So I listened to the Something About the Beatles (SATB) latest podcast today, titled “Dear Friend” with the topic of conversation John and Paul’s relationship in the 1970s. So I was thinking that this would be great because I feel like the primary things talked about when the John/Paul 1970s dynamic is discussed is Lennon Remembers, How Do You Sleep and the PlayBoy interview, maybe they’ll throw in the Lost Weekend for balance if they’re feeling so inclined... I’m obviously exaggerating here but... Firstly, before I start my rant, SATB is a good podcast, they usually have great guests (Erin Torkelson Weber the MVP of course), cover interesting topics and Robert Rodriguez is a good host who’s good at challenging things in the story that don’t ring true.
However, I feel like throughout the Beatles active years and into the post break-up years there’s a narrative that has been established that so many people are wedded to, to the point that it’s part of the orthodoxy of the band. In my opinion the narrative is that from first meeting up until the moment that John died Paul was always doing everything to be John’s BFF, he was always trying to be closest to John, no matter what John said or did, Paul would always be the one to try and mend fences and throughout the 70s he was doing whatever he could to end up back working with John. I don’t think this narrative is completely wrong but I think it’s uneven mainly because, in all this, Paul’s importance to John is completely glossed over and John’s manoeuvring to ensure that he was the most important person in Paul’s life is completely missed. So, I just want to highlight some of the instances off the top of my head where I feel that John showed how much he needed to be prioritised in Paul’s life and how much he wanted to mend fences post break-up, that I feel don’t get talked about often enough:
1) John’s competition with Jim McCartney: There’s a lot of stock put into the John-Paul-Stu triangle but that obscures a weird triangle that, maybe Paul wasn’t even aware of, but I think definitely existed which is John-Paul-Jim. By all accounts Jim didn’t want John around and was against John and Paul’s friendship. Jim had a lot of influence over Paul and had a lot of sway as his sole parent once Mary died and I think John was resentful of that. We all know about the ultimatum John gave Paul when he took the job (that Jim implored him to get) which jeopardised his commitment to the band. In John’s eyes and own words, Paul choosing to quit his job to commit fully to the band was Paul choosing John over his dad. No one (in books I’ve only seen Joshua Wolf Shenk discuss this) discusses how Jim was effectively John’s Stu, someone that obstructed his closeness and ability to influence Paul to the point that over a decade later, post break up, John saw Paul focusing on the band as a victory over his dad. John had a jealously of Paul’s closeness and prioritisation of his family that would rear its head further down the road but, by and large, I rarely see this discussed.
2) John’s jealousy of Paul’s other close friendships: On this front, we hear ad nauseam, about Paul’s jealousy of Stu, which is fine because, even without Paul acknowledging it, it’s obvious from space that Paul was jealous of Stu’s closeness to John but we never hear about John’s jealousy of Paul’s other close friendships. All the Beatles were close to Mal Evans but I think Paul was especially close to him (he was the first Beatle to befriend Mal, Mal lived with him at Cavendish for some time, Mal helped Paul write some songs etc.) which got to John. In John’s own words when discussing Magical Mystery Tour he was “choked” when he found out that Paul had come up with the idea with Mal and Mal’s widow has said that Yoko told her that John had told her (whew Chinese whispers time) that he was jealous of Mal’s friendship with Paul... Then there’s Tara Browne, it’s interesting that despite Tara apparently being really friendly and outgoing John never took to him. Maybe it was because Tara was upper class. Maybe it was because after pestering him for months, Paul chose to do LSD with Tara instead of with John and the rest of the band. Maybe it was because Paul invited Tara up to Liverpool, right after Christmas, to hang out with his family resulting in the infamous moped crash. If I put my tin foil hat on, in “A Day in the Life” when John’s reaction to the death of a man in a car crash is “to laugh” is that meaningful? The song is thought to reference Tara but does that passage give us a glimpse into how John saw Tara? If he’s laughing about Tara dying then it sounds like he really didn’t like him, possibly due to his close friendship with Paul.
