the bid, John held 650,000 shares, while Paul held 750,000 [the difference in holdings arose from the trust John set up at the time of his divorce for Cynthia and Julian]. — from a post on Rockmine.com about Northern songs. Most reporters/journalists don’t bother to check the legal documents to understand what happened with the shares. They just see that Paul has more and assume Paul secretly bought over 100,000 extra shares when he didn’t.
Thanks, @Lou. This is the first time I’ve ever heard that explanation.
Don’t be so sure it’s “people’s eagerness to make Paul the villain.” I’m certainly not anxious to do that; I’m relieved to hear that Paul wasn’t being Machiavellian because that doesn’t really fit with his other actions… but I actually think that Paul would’ve been well within his rights to buy shares secretly in 1969, given Lennon’s completely erratic, self-sabotaging, and unpartnerlike behavior.
Where was that blog post from? I’ll make a point to check there. I looked at Beatlesbible.com and Wikipedia, then looked in Doggett’s book.
I read that too (although I can’t remember from where). I think the story got over-inflated/embellished in the press because the specific details were missing.
The first discussion of the Northern Shares issue crops up in Peter McCabe’s 1972 account of the breakup, “Apple to the Core.” In the book, John Eastman accused Klein of withholding (prior to the breakup and the trial) a number of legal documents that the Eastman’s needed to represent Paul; documents which Klein was legally required to provide to the Eastman’s.
When McCabe asks Klein if he had, in fact, withheld the documents, Klein admitted he had, but justified it by arguing that they had tried to sabotage him, and used Paul’s purchase of the Northern Shares — which Klein said was done on the Eastman’s advice — to buttress his argument. Klein doesn’t go into numbers of how many shares Paul had purchased but paints it as a serious betrayal of John, by Paul, and uses it to paint Paul and the Eastman’s as attempting to take control of Northern Songs via subterfuge and undermining Klein’s attempts to manage the Beatles.
Paul has argued that he purchased the shares on Peter Brown’s advice, (not the Eastman’s) but Brown disputes that in his book. Do you know where the information is on John’s divorce settlement saying that he had to sell 100,000 shares in Northern Songs?
Ruth: There’s a book called “Northern Songs: The True Story of the Beatles Song Publishing Empire,” by Brian Southall that spells out the saga fairly well.
The point here: When Northern Songs went public (offered roughly 1 million or so shares to the public), the remaining shares were divided up between all the principals: James & Silver (937,500 shares each); Lennon & McCartney (750,000 shares each); and Harrison & Star (40,000 shares each).
So you see: Both Lennon and McCartney started with 750,000 shares. At the time of the big discovery that Paul was “secretly” buying shares, Paul had something like 751,000 shares — in short, only about 1,000 more than he’d started with.
But Lennon had only 644,000 (or 650,000, I’ve seen different numbers). So how did John LOSE shares when he started out with the same number as Paul: 750,000? It turns out that he or whoever was handling his money, used more than 100,000 of his Northern shares to set up a trust fund for Julian. So Paul’s WASN’T secretly purchased 100,000 shares to get one over on John — as the public (and perhaps John himself) was led to believe by Klein. John had lost shares due to his own divorce settlement and Paul barely had more than the 750,000 shares he and John started with.
It was Klein (and later, the smarmy Peter Brown) who exaggerated Paul’s purchase of these secret shares. And John either (due to his notorious confusion/ignorance about financial matters) didn’t understand that his own divorce caused him to lose 100,000 shares or maybe he did understand and was just petty enough to be pissed about 1,000 shares.
Thanks for the book recommendation; I will make sure to get my hands on it.
Thanks for the detailed breakdown of the shares issue. What I find just as interesting as the actual numbers explaining who purchased (or didn’t purchase) what shares is how and why this was allowed to become *the* major accusation of subterfuge and sabotage by Paul and the Eastman’s against John. (That’s why I talked about the first reference to it being Klein’s in McCabe’s “Apple to the Core,” a breakup-era book which is tilted towards John and Klein’s version of events). I recently read a book which even uses this event as the impetus for the hiring of Klein: as in, after John discovered the imbalance of Northern Shares, he believed that he had to hire Allen Klein to protect his interests. The Author was a bit confused on his chronology, there, given that Klein is the one who revealed the imbalance to John in the first place.
How much of John’s perception of this as some massive, Machiavellian power-grab by Paul would be due to his own business ignorance and how much of it would be due to his own willingness to swallow anything and everything Klein said (and how much we could chalk up to simple drug-induced paranoia) would be interesting to know.
“like when he bought more shares of Northern on the sly”
“perhaps was Paul simply sneakier than John in his assholishness”
I think this has some bearing.
Again this is a cultural observation – speaking as someone who comes from a similar cultural background to the Beatles, I think it’s the slyness of Paul’s digs or the perceived slyness of his behaviour that would have played a large part in John’s anger. Among working class (real or perceived – there’s no point in arguing the class status thing here), the done thing is to ‘have it out’, say your piece, not mutter your grievances in ambiguous ways so only a knowing few get it.
It’s like in football (soccer). In Britain, if a player punches one of the opposition, chances are he’ll end up a hero to his fans. If he dives to try and con the referee into giving a free kick, he’ll be despised by everyone. Continental and South American players don’t get it because that ‘slyness’ is part of the game, part of the way they’re taught.
So in some quarters, and most significantly to himself, John’s direct and upfront response would have been seen as more noble. I’m not saying that excuses it or makes it right – I’m just trying to explain why I can fully understand why John responded like he did. Yes, it was ego driven, no doubt, but there was a cultural element that I think I understand.
By the way, Paul’s criticisms were valid and John was harsh and over the top, but he did have a point in accusing Paul’s post-Beatle work of being too lightweight. Yeah, it’s a matter of taste but I can’t disagree with him. And as much of an arsehole as Klein undoubtedly was, ‘since you’ve gone you’re just another day’ is a great line.
That’s really perceptive, Peter. Thank you, and more!
The Northern shares thing has always bothered me because I don’t think Paul has ever offered a good explanation for his action. I can understand why he did it. I think he was in a panic over losing control of the band, didn’t like the way Yoko was influencing John to do strange (and silly) things, and so he bought those extra shares as a way to gain some measure of control. He should have just publicly admitted that. Instead he’s avoiding giving a good answer or outright lied about his motives. So yes, he could be sly in his handling of things.
But John was perfectly capable of slyness and conniving, too. He is, after all, the one who used Brian’s attraction to him and got Brian to pressure Paul into changing the song credits permanently to Lennon-McCartney. John wasn’t exactly direct and forthright about that.
And John wasn’t being forthright at all in the lyrics of How Do You Sleep. He was being a playground bully. There is no honest expression of grievances in that song — just name calling. I might have some respect for the song if John had focused on his grievances, which would have been fair game. He could have used the lyrics to criticize Paul for bossiness, for steamrolling over people, and for being unwilling to compromise. THAT would have been a forthright expression.
Instead he took potshots. It’s the petty attacks aimed at hurting Paul’s career and reputation that seem low and unworthy of John’s talents.
As for “lightweight,” that is of course subjective. What is Imagine (the song) if not a lightweight understanding of politics? And by 1980, John would record Double Fantasy, which was filled with sweet “lightweight” songs about the importance of love and children and family. It’s a strength of Paul’s solo work, not a weakness, that he already understood the importance of all of those things 10 years earlier.
I agree, Peter, that McCartney’s slyness is relevant. Yet I also find McCartney’s “This is crazy and maybe it’s not like me” line in “Too Many People” an honest admission of ambivalence.
As for the “lightweight” charge against all McCartney’s post-Beatles music, I don’t buy it. To take one early example, I think “Maybe I’m Amazed” is a better, more adult love song than “Oh Yoko.” And it’s ironic that years later, for “Double Fantasy,” Lennon was writing songs as open to the “lightweight” charge as the ones he was earlier damning McCartney for.
I think Lennon is also open to the charge of slyness and indirection. As Michael points out, Lennon’s the one who declared the Beatles dead, but then fought admitting that reality publicly, thanks largely to Klein & Co. And as Michael points out, Lennon ripped into McCartney in interviews repeatedly before “Ram.” Yet in this interview Lennon frames “How Do You Sleep?” as his finally letting loose and criticizing McCartney after being provoked. It’s much more his going after McCartney again, and in a particularly calculated, nasty way—and then claiming it wasn’t calculated.
Nancy, just to clarify, I don’t think all of Paul’s post-Beatles stuff deserves to be labelled lightweight. And some of the ‘lightness’ is in good taste and entirely appropriate. It’s just that I think he missed opportunities to produce real classics by not giving some of his songs enough weight lyrically.
The thing I always come back to with Paul is that he could do it. He gave us Eleanor Rigby, She’s Leaving Home, For No One, Blackbird. So as much as I enjoy, say, Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey, I can’t help be aware of what’s NOT there.
This doesn’t mean I’d dismiss Paul’s solo output per se. Ram, for instance, is probably my favourite Beatles solo album. I just find myself wanting more from much of it.
I agree that John also has to answer the ‘lightweight’ charge for some of his output. Oh Yoko is a good example. But he did have sufficient counterweight to that kind of throwaway sentiment at THAT time. Later on, not so much – especially with his songs on Double Fantasy.
As for Lennon and slyness, well, they were all playing games, no doubt. But with the example of announcing the Beatles were over then it being kept secret, I think that particular saga highlights why it’s not so much what Paul did, or what he did relative to John, that rubbed the others up the wrong way but how he did it:
You’ve got John being an arse and suddenly announcing he’s leaving. OK, after the initial shock they all agree to keep it under wraps until such time, etc. But then Paul decides unilaterally and without warning to sneak the information out. And in such a way where he doesn’t actually say it, but is really saying it. And as part of promotion for his own record.
Did Paul have a right to be pissed off? Absolutely. Was John being just as difficult? Definitely. But again, it’s a case of John being upfront and letting the others know exactly where he stood, albeit it being hidden from general view, while Paul gives the perception of going behind everyone’s back.
I’m not saying Paul was necessarily in the wrong. And as it turns out John hadn’t kept the secret anyway and had told journalist Ray Connolly but asked him not to publicise it until the contract negotiations had been sorted out. Now, John might well have expected Connolly to go ahead and write the story anyway, as he apparently later claimed – although that might have been wishful thinking in hindsight after Paul had stolen his thunder and taken ownership of the split. And as Connolly was a trusted confidant, I think the latter might be the case. But even if Connolly had written the story, John would have been able to claim betrayal by that fucking journalist who he’d told to keep schtum.
Both could be egotistical and mercenary, for sure. But John’s more brazen approach, while arguably more damaging in the long run, probably sat better with the others.
Peter, I think it’s clear that the others were shocked by McCartney’s move in April 1970 because–and this is what seldom gets said–if Paul was calling it quits, it really WAS quits. Holy shit, what did I do? And why is PAUL breaking up my band?
Totally reactive and crazy, but that was John ca. 1970. John’s behavior during this time is really much more like a resentful son than a peer. That’s why Paul’s supposed “squareness” became so important. Paul suddenly becomes an authority figure that John and Yoko, the two teenage rebels, are putting down. But when George (eminently non-square) fought with Yoko, John was just as savage; squareness was just a convenient stick with which to beat Paul. John’s weapon against George, with whom he’d been closer, was just disdain; that leaves no trace, but it’s horrible.
John’s reaction to Paul’s comments on RAM have to be judged not just as “how dare you slam me?” but also “oh shit, you might be right” and coming back twice as hard to justify oneself. I think John did a lot of that, especially when it involved Yoko, and the black/white decisions that Yoko encouraged.
As to respecting John more for being upfront, the fact was he WASN’T upfront–he announced he was leaving, then held his tongue. There was no reason for anybody to take Lennon’s September ’69 declaration any more seriously than Harrison’s one in January, or Ringo’s one of the previous year. It was Paul who was being upfront–mostly for his own commercial benefit, which is what I think bothered John. Not Paul’s slyness, but that he was, as usual, less lazy and more financially astute and better at the popstar game than the rest of them. Why should Paul keep putting his talents to work for two guys who, for the last two years of the biggest hits and most acclaim they ever had, resented and slagged him? Releasing McCartney the way Paul did was no more underhanded or shitty than, say, John’s not playing on George’s songs. We all love John and see his brillance, but he was being an incredible jerk. He wasn’t acting in the best interests of the group, and probably was actively sabotaging it–how much more of that should Paul have taken before acting in his own best interest?
