Why Some Thought John Lennon’s Bitter Interview About The Beatles Was Tongue-in-Cheek: ‘That’s John’

TL;DR:

  • John Lennon complained about his former bandmates in an interview.
  • Some believe that John Lennon was being tongue-in-cheek in the interview.
  • John Lennon and Paul McCartney improved the state of their relationship. 
A black and white picture of Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, and George Harrison stand with their arms around each other's shoulders.
The Beatles | John Pratt/Keystone/Getty Images

In 1970, John Lennon gave a lengthy, wide-ranging interview about his new music, his relationship with Yoko Ono, and his reflections on The Beatles. Much of what he had to say about his former bandmates was not flattering, and it stoked beliefs that the band hated each other. Some people who knew Lennon weren’t as sure. One of Lennon’s friends said the interview came across as more bitter than Lennon had likely intended. 

John Lennon complained about The Beatles in a 1970 interview

In a 1970 interview with Rolling Stone, Lennon was bracingly, often viciously, honest. He described The Beatles as “the biggest bastards on earth” and yawned at his former bandmates’ new music, with the exception of Paul McCartney’s solo album, which he described as “rubbish.” He depicted McCartney as vitriolic and controlling and wondered why he hadn’t punched George Harrison for his treatment of Ono. 

“Ringo was all right, so was Maureen, but the other two really gave it to us,” he said. “I’ll never forgive them, I don’t care what f***in’ s*** about Hare Krishna and God and Paul with his ‘Well, I’ve changed me mind.’ I can’t forgive ’em for that, really. Although I can’t help still loving them either.”

Lennon said that just before The Beatles’ breakup, he no longer found the band artistically fulfilling. 

Some thought the interview misrepresented John Lennon

The scorched-earth interview laid out all of Lennon’s anger and resentment toward his former bandmates. According to some who knew him, though, the interview seemed to have misrepresented his feelings. 

“I’d heard versions of that for years,” Lennon’s friend Ray Connolly said, per the book Paul McCartney: A Life by Peter Ames Carlin. “It was always tongue-in-cheek, John exaggerated to make it funny. But in Rolling Stone [interviewer Jann] Wenner missed that. He made it all sound awful, bitter, and mean.”

At the time, McCartney said the interview hadn’t upset him because he knew Lennon.

“It was so far-out that I really enjoyed it,” he said. “This open hostility, that didn’t hurt me. That’s cool. That’s John.”

Later, though, he admitted that Lennon’s assessment of him stung.

“I sat down and pored over every little paragraph, every little sentence,” he said, adding, “I thought, ‘It’s me. I am. That’s just what I’m like. He’s captured me so well. I’m a turd, you know.'”

Paul McCartney is glad to have fixed his relationship with his bandmate

While Lennon was particularly harsh toward McCartney in the interview, they repaired their relationship in the years after The Beatles broke up. It took some sparring in the press and barbed song lyrics about one another, but they reached a point where they were friendly.

“At first, after the breakup of the Beatles, we had no contact, but there were various things we needed to talk about,” McCartney wrote in Lyrics: 1956 to the Present, per ET. “Our relationship was a bit fraught sometimes because we were discussing business, and we would sometimes insult each other on the phone. But gradually we got past that, and if I was in New York I would ring up and say, ‘Do you fancy a cup of tea?'”

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McCartney said he is grateful that they were on better terms before Lennon’s death.

“I was very glad of how we got along in those last few years, that I had some really good times with him before he was murdered,” McCartney wrote. “Without question, it would have been the worst thing in the world for me, had he been killed, when we still had a bad relationship. I would’ve thought, Oh, I should’ve, I should’ve, I should’ve … It would have been a big guilt trip for me. But luckily, our last meeting was very friendly. We talked about how to bake bread.”