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Music

When John Lennon admitted "Paul was right" about Allen Klein

@SamWKemp

If there’s one person who can be said to have influenced the Beatles split, then it is surely Allen Klein. For Paul McCartney, the businessmen – so sharp and smooth-talking – embodied everything The Beatles stood against. What’s more, he didn’t trust Klein’s methods. His business model made him the middle man, meaning that all his artist’s publishing rights were his legal property. Paul didn’t fancy depending on someone like Klien to distribute royalty checks and had already heard how The Rolling Stones had been done over by signing one of Klein’s bulletproof contracts.

Lennon was a little less suspicious. In Get Back, he can be heard singing Klein’s praises while the band tune-up ahead of a session. “I want to tell you all at once,” Lennon said of the potential contract with Klein. “I just think he’s fantastic.” John and Paul’s differing opinions about Klein were yet another source of division. Lennon was convinced that the businessman would secure them a fat paycheck, just as he had done with Sam Cooke. Paul, on the other hand, didn’t trust him one iota.

The Beatles were introduced to Allen Klein following Brian Epstein’s death. When the question arose of who would manage the band’s affairs, McCartney suggested Lee Eastman. George and Ringo, persuaded by Lennon’s enthusiasm, wanted Allen Klein. What they didn’t know was that the cash advances Klein was so famous for securing didn’t actually go to the artists. Lee Eastman, aware of Klein’s suspect practices, informed McCartney, who quickly made his distrust of the businessman clear. But with tensions already at an all-time high, McCartney’s uneasiness about Klein seemed like just another attempt by the musician to have things his own way.

Paul was eventually outvoted, and with that, Klein worked his way into the Beatles’ world. As McCartney had suspected, Klein didn’t care about the well-being of his clients. His first action was to fire all of the original staff of Apple corps and replace them with his own employees. One of those he tried to fire was Neil Aspinall, The Beatles’ beloved assistant and road manager. The group were forced to rally together to keep Aspinall on the team, while Klein continued to spit in the face of everything that McCartney held dear. In a desperate attempt to increase his own payroll, he willingly ignored the tensions between Lennon and McCartney and got Phil Spector to pimp up the unfinished recordings from the Get Back sessions and released them as Let It Be, going to John rather than Paul for permission.

Even after The Beatles went their separate ways, Klein kept a stranglehold on Lennon and Harrison, helping the former with his Imagine album and the latter with the Concert for Bangladesh. After sparking a breakdown in relations between the pair, Lennon finally fired Klein. A while after giving him the boot, Lennon took part in an interview in which he was asked to pinpoint the moment he knew his relationship with Allen had turned sour: “There were many reasons to finally give him the push,” John began, “although I don’t want to go into the details of it.” Let’s say that possibly McCartney’s suspicions were right and, uh, the time was right.

He went on to add: “My position had always been the Devil and the deep blue sea. At the time, I do whatever feels right. And although I hadn’t been particularly happy personally, for quite a long time with the situation, I didn’t want to make any quick moves. And I wanted to see if, you know, maybe something could work out.” Lennon’s faith in Klein turned out to be one of the worst mistakes of his career. Not only did Klein directly contribute to the acrimony between The Beatles, but he also withheld huge sums of money from Lennon and Harrison, later suing them for $4.2 million when they realised he was bad news and decided to split. That’s what you get for not listening to Paul.