There are plenty of moments following the split of The Beatles where things got a little dicey between the fabulous member of the band. Having shared such a meteoric rise to prominence, there was undoubtedly a fraternal friendship between the foursome; however, with time and pressure, the group had started to fray and, by the time they finally split, were just about ready to combust. While that fractious energy rarely surfaced on Beatles recordings, on the solo ventures of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, the former songwriting partners let rip.
There were plenty of instances when The Beatles wrote songs about one another. George Harrison and Ringo Starr were always more than happy to pen a few of their own or help out Lennon on his. But there was something harrowing about hearing either Paul McCartney or John Lennon fire a thinly veiled barb at their best friend. For those who find the jilted hurt too much to bear, look away now as we dissect the song Lennon used to attack his friend Paul.
The song featured on the 1971 album Imagine, but it’s not the one you think. Famously, Lennon and McCartney traded insults through music on Macca’s track ‘Too Many People’ and the retaliation ‘How Do You Sleep?’ about which Lennon said: “I heard Paul’s messages in Ram – yes there are dear reader! Too many people going where? Missed our lucky what? What was our first mistake? Can’t be wrong? Huh! I mean Yoko, me, and other friends can’t all be hearing things.”
It meant that Lennon recorded ‘How Do You Sleep?’ in retaliation, and with Harrison on guitar, the song was given extra weight, “So to have some fun, I must thank Allen Klein publicly for the line ‘just another day’. A real poet! Some people don’t see the funny side of it. Too bad. What am I supposed to do, make you laugh? It’s what you might call an ‘angry letter’, sung – get it?” But there was another dig at his former songwriting partner on the album, the brilliant number ‘Crippled Inside’.
Lennon welcomed his old pal and former Beatle George Harrison to take part in the recording sessions for the song, and the guitarist didn’t disappoint. Though ‘Crippled Inside’ may fall below the mean line on the album, the song is still a cracking effort. Rich in lyrical tapestry and uncanny in delivery, it’s a fine song.
There’s a folk-rock undercurrent to the song, and it sheds more light on the ‘Imagine’ proposition as Lennon confirms that while perfecting one’s perceived and outward body is all well and good, one must change their heart to have any real effect on the world around them. It acts as the balance beam between Lennon’s old thoughtful style and his new, more visceral attempts at songwriting. It also contained a lyric that many have seen as an attack on Macca.
“You can live a lie until you die” is the lyric at hand, and while it seems universal enough, there is a hint that it was an arrow at the heart of his and McCartney’s breakdown. The duo had been endlessly squabbling over the minutia in the band’s contract, and while McCartney seemed determined to escape social punishment, Lennon appears to pin the blame on him with this lyric.
Of course, the reflections aren’t quite as obvious as in ‘How Do You Sleep?’ but with one of the most skilled songwriters in the world at the helm, there’s a good chance that we all simply missed the subtle reference to his most troubling relationship of the time. One thing is for sure, insult or not, ‘Crippled Inside’ is a cracking tune.