This is the Paul McCartney song that upset John Lennon so badly
At the beginning of The Beatles there was one relationship that was absolutely concrete. While engineers, girlfriends and other affiliates would come and go, John Lennon and Paul McCartney remained a close-knit pair. But it wouldn’t last forever.
The Beatles’ split was a hostile one embittered with legalities and hurt feelings. Paul McCartney’s relationship with John Lennon suffered the most damage by 1970 when the group officially announced their split. Several years later the two would eventually patch up their differences but not before they would both release biting diss tracks aimed squarely at the other.
After Lennon had turned his caustic wit towards The Beatles in his infamous 1970 interview with Rolling Stone, McCartney would reignite the public war of words between the two on when he released his Ram album in May of 1971. The record was made with his wife Linda, with one track, in particular, featuring subtle jibes at his former bandmate and Yoko Ono, which understandably got under Lennon’s skin.
The track ‘Too Many People’ doesn’t name names or refer to specific events in the lives of John and Yoko but when you look into the lyrics it all becomes fairly obvious what the subject matter is.
In the opening verse, “People reaching for a piece of cake” sounds like it is about the latter years of The Beatles era but if you listen to the chorus as being about Lennon and Yoko, no wonder he was not best pleased. McCartney sings “That was your first mistake. You took your lucky break and broke it in two.”
Speaking to Crawdaddy Magazine, Lennon talked about his anger upon first hearing the track: “I heard Paul’s messages in Ram – yes there are dear reader! Too many people going where? Missed our lucky what? What was our first mistake? Can’t be wrong? Huh! I mean Yoko, me, and other friends can’t all be hearing things. So to have some fun, I must thank Allen Klein publicly for the line ‘just another day’. A real poet! Some people don’t see the funny side of it. Too bad. What am I supposed to do, make you laugh? It’s what you might call an ‘angry letter’, sung – get it?”
McCartney finally admitted some years later that the track in question was about Lennon and Yoko as everyone already assumed, revealing to Playboy in 1984: “I was looking at my second solo album, Ram, the other day and I remember there was one tiny little reference to John in the whole thing. He’d been doing a lot of preaching, and it got up my nose a little bit. In one song, I wrote, ‘Too many people preaching practices,’ I think is the line. I mean, that was a little dig at John and Yoko. There wasn’t anything else on it that was about them. Oh, there was ‘You took your lucky break and broke it in two.”
John Lennon would famously then bite back much harder and be not so subtle at showing his animosity to his former bandmate on 1971 track ‘How Do You Sleep’ which featured on Imagine. Lyrical content includes “The only thing you done was Yesterday, And since you’ve gone you’re just another day” – a reference to McCartney’s 1971 single ‘Another Day’.
Lennon then bizarrely acknowledged that strange conspiracy theory that Paul McCartney is dead when he sang the line, “Those freaks were right when they said you was dead”.
Speaking to David Sheff about why he decided to not be as subtle in his digs at McCartney was, he disclosed: “Well, it was like Dylan doing Like A Rolling Stone, one of his nasty songs. It’s using somebody as an object to create something. I wasn’t really feeling that vicious at the time, but I was using my resentment towards Paul to create a song. Let’s put it that way.”
Adding: “It was just a mood. Paul took it the way he did because it obviously, pointedly refers to him, and people just hounded him about it, asking, ‘How do ya feel about it?’ But there were a few little digs on his albums, which he kept but I heard them. So I just thought, Well, hang up being obscure! I’ll just get right down to the nitty-gritty.”