In John Lennon’s last major interview, he was his usually provocative self. He spoke of how hurt he was by George Harrison’s new book, the Beatles songs he considered to be garbage, and why he thought Paul McCartney tried to sabotage “Across the Universe.”
But that was only the half of it. Speaking with Playboy’s David Sheff, John also said Paul addressed “Get Back” to his wife Yoko Ono. ” “I think there’s some underlying thing about Yoko in there,” he said. “You know, ‘Get back to where you once belonged.’ Every time he sang the line, he’d look at Yoko.”
When Sheff asked if he was joking, John insisted he wasn’t. “Maybe he’ll say I’m paranoid. You know, he can say, ‘I’m a normal family man. Those two are freaks.’ That’ll leave him a chance to say that one.”
While it’s impossible to get inside Paul’s mind during those sessions, we do know how the song evolved over time. It started out as social commentary before Paul brought it around to his fictional Jojo and Loretta.
Paul toyed with an anti-racist subject at first on ‘Get Back’
In early 1969, during the ill-fated Get Back (later, Let It Be) sessions, Paul first introduced the song. He originally conceived of it as an answer to the anti-immigrant views of British politicians of the day.
Paul’s first draft included lines about “too many Pakistanis living in a council flat” before he confronted Britain’s leadership. “Candidate Macmillan, tell us what your plan is,” he sang.
After The Beatles didn’t think the public would quite get the gist of the controversial lyrics (with that chorus chanting “Get Back“), Paul went back to the drawing board. Later in the sessions, he settled on one of the fictional narratives he frequently penned.
The final draft had Paul singing about Sweet Loretta Martin who “thought she was a woman, but she was another man.” He started off with Jojo, a loner who opted for “some California grass.” All in all, the lyrics don’t say much.
Paul said he had no one in particular in mind
Paul has always been open about discussing his motivations behind songs, and “Get Back” (which became a No. 1 hit for The Beatles) was no different. In short, Paul said he wrote the two verses about no one in particular.
“Many people have since claimed to be the Jo Jo and they’re not,” Paul said in Many Years From Now. “I had no particular person in mind. It was a fictional character, half man, half woman, all very ambiguous. I often left things ambiguous, I like doing that in my songs.”
Coming from the man who wrote “Lovely Rita” and “Eleanor Rigby” about fictional characters, that’s easy enough to believe. As for John’s claim about him singing it at Yoko, is it possible Paul felt resentment for her and looked at her a few times in the studio?
That’s certainly a possibility. But it could just be as John suggested: him being paranoid.