Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Lennon on McCartney and Ono: interview recordings newly available




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."<Details elements of "Ram" the song is answering.> "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.



48 comments:

Anonymous said...

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.

-- Drew

Peter Deville said...

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.

J.R. Clark said...

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.

Peter Deville said...

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.

Anonymous said...

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.

-- Drew

Anonymous said...


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. :)

-- Drew

J.R. Clark said...

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.

Nancy Carr said...

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."

Peter Deville said...

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.

Michael Gerber said...

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.

Peter Deville said...

"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.

Michael Gerber said...

That's really perceptive, Peter. Thank you, and more!

Anonymous said...

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.

-- Drew

Nancy Carr said...

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.

Peter Deville said...

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.

Michael Gerber said...

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.

Peter Deville said...

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 ;-)


J.R. Clark said...

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.

Ingrid said...

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.

Michael Gerber said...

@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.

Jerry N-K said...

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."

Michael Gerber said...

@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?

Anonymous said...

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.

Carry on.

Ingrid said...

@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"?

Anonymous said...

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."

-- Drew

Nancy Carr said...

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.

Michael Gerber said...

@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).

Peter Deville said...

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.

CS said...

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.

Michael Gerber said...

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.


[rest of comment below]

Michael Gerber said...

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.

Peter Deville said...

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.

Michael Gerber said...

@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.

Anonymous said...


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.

-- Drew

king kevin said...

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.

-King Kevin

David said...

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.

Michael Gerber said...

David, I think your chronology makes sense. I just skimmed through Doggett and here's what I found:
McCartney's depression:
"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." [155]

That confrontation was the infamous, "You'll stay on the fucking label. Hare Krishna". [148]

More Doggett:
"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." [153]

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." [149]

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

Anonymous said...

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.

Anonymous said...


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. :)

-- Drew

Michael Gerber said...

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.

Nancy Carr said...

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.

Anonymous said...


"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

Nancy Carr said...

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!

Peter Deville said...

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! :)

Michael Gerber said...

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.

Michael Gerber said...
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Peter Deville said...

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.)

David said...

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.