How the Feud Between John Lennon and Paul McCartney Finally Ended
As feuds go, the private-turned-public battle between John Lennon and Paul McCartney was definitely one for the ages. When The Beatles broke up, the two old friends and songwriting partners didn’t shy away from letting people know about it.
On Ram, Paul took several shots at John. The track “Too Many People” had references to some unnamed people’s “preaching practices” that Paul didn’t like. He also sang, “You took your lucky break, and you broke it in two.” John heard these subtle messages loud and clear.
In response, he did his best to bury Paul on “How Do You Sleep?” So Beatles fans heard firsthand that John considered Paul’s music akin to “Muzak” and and his creativity “dead.” It was a long way from the image of two friends harmonizing cheek-to-jowl in 1964.
In private, John and Paul were saying even meaner things about one another, as an unearthed 1971 letter showed. That bad blood didn’t go away for several years. It appears an unplanned jam session in 1974 started their reconciliation.
Paul and Linda’s surprise studio visit to John repaired some damage.
How do two bandmates begin a reconciliation? Picking up guitars and getting in front of a microphone sounds like a good start. After years of trading barbs about one another (and their spouses), John and Paul did just that in sunny Los Angeles.
At the time, John was separated from Yoko and living with his girlfriend May Pang at a place in L.A. (Later, he described the period as his “lost weekend.”) He was also recording his friend Harry Nilsson in the studio in early ’74 when Paul and his wife Linda surprised them.
After some tentative moments, the two became chummy and started jamming along with Stevie Wonder and the other folks present. The results were messy — possibly owing to John’s intoxication and overall impatience — but it was a solid step forward in their friendship.
As unproductive as it was, you can hear John and Paul enjoying themselves together that night. It definitely wasn’t an accident that the visit came during John’s estrangement from Yoko. Paul picked his spot and the gesture worked.
By ’76, John and Paul were hanging out in John’s NYC apartment.
After that unplanned meeting in the studio, John gave a favorable account of the night in interviews. He talked about jamming with his old bandmate and discussed the percolating rumors about a Beatles reunion. John didn’t sound opposed to it in 1975.
“I’ve worked with Ringo and George. I haven’t worked with Paul because we had a more difficult time,” he said. “But now we’re … pretty close.” They had taken a major step forward. By 1976, they were close enough to share joints together and hang out in John’s New York apartment.
One such night, they almost dropped by Saturday Night Live to make a reunion performance Lorne Michaels was pitching happen. It didn’t happen, but they were clearly friends again.
Before he was shot dead outside his apartment late in 1980, John described Paul as “like a brother.” He added, “I would do anything for him. I think he would do anything for me.”
Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!