In his new book Lyrics: 1956 to the Present, McCartney reflects on bonding with his former bandmate over parenthood and bread baking — and the touching musical tribute he wrote after his death in 1980
The Beatles, as they were quick to point out, in many ways resembled a family. Sure, there was a lot of love. But like all families, they could fight with the best of ’em. This was especially true in the aftermath of their split in the spring of 1970. Though they’d quietly agreed to go their separate ways the prior fall, it wasn’t until the news went public that April that the mudslinging truly began.
Now, in his new book Lyrics: 1956 to the Present, Sir Paul McCartney is opening up about that troubled time in his relationship with John Lennon, his friend and musical soulmate. “When we broke up and everyone was now flailing around, John turned nasty,” McCartney, 79, writes. “I don’t really understand why. Maybe because we grew up in Liverpool, where it was always good to get in the first punch of a fight.” Thankfully, he was able to make peace with Lennon before his tragic murder on Dec. 8, 1980.
Legal proceedings to dissolve the Beatles’ partnership had begun almost exactly a decade earlier on Dec. 31, 1970. That same month, an embittered and emotionally raw Lennon released his first full-scale solo statement, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. Fresh off months of psychologically excruciating primal scream therapy, the album lay bare the psychological wounds that had been left to fester during the final days of the Beatles.
The centerpiece of the record is the track “God” which ends with the climactic pronouncement “I don’t believe in Beatles / I just believe in me” a sentiment that bordered on blasphemy at the dawn of the ’70s. Shortly after the album hit shelves, Lennon sat down with Rolling Stone editor-in-chief Jann Wenner to give readers their first look at the beloved band’s dirtiest laundry. He fired shot after shot at McCartney for his alleged bossiness in the studio, apparent disrespect of his new wife Yoko Ono, and supposedly unadventurous solo debut, 1970’s McCartney.
McCartney was not amused. “John was firing missiles at me with his songs, and one or two of them were quite cruel.
I don’t know what he hoped to gain, other than punching me in the face. The whole thing really annoyed me,” he recalled in Lyrics. “John would say things like, ‘It was rubbish. The Beatles were crap.’ Also, ‘I don’t believe in The Beatles, I don’t believe in Jesus, I don’t believe in God.’ Those were quite hurtful barbs to be flinging around and I was the person they were being flung at, and it hurt. So, I’m having to read all this stuff, and on the one hand I’m thinking, ‘Oh f— off, you f—ing idiot,’ but on the other hand I’m thinking, ‘Why would you say that? Are you annoyed at me or are you jealous or what?’ And thinking back 50 years later, I still wonder how he must have felt.”
In retrospect, he blames Lennon’s combative nature on a string of devastating losses early in life. “He’d say, ‘My dad left home when I was 3, and my mother got run over and killed by an off-duty policeman outside the house, and my Uncle George died. Yeah, I’m bitter,'” McCartney writes. “John always had a lot of that bluster, though. It was his shield against life. We’d have an argument about something, and he’d say something particularly caustic; then I’d be a bit wounded, and he’d pull down his glasses and peer at me and say, ‘It’s only me, Paul.’ That was John. ‘It’s only me.’ Oh, alright, you’ve just gone and blustered and that was somebody else, was it was his shield talking.”
McCartney’s response to Lennon’s vitriolic outbursts was, characteristically, more subtle. “I decided to turn my missiles on him too, but I’m not really that kind of writer, so it was quite veiled,” he says. “It was the 1970s equivalent of what we might today call a ‘diss track.’ Songs like this, where you’re calling someone out on their behavior, are quite commonplace now, but back then it was a fairly new ‘genre.'”
On his second solo disc, 1971’s Ram, he included a jab at Lennon on the opener, “Too Many People,” scoffing at the ex-Teddy Boy’s exhortations for world peace chastising his bandmate for taking “his lucky break” and breaking it in two. “[That] was me saying basically, ‘You’ve made this break, so good luck with it.’ But it was pretty mild…It was all a bit weird and a bit nasty, and I was basically saying, ‘Let’s be sensible. We had a lot going for us in the Beatles, and what actually split us up is the business stuff, and that’s pretty pathetic really, so let’s try and be peaceful. Let’s maybe give peace a chance.'”
But, at least in the short term, peace was not forthcoming. Lennon’s response to McCartney’s comparatively soft musical dig was to go nuclear with “How Do You Sleep,” a diss track so venomous and overt that it borders on obscene. Even more hurtful to McCartney, the slide guitar on the track was played by none other than George Harrison.
