The relationship between John Lennon and Paul McCartney has always been a deeply sincere one. Two of the world’s premier songwriters may have spent the better parts of their careers entwined with one another but that didn’t mean they couldn’t fight or feud like any other friendship. In fact, it, more likely than not, it increased the chances of such a feud taking place immeasurably. And, after The Beatles disbanded, that’s exactly what happened, the duo fought and fought nastily.
Thankfully though, considering the tragic events of December 9th, 1980, the two singers made up behind closed doors, put their differences about how and why The Beatles split up aside and instead focused on being friends once again. As such, when Mark Champan approached John Lennon and murdered him in front of his home on that fateful day, it naturally rocked McCartney to his very core. While tributes poured in from around the globe, his mate from back home in Liverpool was likely reeling worst of all.
Paul McCartney may not be everybody’s favourite Beatle but it’s hard to discredit him as an empathetic man. After learning of Lennon’s death he rushed to Yoko Ono and her son Sean’s side and began helping them as best he could. It provided him with a respite from his own grief. But, after the affairs had been handled and Lennon laid to rest, McCartney was still left with a bundle of emotions he didn’t know how to handle. He decided to try and tackle them the only way he knew how — through song.
That song would be the beautiful and highly emotional ‘Here Today’. The track was featured on McCartney’s 1982 album Tug of War and became his undying tribute to not only the great John Lennon but, perhaps most importantly, to his friend, John. The singer had not been dead a year when McCartney began writing the song admitting to The Guardian in 2004 that he was “kind of crying” when he wrote it. What’s more, despite the unifying emotions of loss, he found it difficult to connect with his former bandmates George Harrison and Ringo Starr.
With that in mind, it’s no surprise that McCartney wrote the song in the form of a dialogue between the two, using the pair’s jovial working-class humour — often poking fun at one another — to add extra authenticity. The song sees McCartney really try to open up to Lennon before realising the futility of trying to make a dead man understand.
McCartney portrays their relationship as somewhat guarded while, underneath it all, they loved each other like brothers. There’s one night in particular that stands out for the singer when they were touring back in 1964: “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.”
The track has become a mainstay of McCartney’s solo performances and, he admits, at least once a tour, the gravity of the song and the performances lands heavily on him, “At least once a tour, that song just gets me. 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, y’know?”
You can see one of those moments below as Paul McCartney sings ‘Here Today’ in memory of his bandmate, inspiration and, most importantly, friend, John Lennon.