Anyone who knows anything about The Beatles understands the general arc of the relationship between Paul McCartney and John Lennon. First meeting as young teenagers in Liverpool, the two soon bonded over similar family circumstances and a manic love for rock and roll, eventually forming the band that would change the world. Through it all, their relationship rose and fell to varying degrees until the two could no longer work together.
As with any relationship, the friendship between McCartney and Lennon was always prone to shades of grey. At their most combative, they were still supportive and willing to work together. At their closest, they knew when to give each other space. Even at their most strained, there remained a connection between the two that never turned violent or vitriolic. It was a true friendship, all the way to the end.
In the foreword to his new book, The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present, McCartney clarifies some misconceptions about his and Lennon’s friendship, including some famous depictions that aren’t entirely accurate. “There were, of course, arguments, though never anything violent,” McCartney writes. “There’s even a movie out there in which John’s character punches my character, but the truth is that he never punched me.” McCartney is referring to the 2009 film Nowhere Boy where his character and Lennon’s character fight, ending with Lennon connecting a haymaker into McCartney’s character’s face. That, as it turns out, was creative license.
Still, McCartney admits that his and Lennon’s relationship was often “very mixed”, he said, before adding: “Sometimes it was filled with great love and admiration, but other times not, especially around the time The Beatles were breaking up. In the beginning, though, the relationship was a young Liverpool guy looking up to another guy a year and a half older.”
McCartney explicitly states that his reluctance to publish an autobiography, other than the time commitment involved, was based around his lack of desire to contribute to gossip or sensationalism regarding his relationship with various figures in his life, including his fellow Beatles. However, McCartney does get in a few juicy lines about Lennon in the foreword, including, “Sometimes, though, I certainly thought John was being a complete idiot.” McCartney explains that, despite the differences, he and Lennon “respected each other’s opinions in all sorts of special ways”.
The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present is available now.