In film footage of the session, later released as part of the Imagine documentary, Lennon can be seen huddled with Harrison and Ono, gleefully giggling like conspiratorial children as they trash their former bandmate.
“The sound you make is muzak to my ears/You must have learned something in all those years,” Lennon sings, before taking aim at McCartney’s most famous song: “The only thing you done was yesterday/And since you’re gone, you’re just another day.”
Though he didn’t punch back, McCartney was undoubtedly crushed by the words. “I had to work very hard not to take it too seriously, but at the back of my mind I was thinking: ‘Wait a minute, All I ever did was “Yesterday”? I suppose that’s a funny pun, but all I ever did was “Yesterday,” “Let It Be,” “The Long and Winding Road,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Lady Madonna”…. f— you, John.'”
When McCartney did respond publicly, on 1971’s Wild Life, it was with an olive branch. His first venture with new band Wings included the mournful “Dear Friend,” an open letter to Lennon that matched “How Do You Sleep” for candor. Built around a haunting solo piano figure, a grief-stricken McCartney sounds lost as he wonders if this was “really the borderline” of their friendship. “I just felt sad about the breakdown in our friendship, and this song kind of came flowing out. ‘Dear friend, what’s the time? / Is this really the borderline?’ Are we splitting up. Is this ‘you go your way; I’ll go mine?” he writes.
Half a century later, the line “Are you afraid / or is it true” strikes him as particularly poignant. “Meaning, ‘Why is this argument going on? Is it because you’re afraid of something? Are you afraid of the split-up? Are you afraid of my doing something without you? Are you afraid of the consequences of your actions?’ And the little rhyme, ‘Or is it true?’ Are all these hurtful allegations true? This song came out in that kind of mood. It could have been called ‘What the F—, Man?’ but I’m not sure we could have gotten away with that then.”
Lennon kept his response to the song to himself, but the public sparring soon ceased. Relations began to thaw, and the channels of communication began to open, though contractual topics and legal matters were best to avoid. “At first, after the breakup of the Beatles, we had no contact, but there were various things we needed to talk about,” says McCartney. “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?'” McCartney noticed a shift in his friend following the birth of his son Sean in 1975. “We had even more in common, and we’d often talk about being parents.”
Lennon effectively retired from music for the next five years, devoting his life to Sean’s care. Fittingly, it was his old collaborator who inspired him to pick up a guitar once again. Lennon heard McCartney’s electro-tinged 1980 single “Coming Up,” an unconventional track that seemed to predict the impending onslaught of New Wave artists. “John described ‘Coming Up’ somewhere as ‘a good piece of work.’ He’d been lying around not doing much, and it sort of shocked him out of inertia.
So, it was nice to hear that it had struck a chord with him.” Lennon’s so-called “comeback” album, Double Fantasy, featured some of the same New Wave sensibilities. He was returning home from a session for a follow-up record on the night of Dec. 8 when an assassin fired four shots into his back.
For McCartney, the timing was particularly cruel, as he and Lennon had finally started to rekindle the warmth that had been absent between them for so long. Yet at the same time, this also made it easier to say goodbye. “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,” he writes.
“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.”
It also marked a turning point in his notoriously tempestuous relationship with Ono, who was now thrust into the unenviable role of rock’s most famous widow. “Of course, from then on really, I was very sympathetic to Yoko. I’d lost my friend, but she’d lost her husband and the father of her child.” McCartney paid tribute to his friend in the best way he knew how: with a song. Written during sessions for 1982’s Tug of War, “Here Today” is a delicate acoustic ballad in which McCartney directly addresses his fallen friend by reliving shared memories.
“I was remembering things about our relationship and about the million things we’d done together, from just being in each other’s front parlors or bedrooms to walking on the street together or hitchhiking long journeys together which had nothing to do with the Beatles.” He nods to Lennon’s trademark bluff with the opening verse:
IF I SAID I REALLY KNEW YOU WELL IF YOU WERE HERE TODAY? WELL, KNOWING YOU WHAT WOULD YOUR ANSWER BE YOU’D PROBABLY LAUGH AND SAY THAT WE WERE WORLD’S APART IF YOU WERE HERE TODAY.
“I’m playing to the more cynical side of John,” says McCartney in Lyrics, “but I don’t think it’s true that we were so distant.” As the song continues, he sets aside all pretenses with “What about the night we cried/Because there wasn’t any reason left to keep it all inside.” The lines recall the moment that they both let their guard down while on the road in 1964, during the height of the mania that their music had created.