As to Paul’s purchase of more Northern, that always seemed like a sleazy move to me–certainly one designed to enrage John–but recently I unearthed a fact: by the time of Harrison’s famous “see you round the clubs,” Yoko was regularly speaking for John in group meetings. Then there was Klein doing his thing, too. If I were McCartney in that situation, I sure as hell would’ve tried to buy as much of my song catalog myself as possible.
I feel like in these comments I’m always defending Paul and slagging John–but I’m only doing that because the dominant narrative for the last 40 years has been so unfair to McCartney in several very precise ways. Past those precise ways, however, I think it’s clear that Paul was no saint and that the troubles suffered by the group after 1967, and into the solo years, were (and had to be) as much Paul’s making as anybody’s. But that doesn’t excuse John or George–and out of the four, only Ringo seems to have preserved his basic friendship and decency. That’s a huge accomplishment, and something Ringo’s never gotten proper respect for.
I think what I’m trying to say is possibly being misconstrued, which is entirely my fault for not explaining it well enough.
I’m talking about perceptions. I’m not defending John, and I’m not saying Paul was the sly one and John was straight down the line. Far from it. I’m looking at it from the perspective of: 1) Why John felt it was OK to deliver his tirade in How Do You Sleep and then feel justified in laughing it off, and 2) Why John felt such aggression in the first place (and why a lot of what Paul did was grating on the others in the latter years and post-breakup).
I’m not saying John WAS upfront about everything – far from it. But he felt if he could claim honesty, either in his actions or contrition after the fact, then, no matter how insensitive he’d been he’d still be able to claim the moral high ground.
Paul was always more guarded, more cautious and less likely to show his cards. This was partly because he couldn’t play John at his won game because he knew he wasn’t a match for him in that way. But it’s also his character. He doesn’t like to show weakness and doesn’t often show it. I read a revealing interview recently from the early eighties (I think – it might have been more recent) where he observes that if people think you’ve got it all sorted, they sort of despise you. I’m paraphrasing because I can’t find the bloody thing but hopefully I’ll be able to find it because it’s a rare moment of openness from him and also a really astute observation, I think. It also shows he’s really much more self-aware than many people think.
So I think it was partly this perceived slyness that really got to John and, as you say, Michael, no doubt it was the fact that Paul’s digs really hit the bullseye. But also this perception of Paul as being the sorted one, the one who had his shit together. Anything less would have seemed futile. He needs to knock him off that pedestal. It’s like a brother railing against his parents’ favourite.
I don’t want to keep banging on about the cultural aspect, but I do think it’s significant because John’s response was kind of typical for a man of his background backed into a corner. And as is often the case, the attempt at a show of strength serves to reveal the weakness.
But John, to give him credit, acknowledged as much later, admitting the song said more about him than Paul.
I don’t know that history has been unfair to McCartney over the breakup and aftermath. To use a cultural phrase, in my opinion it was six of one and half a dozen of the other. The accepted procedure for these circumstances is declare both parties as bad as each and threaten to bang their heads together if they don’t stop bickering 😉
Honest question—during the Let It Be sessions, wasn’t it John who suggested The Beatles go on with Eric Clapton on lead guitar when George briefly quit the band?
And wasn’t it John who suggested Klaus Voorman replace Paul on bass in a new group called The Ladders?
The reason I ask this question is that it seems to me that Paul was the one member of the group who seemed to have the power and the will to dissolve The Beatles.
One important thing you are missing is that John Lennon was addicted to Heroin in the late 1960s and was up and down like a yo-yo. He was not consistent from one day to the next. So if he suggested doing something one day it would be a completely different story a day or a week later. He famously declared himself to be the second coming of Jesus at an Apple Corp. meeting. He wanted to buy an island where all the Beatles could live together at one point. Then he says he wants a “divorce” from the Beatles. There is an amazing multi-part documentary on YouTube called Understanding Lennon/McCartney which clearly shows from an amazing collection of film footage that Lennon was a completely lost soul at times. It also shows that Lennon was deeply threatened by McCartney forming a deep relationship with Linda Eastman (who McCartney married) which seems to have driven Lennon to cling to Yoko Ono. Paul’s wedding to Linda and John’s wedding to Yoko were only a few weeks apart. There was a powerful destructive combination of Lennon’s drug use and Lennon’s deep emotional insecurity. It is amazing how much Lennon got his life back together by 1980. The long interviews he gave just before he was murdered reveal a happy man who can look back on it all with much more grace and talk openly about his own flaws.
@Guy, all too true, but I would caution you about taking “Understanding Lennon/McCartney” or any other fan-made video series as anything more than one fan’s opinion — juxtaposing film clips and interviews creates a narrative, but without lots of context for each piece of footage, it’s impossible to judge. I watched innumerable such fan-made videos regarding the JFK assassination, and while they were interesting and felt persuasive (“there the secret service agent is being told to get off the running board, and he’s confused and pissed off! CONSPIRACY!”), they required a kind of meticulous decoding most viewers have neither the time nor interest in doing.
Paul is absolutely sly and sneaky and it is absolutely in his nature. He says in the authorized biography that one of his earliest memories is tearing a little bit of his mother’s lace curtains whenever he was being punished. Not enough that they would notice, just enough so that he could think, “there, that’ll get them.”
Fast forward to his twenties, when John and Yoko are staying with him in his London house, and Paul mails an unsigned postcard to them … to his OWN address, in his own handwriting…that says “you and your Jap tart think you’re hot shit.”
There, that’ll get them.
@Peter, I really think you’re onto something about the cultural background of this. Thank you so much for chiming in and please do more.
@JR, that’s a really interesting way to look at it. I think John and George were ambivalent about the group, and when Paul said “fuck it,” I think it was shocking, threatening, and (because they were frightened) they lashed out extra at Paul. He’d called their bluff.
Peter, I guess part of what I’m saying is that the fans who excoriate Paul for his late-Beatle and early solo misbehavior are seldom equally quick to acknowledge that it was Paul, and really Paul alone, who kicked every post-Brian Beatle album into being. Did the others work, and work hard? Yeah. But had Paul not been the “bossy one” post-touring, it’s very easy to see the group dwindling away. It’s impossible for me to imagine the 60s without Pepper, MMT, Hey Jude, White, and Abbey Road–which gives Paul an almost limitless amount of slack with me. Would a Lennon-led band have produced half that amount? Maybe. Even less? Maybe. Would that have been terrible for Lennon himself? Unquestionably. Lennon without external focus (either Paul, or Yoko) is Brian Jones.
I guess what I’d add as a listener but not a student of their back-and-forth is: this is what happens when your every thought gets recorded and published and sold.
For me, knowing that they took shots at each other and had worn out their welcome with each other is enough detail. I don’t want an album of bickering. Write the song if that’s your way of processing, and I’d rather not listen to it.
The song has musical value, yes. But I hear it much less as a musical offering than as a shot at Paul — which ought to be done in a nasty gram to Paul not an album released to the public. Sort this out yourselves, bicker all you want, bitch and criticize. I get it, it was an intense 15 years and you have issues. The songs I want to hear are about things more enduring than “that guy pisses me off right now.”
@Ingrid, I’ve been thinking of just that “Jap tart” quote during this comment thread, because it’s the only time I know where Paul’s overtly horrible to Yoko. So I checked the source, and it’s Francie Schwartz, whom I think one has to take with a rather large grain of salt. I used to read her posts on rec.music.beatles, and she had a huge hate-Paul ax to grind (for totally understandable reasons, and that doesn’t make her always wrong).
Here’s the thing for me about viewing Paul as sly: if he was really that devious, how come stuff like “won’t play if that’ll please you” didn’t end up on the cutting-room floor? John tagged Let It Be as being edited to favor Paul, and yet most of the anti-Paul ammo comes from that footage, and Lennon’s RS interviews. This idea of Paul as insincere–as the World’s Greatest PR Man–comes from those interviews, which also paint Brian as a flummoxed loser who forced John to sell out, George Martin as a no-talent square coattailing on John’s genius, etc. There’s a kernel of truth in each characterization perhaps, but every other major source–including Anthology–reveals them as misleading. Lennon himself disavowed those interviews (to George Martin, for example).
I have no doubt that Paul was livid at Yoko, and John. But I have to ask: Where’s the anti-Yoko studio chatter? Is there even any? If you listen to interviews with Paul at the time, he’s very respectful to Yoko (and by extension John); as I said, provided the liner notes to Two Virgins; and let J&Y stay at his house, right? While there are instances of George yelling at Yoko (Google “Yoko and digestive biscuits”) and ferrying claims of “bad vibes” from Dylan, there aren’t any of Paul doing that. Leaving a letter in his own house for his houseguests to find seems like begging a personal (and knowing Lennon, perhaps physical) confrontation. It’s the opposite of sly.
Which doesn’t mean it’s not true. Just…I’m dubious, because Francie Schwartz was a victim of one of Paul’s acknowledged flaws: his totally callous treatment of women during the Beatle years. THAT I have no trouble believing, because it tracks with everything else I know about Paul. “Jap tart” doesn’t–what am I forgetting?
This thread is fascinating. I’m a big fan of this blog because I DO think about the Beatles maybe a little bit too much!
All Beatle roads DO lead to John and Paul. I suspect there is much more to their relationship that we realize.
@michael, Well then, I didn’t know that Francie Schwartz was the source of the “Jap tart” story. And you are right, even if it did happen, it isn’t sly but confrontational, though it does begin with slyness.
What are your thoughts on Paul’s “Frozen Jap”?
I fear we’ve entered silly territory when we start talking about ripped curtains. 🙂 The vast majority of children do things like that when they feel powerless against a parent. It’s not evidence of anything but childhood immaturity.
“Leaving a letter in his own house for his houseguests to find seems like begging a personal (and knowing Lennon, perhaps physical) confrontation. It’s the opposite of sly.”
Spot on, Michael.
And you’re also correct that there is no evidence at all on the Let it Be tapes that Paul was ever rude/nasty to Yoko. At some points, he even supported some of her ideas — like when she suggested that for the Beatles’ return to live performance, they play in an absolutely empty stadium. Paul is the only one who actually liked the idea. (And it might have been kinda cool!) There are other examples: The photographer who took the Abbey Road album cover picture was someone that Yoko suggested and Paul hired on her suggestion. I’m sure he was very torn: He didn’t want her around (neither did George or Ringo) and yet he tried to get along with her because John wanted her around. Oy the stress of it all must have been magnificent.
Francie has done more than her share of ranting at Paul for what was a minor affair lasting only 2 months or so. Consider that Paul had a three-year affair with the model Maggie McGivern and she, to this day, never says a bad word about him. So I don’t think Paul was “callous” in his treatment of ALL women in the 60s. He was callous in his treatment of SOME women — but that’s true of the other 3 Beatles, too, not just Paul. And some of those women behaved quite badly, too.
I feel more for the 3 Beatles wives at the time (Mo, Pattie, and Cynthia) who were cheated on repeatedly, and, worse, treated like peripheral figures in their husband’s lives.
To return to the point: I understand that John may have been jealous and viewed Paul as “the sorted one” who needed to be taken down a peg. That makes a lot of sense. But that doesn’t excuse, for me, the damaging way that John went about belittling Paul as a songwriter. And I’m just glad Paul responded with “Dear Friend.”
Peter, I really appreciate what you’ve brought to this thread. I tend to want to defend Paul because I think he took the worst of the post-breakup blame for a long time, and for some spurious reasons. But I do think he behaves/behaved sneakily, and that John had good reasons to be angry with him. As Ingrid says, that sneakiness seems deeply rooted in Paul’s character.
And in one way, I think events show that you’re right about “having it all out” directly (in “How Do You Sleep?”) being a good thing. Because it went so far over the top in its vitriol, it effectively hit the rest button on the public feuding via song. In interviews at the time like the one that started this thread, John sounds surprised by people’s perceptions of the song’s viciousness. So maybe putting it out there helped give him some perspective, too.
But I also think John’s usual public take on Paul’s solo music, which is epitomized in “HDYS?”, did lasting harm. Yeah, a fair bit of Paul’s solo stuff can be fairly characterized as lightweight, but only some as more lightweight than what the Beatles did. (BTW, some of Paul’s solo stuff I absolutely hate, and the stuff I hate most tends to be his “issue” songs, which he’s really not good at.)