3) John’s resentment of Paul’s romantic partners: So this one is interesting... There are quite a few examples to walk through so here goes. We have the incident in Hamburg where Paul is in bed with a woman and John (in the aftermath of Stu’s death and probably high on prellies) comes charging in attacking the girl, cutting up her clothes and basically scares her out of the room, maybe that was just the prellies but there seems to be too much of a pattern to ignore. Then there’s Jane of course, we don’t know a ton about John’s interactions with Jane over the years but it’s interesting that he makes a terrible first impression with her (asking her to describe how girls masturbate) and it seems that their relationship is cordial at best going forward (note how Jane and Paul never go on holiday alone with John and Cynthia in the same way George and Ringo did with their respective partners). Peggy Lipton also tells the story about how when she came to hang out with Paul in 1965, John was really rude to her out of nowhere and asked “what she was doing there” and she seemed to think that John couldn’t understand why Paul wanted to take her to dinner if all he was going to do was fuck her. Then, there’s Linda... John consistently gives interviews in the early 70s when he talks about how in a few years Paul will wake up and leave Linda, according to Ray Connolly John couldn’t believe that Paul was staying faithful to Linda and then there’s other weird occurrences in that late 60s/early 70s period. There’s the fan who claims seeing John about to hit a pregnant Linda before Paul stepped in, there’s John rushing to get married as soon as Paul does (8 days later I think which is WILD to me), there’s John describing Paul’s wedding as a “funeral” in ‘71... What does all this tell us? That John was too busy replacing Paul with Yoko to care about Paul anymore? In my book, it’s John’s fears being realised that Paul would always prioritise his family over him when push came to shove, in John’s mind he had won when he was competing with Jim for Paul but once Linda came into the picture and gave Paul the family he always wanted, I think in John’s mind, it was game over. Maybe if Paul had divorced Linda in the 70s (like John predicted) they would have worked together more, we’ll never know, but in a similar way to Yoko, Linda was a wedge in John’s relationship to Paul.
4) John’s attempts post break-up to reach out to Paul: We hear a lot about Paul reaching out to John in the 70s and not engaging with the feuding anymore, it’s Paul that decides not to respond in kind to HDYS, it’s Paul that invites John to the Venus and Mars sessions, it’s Paul going to the Dakota to see/try to see John, it’s always Paul seemingly who misses John and wants to reestablish their relationship. However, according to May Pang, John was happy to do Bangladesh if Paul was doing it too. According to Ray Connolly, John gave him a letter to give to Paul, in the hopes that Paul would call him. According to Paul and other people involved in the One to One concert, John asked Paul to appear with him during his performance in ‘72. And in the face of the backlash from HDYS, John’s the one going around calling Paul his best friend ,other than Yoko, and sending him Beatles bootlegs for Christmas.
All this is to say that John and Paul did not have this one sided relationship where only Paul cared and wanted them to repair things or where only Paul was looking to manoeuvre a situation so he was closest to John, John also wanted to be the closest person in Paul’s life, he was jealously protective of their partnership (see his angry reaction to Paul not coming to him and only him to help with Eleanor Rigby) he also seemed to fear losing Paul to his family which may have happened in his mind, who knows. Because John’s most famous post Beatles interviews have him bashing Paul and Paul’s had 40 years to talk about how much he loved John, there’s this view that Paul loved John more than John loved Paul or that John loved Paul until Yoko came in the picture, at which point Paul was no longer relevant. If Paul meant nothing to John anymore, why did he even bother writing HDYS, if he was so tuned out he wouldn’t have been bothered by Ram, none of the critics were so why was John all over that album more than a Paul is Dead truther?! Why did Yoko block Paul’s calls to John, they were happy to hang out with Ringo, what was so threatening about Paul? Why, according to Robert Rosen, were John’s diaries full of his obsessions about Paul?? We’ll never know a lot of the answers to these questions but I would love it if more podcasts even acknowledged that these questions exist and acknowledged that Paul was such a huge part of John’s life till his dying day: “we have our ups and downs but I would do anything for Paul and I think he would do anything for me” John Lennon December 8 1980.
Apologies for the rant it seems listening to Beatles podcasts always seems to set me off! But SATB is a good podcast, just feel that there are so many interesting conversations that get missed in favour of the usual narrative time and time again, so close but no cigar!
Thanks to @onesweetdreampodcast and @anotherkindofmindpod for being the only podcast I’ve heard to date brave enough to discuss these questions, I think doing that will give us a much better understanding of the Beatles and how their story unfolded.
By the way most of what I referenced above can be found in @amoralto incredible blog, have fun!
95 notes · View notes