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Music

Paul McCartney explains his divisive solo single 'Too Many People'

No one will ever really know why The Beatles split up. Get Back, the recent documentary chronicling the recording of the band’s final album of the same name, did not reveal as much, rather than show a band crumbling from within.

There are probably a variety of reasons for the Fab Four’s split, ranging from the financial side of things, the fact that Yoko Ono was persistently at John Lennon‘s side when the band were trying to write, or just the fact that they’d been playing together for such a long time that they were probably sick of the sight of one other.

Following the Beatles’ breakup, tensions continued in the personal relationships between the band’s former members. This led to John Lennon taking aim at Paul McCartney on ‘How Do You Sleep?’ from his 1971 solo album Imagine. Lennon penned the song after McCartney had won a lawsuit surrounding the Beatles’ writing partnership.

However, McCartney was hurt by the scathing nature of Lennon’s song and retaliated with his own tune that took aim at Lennon, entitled ‘Too Many People’. Last year, McCartney explained the meaning behind the song. “This song was written a year or so after the Beatles breakup, at a time when John was firing missiles at me with his songs, and one or two of them were quite cruel,” McCartney revealed. “I don’t know what he hoped to gain other than punching me in the face. The whole thing really annoyed me.”

“I decided to turn my missiles on him too, but I’m not really that kind of writer, so it was quite veiled,” he added. “It was the 1970s version of what might call today a ‘diss track’. The idea of too many people preaching practices was definitely aimed at John telling everyone what to do. I just got fed up with being told what to do, so I wrote this song.”

‘Too Many People’ was issued on McCartney’s 1971 solo album Ram, featuring his wife, Linda McCartney. The song, in typical McCartney fashion, is actually quite a sweet and charming number, so its meaning is well hidden. McCartney could not bring himself to be as vitriolic as Lennon had been.

“The first verse and the chorus were pretty much all the anger I could muster,” McCartney said. “And when I did the vocal on the second line, ‘too many reaching for a piece of cake’, I remember singing it as ‘piss off cake’, which you can hear if you really listen to it. Again I was getting back at John, but my heart wasn’t really in it.”

“It’s fairly mild; I didn’t actually come out with any savagery,” McCartney added. “It’s a fairly upbeat song. It doesn’t really sound that vitriolic, and if you didn’t know the story, I don’t think you’d be able to guess at the anger behind its writing. It was all a bit weird and a bit nasty, and I was basically saying, ‘let’s be sensible’. What actually split us up was the business stuff, so let’s try and be peaceful. Let’s maybe… give peace a chance.”