This thread reminded me of something Hunter Davies writes about Paul, George, and John at the end of the expanded version (1985) of his Beatles biography:
“Oh, what a complicated man he (Paul) is, what convolutions, what self-justifications, what fears, how vulnerable he is. How, could we, in the 1960s, have taken Paul for a simple, lovable soul, or accepted George as a quiet little boy? In the end, I think both of them are much harder to explain and understand than John. He was so much up front, to the point of brutality, quick to reveal himself and his opinions. Paul and George have so many layers. They both get upset when outsiders think they know them, when they are described in black and white terms, which of course is never completely true of any of us.”
THAT rings true.
Finally, Michael, agree with you about taking Francine Prose’s statements with a spoonful of salt. Paul definitely treated her badly, a too-common pattern in his pre-Linda life. But seriously, who was making her hang around? She was an adult at the time, she was free to leave. Instead, she wants to complain bitterly about Paul while making hay out of her access to him and the band. Pretty reprehensible IMO.
@Ingrid, though I may be reading into this (the instrumental does seem Japanese to a Western ear like mine), I must admit that I always assume “Frozen Jap” is a schoolyard insult; but what makes me think this is how different things were in 1979 than they were in 1969…The stuff that went down in 1975-76 started a cold war with Paul and Yoko that I think (business necessities aside) is very, very deep. But I know nothing more than any other fan. They could be warm pals; I kinda hope they are.
@Nancy, I try not to be too hard on Francie–I’m sure I would’ve done the exact same thing in her situation. Mega-fame is like a black hole; it distorts everything that gets close to it.
That’s an interesting Davies comment; although I think he’s utterly wrong about Lennon being “up-front” or “quick to reveal himself.” Opinions, John had plenty of–but if you collate them, they so often cancel each other that they add up to…no one. “Honesty” is also a disguise, and it’s the American version of reserve, especially in show biz. Like British reserve, American honesty (ie honesty without intimacy, or even sincerity) is a way to distance oneself, show immunity to judgment, and to keep the conversation away from painful topics. John Lennon post-68 was an Englishman adopting (what he thought were) American manners–which is why he emphasized it so much, and why he was such an easy mark for people like Allen Klein. And why he had such disdain for Americans who mimicked the other way (like the Eastmans).
Great observations, Nancy and Michael.
I agree that John wasn’t as upfront and honest as he appeared to be, or would have like to appear. But for all that he was still an open book in many ways. With many of his statements and interviews, you know what he’s saying isn’t really fair or true but it’s transparent why he’s saying it – painfully transparent. It’s partly why it’s so unsettling – you feel sympathy for the targets of his ire and bitterness but you also wince because he’s exposing his emotional fragility and immaturity. And it’s so obvious when he’s projecting or in a state of stubborn denial or jealousy. It’s like staring at an open wound.
But with Paul you know he’s only showing you what he wants you to see and you know there’s other stuff lurking in the background but it’s much harder to trace. And you get the curveballs like him wanting to reverse the credits on songs he wrote when everybody knows the history and who wrote what anyway – and he knows they do – and you just think, why? What’s driving that?
And after all these years, you still get the same anecdotes from Paul about John. He still talks about ‘It’s only me’, ‘the movement you need…’, ‘it’s getting better… it can’t get much worse’, ‘i’d love to turn you on’. All those years, and he’s narrowed it down to a handful of stock stories. There’s so much he won’t share. Which I guess is fair enough. But he shows how guarded he is.
A mixture of what Paul says and what he doesn’t say suggests to me that he still somehow feels that he’s competing with John (and therefore always will be), and that he’s still not 100% sure how John felt about him. Funny thing is, when John was alive, I think the same was true in reverse. And I think that accounted for much of the hurt and acrimony.
The tragedy is that it’s clear to anyone else who cares that they always loved each other very much.
It’s interesting to me, Michael, that you wave off Paul’s sneaky move re: the Northern Songs sale as merely one of the very few shit moves the usually unassailable Mr. McCartney may have made. John was enormously resentful of it and viewed it as a major betrayal. Sure, he was separating himself from Paul and the Beatles in general before that, so I’m not saying that this bit of Macca sneakiness is what caused the rift, but it was definitely a major contributor to the level of nastiness that ensued.
You can trace everything back and point your finger at John, but the truth is they were ALL nasty, just in different ways. But, basically, we are commenting on a family squabble—and in family squabbles, people rarely act rationally, and no one ever comes out smelling like a rose.
I just think it’s important to consider how much Paul’s passive-aggressive/bossy manner really annoyed the others and helped to deepen the growing resentments. The example you gave of Paul’s “allowing” the famous row to be included in Let It Be just proves to me that Paul thought he was in the right and that George would be the one to look bad in that scene. (Listen to him talk about Hey Jude these days. He likes to emphasize how George was wrong about his guitar riffs idea.)
Was Paul more rational and clear-sighted than the others, especially John (and George!) in the break-up era? Yeah, probably. But who’s “in the right” is less important to history than understanding the interpersonal dynamics that contributed to the split and the ensuing nastiness. And I feel you just glaze over Paul’s shortcomings, even though the others’ resentment of him (validated by history or not) was just as strong a contributing factor as John’s enormous ego… and a whole host of other factors.
Ultimately, no one’s to blame single-handedly, of course. They were still very young men, let’s not forget, and under enormous pressure in truly unprecedented circumstances. That none of them completely self-destructed (though they each came close) is truly remarkable.
And, of course, it’s such a shame that John is not here to share with us his mature view of everything… because he was truly unpredictable and we really don’t know for certain what he would have thought about it all today.
Super comment, @CS–thank you.
I’m guilty as charged. As stated earlier in the thread, I give Paul a ton of slack because whatever shitty stuff he was doing, he was also 100% committed to the things that *I* care about, the group and their music. And because the “Cult of John”–to lift a phrase from that other blog–is not balanced by a “Cult of Paul,” to say that all four were acting like jerks (as fair as that might seem) usually defaults to the Lennon narrative. People want a simple story–“we broke up because Paul is an egomaniac”–and John provided that. What I find interesting is how few people read that and think, “Wait–*who’s* the World’s Greatest PR guy?”
Here’s why not: Blaming Paul is an excuse to avoid blaming JOHN.
After Rishikesh, John Lennon was at best ambivalent towards the group, and at worst actively sabotaged it. “Why” can be argued endlessly, and we do–but this obvious reality is so uncomfortable, so disheartening, that it took 30 years for Mikal Gilmore to admit it in Rolling Stone. We tie ourselves in knots trying to understand John, but the simplest answer is: from 1968-71, the Chief Beatle blamed the group for all his problems. The Beatles–ergo Paul, and even the fans–anybody but John himself. Whatever Paul’s issues, and he had/has many, he didn’t act out to destroy The Beatles, and I give him credit for that. (As I credit George and Ringo, too.)
Even so, if John had been blissfully happy post-Beatles, I could muster enough sympathy to say, “OK, clearly you were right–the group was making you miserable, and everybody’s better off now.” But that’s not what happened. Nobody was better off, least of all John.
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Let’s say Paul was everything the Cult of John says he is–an insincere, cloying, bossy egomaniac who was sneaky and nasty and mean to John and Yoko who were just two lovers wanting nothing more than to be together. Even if the story’s that simple, it’s got to be counterbalanced by all the Beatle music McCartney made and caused to be made from 1967-70. Had the Beatles died in a plane crash after Candlestick, certainly this blog wouldn’t exist, and the history of rock music would been massively different. What really galled Lennon was that his most enduring work–the foundation of his reputation as a genius–happened as McCartney was supposedly “leading him in circles.”
Is John Lennon a reliable source on the breakup? Weeelll….saying “everybody acted shitty” is accurate, as far as it goes, but for me it doesn’t go very far. As the years have passed we’ve discovered that the stuff John said in “Lennon Remembers” is mostly mean-spirited and self-serving, with just enough truth to make people believe it. Anthology is, as one would expect, much more reliable, but still pulls off on some important points (like the understandable and entirely predictable effect of Yoko on the group’s working relationship). As engaging as John Lennon was in interviews, he was also selling, and knew he was selling, and SAID he was selling.
As to the secret purchase of Northern, if your longtime partner is nursing a heroin addiction, has a new wife that may not be kindly disposed towards you, is in the thrall of a business manager that you don’t trust (as it turns out, rightly so), is behaving more and more erratically and (to your way of thinking) self-destructively, is absenting himself during sessions, and has recently declared he’s Jesus Christ, you have a right to take steps to protect yourself financially from him. Do I think it was devastating for John to find out that Paul had secretly bought those shares? Of course. Should Paul have immediately offered to sign over 50% of those new shares to John at cost? I would’ve. But Paul was not John’s parent, as much as John treated him like it. John Lennon was a hot mess at that stage in his life and, while that might be fun to read about and even part of his attractiveness, I can’t really fault Paul for trying to take charge in that way. I think he shouldn’t have done it secretly–but the “fat arse” comment suggests that even that might’ve been warranted. I dunno; like I said, I’ve always felt it was sleazy, but of late I’m at least entertaining the possibility that Paul was freaked out, and trying to control an out-of-control situation, with a partner who was going through tons of changes and acting differently than the guy he’d known for 12 years. It’s just a thought, and YMMV.
Michael, I think you make a very good case there. It could also be that Paul simply thought he deserved a bigger stake. Possibly it was a mixture of pragmatism, resentment and a sense of entitlement. In any case, it was always likely to be viewed as betrayal by John. He would have viewed it as breaking a moral code of friendship while thinking anything he did wrong could and should be excused. And I think he’s right about the former but wrong about the latter.
But… there are certain things friends can do that change how you think about them. And there are certain things that friends do that change how you trust them.
In terms of friendship, John’s behaviour might make you think, “You’re not the person I used to know.” Paul’s might make you think, “Did I ever know you at all?”
I think it’s important to view this in the context of friendship rather than the band or business. These guys were a working partnership and artistic collaborators but first and foremost friends. Which explains so much of the irrational behaviour, the overreactions and the doublespeak.
It’s like the ‘Paul the control freak’ thing. It wasn’t so much that he was trying to have it all his way, trying to control or micromanage what the others did. It’s that the others felt hurt that he might not want or value their contribution.
John was being obnoxious when he said he got to play the solo on Get Back because Paul was feeling generous or guilty. But what else it tells you is that John somehow viewed it as a privilege to play solo on the track – it was something to be valued. Which is probably why George took it so badly when told his guitar work on Hey Jude was superfluous. John actually admitted they felt hurt when Paul would do things on his own. And Ringo has talked of his dismay at often finding Paul at the drum kit. I don’t think they were feeling controlled so much as hurt and undervalued.
Which all tells you something about how the band really worked. Little things we take for granted, like ‘so-and-so plays such-and-such on this track – well, it’s his job’, aren’t as simple as they seem. And I guess that’s why it always worked so much better with George Martin as the mediator. The band needed discipline but it wasn’t so easy for any one of them to take care of it. And the old “it’s for the good of the band” line was never going to cut it. “What, you don’t want me to play on this track for the good of the band?”
I’ve digressed, but I guess my point is that friendships (and, of course, egos) set the boundaries in The Beatles much more than ‘the band’, or pragmatic considerations thereof. And those boundaries were being crossed from both sides.
@Peter, absolutely right. And THAT is at the root of my celebrated (at least on this site) distaste for White and LIB–I hear the friendship breaking down, and it’s the friendship that I love most. Not more than the music, because it’s woven into the music.
This is also what people never seem to get about Yoko’s presence after May ’68–it’s not that she’s Japanese, or a woman, or a far-out conceptual artist, or works in a totally different style than Beatle-music–it’s that she was being introduced into a very close, very complicated, finely calibrated friendship between four people. It was so obvious she was going to knock that off-kilter, that’s what makes me think John was doing it on purpose. But whether he was, or just besotted and impetuous, once that stressor was present, all the other smaller things, like the ones you mention, became bigger than they would’ve been otherwise. I don’t think “Yoko broke up the group” but she never has seemed to understand or value the special friendship her husband had with P/G/R and how necessary that was to ameliorate the weirdnesses of fame and fortune; she and John cast it as an either/or choice, when of course it didn’t have to be.
Anyway, the moment tension appeared in the band, all the courtiers came into play (Klein and Eastman being foremost among them); once the equilibrium had been knocked out of whack, all the outsiders began trying to establish a NEW equilibrium where they would get more power and control over this vast money making device called The Beatles.
