As Paul McCartney returned to Liverpool in 1990 he must’ve done so with a feeling of bittersweet nostalgia. As part of The Beatles, he had made his hometown a Mekkah for musos but he returned without his writing partner John Lennon.

Lennon and McCartney may have had an acrimonious split when they departed The Beatles and broke millions of hearts across the globe but they remained friends throughout John’s life. McCartney arrived back in Liverpool to perform for the first time since John Lennon’s death in 1980, Macca was always going to pay a special tribute to his friend, John.

McCartney hadn’t been on tour in over 10 years following the ending of his time on the road with Wings. Even for a seasoned professional like Paul McCartney must’ve experienced some nerves when warming up for the hometown show. A gigantic crowd eagerly awaiting their returning son and hotly anticipating a plethora of Beatles tunes, lay in wait for Macca. Ever the professional, he duly obliged.

Though McCartney and Lennon’s relationship was littered with confrontation the pair shared such a memorable time between them that it always felt uneasy to leave their partnership unmentioned, when Macca arrived on stage. “So much gets said about me and John,” he said at the time. “And we had barneys [British slang for fights], plenty of barneys. I like the idea of putting that to rest by playing a small tribute to him.”

The Beatles - Paul McCartney - John Lennon, live in 1965
John Lennon and Paul McCartney. (Credit: Bent Rej)

McCartney then produced a touching performance of some of Lennon’s most iconic hits. The ‘barneys’ that Lennon and McCartney had, largely centred on songwriting and the battle between the pair’s brutal egos. Fitting then that Macca would only choose quintessential Lennon’s songs to perform, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever,’ ‘Help!,’ and ‘Give Peace A Chance’.

The latter of which Macca gives a particularly touching performance of after prefacing the rendition by saying, “To me, ‘Give Peace a Chance’ is one of John’s big statements to the world,” McCartney said. “I’m not trying to make a saint out of him, but the Vietnam War was bought to a close by a million people singing that song at the White House.”

The collection of songs would spend the next years floating around McCartney’s tour setlists as the heightened tension between the pair felt more and more ludicrous.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney didn’t always agree, but one thing they both agreed on was the healing power of music. Watch music heal their relationship below as Paul McCartney performs a medley in tribute to John Lennon.

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