This is why John Lennon thought The Beatles were ‘much better off’ breaking up
John Lennon was never afraid to speak his mind about The Beatles after the band broke-up, often taking umbrage with others who did in the meantime, famously saying about Mick Jagger: “He said a lot of sort of tarty things about The Beatles, which I am hurt by, because you know, I can knock the Beatles, but don’t let Mick Jagger knock them.”
It means that him suggesting that the four members of The Beatles including himself, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were better off out of the band isn’t such an astonishing remark—but the reason why may surprise you.
In 1972, two years on from the group’s break-up, John Lennon was still being asked the same old question: Will The Beatles get back together? It was a question that seemed to perplex Lennon. When he met with Alan Smith of the NME that year he was asked whether the group could work again or if they were now too egocentric: “We always were egocentric,” replied the singer.
He was quick to set the record straight in some respects though saying: “George is on half of my new album playing guitar. The only reason Ringo wasn’t on it was because he was abroad, making his movie. So then the three of us would have been on, but then it wouldn’t have been the Beatles. It would have been Plastic Ono because I would have the final say. There would be no decision making by George or Ringo, other than if I liked an idea I’d take it — which is what happened with the Beatles — but then it was more diplomatic.”
He added: “So yes, it’s quite possible about the Beatles working as a unit, because I might play on George’s or Ringo’s if they wanted my style of playing.” But the truth was, the past had already happened and the future looks brighter than ever for the four members of the band. “Imagine how we’ve flowered since [the breakup],” Lennon told NME.
“George is suddenly the biggest seller of all of us,” Lennon added in reflection of Harrison’s debut solo album All Things Must Pass. “I think my music’s improved a millionfold lyric-wise and everything. And Ringo’s coming out and writing ‘It Don’t Come Easy’ and now he’s going to write the title song for this cowboy thing he’s in, and he’s playing a really tough guy and all that. It’s really beautiful.
“The fact is, the Beatles have left school… and we have to get a job. That’s made us work — really work harder. I think we’re much better than we ever were when we were together. Look at us today. I’d sooner have [Paul McCartney’s album] Ram, John Lennon Plastic Ono Band, George’s album, and Ringo’s single and the movies than Let It Be or Abbey Road.”
It may seem like a harsh thing to take; the break-up of your favourite band being the right thing to happen—but it’s hard to ignore Lennon’s point here. Without the group breaking up we wouldn’t have some of rock and roll’s greatest records or careers. Though we may have lost one incredible career by its ending, we gained four more.