By 1976–and certainly 1980–when all the members of the band had successfully transitioned to adult married family life, one can see the old friendship coming back online. Which is why–even though it might’ve been difficult to convince George–I firmly believe that The Beatles would’ve gotten back together, in some form, for some time, in the early 80s.
IMO John took the Northern shares thing especially badly because he was used to Paul sacrificing his own financial interests for John’s.
A few examples: (1) Paul wrote most of the pair’s No. 1 hits yet never begrudged sharing the money equally with John. (2) Paul shared the money from the Family Way soundtrack equally even though John had nothing to do with the soundtrack. (3) And the biggest one: Paul gave in to John’s and Brian’s pressure to put Lennon first in the Lennon-McCartney credit — which was a VERY big deal to both of them — and that was purely John acting in his own self-interest. He wanted his name first. He got his way and Paul went along.
The dispute over Klein, and the revelation of Paul’s extra Northern shares, was the first time Paul protected his own interests over his partnership with John.
We always focus on John’s feeling betrayed in all this. But isn’t that what Paul felt, too? Paul bought those extra shares, IMO, because he no longer trusted John, he felt abandoned by John (thrown over for Yoko), and Paul wasn’t willing to look out for John’s financial interests any more, since John obviously wasn’t willing to look out for Paul’s interests and their partnership anymore.
The sense of betrayal went both ways. And it was because they were such close friends that it cut all the more deeply when they both started looking out for their own interests instead of the band’s or each other’s.
They thing with the Northern Songs shares has always interested me. I think that once again, John was upset because he didn’t think of doing it first. The company was public- anyone with money could buy the shares: George, Ringo, John, etc. Paul got some good advice from Eastman and bought them. Should he have informed the others? Yea. The extra shares certainly made him look like a sneak when they came to light, but the weirdness of these times is hard to imagine having not been there.
Something that has always bothered me about the breakup story is the whole “Paul was lost, desperate, nearly suicidal until Linda got him going and he recorded the first solo LP, then sued the others suddenly with no provocation”.
Let’s move events in the time table around and see if they don’t make more sense elsewhere.
It doesn’t make sense that Pauls wilderness experience occurred after “Abbey Road”. When would he have had time for such sulking? Too much was going on in the last 5 months of 1969 for it to have been then. And the Beatles were clearly not really done with by then anyway. It makes much more sense to have his depression lead into recording the “Ram” album. There’s plenty of time to be a depressed drunk between “McCartney” and “Ram”.
And then what led to the Eastmans yelling “Sue! Sue now!!”? An event mentioned by Mojo magazine may yield an important clue: in October (I believe, it may be November but I can’t find the bok right now), John, Paul and Ringo were seen at the Plaza Hotel in NYC, which, as we know, was the band’s informal American homebase. Apple was asked about this, and instead of a cute reply as they were wont to give out at the time, they admitted no one at Apple even knew JP&R were there, much less what they were doing together. Apparently they were due to reconvene in London in January, 1971 with George to discuss the future. That did not happen, obviously. Why? John and his infamous RS interview, for one. ANd two, Pauls last-minute lawsuit filed at the very end of 70. I believe he had told the Eastmans something was up, and they wanted to get the money situation straight before much more money from a new LP came in.
This would also explain John and Georges extreme anger at Paul after the suit. “Just when he gets us going again, he pulls THIS??”.
I may be wrong.
David, I think your chronology makes sense. I just skimmed through Doggett and here’s what I found:
“His account of the spring and summer of 1970 reads like a textbook description of clinical depression…Only one avenue promised relief: full legal separation from the rest of the Beatles.” [135-6]
“The three defendants received their first notification of the impending writ (a ‘letter before action’) four days before Christmas. ‘I just could not believe it,’ Harrison testified a few weeks later. ‘I still cannot understand why Paul acted as he did.’ Starkey concurred, adding that he had been under the impression that all four Beatles would meet in London during January 1971 for the first time in almost eighteen months. ‘I know Paul,’ Starkey said, ‘and I know we would not lightly disregard his promise [to meet]. Something serious, about which I have no knowledge, must have happened between Paul’s meeting with George in New York, and the end of December.’ Neither man understood that it might have been the confrontation between McCartney and Harrison that had tipped the plantiff’s hand.” 
That confrontation was the infamous, “You’ll stay on the fucking label. Hare Krishna”. 
“Harrison’s contemptuous dismissal of McCartney’s plea for freedom had decimated his options. He hated to imagine the other Beatles as his enemies and would have preferred to target Allen Klein. But Klein wasn’t his manager and so couldn’t be fired. Likewise, Klein couldn’t release McCartney’s earnings from the Beatles partnership. This wasn’t about money; if it was, then McCartney could have read the sales figures for Harrison’s new records and relished the unearned 25 percent that would soon be added to his account. What he wanted was to be a Beatle, and if that wasn’t possible, then he wanted not to be in the Beatles, rather than being lost in this no-man’s-land of phoney partnership.” 
But here’s something that I think explains Paul’s behavior:
“According to Lennon, ‘Paul would’ve forfeited his right to split by joining us again. We tried to con him into recording with us, too. Allen came up with this plan. He said, “Just ring Paul and say, ‘We’re recording next Friday, are you coming?'” So it nearly happened. It got around that the Beatles were getting together again, because EMI heard that the Beatles had booked recording time again. But Paul would never, never do it, for anything, and now I would never do it.” 
I think one should take all Beatle comments made during the course of the lawsuit with a grain of salt. Also, here’s a transcript of McCartney’s interview with LIFE in 1971: http://beatlesnumber9.com/life1971.html
So George tells Paul: “You’ll stay on the fucking label. Hare Krishna.” And then George is shocked — shocked — that Paul took that seriously and sued? And John accuses Paul of being sneaky and then they try and trick him into giving up his entire legal claim? Wow. They were all four rationalizing some pretty shifty behavior, weren’t they?
As for Paul’s depression, I don’t think there was just one period of depression. I think Paul was severely depressed off and on from 1969 to 1971, and I would guess it was probably worse than he has even portrayed it. Look at photos of him in 69: He often looks bloated (drinking heavily) and exhausted (not sleeping). Even on his wedding day in March 1969 (which, oddly enough, is today – RIP Linda) he looks puffy. I don’t think the depression was just between McCartney and Ram. I think he was fighting it off and on for several years.
OK so how much can we blame the lawyers — Klein and the Eastmans — for all of this mess. 🙂 I’m a little bit serious, given that these four relatively uneducated guys from Liverpool certainly didn’t have the experience/know-how to pull any of these legal tricks and maneuvers (buying extra shares, tricking a member into giving up his legal rights) without lawyers telling them what to do.
Damn lawyers. 🙂
A lot, I think. Because those kind of shenanigans are also what prevented the four of them from doing the thing that HAD kept them together, ie making music.
But it wasn’t just the lawyers; it was all manner of hangers-on, that competed for their attention, played one off the other, and fed the egos of each Beatle. In other words, precisely the people that Brian had screened away from them. Lennon especially had terrible judgment in his friends post-Epstein. I think drugs had a lot to do with that; not only did they seem to reduce his impulse control, they automatically put him into contact with a lot of shady characters. Despite his talents, Klein was shady as hell, and it is difficult to imagine a pre-acid Lennon being so gullible, especially after hearing about Nanker Phelge.
Obviously as J/P/G/R aged they would’ve done more and more of their own thing, Brian or no; but the replacement of a relatively able and certainly benign Epstein with a whole cadre of courtiers was what temporarily choked off the friendships and thus killed the group.
David, great point about the chronology, and thanks, Michael, for going back to Doggett for the goods. What an ungodly mess it all is, from 1968 on. Though I’ve read the Doggett book, I’d forgotten the details of Klein’s plan to trick Paul into giving up his legal right to sue.
Paul’s buying Northern Songs shares without telling the others was underhanded, but Klein’s plan tops that. John’s admitting that trying to get Paul to meet and record was a “con” makes me more sympathetic toward some of the shots Paul takes on “Ram.” “I thought you was my friend / But you let me down, put my heart around the bend” sounds about right.
Which probably explains some of why Lennon is so acid on “How Do You Sleep?” — he feels guilty himself. I think we’re often the angriest at those we know we’ve hurt most. Which, of course, would also help explain why Paul was angry at John — Paul knew he’d really hurt John, and was justifying himself.
And Drew, I think you’re right about Paul’s having more than one depressive period. One before the first solo album and one after, for sure. And probably one following Linda’s death, which helps explain his disastrous marriage to Heather Mills. Increasingly I think the primary audience for McCartney’s more comforting/reassuring/optimistic songs is himself.
“Increasingly I think the primary audience for McCartney’s more comforting/reassuring/optimistic songs is himself.”
Great point. I really wouldn’t be surprised to learn, after Paul leaves this Earth, that he suffered from depression lifelong. And you can also see it in the lyrics of his songs on the McCartney album — like the opening lines of Every Night:
Every Night I Just Wanna Go Out, Get Out Of My Head
Every Day I Don’t Want To Get Up, Get Out Of My Bed
People always hear Every Night as a love song, and it is, in part, but if its at all representative of Paul’s state of mind before his first solo album, that is one depressed boy. At a mere 28 years old, he’s not sure whether to go out clubbing and drink his pain away or stay home and lay in bed.
Drew, it seems entirely possible that Paul’s had to stave off depression, off and on, at least since the Beatles’ breakup. I agree with you about the sorrow that underpins “Every Night.” A fair number of McCartney’s songs are dark, or acknowledge darkness. Many are about escape, in some form or other. Still others are about getting up in the morning/getting through.
I think Linda saved him, in the late 60s, as much or maybe even more than Yoko saved John. Once she was gone . . . . Well, another thread, another time.
Paul hides hurt, sorrow and anger; he doesn’t want to talk about them publicly. They come out obliquely in his songs. John was all about expressing those negative emotions directly, especially after the breakup. Hence much of the difference between “Too Many People” and “How Do You Sleep?” Annnnnd I’ve talked myself around to the beginning of this thread!
Hmm, I think I’ve come full circle too because I’ve just abandoned at least three comments on this.
I’ll just say in closing, though, that I don’t think for one second that Paul is a lifelong sufferer of clinical depression! 🙂
Peter! Let ‘er rip! Your comments are great! (As have the others been.)
Clinical depression? That seems doubtful to me. But let’s keep in mind that Paul was a legendarily heavy smoker of pot for most of his adult life. Where there’s that much smoke, there’s usually some kind of psychological fire. As an American I medicalize everything, but it seems that Paul took to pot with a will around 1965, and was merrily puffing away for the next thirty-five years. “Contents under pressure” at the very least.
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Ha, well, Michael, one of the things I was going to say was that Paul’s energy and workrate were inconsistent with someone suffering from long-term depression… but they’re equally inconsistent with his reputedly prodigious pot use. So who knows? 😉
But while I’m on the subject, and as I’m here, it’s interesting to note that the growing differences within the band coincided with a divergence in their individual drugs of choice, having made the collective journey from alcohol to uppers to pot. As I think I’ve observed on here before, acid initially created that soon-to-be familiar fissure, with John, George and Ringo on one side and Paul on the other.
I’m not suggesting that the drug divergence was responsible for the differences, but it must have exacerbated them.
And going back to the ‘sensitive’ early 70s, Lennon and cocaine was truly a match made in hell, and not at all conducive to reconciliation and harmony! (c/f the notorious Rolling Stone interview.)
Thank you, Micheal! That Lennon quote about calling up Paul is quite enlightening. I hadn’t made it thru the Dogget book before I lost all my books in the fire. But it was quite promising.
Come to think of it, this is all rather akin to a fire investigation; sifting thru the ashes to try and figure out what started it all.
Just saw this:
In 1985 Paul McCartney lost, in heartbreaking fashion, a bidding war for the publishing rights to the Beatles catalog to then-friend Michael Jackson. But, thanks to US copyright law, McCartney now has the opportunity to reclaim the rights to his half of the Lennon-McCartney catalog, at least in the United States.
When Jackson passed away, his estate retained the rights to the catalog, but recently the estate sold those rights to Sony/ATV for $750 million. The US Copyright Act of 1976, however, allows songwriters to reclaim the rights to their songs 56 years after they were written. This gives McCartney the chance to recapture his share.
As Billboard reports, McCartney has already made moves to claim his portion of the Lennon-McCartney collection, filing a termination notice for 32 songs written between 1962 and 1964 with the U.S. Copyright Office on December 15, 2015.
“Only the McCartney half of the Lennon/McCartney songs are eligible for termination, and only for the US,” a source told Billboard. “Sony/ATV still owns [those] Beatles songs in the rest of the world.”
