Following John Lennon’s tragic death in 1980, the whole world grieved after it lost one of the most influential artists of all time. A singer-songwriter who touched and improved so many lives, his friend, bandmate and one-time partner, Paul McCartney, felt compelled to write a song about his love for Lennon as he mourned the loss of his dear friend.
McCartney’s 1982 record Tug Of War was his first release since Lennon had passed away and he let his music do the talking about their relationship on the poignant number ‘Here Today’, which is undoubtedly the high point on the record.
On the song, McCartney imagines a conversation that the pair might have had, as they trade-off, back and forth, playing verbal volleyball. To make sure it was authentic he enlisted the help of former Beatles producer George Martin to help guide him on the emotional track.
The two were back on close terms before Lennon’s death and had become great friends again after a difficult period at the beginning of the 70s that was thankfully all behind them, which McCartney remains immensely grateful for.
In 2004, Macca spoke with The Guardian about the track and how it still hurts to play live like it did back in 1982: “At least once a tour, that song just gets me,” he said. “I’m singing it, and I think I’m OK, and I suddenly realise it’s very emotional, and John was a great mate and a very important man in my life, and I miss him, you know? It happened at the first show, in Gijon: I was doing fine, and I found myself doing a thing I’ve done in soundcheck, just repeating one of the lines: ‘I love you, I love you, I love you.’ I did that and I thought, ‘That’s nice – that works.’ And then I came to finish the song, to do the last verse, and it was, ‘Oh shit – I’ve just totally lost it.'”
McCartney then was asked what the meaning behind these two lines in the track meant: “What about the night we cried/ Because there wasn’t any reason left to keep it all inside.”
“We were in Key West in 1964,” he says. “We were due to fly into Jacksonville, in Florida, and do a concert there, but we’d been diverted because of a hurricane. We stayed there for a couple of days, not knowing what to do except, like, drink. I remember drinking way too much and having one of those talking-to-the-toilet bowl evenings. It was during that night when we’d all stayed up way too late, and we got so pissed that we ended up crying – about, you know, how wonderful we were, and how much we loved each other, even though we’d never said anything. It was a good one: you never say anything like that. Especially if you’re a Northern Man.”
He has also since revealed to GQ that the song was his way of setting the record straight and putting his true feelings about Lennon in public to dispel the myth that there was animosity between the pair of them: “After John died, there’d been a lot of talk about who did what and who liked who and did the Beatles argue. I was almost buying into this idea that I and John were fighting all the time. But I remembered it wasn’t true, so I wrote the song about how, ‘if you were here, you might say this or those… but I know better.’
This performance below of McCartney performing the heartfelt song in Paris where you can feel just how much the song and Lennon still mean to the former Beatle.