Lennon & McCartney: The final conversation.
In the final years of John Lennon’s life, the media had two major preoccupations when it came to the one-time Beatles. The first was that all four of the previous members of the group were constantly being asked if a Beatles reunion was on the cards.
The answer was always in the negative.
The second was the supposed animosity between John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Journalists and press reporters invariably asked one about the other and whatever the answers were, the media decided that the two men were violent enemies.
When Lennon was shot, Paul was accused even further of being heartless because his reaction was less than eloquent. This, they said, was proof that the two men were far from friends, in fact, that they were sworn enemies. The dream songwriting duo had turned into a nightmare.
It’s a drag
Paul heard the news about John on the morning of December 9th, at about 9: am. This was about five hours after the fatal shooting. (John was shot at about 11: pm New York time – English time is five hours ahead).
Paul broke the news to his wife Linda, who was greatly upset and then called his brother Mike in Liverpool. Paul was dazed. Not knowing what to do, he decided he needed to get out of the house and went to the studio.THere, he and George Martin, the man who had produced the Beatles’ records, mourned together. No work was done but the two drank tea and whiskey and talked about John. Everyone agreed that Paul looked completely stunned.
In the afternoon, he called Yoko in New York. He recalls that she was crying and distraught but told him how John always spoke about him with warmth and affection.
Reporters were waiting for him when he left the studios.Paul had just lost a man he considered to be his ‘best mate’. It’s hardly surprising that his attitude towards the reporters was curt and that he didn’t want to talk. When asked what he had been recording, he said he’d just been ‘listening to stuff’ because he didn’t want to be in the house. One, rather inanely, asked why to which Paul could only say ‘I didn’t feel like it’. Paul was very obviously irritated by the intrusive photographers but tried to maintain his composure. He then came out with a sentence that reverberated throughout the world with reporters branding him as unfeeling. ”It’s a drag, isn’t it?’
To the media, this was manna from heaven. The story was true after all. The songwriting duo was no longer and the partnership had ended in a huge feud. Paul was heartless. Paul didn’t care. Paul and John had been enemies.
Except that wasn’t the case.
The last time the pair had spoken it had been just a few weeks before on John’s fortieth birthday. Paul called him from England. The pair often called each other on birthdays and celebratory days.
The words McCartney had spoken to the press haunted him for years. He said later ‘It came out very flippant. It wasn’t flippant. And anyone who saw me that day knows it wasn’t’.
George Martin was asked for his reaction to Paul’s words ‘I felt every inch for him’ he said ‘He was unwise, but he was off guard’.
On the night that Paul had made his ‘flippant’ remark, he and Linda, much like the rest of the world, watched the coverage about Lennon’s death on the television. Hearing the glib journalists with their honeyed words infuriated him. “They were the ones who came off good because they said suitably meaningful things’ he said later ‘I was the idiot who said ‘it’s a drag'”
What did Lennon and McCartney talk about during their final conversation?
They talked about the media. They talked about some of the caustic comments they had made about each other. They really saw it all as a bit of a joke; a joke they didn’t really discourage, those two lads from Liverpool. But they discussed how the press were always baiting them – trying to get them to put the other down.
Lennon asked ‘Do they always play me against you the way they play you against me?”
Paul agreed that they did.