Interview for Melody Maker • Saturday, November 20, 1971

Why Lennon is uncool

Press interview • Interview of Paul McCartney • Recorded Nov 10, 1971
Published by:
Melody Maker
Interview by:
Chris Charlesworth
Timeline More from year 1971

Album This interview has been made to promote the Wild Life LP.

Master release

Songs mentioned in this interview


Unreleased song


Officially appears on Help! (Mono)

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On November 10, 1971, Paul McCartney gave this interview to Melody Maker, for the promotion of “Wild Life“, the debut album of his new band, Wings. However, most of the interview is spent talking about The Beatles.

The interview angered John Lennon, who wrote a letter of reply, published in the December 4, 1971 issue of Melody Maker.

I just want the four of us to get together somewhere and sign a piece of paper saying it’s all over, and we want to divide the money four ways.

No one else would be there, not even Linda or Yoko, or Allen Klein. We’d just sign the paper and hand it to the business people and let them sort it all out. That’s all I want now. But John won’t do it. Everybody thinks I am the aggressor but I’m not you know. I just want out.

Paul McCartney is at home in the control room of studio two at EMI’s Abbey Road Studios. He sits in the switchboard and looks around at the familiar studio walls. Classic Beatles songs were constructed in this very spot in London’s St John’s Wood.

He’s in the mood for talking. The gathering was set up to listen to the new album from Wings, but conversation shifts inevitably to other things. There are so many things Paul can talk about.

Denny Seiwell, Wings’ drummer, and guitarist Denny Laine obviously aren’t too happy about Paul’s constant references to the past. Neither is Linda, whose hand is in constant contact with Paul. Neither too is Shelley Turner, Paul’s general secretary.

He’s talking about money now. That’s one of his pet points. He’ll never stop. Denny and Denny are protesting, but there’s nothing I can do,” she says before I face the action. “Please get him on to talking about Wings. That’s why we are here after all. The others can’t join in talking about The Beatles. I wish he wouldn’t go on like he does. There’s really no stopping him.” THE ACTION IS fairly fast when I reach the control studio. It’s as if Paul wants to get all he has to say out of his system. The Beatles, Wings, money, Apple, Dick James, John and Yoko, George’s Bangla Desh concert, Allen Klein, the Scottish farm and the press are all brought up.

Paul is being very honest and straightforward – probably too honest. “Don’t print this but…” is the preamble to many of his remarks.

The names have been changed to protect the innocent. Paul’s bitterness towards Allen Klein is obvious, but his attitude towards the other three Beatles seems more of concern than of dislike. He worries about their affairs but is tired of warning them. They are tired of his warnings, so Paul just wants to get out.

There is no bitterness when he talks of John.

John and Yoko are not cool in what they’re doing. I saw them on television the other night and thought that what they were saying about what they wanted to do together was basically the same as what Linda and I want to do“.

John’s whole image now is very honest and open. He’s alright is John. I like his ‘Imagine’ album, but I didn’t like the others. ‘Imagine’ is what John is really like, but there was too much political stuff on the other albums. You know, I only really listen to them to see if there is something I can pinch,” he laughs.

And how do you sleep?

I think it’s silly. So what if I live with straights? I like straights. I have straight babies. It doesn’t affect him. He says the only thing I did was ‘Yesterday’ and he knows that’s wrong.”

Paul motions to the studio below.

I used to sit down there and play and John would watch me from up here and he’d really dig some of the stuff I played to him. He can’t say all I did was ‘Yesterday’ because he knows and I know it’s not true.”

‘Yesterday’, it seems, is a bone of contention with Paul; in fact, all the Beatles classics that he is associated with. He doesn’t own them but feels he ought to.

I don’t own anything I write because of the old contracts. We get royalties from them, but now when I write with Linda they sue me because they claim she can’t write. Well, I know she can. The song publishers claim that they made the songs as popular as they were but they didn’t. It was us because we bloody well wrote them. I’ll never own ‘Yesterday’ – not in 50 years, not even when I die. I’m prepared to forget that. I just want to own the things I do now, but I can’t because of The Beatles’ contract.

The contract, Paul says, has another seven years to run. Until then, by law, he’ll be a Beatle. In the eyes of the world, he’ll always be a Beatle.

The Beatles never actually copped for all this money,” he says. “Everyone else did. I wouldn’t care but you’d think we could have a new deal now. You’d think they’d release us. They’ve made a lot of money and we could shake hands and part company but now we can’t. I’m being sued for a million pounds in New York by Northern Songs. It’s so complicated.

