In the battles that followed the Beatles’ breakup, Paul McCartney was always more restrained than John Lennon, who unleashed salvo after salvo directed at his old band and at McCartney in particular. But now McCartney is sharing his side of the decades-old rift with his late bandmate.
In a new book, “The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present,” McCartney describes his feelings about the band’s 1970 breakup. He also delves into his relationship with Lennon in the years leading up to the latter’s heartbreaking murder on Dec. 8, 1980.
“When we broke up and everyone was now flailing around, John turned nasty,” McCartney writes in the book, per People. “I don’t really understand why. Maybe because we grew up in Liverpool, where it was always good to get in the first punch of a fight.”
Paul McCartney Wondered What Lennon Was Thinking
McCartney and Lennon managed to make amends before the latter’s tragic death. Still, McCartney admits he still wonders to this day what was going on in Lennon’s head behind all that bellicose behavior.
“John was firing missiles at me with his songs, and one or two of them were quite cruel,” McCartney recounted. “I don’t know what he hoped to gain, other than punching me in the face. The whole thing really annoyed me. John would say things like, ‘It was rubbish. The Beatles were crap.’ Also, ‘I don’t believe in The Beatles, I don’t believe in Jesus, I don’t believe in God.’ Those were quite hurtful barbs to be flinging around and I was the person they were being flung at, and it hurt.”
“So, I’m having to read all this stuff,” McCartney went on. “And on the one hand I’m thinking, ‘Oh f— off, you f—ing idiot,’ but on the other hand I’m thinking, ‘Why would you say that? Are you annoyed at me or are you jealous or what?’ And thinking back 50 years later, I still wonder how he must have felt.”
‘It’s Only Me, Paul,’ Lennon Would Say After a Barb
In his book, McCartney recalls Lennon’s tough exterior and his bitterness. But over time, he came to understand that Lennon didn’t really mean to hurt his feelings.
In fact, Lennon had a signature move after he’d gone too far. He’d take off his glasses and look at McCartney, then say, “It’s only me, Paul.” As if he was taking off a scary costume to reveal a mere mortal who was basically harmless.
“He’d say, ‘My dad left home when I was 3, and my mother got run over and killed by an off-duty policeman outside the house, and my Uncle George died. Yeah, I’m bitter,'” McCartney writes. “John always had a lot of that bluster, though. It was his shield against life. We’d have an argument about something and he’d say something particularly caustic; then I’d be a bit wounded, and he’d pull down his glasses and peer at me and say, ‘It’s only me, Paul.’ That was John. ‘It’s only me.’ Oh, alright, you’ve just gone and blustered and that was somebody else, was it. It was his shield talking.”
All these years later, it remains a travesty that the two former bandmates can’t reminisce about old times together. But McCartney’s memory is apparently as sharp as ever, as his new book demonstrates.