“That was in Key West, on our first major tour of the US, when there was a hurricane coming in and we couldn’t play a show in Jacksonville. We had to lie low for a couple of days, and we were in our little Key West motel room, and we got very drunk and cried about how we loved each other.”
It was a sentiment that didn’t come easy to two guys from Northern England. “I don’t think it’s as true now as it was back in the 1950s and ‘60s, but certainly when we were growing up, you’d have to be gay for a man to say that to another man, so that blinkered attitude bred a little bit of cynicism,” McCartney writes today. “If you were talking about anything soppy, someone would have to make a joke of it, just to ease the embarrassment in the room.
But there’s a longing in the lines, ‘If you were here today,’ and ‘I am holding back the tears no more,’ because it was very emotional writing this song. I was just sitting there in that bare room, thinking of John, and realizing I’d lost him. And it was a powerful loss, so to have a conversation with him in a song was some form of solace. Somehow I was with him again.” It provided the opportunity to say everything that had gone unsaid.
“‘And if I say/I really loved you’ — There it is, I’ve said it,” McCartney writes. “Which I would never have said to him.”
More than four decades after Lennon’s death, McCartney still feels the presence of his collaborator when he sits down to compose. “As I continue to write my own songs, I’m still very conscious that I don’t have him around, but I still have him whispering in my ear after all these years. I’m often second-guessing what John would have thought — ‘This is too soppy’ — or what he would have said different, so I sometimes change it.
But that’s what being a songwriter is about; you have to be able to look over your own shoulder…Now that John is gone, I can’t sit around sighing for the old days. I can’t sit around wishing he was still here. Not only can I not replace him, but I don’t need to, in some profound sense.”
Credits: By Jordan Runtagh / People
Bono voices rockstar lion in animated film’s upcoming sequel.
U2 return with their first new song in three years: “Your Song Saved My Life,” from the soundtrack for the upcoming animated film Sing 2; Bono portrays a reclusive, rock & roll-singing lion named Clay Calloway in the sequel, out Dec. 22.
The upbeat piano ballad — something you’d expect to hear on a soundtrack from a children’s movie about singing animals — was inspired in part by Bono’s list of “60 Songs That Saved My Life” that the U2 frontman wrote in 2020 to mark his 60th birthday. “Yes, your song saved my life /It’s what got me to the other side,” Bono sings. “I was broken now I’m open, your love keeps me alive.”
“Your Song Saved My Life” plays during the end credits of Sing 2, director Garth Jennings told EW, adding, “It’s just full of so much emotion and heart… It just says, ‘OK, here’s how we want your audience to feel as they leave the cinema.’”
According to u2.com, Sing 2 is packed with the band’s hits, including renditions of “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” and “Where the Streets Have No Name” sung by the film’s cast, including Scarlett Johansson, Reese Witherspoon, Nick Kroll, and Taron Egerton; Bono and Johansson also duet on U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” on the soundtrack, which arrives Dec. 17. Halsey and Pharrell Williams will also voice animals in the sequel.
“Your Song Saved My Life” marks U2’s first new music as a band since their 2018 LP Songs of Experience; the band also collaborated with A.R. Rahman on the 2019 single “Ahimsa,” while Bono and the Edge appeared on Martin Garrix’s “We Are the People.”
CREDITS: Daniel Kreps / Rolling Stone Magazine
John Mellencamp and Bruce Springsteen have collaborated on a new song titled “Wasted Days.” The track is the debut single from Mellencamp’s forthcoming album, due for release in 2022.
On “Wasted Days,” the legendary musicians offer up a jangly, acoustic tune dripping with nostalgia. The country rock-tinged track sees Mellencamp and Springsteen taking turns with lead vocal duties, at one point wondering: “How many days are lost in vain / Who’s counting down these last remaining years? / How many minutes do we have left?”
Both musicians join forces for the track’s chorus: “Wasted days, Wasted days / We watch our lives just fade away to more wasted days.” The song’s lush musical arrangement, including mandolin, accordion, drums, bass, acoustic and electric guitars, further add warmth and vulnerability to the track. Listen to “Wasted Days” below.
Rumors of Mellencamp and Springsteen working together have been running rampant for months. In April, Twitter was abuzz after the two men were spotted having lunch together in Bloomington, Ind. (where Mellencamp lives). A month later, Mellencamp officially confirmed the collaboration. “Bruce is singing on the new record and is playing guitar,” he told Billboard during Clive Davis’ virtual 2021 Grammy gala.