Paul shrugs his shoulders, seemingly indicating that he doesn’t want to talk about money anymore, but during the conversation, the subject crops up again. So does Lennon, so does Klein and so do The Beatles. He could go on forever…

“You know I was asked to play George’s concert in New York for Bangla Desh and I didn’t? Well, listen. Klein called a press conference and told everyone I had refused to do it – it wasn’t so.

“I said to George the reason I couldn’t do it was because it would mean that all the world’s press would scream that The Beatles had got back together again and I know that would have made Klein very happy. It would have been a historical event and Klein would have taken the credit.

“I didn’t really fancy playing anyway. If it wasn’t for Klein I might have had second thoughts about it but I don’t know, really. Allen’s a good talker. The others really dig him, but I’ve made the mistake of trying to advise them against him and that pissed them off. I think they might secretly feel that I am right though.

“You know when ‘Let It Be’ came out there was a little bit of hype on the sleeve for the first time ever on a Beatles album. At the time we were strained with each other and it wasn’t a happy time. It said it was a new phase Beatles album and there was nothing further from the truth.

“That was the last Beatles album and everybody knew it. There was no new phase about it at all. Klein had it re-produced because he said it didn’t sound commercial enough.”

Talk turned to Beatles live shows – or lack of them.

“John wanted to do a big thing in Toronto but I didn’t dig that at all. I hear that before he went onstage for that thing he was sick, and that’s just what I didn’t want. Like anybody else, I’d have been nervous because of the Beatle thing.

“I wanted to get into a van and do an unadvertised concert at a Saturday night hop at Slough Town Hall or somewhere like that. We’d call ourselves Rikki & Red Streaks or something and just get up and play. There’d be no press and we’d tell nobody about it. John thought it was a daft idea.

“Before John said he was leaving The Beatles I was lying in bed at home one night and I thought I would like to get a band together like his Plastic Ono Band. I felt the urge because we had never played live for four years. We all wanted to appear on a stage but not with The Beatles. We couldn’t do it as The Beatles because it would be so big. We’d have to find a million seater hall or something.

“My best playing days were at the Cavern lunchtime sessions. We’d go on stage with a cheese roll and a cigarette and we felt we had really something going. The amps used to fuse and we’d stop and sing a Sunblest bread commercial while they were repaired.

“I’d walk off down the street playing my guitar and annoying the neighbours. I couldn’t do that now, but it’s what I want to with this new group.”

WINGS, IT SEEMED, had at last been drawn into the conversation. A look of relief passed among the audience when I asked about how Paul formed the group and what plans he had for it.

“We met Denny (Seiwell) in New York when we were looking for a drummer for the ‘Ram’ album. We worked on ‘Ram’ together and finally got to know each other, so he was the obvious choice of a drummer when it came to forming the group. Then I was thinking of getting another guitarist and I knew Denny (Laine) and thought he was a good singer and he wasn’t really doing anything.”

Denny: “I was, actually, but…

Paul: “I thought ‘Go Now’ was fabulous. He came round to see me and brought a guitar and we played some things together and it was great. We just rehearsed a couple of numbers together.”

It seems that, within reason, just about everybody plays everything on the album. The drums, naturally enough, are Denny’s main concern, although additional percussion is contributed by all. Paul plays most of the lead guitar – “I’d always fancied myself as a lead guitar” – while Denny plays harmony lead, chords and some bass. Paul too plays bass and mainly the basslines on the album have been overdubbed. Linda plays most of the piano and organ lines.

Linda isn’t very experienced so the keyboard parts tend to be very simple and that is, I think, very valuable. It has an innocence rather like a child’s painting,” said Paul.

Linda: “We’ve put the rock songs on one side and the slow songs on the other. That’s so you can play it at parties. When you want to dance you play side one, when you want to croon you play side two.”

The conversation turned, this time to Paul’s other two solo albums, both of which were heavily criticised on release.

“Well, the first one was just like testing out a studio. I played all the instruments and did everything myself. It was simple, and I was just having a play. ‘Ram’ was more of an album concept. With this album, I tried very hard and I really hoped people would like it. I liked it myself and I still do. It was probably a little too important to me to feel that people ought to like my music. I really wanted them to like ‘Ram’. I thought I had done a great album. I don’t see how someone can play it and take in all that stuff and turn round and say, ‘I don’t like it’ just like that. You may well feel differently after some weeks.”

It seems that Wings could make a live appearance tomorrow, next week, next year or never. The whole band is very, very loose but it seems there are no immediate plans for a live show. But that doesn’t rule out the possibility of Paul turning up and making an unscheduled appearance.

We just don’t know how we are going to do. I don’t want to start with a Wings concert at the Albert Hall with all the world watching and analysing. I just want to play a small dance and rock a bit,” said Paul.

