Like most great friendships, John Lennon and Paul McCartney had their ups and downs. Unlike most companionships, however, is that the Beatles duo played out their highest moments and subsequent lows in front of the entire world. Having gone from writing “eyeball to eyeball” during their formative years, Lennon and McCartney would end up sparring in public when it all came crashing down.
Here, we’re revisiting a scathing letter written by a furious John Lennon and Yoko Ono and to Paul McCartney and his wife, Linda. It offers a fascinating insight into the relationship of The Beatles songwriting duo following the band’s tense and complicated split.
The typed letter, which includes multiple handwritten additions from Lennon, is undated but research suggests that the letter was sent in 1971, during the immediate months after The Beatles called it a day. It’s a stark reminder of how far the duo’s friendship had collapsed in such a short space of time.
Signed by both Lennon and Ono and written underneath their Bag Productions Inc. letterhead, Lennon is replying to a letter Linda McCartney had sent him prior—a missive that he is seemingly furious about. “I was reading your letter and wondering what middle-aged cranky Beatle fan wrote it,” he began.
“I resisted looking at the last page to find out—I kept thinking who is it—Queen? Stuart’s mother?—Clive Epstein’s wife?—Alan Williams?—What the hell—it’s Linda! … Linda— if you don’t care what I say—shut up!—let Paul write—or whatever.” The state of the letter only gets worse from there.
The sweary correspondance features multiple digs from Lennon who goes on to say that he doesn’t “resent” his former bandmate but does, instead, feel sorry for him. On top of that, Lennon rather brutally predicts that the marriage between Paul and Linda would be over within two years—in fact, their partnership would remain resolute throughout.
The spicy piece of Beatles history was sold at auction in 2016, fetching a final sale price of $30,000. “It was likely written shortly before Lennon and Ono’s departure for America,” auctioneer Robert Livingston previously said of the listing.
“The draft captures the intense rivalry between the two men in the months, and even years, surrounding the breakup of the Beatles.”
You can read the full transcript of Lennon’s letter, below.
“I was reading your letter and wondering what middle aged cranky Beatle fan wrote it. I resisted looking at the last page to find out -I kept thinking who is it – Queenie? Stuart’s mother?—Clive Epstein’s wife?—Alan Williams?—What the hell—it’s Linda!
“You really think the press are beneath me/you? Do you think that? Who do you think we/you are? The ‘self-indulgent doesn’t realize who he is hurting’ bit—I hope you realize what shit you and the rest of my ‘kind and unselfish’ friends laid on Yoko and me, since we’ve been together. It might have sometimes been a bit more subtle or should I say ‘middle class’—but not often. We both ‘rose above it’ quite a few times—& forgave you two—so it’s the least you can do for us—you noble people.—Linda—if you don’t care what I say—shut up!—let Paul write—or whatever.
“When asked about what I thought originally concerning MBE, etc.—I told them as best as I can remember—and I do remember squirming a little—don’t you, Paul?—or do you—as I suspect—still believe it all? I’ll forgive Paul for encouraging the Beatles—if he forgives me for the same—for being—‘honest with me and caring too much’! Fucking hell, Linda, you’re not writing for Beatle book!!!
“I’m not ashamed of the Beatles—(I did start it all)—but of some of the shit we took to make them so big—I thought we all felt that way in varying degrees—obviously not.
“Do you really think most of today’s art came about because of the Beatles?—I don’t believe you’re that insane—Paul—do you believe that? When you stop believing it you might wake up! Didn’t we always say we were part of the movement—not all of it?—Of course, we changed the world—but try and follow it through—GET OFF YOUR GOLD DISC AND FLY!
“Don’t give me that Aunty Gin shit about ‘in five years I’ll look back as a different person’—don’t you see that’s what’s happening NOW!—If I only knew THEN what I know NOW—you seemed to have missed that point….
“Excuse me if I use ‘Beatle Space’ to talk about whatever I want—obviously if they keep asking Beatle questions—I’ll answer them—and get as much John and Yoko Space as I can—they ask me about Paul and I answer—I know some of it gets personal—but whether you believe it or not I try and answer straight—and the bits they use are obviously the juicy bits—I don’t resent your husband—I’m sorry for him. I know the Beatles are ‘quite nice people’—I’m one of them—they’re also just as big bastards as anyone else—so get off your high horse!—by the way—we’ve had more intelligent interest in our new activities in one year than we had throughout the Beatle era.
“Finally, about not telling anyone that I left the Beatles—PAUL and Klein both spent the day persuading me it was better not to say anything—asking me not to say anything because it would ‘hurt the Beatles’—and ‘let’s just let it petre out’—remember? So get that into your petty little perversion of a mind, Mrs. McCartney—the cunts asked me to keep quiet about it. Of course, the money angle is important—to all of us—especially after all the petty shit that came from your insane family/in laws—and GOD HELP YOU OUT, PAUL—see you in two years—I reckon you’ll be out then—in spite of it all, love to you both, from us two.
“P.S. about addressing your letter just to me—STILL….!!!”