The Beatles might have had the most brutal breakup of any classic rock band. How bad was it? They turned down $250 million to reunite in the mid-1970s. There were legal battles and fights as the Fab Four fractured and ill will in the immediate aftermath of the split. That included John Lennon taking shots at Paul McCartney in a 1971 open letter.
John Lennon’s scathing letter to Paul McCartney included bitter shots at his Beatles bandmate
For all intents and purposes, The Beatles stopped being a band when they finished working on Abbey Road in late 1969. Still, they maintained the guise of a working unit until Paul publicly announced the band’s split in April 1970. The timing coincided with the release of his solo debut, McCartney.
Paul filed a lawsuit against his bandmates to formally end the band and its various contractual obligations on Dec. 31, 1970. The suit took years to work through the courts. Therefore the group didn’t officially disband until January 1975. Still, nearly a year after the lawsuit, as the legal bickering continued, John wrote an open letter to Paul (written on Apple Records stationary and dated Nov. 24, 1971, and viewable on Twitter) that included four bitter shots at his ex-bandmate.
1. ‘It’s all very well playing ‘simple, honest ole human Paul’ in the Melody Maker’
For Beatles fans who felt Paul’s public persona was a veneer hiding his true personality, John all but proved it. No one knew McCartney quite like Lennon. They started writing music together in the late 1950s and continued working on each other’s songs even as the Beatles began disintegrating a decade later. In just 14 words — “It’s all very well playing ‘simple, honest ole human Paul’ in the Melody Maker” — John threw Paul under the bus and more or less called his friend a fake.
2. ‘Have you ever thought that you might possibly be wrong about something?’
It was a rhetorical question, probably. Once The Beatles became international sensations, Paul felt more emboldened as a songwriter. When the Fab Four became a studio band, he had no problem making his bandmates do multiple takes until they achieved perfection. It’s why three of The Beatles hated “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” with a passion. He believed every idea he had was genius-level and worth seeing through to the end. Paul was basically a narcissist. John’s letter to Paul posed the question — “Have you ever thought that you might possibly be wrong about something?” He already knew the answer.
3. ‘Two years is the usual time it takes you — right?’
Of all the savage shots John took at Paul in his open letter to Melody Maker magazine, “Two years is the usual time it takes you — right?” might have been the most bitter. Forget a shot across the bow. It was a direct hit at Paul. Those 10 words were basically John telling Paul his hand was far from the pop culture pulse.
Paul was the last Beatle to take LSD in the 1960s. He resisted the pressure from John, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr before relenting. Lennon criticized some of McCartney’s music as “granny s***,” another scathing remark that hinted at Paul’s blindness to trends in music and art.
4. ‘If we’re uncool, WHAT DOES THAT MAKE YOU?’
If the “two years” comment didn’t prove it, then one of the last lines in John’s letter to Paul proved he felt his friend was out of touch. Lennon referenced photos on record covers just before his biting “If we’re uncool, WHAT DOES THAT MAKE YOU?” comment. (His emphasis, not ours).
He was probably referencing the early solo outputs of both musicians. John included photos of him and Yoko Ono on the covers of records, starting with 1968’s Two Virgins. Meanwhile, Paul’s McCartney debut featured a bowl of red liquid on a white table littered with red fruit. Macca’s face appeared on his subsequent solo record, Ram, and many of his Wings albums, but he was late to the game compared to his Beatles bandmates when it came to having his face on a record.
John Lennon’s biting letter to Paul McCartney was a direct response to Macca’s interview in Melody Maker (reprinted by The Paul McCartney Project) a few days earlier. The missive went up for auction in August 2022.
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