“We will start by just turning up at a place we fancy visiting and just playing a straightforward gig. We might use another name to keep it quiet. We have rehearsed and we can play live together. In fact, it sounds quite good. It doesn’t really matter that much.

“I don’t want Wings to become a media group, with our signatures on knickers which are sold for promotion. I don’t like that now. I was happy with that situation in The Beatles, but it died in the end. We are starting off as a new band, but if we ever get to be huge like The Beatles it will be very difficult.”

Why did Paul choose to come to England to record Wings?

“I decided it was a better studio here in England. It’s all big business in New York. It’s a nicer atmosphere here. We all like England better.”

Britain turned to Scotland and Paul seemed happy to talk about life on his Scottish farm, bought purely for privacy.

“We have a great time in Scotland but don’t appreciate people coming to see us up there. We’ve 60 acres of very rough land and it’s the kind of farm that everyone else has given up bothering with. We’ve over 100 sheep and five horses and we sell the wool. I shear the sheep myself. It’s back to nature for me up there. The air is so clean and grass is so green. Last time we were in New York I went for a walk in Central Park and there was a layer of dirt on the grass everywhere. It’s very out of the way. You need a Land Rover to get to it. It was only this summer that I had hot water put in. There’s no luxury up there for is.”

Paul doesn’t want to talk too much about the farm because it’s very personal to him. A place where he can, for once, be an ordinary human being. I ask whether there are any current rock artists he admires.

“I like T.Rex. They seem to be getting to be the new generation Beatles, with the girls tearing their trousers off. It’s great at first but they’ll soon tire of it all. I like what Graham Nash is doing. We met him for dinner in LA, but the atmosphere was strained and we didn’t really get to know each other. Have you got the new Beach Boys album, ‘Surf’s Up’? That’s good, too.”

Lastly I enquired whether Paul still wished to be associated with Apple.

“Well there’s a delay with the record because we didn’t want a picture of an apple on the label but it looks as though we will have to. We didn’t want to be on Apple but we can’t get out of it. The sleeve won’t even mention my name on it. Everyone knows who Wings is, and there’s no need to tell them who I am is there?”

It was time to go for the group intended to use the studio to cut a single.

Well it’s been good to see you,” said Paul as I made my way out. “Hope to see you again sometime. I’m only human, you know.

John Lennon’s reply to Paul McCartney in the December 4, 1971 issue of Melody Maker

John Lennon this week brought his dispute with Paul McCartney even further into the open – and chose the pages of the Melody Maker in which to continue the debate between the two former Beatles.

He wrote to the MM from New York, replying to several comments on Apple, Allen Klein and other controversial topics, which appeared in an MM interview with Paul a fortnight ago. His comments are drenched in a characteristic blend of vitriol and sarcasm.

Dear Paul, Linda et all the wee McCartney’s,
Thanks for your letter.

  1. We give YOU money for your bits of Apple.
  2. We give you MORE money in the form of royalties which legally belong to Apple (I know we’re Apple, but on the other hand we’re not.).

Maybe there’s an answer there somewhere, but for the millionth time in these past few years I repeat, ‘What about the TAX?’ It’s all very well, playing ‘simple honest ole Paul’ in Melody Maker but you know damn well we can’t just sign a bit of paper.

You say, ‘John won’t do it.’ I will if you indemnify us against the tax, man! Anyway, you know that after we have OUR meeting, the fucking lawyers will have to implement whatever we agree on, right?

If they have some form of agreement between THEM before WE meet, it might make it even easier. It’s up to you, as we’ve said many times, we’ll meet whenever you like. Just make up your mind! Eg. two weeks ago I asked you on the phone, ‘Please let’s meet without advisors, etc. and decide what we want,’ and I emphasized especially Maclen (Lennon and McCartney’s songwriting company) which is mainly our concern, but you refused, right?

You said under NO CONDITION would you sell to us if we didn’t do what you wanted, you’d sue us again and that Ringo and George are going to break you John, etc. etc.

Now I was quite straight with you that day, and you tried to shoot me down with your emotional “logic.” If YOU’RE not the aggressor (as you claim) who the hell took us to court and shat all over us in public?

As I’ve said before, Have you ever thought that you might POSSIBLY be wrong about something? Your conceit about us and Klein is incredible. You say you “made the mistake of trying to advise them against Klein and that pissed them off” and we secretly feel that you’re right! Good God! You must know WE’RE right about Eastman.

One other little lie in your “It’s only Paulie” MM bit: Let It Be was not the first bit of hype on a Beatle album. Remember Tony Barrow? And his wonderful writing on “Please Please Me” etc. etc. The early Beatle Xmas records!