McCartney also filed for rights to other songs from later years, including from Abbey Road, but those songs are not eligible for reversion until 2025. Yoko Ono already negotiated a deal to give Sony/ATV Lennon’s share.
“Only the McCartney half”? What are they going to do, split the songs down the middle?
So Paul keeps “woke up, fell out of bed” and Sony gets “I’d love to turn you on” ?
Maybe Paul will only be able to own every other word? 🙂 “Hey —, Don’t —- it —.Take – sad —- and —- it ——-.
Ha! that sounds about right. 🙂
Oh! I’m late for the party, I wish this blog had an “awesome” button for comments…
I read all your comments, and there’s not much left to say… Or maybe there is but for now I can only come up with an interpretation of why Paul would try to reverse the credits of the songs even though it is common knowledge who wrote each one: perhaps it is an attempt to ensure that in posterity, when he is no longer with us, musical history gives him the credit he deserves, not only through general knowledge but through official records. It’s a matter of pride.
“They required a kind of meticulous decoding most viewers have neither the time nor interest in doing.”
I think that people who are interested enough can probably understand that these fan-made items are opinions, like just about every bit of media we consume. Including several hundred books on the Beatles with each authors’ points of view and theses and fan websites and …
I find it a little annoying that a fan-made, hours-long video documentary using archival footage about how much Lennon and McCartney cared about each other is compared to Kennedy conspiracy theories. I mean, there’s editorial intent in the compilation, of course. But it’s also just another point of view, and just because someone doesn’t agree with it doesn’t make it a conspiracy to fool the masses.
@Kristy, I’ll respond to this via your other comment, but very quickly: most consumers of media, whatever the format, do not apply much critical thinking to a piece of media. They see how it makes them feel, see whether it confirms or denies their beliefs about the topic and the world, and then move on. This is infinitely more the case with visual media, which takes advantage of our cognitive bias towards images (“believe your eyes”). So when making visual media, I personally would be much much more cautious about my own biases, and try to figure out some way to provide tons of context to each piece. I would be arguing against my own case, to be on the safe side. I’ve never seen any fan-made Beatle video that does that.
I apologize for saying “annoying.” I’m typing too quickly at work. That trap again.
In the spirit of discussion rather than conflict, what I mean to say is, “I find it interesting and am a little puzzled that you would compare a video series focusing on the deep friendship between Lennon and McCartney with a Kennedy assassination theory video.”
(Also, a while back you did say to e-mail, MG, and I didn’t know if I was to use the website contact link?)
Yes, @Kristy, feel free to use the contact form on the site. That will get to me.
Let’s agree on what we’re talking about, first. We’re not talking about “a video series focusing on the deep friendship between Lennon and McCartney”; nobody has ever disputed that there was a deep friendship between Lennon and McCartney. “Understanding Lennon/McCartney” is part of J/P shipping culture, which posits that Lennon and McCartney were lovers. There is no great hunger for Beatle content demonstrating Lennon and McCartney were friends; there IS for content suggesting that they were secretly star-crossed lovers. I really have no opinion on the likelihood of this, and have said a zillion times that it wouldn’t change my opinion of either man or their relationship. But there are fans who are really, deeply committed to “proving” this idea, and you simply wouldn’t make — or even watch — a long video series if you weren’t really, deeply committed to the idea of J/P shipping. This is an interesting development in the fandom, and to me it’s reflective of a larger societal change of some sort, which is why I compared it to the JFK assassination.
For people of my generation — well, actually mostly people a little older than me, Boomers and ilk — the assassinations of the Sixties were a *huge* topic of interest and discussion. Lots of people read lots of books about the cases, which were both definitely under dispute and very germane to the politics of the day. And people weren’t interested in proving the Warren Commission was correct (that is, Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone); they were interested in proving that the conventional narrative was false, and held in place by an either corrupt or inept media, on the direction of powerful individuals.
At their best, assassination researchers were and are motivated by a genuine attempt to protect and defend liberal democracy in the United States and, as I said to a friend of mine lately, “The assassination culture’s view of the American rightwing has proven to be the most accurate one.” For every nut, there were ten or a hundred or a thousand people of sound mind genuinely alarmed by what they saw as blatant political murder to change the course of American politics, aided and abetted by certain elements in the government and a complicit media. So when you speak of them, speak well of them. 95% of JFK assassination stuff is not Bigfoot or UFOs; it’s CSI, plus the kind of media/societal critique that has been common since around 1900.
There is an element of this in J/P shipping culture; the sense of trying to spread the word about an important truth, in the face of opposition. The sense of a media producing a false narrative because rich and powerful people don’t want you to know. (I might argue that J/P shipping culture would not have happened without the assassination culture before it, but that’s a separate issue.)
The thing about JFK assassination culture was that it was primarily a written and still-image culture. There is basically one piece of film, the infamous Zapruder film, which was a complete accident of history. It was not shown publicly until 1975 (12 years after the assassination), though I believe people like Mark Lane might’ve been showing it on college campuses before then as part of presentations. It was so blurry and shaky it was basically a Rorschach test.
Writing, and even photographs, require obvious interpretation, and so when you’re looking at them, you feel yourself coming to conclusions, and those conclusions are less powerful than a moving image. “Have you SEEN the picture of CE 365? That bullet shows no deformation, so there’s no way it could’ve done what the magic bullet did — go through Kennedy’s neck tipping his vertebra, hit Connally in the back shattering a rib, and then ending up in his thigh (or wrist, I can’t remember).”
Moving images are much, much more powerful, and we’re much more likely to come to a conclusion more quickly, and more unshakably. If you SEE the Zapruder film, especially any digitally enhanced version, you come away a little nauseous and absolutely convinced that JFK was shot from the front. You don’t feel yourself interpreting; you *see* it.
After the digital revolution, JFK assassination culture changed. Nowdays, there is a lot of footage, a lot of interviews. And if you’ve been reading and thinking about all this for decades, you have two experiences: one, you see a lot of stuff that you’d previously only read about; and two, you see that how footage is arranged — how one piece is juxtaposed with another — is not a neutral act. It is arrangement to fit a narrative, to prove a thesis.
There is a bit of footage from Dallas airport, the morning of the assassination; President Kennedy, his wife, and the Connallys are in the limousine, which is pulling away from Air Force One. A Secret Service agent is standing on the running board next to the President (which was standard procedure). Suddenly you see a Secret Service guy in the car behind wave at him, and tell him to get off the running board; the agent does so, but also visibly protests with clear “WTF?” body language. The motorcade drives away. If that agent had been on the running board, a shot from the right front would not have been possible.
So: does that footage “prove” that there was something going on in the Secret Service, as many people reasonably assert? No. It proves only what it shows. But if it’s part of a conspiracy narrative, and if you’re predisposed to believe that there was something going on in the Secret Service, you remember it because it seems to confirm the shit out of your beliefs.
My point, and I’m sure I’ve belabored it by now, is that “Understanding Lennon/McCartney” has the views it has because it works like that video, and feeds dopamine to a certain type of Beatle fan. To a certain type of fan, footage of John touching Paul’s arm is going to feel like PROOF, and I know this because people endlessly reference this type of thing on the neverending “Were John and Paul Lovers?” thread. But if you’re serious about analyzing a contentious subject, you should be wary of your own dopamine. Most people are not, and that’s a big reason why we have President Trump.
“Let’s agree on what we’re talking about, first. We’re not talking about “a video series focusing on the deep friendship between Lennon and McCartney”; nobody has ever disputed that there was a deep friendship between Lennon and McCartney. “Understanding Lennon/McCartney” is part of J/P shipping culture”
I’m not really trying to be coy; the video series is definitely friendly to J/P culture. However, it doesn’t actually, to my recollection (and more than one watching), state anything straight up or try to prove a claim beyond the fact that they had a deep connection that was the backbone of the Beatles and endured throughout their lives. I got the idea the videographer/documenarist made it deliberately friendship-oriented to keep the broadest appeal, since even the slightest hint of John/Paul romance seems to send a lot of more traditional fans into a rant.
It’s not true that nobody has ever denied that there was a deep friendship between John and Paul, either. Maybe not here on Hey Dullblog, but it’s denied in so many books and things that I watch, that it just blows my mind repeatedly every time I encounter it. Sandford starts off his entire Paul biography with one of the theses “John said he and Paul were never close” (because John said it in the early 70s?) and carries that through so that most interactions between them in his book involve some sort of rage on John’s part until it was just tiresome. Goldman claims they were never actual friends, and I don’t think they do much in his book but sneer at each other. I just started Bob Spitz’s Beatles bio that you had discussed here on another thread (I decided to try it because he had some interesting interviews) and so far the majority of its discussion of John and Paul regards their relationship primarily as a rivalry more than a friendship. It’s a pervasive idea that has become really, really, really, annoying. That’s why we have so many people relating to something like UL/M, or the AKOM podcast– because they express frustration at the narrative that promotes the idea that John and Paul were never even friends. Why else do we have Paul McCartney having Lennon-mentionitis forty years down the line and reminding everyone in every interview how he still dreams of John, or how they were so close they slept in the same bed a lot? Or having Paul McCartney ask Ron Howard to be sure and show in his touring movie that he and John were friends? Because there are still so many people discounting his contributions to the Beatles or to Lennon’s experience, helped by Yoko, who wants everyone to think that she’s the only person John ever worked with who was important to him emotionally, or that possibly his one true artistic soulmate before Yoko was Stuart Sutcliffe, for heaven’s sake. I mean, Paul even wrote a song about his and John’s friendship in response to people getting it wrong.
I do understand what you’re saying about the videos, and using juxtaposition of images to persuade a point. I don’t really think the UL/M videos are using pictures as proof, but are more telling a story by showing trends in their interviews and their discussions and in their interactions with each other. That’s also partly why I found them so well-made, because they did make me aware of trends of the band in general that I hadn’t noticed (not even related to J/P), that I could then explore further in other Beatles media if I wanted. Maybe that’s why I never found a convincing Kennedy or 9/11 video; I really didn’t care enough.
You may see trend in conspiracy-theorizing, but honestly, I’d think that PiD stuff is more akin to the deep need for government conspiracies. One is a belief that the very basis of our society in the US — our government — is out to get us. Or the Beatles were out to make money/get us by forcing a fake Paul on us. Whereas a lot of J/P shippers are just fantasizing or wishing for more love in the world. 😉
I’ve said before, I was interested in discussion on the Paul/John thread at first, and that’s how I found the site. You are correct that some of what people offer as “proof” is not proof in any way; I mean, I noticed certain looks and whatnot because it brought my attention to the possibility of there being a deeper friendship between John and Paul, and so it was my initial source of interest that brought me back to the fandom. Aha, my dopamine is found. But I’m capable of consuming a lot of different types of media– visual, printed, musical– and keeping a hold on my imagination! And I really don’t think I’m the only person out here capable of that separation, either. In fact, most of the people I end up talking to in fandom are pretty realistic. A picture of them holding hands isn’t proof, it just offers a hint of sweetness that makes people happy, yes. Most people I encounter in J/P fandom are convinced that John and Paul were never actually lovers.
Maybe I’m giving people too much credit, hah.
“Because there are still so many people discounting his contributions to the Beatles or to Lennon’s experience”
This is so interesting to me. What I would consider to be the most legitimate sources — the ones I would direct fans to, things like Davies (for a view of the band as it was seen during its lifetime), or Anthology (the band telling its own story) or Spitz or Hartsgaard (both general histories holding the space until Lewisohn’s trilogy is completed) — all portray not only John and Paul as very close, but all four as very close. I discount Norman; I discount Goldman; I discount the Rolling Stone interview; all in large part because of how they treat John and Paul as mere co-workers, and having had a writing partner, I just don’t buy it. And when you add in John’s periodic psychological need to distance himself from Paul, and Yoko’s obvious antipathy towards Paul, I just don’t buy the story they’re selling, especially in light of the story told in Davies, Anthology, and the general histories. I don’t perceive a need for correction, because I don’t credit the counter-myth. But if people do, good for UL/M and other things to counteract it.
And I am very much for more love in the world, and especially more love between men, who our society tends to pit against each other. To the death. If the Beatles are anything, they are proof that men can work together to create something beautiful, and you don’t create stuff that beautiful without falling, and staying, deeply in love with your co-creators. It’s not possible.
