More than five decades after the bitter breakup of The Beatles, the circumstances surrounding the band’s split remain murky.
While Paul McCartney has widely been viewed as the driving force behind the group’s dissolution, he’s now setting the record straight in a new interview with BBC Radio 4’s “This Cultural Life”, pinning the band’s breakup squarely on John Lennon.
“I didn’t instigate the split. That was our Johnny,” said McCartney in the interview, which will be broadcast later this month, according to a report in The Guardian.
Looking back on the band’s breakup, McCartney still sees that time as the “most difficult period of my life.” Noting that the band was still turning out some “pretty good stuff” before the split, Sir Paul had every intention of keeping it going.
“Abbey Road, Let It Be, not bad,” he mused. “This was my band, this was my job, this was my life, so I wanted it to continue.”
While McCartney still believes the band had plenty more to offer, Lennon was adamant about quitting.
“It could have been,” said McCartney of The Beatles continuing. “The point of it really was that John was making a new life with Yoko. John had always wanted to sort of break loose from society because, you know, he was brought up by his Aunt Mimi, who was quite repressive, so he was always looking to break loose.”
For decades, it’s been assumed that the band broke up due to McCartney’s insistence on bringing in his own lawyers to sort out the band’s messy legal situation involving notorious manager Allen Klein (who took control after the death of the band’s original manager, Brian Epstein) and the band’s chaotically managed Apple Corps, which was bleeding money.
“I had to live with that because that was what people saw,” says McCartney of those assumptions. “All I could do is say, no.”
McCartney clarified even further when questioned about his desire to go solo. “Stop right there. I am not the person who instigated the split. Oh no, no, no. John walked into a room one day and said, ‘I am leaving The Beatles.’ Is that instigating the split, or not?” he said.
The way McCartney remembers it, Lennon described his decision to leave as “quite thrilling” and “rather like a divorce,” while he, Ringo Starr and George Harrison were “left to pick up the pieces.”
However, confusion over the circumstances of the split was heightened when Klein advised the band’s members to keep a lid on the news until he could wrap up some lucrative business deals, which could have crumbled had the truth emerged.
“So for a few months we had to pretend,” McCartney explained. “It was weird because we all knew it was the end of The Beatles but we couldn’t just walk away.” When McCartney eventually “let the cat out of the bag,” it was because “I was fed up of hiding it.”
Looking back, McCartney now sees that Klein’s “dodgy” dealings had poisoned the atmosphere around The Beatles. “Around about that time we were having little meetings and it was horrible. It was the opposite of what we were. We were musicians not meeting people,” he said.
The final straw, McCartney mused, was when Lennon “wanted to go in a bag and lie in bed for a week in Amsterdam for peace. And you couldn’t argue with that.”
McCartney also defended his decision to bring in his own lawyers, led by attorneys Lee and John Eastman, father and brother of his late wife Linda.
“I had to fight and the only way I could fight was in suing the other Beatles, because they were going with Klein,” he explained. “And they thanked me for it years later. But I didn’t instigate the split. That was our Johnny coming in one day and saying ‘I’m leaving the group.'”