Mellencamp’s as-yet-untitled 2022 album will be the 25th studio LP of his career, following 2018’s covers album Other’s People’s Stuff. Earlier this year, the rocker released a teaser for the release, featuring a new song titled “I Always Lie to Strangers.” At that time, Mellencamp also indicated that he was eyeing a return to touring in 2022.
Springsteen, meanwhile, most recently released his album Letter to You in 2020.
CREDITS: Corey Irwin / https://ultimateclassicrock.com/
‘Happenings Ten Years’ Time Ago’ was the first single released by the iconic motley crew The Yardbirds. Released in 1966, it features what was arguably the best lineup of the band, with Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page both dovetailing brilliantly with their dual-lead lines. The track is a whirlwind of psychedelia while containing nods to the avant-garde.
It was groundbreaking upon release, and dynamically speaking, no one had ever heard anything so visceral. Even today, it remains a mind-blowing effort. The song was the first of three recordings that Page played with Jeff Beck, so in a sense, it’s a rare piece of sonic history where we’re treated to the convergence of two of the most influential guitar players of all time. Even more interestingly, though, the bass part was recorded by John Paul Jones.
He had previously joined Beck and Page to record the important ‘Beck’s Bolero’ in May that year. Weirdly, without these two instances, it’s likely that goliath rock heroes Led Zeppelin wouldn’t have existed in what remains a somewhat dizzying truth. Jones would then also go on to play on the band’s later songs ‘No Excess Baggage’ and ‘Goodnight Sweet Josephine’. After The Yardbirds broke up in July 1968, the lineup of Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, Robert Plant and John Bonham would tour Scandinavia as ‘The New
Yardbirds’ before eventually settling on the name Led Zeppelin in October 1968 – but we digress In what is an important side note, this was the first taste of the ‘heavy’ kind of music that Jimmy Page wanted to create, which led to creative tensions within the band and fueled their band’s split. Coming back to the song’s composition, though, it wasn’t solely the music that marked it out from the crowd; it was also the dense lyrical content.
Vocalist Keith Relf wrote the lyrics alongside drummer Jim McCarty, and they are about as psychedelic as they come. They look back on past events and discusses the confusion that they stoke, wondering if they ever really happened at all.
This is a very tangible experience for every listener. Reflecting on its conception, McCarty told Songfacts years later: “On ‘Happenings Ten Years’ Time Ago,’ Keith and I were trying to write a song about reincarnation. We’d seen everything before, and it was all happening again. That was quite an interesting viewpoint, really. Meeting people along our way that we’d seen from another day. Sort of bringing in that situation that we’d been there before.”
The following set of lyrics reflect this sentiment clearly: “Happenings ten years’ time ago / Situations we really know / But the knowing is in the mind / Sinking deep into the well of time”. Relf and McCarty’s karmic lyrics helped to lay the foundations of the burgeoning psychedelic genre, infusing it with that Eastern ‘mystery’ that would quickly become one of its key blueprints.
The following year, the genre would be in full swing, and the release of albums such as Cream’s Disraeli Gears, The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s and The Jimi Hendrix Experiences Are You Experienced made 1967 the year of all things psychedelic. Of the song, Yardbirds bass player Chris Dreja explained: “It’s psychedelic disco for me, this song. ‘Happenings’ is a bit like a miniature rock opera. You get that great riff, explosions, the Cockney voice, all sorts of little influences.
It’s immensely powerful as well. We dropped a voice in there like the original, which says, ‘Pop group, are you? You should get your haircut.’ I really wish now we’d put in, ‘pop group, are you? It’s about time you got a day job.’ I thought it would’ve been much funnier.” The voice that you can hear in the solo is thought to be Jeff Beck’s, and, given just how Cockney it is, it wouldn’t be a surprise. The complete lines the mocking voice says are: “Pop group, are ya? Bet you’re making money… (laughing) / Why you lot wear your long hair? / I bet you’re appearing in a club again, are you? Singing every night there on stage.”
This only adds to the songs complex genius. A visceral psychedelic journey not only was it one of the most pioneering ever released at the time, but it was also highly subversive. As well as helping to establish the era’s most important genre musically and imaginatively discussing the concept of reincarnation, the band also managed to add in a sprinkle of sardonic social commentary, all in under three minutes. Incredible.
The gift that keeps on giving, 55 years after its release, ‘Happenings Ten Years’ Time Ago’ is as refreshing today as it was back then. If you’re ever looking for musical inspiration, this would be a great place to start.