You’re right to see a direct line between PID and assassination culture; it is, IMHO, a re-reading of the Beatles story to “fit” the darker vision of reality caused by the mass traumas of the assassinations and Vietnam (and Manson). But also you should know that “the deep need for government conspiracies” did not exist in mainstream American culture before 1963. There was a “paranoid style” in American politics (as identified by Richard Hofstadter), but it was decidedly fringe. That strain, which is so pronounced in our current political culture, didn’t spring from the innate psychology of people, it sprang from first one, then several, traumatizing events that were not resolved. Because they were not resolved then, they still resonate today.
One way they resonate is a deep mistrust of “the official story”; another is a perception of a monolith controlling information; and another is a sense that the truth is not only out there, but can only be discovered by devoted individuals working outside the system. So while PID, like 9/11, is a direct descendent of assassination culture, J/P checks sufficient boxes as to be a cousin.
And I did use the contact form and had no reply, a couple weeks back? I understand if you’re busy though: I wasn’t trying to bug you, only since you’d asked.
Oh, how rude! I’m sorry — I’m getting an unholy number of emails. I’ll look and respond, @Kristy!
I appreciate your thoughtful reply, Michael. I do see what you mean about the “official story,” but I think that’s a product of a lot of Beatles fandom. Bob Spitz references that with someone’s quote (McCartney’s?) that only 50% of the Beatles story out there is true, and the rest was made up to protect friends, family, and associates, and I think that permeates a good deal of fandom speculation, not just for J/P.
I do think I’ve had an especially bad run of books lately for denial of Paul and John as anything but rivals or coworkers. I’ve been recommended some books that are probably more in my vein that I’ll check out.
And as for U L/M, I re-looked and I was definitely wrong that it didn’t have a strong element of John’s possible feelings for Paul, if nothing else — I honestly remembered it more because seeing all the interviews opened my eyes to so many other threads and commonalities in the Beatles years that I hadn’t seen explored elsewhere, like John’s various depressions and bouncebacks, the possible gang-mentality or peer-pressure culture within the Beatles that let them transform in unison so often, and the constant harping by reporters at first of “when will the bubble burst” and, later, “has the band broken up?” especially after Paul had such success with Yesterday and they quit touring. And John being constantly asked about his stellar songs “Yesterday” and “Michelle,” something I guess never stopped happening (I especially like the story I’ve heard elsewhere of John being subpoenaed to explain Helter Skelter after the Manson murders?)
This got to be quite a mix of subjects!
About song credits: Does anyone know if Paul’s name getting chopped off because it comes second actually happens? If it does I totally get him being upset about it.
I don’t think it makes sense to say everyone knows who wrote what, so the name order doesn’t matter. Super-nuts, er, I mean super-fans like us know, but we’re a drop in the bucket, especially looking ahead 100 years.
Clearly the credits were changeable in the beginning, but if there was an agreement to switch them around based on the primary composer and Paul was outvoted by John and Brian (after their trip to Spain?), that’s a big deal.
On Northern Songs: Those 1,000 shares were 0.13% of what Paul already had and would do absolutely nothing to give him him a leg up. While it’s possible he made the purchase based on Eastman’s advice, is it likely that only 1,000 shares were for sale? Maybe, but I think it’s more likely that Paul bought the pittance of extra shares before the Eastmans were in the picture.
For all we know, the purchase was mentioned to John and forgotten, but sure, Paul may have been peeved about something and felt better having just a sliver more than John on the sly. Hmmm, maybe because his name was always second…
A couple of people have said John viewed this as a major betrayal but I don’t recall that. I have the impression that an author or two (many repeat what another has said without checking) assumed this because John did indeed blow his top when he thought Paul had over 100,000 more shares. Can someone tell me to what John (or Klein on his behalf?) actually said about it and when?
My two cents on the alleged note: Neither John nor Yoko ever so much as alluded to it when trying to make the case that they were mistreated by John’s beast friends. That, and the fact that Paul seemed to have decided pretty quickly that it was best to be nice to Yoko, makes me question the story. (Also, it was described as typed, not handwritten.)
About discounting Philip Norman and the Lennon Remembers interview: Even if you’re informed enough to distrust those sources, unfortunately they’re still pretty influential.
Thank you for this great blog!
“Not once on Ram — not once — did Paul demean John’s music or songwriting.” – Drew
Really? Listen to Monkberry Moon Delight. If that’s not Paul mocking John’s music and songwriting style, I don’t know what is.
@Peter Deville – “I also wouldn’t be surprised if Paul didn’t take a little bit of satisfaction from it either. He knew what he was doing with his little digs on Ram and it would have confirmed that he hit the bullseye. And I’m sure he’s not as soft as some people think.”
Someone gets it. I think the harshest thing John could have done was pretend not to have listened to Ram and respond with nothing. As they say, the opposite of love isn’t hate – it’s indifference. I believe that. So Paul comes back with Dear Friend. Oh the injustice of HDYS! And yes, John was always far more sensitive than Paul. They were both insecure.
I meant to say that Paul mocks John’s *singing* and songwriting style on MMD and elsewhere on Ram. And how do you know he didn’t attack him personally? Mild digs? It’s easy to say that when the lyrics are cryptic. Someone said on the Steve Hoffman forums – a McCartney fan mind – that Paul releasing diss tracks that only John would understand could actually be more deadly than John “taking a machine gun to a knife fight.” I tend to agree, based on the fact that Paul never really did manage to repair his relationship with John, as much as he tried. How Do You Sleep doesn’t sound at all sincere; the lyrics are blatantly untrue to even the most casual listeners.
@Michelle, putting your larger point aside for a moment, I’ve listened to RAM innumerable times, and never once thought “Oh, there’s Paul mocking John’s singing or songwriting style.” (I have thought, “There’s Paul disagreeing with John and Yoko on ‘Too Many People’ or the other Beatles on ‘Three Legs’,” because Lennon himself wrote that’s how he took it.)
Nor would I agree that “‘How Do You Sleep’ doesn’t sound at all sincere.” To my ears, it has always sounded pointed and vicious, and the anecdote of Klein and Ono adding in digs until John and George said, “Enough,” seems to echo that reading. Furthermore, it’s clear that PAUL took it seriously, at least until they made up in 1974, and it’s also clear that the fan community at the time took it seriously. So if John was being insincere — if he was playing some kind of game: “I seem to be talking about Paul but I’m really talking about me” — that means he was also fooling Klein and Ono and George and Klaus during the session (unlikely) and was totally unthinking about the impact of that song on his relationship with Paul and the other Beatles (unlikely) and the damage it would do to Paul’s reputation, which was currently at its nadir (unlikely). It’s much more likely that John did the song in earnest, then saw the impact, and had second thoughts. This was his M.O. towards a lot of Beatle-people in the solo years; George Martin for example. Later, John said that “How Do You Sleep?” was “really attacking himself,” which is demonstrably bullshit. Lines like “Those freaks was right when they said you was dead/The one mistake you made was in your head” directly reference McCartney. Nobody said “John was dead.” Lennon is my GUY, but when he’s in the wrong — as with HDYS or Bangadesh or Klein — he rationalizes.
I’m not saying this to say, “You’re wrong!” — only to point out that your comment (even down to the Steve Hoffman forums being “a McCartney fan mind”) is all interpretation, based on an imagined John, an imagined Paul, and an imagined relationship between the two, rather than using what the parties actually said or the analysis of biographers, which does exist on these particular issues. This site has gotten infinitely more boring as it has devolved into John fans versus Paul fans, both parties speaking with total certainty, because we’re not really talking about The Beatles any more, we’re watching commenters defend their fantasy-Paul or fantasy-John. The historical record is much more interesting, and when it is present — as it is with HDYS — I think we should rely on that.
@NancyCarr – “Paul hides hurt, sorrow and anger; he doesn’t want to talk about them publicly. They come out obliquely in his songs. John was all about expressing those negative emotions directly, especially after the breakup.”
Good point, Nancy. Paul even said that John’s method was more beneficial to one’s mental health! That he was lucky to have gotten all his hurt out. While Paul is still trying to resolve his. That was back in 1986. I like when Paul opens up like this in interviews; he rarely does.
I apologize for repeating myself from a couple of months ago, but I’m still hoping someone has the answer:
A few people in this thread have said John viewed Paul’s extra 1,000 shares of Northern Songs as a major betrayal, but does anyone have a quote?
I ask because books often repeat previous books without foundation, and I can see where authors might assume John was angry since he reportedly (and understandably) blew his top when Klein first told him Paul had 100,000+ more shares. It doesn’t help that these same authors usually give the impression that Paul bought a lot of shares rather than John sold a lot.
As someone up-thread mentioned, I’m pretty Paul said he bought the shares on Peter Brown’s advice (which Brown denied) well before the Eastman’s were around. I think I recall him saying he mentioned it to John, but of course I can’t find a quote. Paul saying it doesn’t make it true, but I can see where John might have forgotten if it had been a few years.
If Paul bought the extra shares on the sly, having so few more shares than John (0.13%) would be purely symbolic. Maybe he felt betrayed that his name was always second after they’d agreed the order would be switched around based on the main composer, a situation in which Paul must have felt powerless.
Can someone tell me to what John actually said about it and when?
I can’t find any direct quotes by John on the subject, just one from Paul when he was asked if he regretted it: “No, I was investing in myself.” BTW, he did something similar when he negotiated to stay at Capitol Records for his solo work in the ’80s in return for a higher Beatles royalty rate, which the other Beatles felt was underhanded. McCartney’s justification for this was that the money didn’t come out of the other Beatles’ royalties but out of Capitol’s share.
Drew – “IMO John took the Northern shares thing especially badly because he was used to Paul sacrificing his own financial interests for John’s… Paul wrote most of the pair’s No. 1 hits yet never begrudged sharing the money equally with John.
This is not true or plain misleading. Paul had a few more #1’s than John. Many of their hits were true collaborations. How does Paul writing a handful more #1’s as the lone composer become writing most of their #1’s? John had more UK No. 1’s than Paul but I guess those don’t count. John in fact had a hand in composing, either on his own or collaboratively, more of the Beatles overall catalogue than Paul.
Peter Deville – “I think it’s the slyness of Paul’s digs or the perceived slyness of his behaviour that would have played a large part in John’s anger.”
I just realized the significance of John using the sound effect of a snake on HDYS.
I have always thought that Paul knew exactly what he was doing with Too Many People and how those two lines were lines that most likely John would get and no one else. Which,in my opinion,made Too Many People much colder and meaner than HDYS. The line”you took your lucky break and broke it in two”could easily have meant that John’s lucky break was when he met Paul and the line”now what can be done for you” means that without Paul,John is nothing. But the lines were so subtle that they went over most people’s heads,but not John’s and Paul knew it. He probably wasn’t surprised by John’s response. I’ve always wondered why Paul has tried so hard over the last almost 40 years to convince everyone thwt he and John were friends. Why does it matter so much to him? Any ideas anybody?
I always thought that “you took your lucky break and broke it in two” was … kind of exactly what John did? Because he was in pain or disillusioned or mentally ill or on heroin or whatever, he (and Yoko) decided that the way for John to leave the Beatles was to attempt to destroy and downplay their legacy. He walked that back in later years. But that still makes that line rather true, and I wouldn’t say colder or meaner, but “more finessed.” So, Bad Paul! Bad John! Smack their noses. It seems to be an eternal argument, though, over which was meaner, based on who’s looking for the other party to be meaner. Nobody wants their fave to have behaved like a bag of dicks.
Even with all the spin immediately after the breakup, most journalists and biographers seem to have seen through it. I liked Ray Connolly’s take on it in his John bio — Connolly knew John personally and was a friend, and was fond of him, but wasn’t buying what John was selling:
“Relations with Paul had worsened since his former songwriting colleague’s decision to ask the High Court to wind up the Beatles a few months earlier, and John had not taken well some silly digs about him and Yoko on Paul’s album Ram. “Too many people going underground … too many people preaching practices,” Paul had sung. It was silly, but it was no big deal.
John’s response was, however, vicious. Playing “How do you Sleep?” on the piano he was grinning with delight as he sang the words to George Harrison, as captured on the promotional documentary Gimme Some Truth: The Making of John Lennon’s Imagine Album. “This is a nasty song,” we see him say. “Think nasty.”
It was an unkind song. “A pretty face may last a year or two, but pretty soon they’ll see what you can do,” was one line, while another suggested that the only song of value that Paul had ever written alone was “Yesterday.” There was much more, and Paul was understandably upset when he heard it. It could, however, have been a lot worse, had Allen Klein not explained that John was laying himself wide open to a very damaging libel action if he didn’t change one of the lines. He did.
