Paul McCartney Opens Up About John Lennon's 'Hurtful' Song After Beatles Split
"I suppose that when The Beatles broke up, perhaps there was a misconception that we all sort of hated each other," McCartney, 78, tells the September edition of British GQ about the April 1970 split of the world's most famous band.
"What I realize now is that, because it was a family, because it was a gang, families argue. And families have disputes," he adds.
Rather than criticizing his bandmates, however, the legendary songwriter lays the blame for the fab four's acrimony at the feet of Rolling Stones manager Allan Klein, who was drafted in by Lennon, Ringo Starr and George Harrison to handle The Beatles business affairs in January 1969.
McCartney always remained separate from Klein and following the band's split he became increasingly wary of the manager's motives. This ultimately led to McCartney filing a lawsuit against his three bandmates in December 1970.
It was, he tells GQ, "The only way for me to save The Beatles and Apple," adding that it has since enabled him to remaster The Beatles songs for the Anthology album and allowed Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson to release the 2020 Beatles biopic Get Back.
"If I hadn't done that, it would have all belonged to Allan Klein," he continues. "The only way I was given to get us out of that was to do what I did. I said, 'Well, I'll sue Allan Klein,' and I wasn't told I couldn't because he wasn't party to it. 'You've got to sue the Beatles.'"
The lawsuit took more than four years to resolve and ended with the Beatles legally splitting in January 1975. Yet it had major repercussions on the relationships between McCartney and his bandmates — particularly songwriting partner Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono, now 87.
"I remember reading an article, an interview with Yoko, who, okay, she was a big John supporter, I get that, but in this article she goes, 'Paul did nothing. All he ever did was book studio,'" McCartney tells GQ.
"And I'm going, 'Err? No...' And then John does this famous song, 'How Do You Sleep?' and he's going, 'All you ever did was "Yesterday"'..." And I'm going, 'No, man.'"
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"But then you hear the stories from various angles and apparently people who were in the room when John was writing that, he was getting suggestions for the lyrics off Allan Klein. So, you see the atmosphere of "Let's get Paul. Let's nail him in a song..." And those things were pretty hurtful."
Strangely, for the world's most successful ever songwriter, McCartney himself is also not immune to outside influence or even moments of self-doubt while composing. Following a conversation with Lady Gaga about self-loathing, he admits he started to analyze his own internal monologue and how it influences his writing — although in McCartney's case, he ultimately concluded that self-loathing was "not a road I want to go down."
"Any time you write a song, you're going, 'This is crap. This is terrible. Come on,'" adds McCartney. "So I kick myself and say, 'Get it better. If it's terrible, get it better.' And sometimes someone will come along, someone who you respect, and say, 'No, that's great. Don't worry about that,' and then show you a side to it that you didn't notice and then you'll go, 'Oh yeah.'"
One thing Beatles fans can also rest easy about is that while McCartney might one day copy Bruce Springsteen and hit the Broadway stage — "The idea is okay, but I think I'd just prefer to play with the band to a bigger audience, or ever smaller," he admits — one thing he'll never do is copy the likes of Elton John and Rod Stewart and take a residency in Las Vegas.
"That's something I've been trying to avoid my whole life," says McCartney. "Definitely nothing attracts me about the idea. Vegas is where you go to die, isn't it? It's the elephant's graveyard."
The full article is featured in the September issue of British GQ, available via digital download and on newsstands Friday.