Paul McCartney Once Revealed The Beatles’ Reaction to John Lennon Leaving the Band: ‘We Were Gobsmacked’

Paul McCartney opened up about how The Beatles reacted when John Lennon revealed he was leaving the group. Here’s what McCartney said happened when one of The Fab Four announced his departure. 

Paul McCartney and John Lennon smile together.
Paul McCartney and John Lennon | Cummings Archives/Redferns

There has been a lot of speculation about why exactly The Beatles broke up, and many blamed John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s relationship

Although they created some of the best music in rock history, The Beatles were only together for a total of eight years. Although its members were very close, they had a strained and contentious relationship. They struggled to keep the band together, often clashing over personal and creative differences. To this day, fans still wonder why exactly The Fab Four broke up. 

Many have speculated that John Lennon’s relationship with Yoko Ono drove a wedge between the “Imagine” singer and his bandmates. Lennon may have hinted at this dynamic in the song “Glass Onion.”

The lyrics include the line, “Here’s another clue for you all/The walrus was Paul.” This was a reference to a previous song titled “I Am the Walrus,” in which Lennon said he was the walrus.

Lennon once explained that lyric, according to the book All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. “Well, that was a joke. The line was put in partly because I was feeling guilty because I was with Yoko and I was leaving Paul,” he said. “I was trying – I don’t know. It’s a very perverse way of saying to Paul, you know, ‘Here, have this crumb, this illusion, this – this stroke, because I’m leaving.’”

Paul McCartney said The Beatles were ‘gobsmacked’ when John Lennon announced he was leaving the band

While all of The Beatles were close, Paul McCartney and John Lennon were practically brothers. McCartney described the moment when Lennon announced that he was leaving the group, and it sounds like the “Let It Be” singer didn’t see it coming. 

“There was a meeting and John walked into it, and the other Beatles and me were in this room and John walked in and said, ‘I’m leaving The Beatles,’” McCartney told NPR in November 2021. “We were gobsmacked. We were very shocked.”

At first, the other Beatles weren’t sure Lennon was being serious. “I think the first question in our minds was, is this going to last? Or is this just something very John-ish where he would just say, ‘Hey, Big Dramatic Statement!’ And then you go off and then a couple of weeks later, you go, ‘Oh, maybe we should get together again,’” McCartney said. “It was quite shocking.”

He compared it to being a factory worker and learning he was losing his job. “You can imagine someone just walks in and tells you, ‘The factory is closing,’” the musician described. “It was big. … I think we wondered whether [the band] would get together again, and when it didn’t, it left us all, in one way, without a job, because this had been our job.”

He added that he thought Lennon left the band to make room for his romance with Yoko Ono. “It was bad news. It was shocking,” McCartney repeated. “But later I realized that it was John had this new relationship with Yoko [Ono], and he had to clear the decks in order to give her full-time attention.”

Yoko Ono denied responsibility for breaking up the band

Despite the rumors and Paul McCartney’s speculation, Yoko Ono denied responsibility for breaking up The Beatles. 

“I don’t think you could have broken up four very strong people like them, even if you tried,” Ono said (via Rolling Stone). “So there must have been something that happened within them – not an outside force at all.” 

The Beatles’ intense and complex relationship with each other could also have caused the breakup. Fans have also guessed that the death of their manager, Brian Epstein, in 1967 ultimately led to the band’s demise. 

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