If you’ve ever been to Liverpool to see John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s childhood homes, you’ll know that the two Beatles members came from very different worlds. This may be what made their songwriting partnership so effective; it may have also been one of the many wedges that drove them apart. Located in the Mendips suburbs, John Lennon’s childhood home is about half an hour’s walk from the undetached council property on 20 Forthlin Road Paul McCartney grew up in. The difference between the two residences is counter to the assumption that all four Beatles were “working-class lads”. Some of them, it turns out, were much better off than others.
Speaking to John’s son Sean, Paul McCartney explained how he first bumped into Lennon on a bus. “The funny thing about your dad was that I’d seen him around a couple of times, because I realised later what it was, my bus route, he would take that bus, but he would be going to see his mum who lived kind of in my area. And then he’d take the bus back up to his Auntie Mimi’s, so I’d seen him a couple of times and thought, ‘Wow, you know, he’s an interesting looking guy.’ And then I once also saw him in a queue for fish and chips and I said, ‘Oh, that’s that guy off the bus.’ I’m talking to myself, in my mind I thought, ‘I saw that guy off the bus, oh he’s pretty cool-looking. Yeah, you know, he’s a cool guy.'”
Initially, all Paul knew about John was that he was a musician like himself. But as the pair got to know each other better, McCartney soon discovered he was a lot more affluent than his bad-boy image implied. “He was in Menlove Avenue and I was off an avenue called Madison Avenue,” Paul told Sean. “Compared to the rest of us in The Beatles, he was the posh one.”
But “posh” doesn’t necessarily mean functional. Despite coming from a less wealthy neighbourhood, Paul’s upbringing was much happier than Lennon’s. For John, music was a forbidden fruit that became synonymous with his estranged mother, who had a habit of buying her son rock ‘n’ roll records and guitars, much to his Aunt Mimi’s displeasure. McCartney, meanwhile, grew up in a house where music and singing were part of everyday life. His parents loved him and gave him all the support they could.
Following his parent’s divorce, Lennon was forced to move in with Aunt Mimi and her husband George when he was just four years old. His mother subsequently remarried and visited Lennon frequently, but she was always somewhere just out of reach. As Lennon grew older, the visits became more common. She would sit in the garden to soak up the sun and drink tea with Mimi. She was on her way to do just that when, in 1958, she was hit run over by an off-duty police officer outside 251 Menlove Avenue and killed. Lennon never truly recovered.