Following the split of The Beatles it was easy to admit that Paul McCartney and John Lennon had a fractious relationship, to say very the least. However, after the dust had settled the two childhood friends thankfully reignited their brotherhood and were again on close terms before John’s tragically premature death.
Lennon’s death understandably hit McCartney to the core, a pain which still hurts almost 40 years after the shooting. Given the severe tragedy of the incident, the murder his bandmate and closest creative confidant was one almost too difficult for McCartney to wrap his head. However, one consolidating factor for Macca was that the duo had finally resolved their personal squabbles and the bad blood between the pair had dissipated.
It took McCartney a while to truly express his love for Lennon publically. Following the tragedy, his first instinct was to channel his grief into song, something he did on Tug Of War‘s poignant number ‘Here Today’—which is undoubtedly the high point on the record. On the song, McCartney imagines a conversation that he might have had with Lennon 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.
In 2004, Macca spoke with The Guardian about the track and how it still hurts to play the material live: “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.’”
It wouldn’t be until 1984, some four years after the murder of Lennon, that McCartney would address his relationship with his songwriting partner. During an interview with Playboy’s Joan Goodman, a meeting in which the former Beatle detailed his last conversation with his brother in arms, he said: “That is a nice thing, a consoling factor for me because I do feel it was sad that we never actually sat down and straightened our differences out. But fortunately for me, the last phone conversation I ever had with him was really great, and we didn’t have any kind of blowup. It could have easily been one of the other phone calls when we blew up at each other and slammed the phone down.”
Macca then talked about the phone call in more depth, revealing: “It was just a very happy conversation about his family, my family. Enjoying his life very much; Sean was a very big part of it. And thinking about getting on with his career. I remember he said, ‘Oh, God, I’m like Aunt Mimi, padding round here in me dressing gown’ …robe, as he called it, cuz he was picking up the American vernacular… ‘feeding the cats in me robe and cooking and putting a cup of tea on. This housewife wants a career!’ It was that time for him. He was about to launch Double Fantasy.”
It’s a blessed relief that the two co-founders of The Beatles who had been through thick and thin together managed to resurrect their friendship before it was too late, with the finest songwriting partnership of all time being closer than they had been in many years which is a true attestation to the brother-like relationship they shared.