Not only was it unpleasant, it was also a self-revelatory own goal, demonstrating as it did John’s continuing jealousy of Paul’s good looks, as well as his prevailing envy of [Paul’s] gift for melody. While a gratuitous dig at Linda, suggesting that she wore the trousers in the McCartney house, was deeply ironic. If any of the Beatles had a demanding wife, it was John himself.
Nine years later, he regretted the lyrics – “they just came out of my mouth,” he would say. “I wasn’t really feeling that vicious … I used my resentment and withdrawing from the Beatles and the relationship with Paul to write a song.” It was a pretty lame excuse. ”
I think Paul has spent so long trying to remind people that he and John were friends because … they were. Any downplaying of the partnership to elevate one or the other only makes them weaker in the end.
As an older fan remembering Beatles and solo, Paul doesn’t have to convince folks he and John were friends because before John made it an either Paul and the Beatles or yoko, Paul and John were such close friends that even George could never break through their tight circle. Paul is simply telling history before John and yoko re wrote the ballad. When Beatles broke up, the general public blamed yoko, secondarily Klein and Linda. When Paul sang, you took your lucky break and broke it into he was correct. The Beatles and their extreme and ongoing success was the lucky break of a lifetime For John and all of them. When ram song written, John was struggling and followed left wing hippie causes and personally floundering to such an extent, he had to drop all of that, thanks wanting citizenship, then revert to his old style music, then retire a few years before returning.
It mattered to Paul so much and secondarily to the fans because when the John and Paul friendship fractured, a strong bond since 1957, the group soon afterwards did. More importantly, it mattered to Paul so much because he lost an old friend f over ten years. The REAL question is why John felt he had to go on aggressive attack from the beginning with his Rolling stone 70 interviews and I’ve seen 70 videos of him downing Paul, the Beatles and other Rock singers. John Lennon before yoko did not feel the need to do this but after yoko, he did.
Gretchen, you talk a lot about too many people…it was a response to John’s previous attacks and the song correctly called out the hypocrisy of John and others then in their left wing and peace movements……preaching practices, and don’t let them tell you how you ought to be, etc. John and yoko were CONSTANTLY giving interviews downing Paul and the Beatles before that song and elevating themselves and o pushing their causes. You cannot take the last part of a sequence of events and isolate it from previous years. The Beatles was such a lucky break of a lifetime, the towered above all other artists then. The causes John and yoko hijacked soo faded, nam ended, politics and musical styles shifted and ….John like other solo Beatles struggled solo at different times. By image album, even rolling stone dropped him as a darling and they gave band on the run a higher rating. Their review noted John preaching lyrics as hollow.
I thank all of the folks here and on other Beatles forums, however, for enlightening me that it was John’s choice to see it as an all or nothing, to chose yoko as a fellow collaborator…..to tell the Beatles he wanted a divorce. It was not yoko but John, though once he made his choice, she led him own. I heard of extremist folks, for whatever reason who drifted into cults or extremism and cut off their old families and friends of many years, got further confused in the cults and were not who they were before got out of the cults like Scientology and such. They used to have to be deprogrammed. I have seen a religious cult friend go through this.
Gretchen, have you lost an old family member or friend of many years? You dwell on too many people a lot I see but, if you had lost all old friend of many years or family member you would understand why it is so important to Paul to emphasize they were friends. They WERE very close friends from 57-68…..until John didn’t want to be and went on the constant attack. Paul was smart to see through the whole left wing hippie hypocrisy of those times. I myself did not see it then but began to see it latter. What CAN be done for folks who box themselves in a corner? Very little as the rest of John’s personal, sad life appears to show. John tried to pull himself out, but it is very difficult when in fairly constant isolation, with sycophants, and in extreme drug addiction by all accounts.
People make mistakes…..we all do ….but the mistakes have consequences. Above are discussions of odd things about John’s last days. I have read these things here and there as well. John had the greatest launching pad for his causes, the Beatles, but yoko seemed to convince him Beatles were inferior to him and yoko and by then John’s increasing lack of involvement with the Beatles had fractured the group because he had reneged his old leadership role. I was a serious John fan in sixties and most of seventies and read about and saw this as a fan in real time, I have NO PROBLEM understanding two many people in the order of events and the lyrics were dead on accurate. From 69 till that song, John had solidly downed the group in video and paper press interviews and elevated himself and yoko and He especially downed Paul and hid behind his causes and postured as a guru.
Because Eastman found Klein was about to move the entire Beatles music catalogue into his private holding co where he would own the songs, not the Beatles in a pyramid scheme Eastman found he had used with American artists, Paul had to sue other Beatles to sue Klein to prevent this. Songs Klein stole from stones it took them years to get back. Thus, Paul ended the group but saved their music from ABKCO ownership.
Also, I may be wrong but it is my understanding that as part of the divorce settlement, John was made to set up the trust fund for Julian, thus he didn’t voluntarily do so, Klein convinced John the Paul buying shares was his cheating John but John would have had more shares except for the Julian trust fund. However, Julian visited Sean and played with him at the Dakota. I never doubted that John realized his career and parental conflicts about Julian interfered with his being A goid father, so John wanted to be a good father to Sean although they had servants to help with the child.
I keep getting errors trying to send, so if you get duplicate comment, moderators, please delete one.
I meant to add that I researched the shares issue and John and Paul had near equal amounts as such things can be counted but John has fewer shares because of the Julian trust fund ordered by the divorce decree. There’s pretty detailed stuff on this in probably the very good Beatles books like you never give you your money which I never read. The Wiley Klein used the disparity in the shares in reality due to johns divorce decree to agitate the financially ignorant John against pail. The naive Beatles increasingly surrendered themselves with sharks and their own group and personal spending was obscenely profligate. One if the very few good thIngs I got out from of the brown book was their profligate spending but had to wade through the fanboy hero worship and the sleaze to get to these core facts I had heard mentioned in general here and there. Paul attempted to get a reputable money manger for the group when Brian died who had a sound business reputation but by then Beatles money so messed up the man wouldn’t touch them with a ten foot pole. They were so naive came to America and announced on tv would fund all of these hippie causes. They were all sitting ducks.
I meant to add that I researched the shares issue and John and Paul had near equal amounts as such things can be counted but John has fewer shares because of the Julian trust fund ordered by the divorce decree. There’s pretty detailed stuff on this in probably the very good Beatles books like you never give you your money which I never read. The Wiley Klein used the disparity in the shares in reality due to johns divorce decree to agitate the financially ignorant John against pail. The naive Beatles increasingly surrendered themselves with sharks and their own group and personal spending was obscenely profligate. One if the very few good thIngs I got out from of the brown book was their profligate spending but had to wade through the fanboy hero worship and the sleaze to get to these core facts I had heard mentioned in general here and there. Paul attempted to get a reputable money manger for the group when Brian died who had a sound business reputation but by then Beatles money so messed up the man wouldn’t touch them with a ten foot pole. They were so naive came to America and announced on tv would fund all of these hippie causes. They were all sitting ducks. They truly had more talent than sense by then.
Of course Paul knew exactly what he was doing in too many people lyrics…..as he was responding to John’s previous multiple public digs to him in interviews. However, the public then, especially Beatles fans kept up closely then with the Beatles breakup and the public and dans understood the lyrics, as certainly not only John got the lyrics. Paul did not seek out interviews anywhere in the seventies except album and tour interviews and did not comment on the others solo, down them personally or their solo music like John and yoko and George, though to be fair sometimes the other Beatles were in public and were stopped and asked about the breakup issues. However, John, yoko and George were on tv doing interviews and doing interviews for magazines. Rolling stone 70 interview later published as Lennon remembers was a huge deal. Paul lived in Scotland then in amore remote area.
All of them made mistakes then and John realized went overboard with how do you sleep and the press called him out for hypocrisy …peaceful John, except with Paul…when how do you sleep followed imagine song. We all make these kind of mistakes in life but John’s lyric of …a pretty face will do a year or two but pretty soon they’ll see what you can do… were ironic because two years later Paul had several number one albums behind him and played Australia to sell out crowd as the first leg of the wings over world tour and John was in self imposed retirement. The good thing about John is he seemed to before died to realize his mistakes and I can’t judge it but possibly his artistic mistake for going head over heels with yoko. Around 72 or so, yoko retired or rested her career and John had to push forward without her. John realized the public feud was going against him when he agreed privately to meet Paul and Linda in LA to discontinue the public feud.
@Nancy Carr: I also think it’s interesting that McCartney didn’t put “Dear Friend” on “Ram,” even though it was recorded at the time. It’s as if he was (subconsciously, at least) saving it for after John’s response to “Ram.”
Spot on. It goes to show that he knew John would be hurt. He recorded his apology in advance. So to say he didn’t hurt John intentionally is just an another attempt to let Paul off the hook.
Gretchen is correct in her interpretation of that line; at least that is exactly how John said he read it. These two didn’t mean any of their hurtful comments, but they wanted to cause pain. “Without me, you’re nothing John”?? Haha, and in Oh! Darling he said, “If you leave me, I’ll never make it alone.” Why John was hurt by that obviously false statement in Too Many People, I don’t know. But I’m sure it’s just one example of cloak and dagger lyrics on the album. John’s ongoing jealousy of Paul’s good looks? Give me a fucking break. Paul wasn’t all that. But he thought he was (the best looking are rarely the most vain, in my experieince) and he let John have it with references to dogs and “I’m the lucky one who will take her home after all the dancing is over” in reference to the dance halls the band played in the early days.
@Pidpoo – TL/DR
@Gretchen: “I’ve always wondered why Paul has tried so hard over the last almost 40 years to convince everyone thwt he and John were friends. Why does it matter so much to him? Any ideas anybody?”
He’s trying to convince himself. The better question would be: Why did Paul say that he’s so grateful to have made up with John in his final years, because if he hadn’t he would be wracked with guilt?
“Klein convinced John the Paul buying shares was his cheating John but John would have had more shares except for the Julian trust fund.”
I do find it interesting that Klein had to invent perfidies for Paul to have committed upon John, and people are still doing the same thing today. Seems if there were any actual evil acts on the part of Paul we’d know about them, because John and Yoko would have broadcast them to the world. Instead, people are forced to rely upon innuendo and speculation. (Witness any number of Beatles authors attempting to explain 1968.)
Some of the above comments seem to have degenerated into the saint perfect John, villainous Paul dichotomies. When friendships or families Or close friends dissolve…there is blame on both sides, human nature being what it is. I do remember John retracting his Rolling Stone 70 interviews, so he had to wisdom to realize this and Paul’s continued efforts to contact John throughout seventies shows he realized importance of patching up their old differences. Regardless of who said what to each other in person, in song or in press, they each got past it, so don’t know why Beatles fans keep fighting that long dead battle. You need to study survivor guilt to understand some of this.
None of us were the two men or even around them then. I don’t think there’s much need for probably much younger folks who were not privy to participating in the seventies even or who remember John and Paul relationship then or later Paul feelings about his old friend to be judging Paul’s motivations. As we all age and mature in our perspectives, we learn to be grateful that we are able to patch up as best can our old fractured relationships with significant others. Yes, of course when you fail to extend the olive branch no matter who was wrong and a person once close to you dies, particularly tragically, you would be wracked with guilt. I have two sisters on the complete outs,, but one continues to struggle to re establish communication yet is constantly rebuffed.
Thus, we have turned from the were John and Paul lovers issue to the favorite seventies and beyond John vs Paul and who was the great villain arguments. Yes, the greater question is why Paul says he would have been wracked with guilt had he not made up is the big point. Because folks who don’t forgive and leave fractured relationships are always wracked with guilt when an old significant other dies. This is to use the expression beating a dead horse obvious stuff to me, I always found it pointless to rehash old arguments, my own and those of other folks. Human nature enjoys easy villains and explanations but life is more complicated. Mine has been anyway.
Looks are subjective but as to John …pretty face comment in his lyrics, John was the one who selected that line So he himself thought Paul had a pretty face. As a kid and teen, I thought all of the Beatles were appealing and handsome And really cool in their own individual way in the sixties and seventies but,…There’s .no denying that Paul in early sixties was classified as the cutest and several times in the sixties, Paul was voted in magazine polls as the best looking man. Movie director zaferelli picked Paul In 67 to play Romeo in Romeo and Juliet movie released but Paul declined so actor Leonard whiting got the role.
As for their songs and what was on ram and later on wildlife, they were recorded in same sessions. I find it ironic that John was heavily dishing it out through that time but couldn’t take it. John had the honesty to admit throughout and went overboard on offense he was a coward though. Paul had by various measurements the far more successful solo career in the seventies, except thanks to John and yoko maneuvering M and George sixties recycling style and production, they were the critical darlings. Many Beatles fans enjoyed solo Beatles but had a favorite. They would have preferred the group stay together but did not seem as fervently divided as folks today seem, as evidenced by these comments and others online. To add about looks, John’s extreme drug abuse increasingly affected his appearance. He had the classic British good looks in early sixties and was my favorite Beatle then. I’m glad to say folks in sixties had a favorite Beatle but none of the sixties fanzines in my massive collection ever degenerated to these elevate by favorite and down another Beatle because we loved them all. No Beatles fanzine resorted to vilifying one Beatle to sanctify the other. They were simple fanzines for Beatle dans who loved the group, was interested in them and had a favorite. They were not arm chair psychologists or mind readers. I guess my generation was simpler and more easily satisfied maybe.
@Pidpoo: “There’s .no denying that Paul in early sixties was classified as the cutest”
Just the cutest thing around? Where did I hear that before. Oh, in Paul’s supposed song to Linda’s first husband who worshipped her and was dumped by her. Couldn’t he see how great she was? Didn’t he know that love was there? What a load. That song, too, is directed at John. How well did Paul know Melvin See to dedicate such sweet harmonies to him? At any rate, Paul should *thank* the guy, if indeed he didn’t know what he had in Linda, or she would have never hooked up with Paul. Or, at least not write a diss track to the father of your adopted daughter, for reasons unknown.
John wasn’t complimenting Paul with his “pretty face” line; haven’t you heard the expression “just a pretty face?” The line just wrote itself. Because, you know, Paul thought he was just the cutest thing around and consquently, his banana was older than rest including John – er, Billy Budapest’s.
Michelle, I find it perfectly believable that “Dear Boy” was “about” Linda’s first husband — at least, about the situation, rather than about the man himself. Paul is in love with a woman that another man dropped / divorced, and that inspired the song. As important as the Lennon / McCartney situation was to both men in the early 70s, I continue to think that they both had other concerns, interests, and emotions that found expression in their songs.
I have read John’s 1970 Rolling Stone interview several times, and other than comparing Paul to Engelbert Humperdinck, I can’t see what it was that hurt Paul so much. Can the people who cite this interview when discussing “who started it” give me an example of something he said that was so offensive? He said he was full of anger at the Beatles’ (not Paul solely) treatment of Yoko, but then said, “I can’t help loving them, either.” Was it the line about his and Paul’s collaboration ending in 1962, as if to say it practically ended before it began? Maybe, I can see how Paul would be hurt by that, and it is the one statement that John corrected in a later interview. Did Paul think John was sullying the Beatles image by mentioning Fellini-like orgies? I think he saved his cruelest remarks for George Martin and George Harrison, to be honest, and John later personally apologized to Martin. And he called the Beatles bastards because you have to be one to make it that big. But comments about Paul himself, other than saying he could do better than what he released on his debut album and calling him Engelbert, I just don’t see what was so mean. In fact, it’s the Englebert line that Paul always mentions when talking about John “slagging him off”. Is that it? John didn’t retract the entire interview. He just didn’t want Jann Wenner to publish it in book form. To John and anyone with half a brain, interviews should be treated as a temporary document, only relevant during the time it was given. It’s not a manifesto.
Well, you have to realize with whatever I write that the John rolling stone 70 was a series of interviews, or or two, I can’t remember, and I think published completely in Lennon remembers but not sure. I still have the original articles an old copy of the mag before staples in center and was a tabloid long fold over mag. All of this Paul, hurt Joh/ John hurt Paul back and forth sounds like a soap opera to me and I’m really not interested in it. I like the John and Paul were lovers fan fiction as it is at least more positive.. I remember though that it was yoko who called Paul humperdiink. This was in early seventies, and John’s extreme PR campaign to be the god of rock. To John’s generation, rock n roll was rock. though he had written so many ballads and in later styles rock n roll.
All of the emotional obsession of one Beatle hurting the other seems to be a female occupation now I’ve noticed. I’m sure they each hurt each other, but they were grown men and could take it. I was very embarrassed then for John and George solo when they continued whining and all of the the public self pity though, and even the press soon called them immature I remember then.
Perhaps it is generational. but the males John and George continued solo career whining and pitying themselves is probably more acceptable, even fashionable for celebs now than then. Also, though male gender expectancies were changing by seventies. I see no profitable use in dwelling on it, but whatever floats your boat. Has the one Beatle hurt another Beatle or a my Beatle is dissed by a celebrity, while another Beatle is liked become a sub genre of fandom now? Then ringo and Macca are probably clean out of luck in those two departments in general, as the John and George fans almost always seem to jump into or initiate these my poor, mistreated favorite discussions.
The Beatles lyrically and as people in their interviews were boundary breaking from the beginning and helped break down the walls of old strick male/ female expectations, but they were grown men, not teenage girls, though they all acted immature at times.
@Nancy, I get what you’re saying and it makes sense, except for the fact that when disussing the song, Paul said this: Dear Boy wasn’t getting at John. Dear Boy was actually a song to Linda’s ex-husband: ‘I guess you never knew what you had missed.’ I never told him that, which was lucky, because he’s since committed suicide. And it was a comment about him, ’cause I did think, ‘Gosh, you know, she’s so amazing, I suppose you didn’t get it.’
In People Magazine’s tribute to Linda after she died, Melville See was quoted as saying that Linda stood out and he idolized everything about her, contradicting Paul’s statement about the song. It’s possible that Paul simply made an assumption about See not getting how great Linda was, but why would he make that assumption? This is a weird one for me, that’s all. It feels presumptuous to think I know what people’s songs are about, especially when they give a different explanation, because only the writer knows. But if it is about Linda’s ex-husband, Paul comes across as rather arrogant. BTW, Paul misquoted his own lyric there, combining two different lines. It’s actually “I hope you never know how much you missed” which is part of a verse that makes you understand why Paul wouldn’t want people to think it’s about John, if indeed it is about John, because it makes him sound like a jilted lover: “Even when you fall in love it won’t be half as good as this.” Surely, Mr. See could find someone half as good as Linda, beautiful human being though she was. But finding someone half as good as Paul? He’s half of a legendary songwriting team, so that would be difficult. It’s interesting to note that although John thought the song was directed at him, he never said why unlike the other songs he mentioned. Some people have speculated that it was perhaps about John being Linda’s first target and his having rebuffed her, which is an interesting take on it. Paul later admitted that John was originally her favorite Beatle. It’s an ironic twist when paired with the fact that Yoko first approached Paul for Beatles manuscripts.
If John was paranoid, so was Paul because he said, “Even after all the slagging and John writing songs about me…” Other than HDYS, what songs of his were specifically about Paul in a negative vein?
Michelle, I think both Lennon and McCartney (and songwriters generally) often write in response to a particular situation, but that their take it on goes beyond the “facts.” It’s rather like an oyster constructing a pearl around a grain of sand. The grain of sand is the catalyst, but the buildup around it is all generated by the oyster.
So for “Dear Boy,” I think McCartney built around the situation of his being deeply in love with Linda, and her previous relationship having ended, to construct a song.
In the early 70s I think both Lennon and McCartney could be paranoid and overly sensitive about each other’s every word. Their correspondence in Melody Maker is truly depressing reading in this vein. I’m grateful that Twitter wasn’t around at the time.
Haha, true that Nancy. Although I would have loved to see John on Twitter after they made peace.
If I have written too many comments, you don’t have to post this, as don’t want to be accused of blitzing tge blog here. Funny, John in early seventies had a great idol worshipping fan and rock critic cult…as the self decreed working class hero, but only John thought dear boy was about him. If it is about him, then you are back to the John and Paul were lovers on the outs. Linda’s first husband felt awkward at her second marriage to such a famous rock star and felt he had to explain their irreconcilable differences divorce. Allegedly, by rumor, see told linda to beware…this, the lyrics of beware my love was about See’s warning though some later fans interpret the song as Paul’s warning to yoko about John.
Paul has never had the corner market on arrogance in the Beatles or solo Beatles circle, as was never greater examples of narcissistic arrogance than seventies John interviews or George self pity interviews. Sadly, I was a big John and George fan those days. The arrogant Paul stereotype is a recycling of a meme begun when John folded into acid, then yoko and heroin, George was distractedly following gurus and other famous rock stars and ringo was bored or making d grade R rated movies. All of this got reinforced as Paul was struggling to get them through let it be movie And album with a deadline, a snippet of passive aggressive George …I won’t play if you don’t want me to play when the group had wasted a day and a half getting George to learn that one part previously.
As usual, throughout that time, John was distracted with yoko and stoned on heroin, George was leaving to play with other acts and bringing in Clapton to play his part on guitar and ringo was off half the time filming movie the magic Christian. There are around 90 hours I think of the let it be NEGRA tapes available to hear, but from all of my let it be vinyl bootlegs, no way would I listen to the lot. Paul was right that the Beatles should have kept touring or at least performed a little more regularly. What was Paul doing during Let It Be and i. most of later Beatles? He was busy….being a Beatle, only giving up when the manager he didn’t want was about to steal their entire music catalogue. It was indeed a miracle they thankfully recorded abbey road and got their old genius producer Martin to arrange and produce it. With the other increasingly distracted and resentful Beatles, it was amazing they did anything in late beatles.
As an older fan, I enjoyed their later stuff and they absolutely saved their Beatle legacy from becoming a teeny bopper sensation or a brief psychedelic hippie LSD cultural shifter but quickly passing fad ….but I have earlier said on this blog, when Brian died, Paul should have left and really should have left when John and George wanted to in 66. That way, his self confident arrogance would have motivated him in his solo career. I was amused to read a comment on a YouTube about Paul’s delusions of grandeur inlet it be…LOL…somebody had to do the work, as all the others were checked out but highly shocked when he eventually left them for good, George wanted his gigs with Delaney and Bonnie, John wanted his Toronto gig and cold turkey single credited to himself while still a Beatle and ringo wanted his movie gigs then. Their later music is not popular today as much but it was the most influential for thirty years till rock as a musical form finally changed or died.
When the other solo Beatles aggressively pushed their agenda and stories solo from the beginning til the end, yet they they weren’t accused of being arrogant because they weren’t involved by the end enough to be arrogant, but it is the old resented rescuer Paul who didn’t know his place who was and is arrogant. Even his early solo songs that that in no possible interpretation were about John unless the dudes were indeed lovers, we must all believe are about John because John thought so then. Thus, John and secondarily George became the great authors dictating history, with no one else or another possibility taken into account. If Paul says any differently, we’ll he’s arrogant or revises history. I soon learned as a teen to disregard almost all John and George said in the seventies because of John’s contradictions and flip floppingIn this way he resembled trump now and George’s immature whining and bitter complaining.
I don’t mean any of this directly to any commenter here but do keep seeing these same regular types of comments on the blog. These comments are no worse than the….circumstantial John and Paul were lovers pics and lyrics, except, I stress those were more enjoyable because they are at least positive and emphasis love and not the paranoid or negative fighting between friends on the outs. No one here even knew or know these folks. We can do well based analysis of them from history, I think, without presumptive character or personality assumptions. Drug folks tend to be more paranoid and certain drugs can make folks more aggressive And over time more forgetful, so it may all go back to Michael’s most interesting point about the Beatles and solo Beatles and drugs. I guess I have problems hearing the arrogance term over used today when he shuddered to hear or read all solo Beatles from the beginning throughout. The John and George fans particularly tend to cling to the arrogant uppity Paul trope in contemporary times since their deaths. Among Beatle fans for years John was the most popular solo and George the second most, but since their deaths as Paul ascended, fans of the other two tend to increasingly cling to Paul put downs, sadly.
I do so enjoy these Beatles and solo discussions and the various views as it is truly history in the making and shows how fluid fan perceptions indeed are. The internet at its best has done much to aid this and folks feel more as participants now rather than the old authors and media outlets. As a boomer, I never thought we would be discussing solo Beatles songs, lyrics and stereotypes as I honestly didn’t know how their solo music would hold up. I had no other solo Beatle friend in high school and met only a solo John and another solo George fan in college in the seventies.