And you gotta admit it was a ‘new-phase’ Beatle album, incidentally written in the style of the great Barrow himself! By the way, what happened to my idea of putting the parody of our first album cover on the Let It Be cover?

Also, we were intending to parody Barrow originally, so it was hype. But what is your LIFE article? Tony Barrow couldn’t have done it better. (And your writing inside of the Wings album [Wild Life] isn’t exactly the realist is it?) Anyway, enough of this petty bourgeois fun.

You were right about New York! I do love it; it’s the ONLY PLACE TO BE. (Apart from anything else, they leave you alone too!) I see you prefer Scotland! (MM) — I’ll bet you your piece of Apple you’ll be living in New York by 1974 (two years is the usual time it takes you — right?)

Another thing, whadya mean BIG THING in Toronto? It was completely spontaneous. They rang on the Friday, we flew there, and we played on Saturday. I was sick because I was stone pissed. Listen to the album — with no rehearsal too. Come on Macka! Own up! We’d never played together before! Half a dozen live shows with no big fuss. In fact we’ve BEEN DOING what you’ve said the Beatles should do. Yoko and I have been doing it for three years! (I said it was daft for the Beatles to do it. I still think it’s daft.) So go on and do it! Do it! Do it! E.g. Cambridge 1969, completely unadvertised! A very small hall. Lyceum Ballroom, 1969, no fuss, great show — thirty piece rock band! “Live Jam” out soon! Filmore East, 1971, unannounced. Another good time had by all — out soon!! We even played in the streets here in the Village (our spiritual home!?) with the great David Peel!! We were moved on by the cops even!! It’s best just to DO IT.

I know you’ll dig it, and they don’t even expect the Beatles now anyway!

So you think ‘Imagine’ ain’t political? It’s ‘Working Class Hero’ with sugar on it for conservatives like yourself!! You obviously didn’t dig the words. Imagine! You took ‘How Do You Sleep’ so literally (read my own review of the album in Crawdaddy.) Your politics are very similar to Mary Whitehouse’s — ‘Saying nothing is as loud as saying something.’

Listen, my obsessive old pal, it was George’s press conference — not ‘dat ole debbil Klein’ — He said what you said: ‘I’d love to come but…’ Anyway, we basically did it for the same reasons — the Beatle bit — they still called it a Beatle show, with just two of them!

Join the Rock Liberation Front before it gets you.

Wanna put your photo on the label like uncool John and Yoko, do ya? (Aint ya got no shame!) If we’re not cool, WHAT DOES THAT MAKE YOU?

No hard feelings to you either. I know basically we want the same, and as I said on the phone and in this letter, whenever you want to meet, all you have to do is call.

All you need is love
Power to the people
Free all prisoners
Jail the judges
Love and peace
Get it on and rip ’em off

John Lennon

P.S. The bit that really puzzled us was asking to meet WITHOUT LINDA AND YOKO. I thought you’d have understood BY NOW that I’m JOHNANDYOKO.

P.P.S. Even your own lawyers know you can’t “just sign a bit of paper.” (or don’t they tell you?)

From Beatles Archive sur Twitter : “John Lennon’s brutal breakup letter to Paul McCartney The #Beatles” / Twitter
From Beatles Archive sur Twitter : “John Lennon’s brutal breakup letter to Paul McCartney The #Beatles” / Twitter
From Beatles Archive sur Twitter : “John Lennon’s brutal breakup letter to Paul McCartney The #Beatles” / Twitter

In April 2014, Chris Charlesworth remembered the conditions of this interview with Paul:

As I wrote in an earlier post I first met Paul on Monday November 8, 1971, ata party to celebrate the launch of his group Wings and their album Wild Life at the Empire Ballroom in London’s Leicester Square. He was wearing a loud check jacket and, like John would do, seemed much smaller in real life than I’d always imagined him to be. He was surrounded by people all night but at some stage in the evening I asked John Entwistle, another guest, to introduce me. I figured that since John was in the same trade he’d know Paul and sure enough he did. We managed to push past everyone and I had a brief chat, the first time I’d ever spoken to a real live Beatle.

Me: “Why the Empire Ballroom on a Monday night?”

Paul: “Why not?”

Linda: “We thought it would be a nice idea to invite a whole lot of our friends to a big party where they could bring their wives.”

Paul: “EMI are paying for it.”

Me: “When will we hear Wings live?”

Paul: “Well, it should be soon now. We want to start in a very small way, maybe do some unadvertised concerts or something.”   

As I would do two years later with John, I simply requested from Paul a more in-depth interview in the near future, and a session was granted for Wednesday, November 10 at Abbey Road Studios.

The interview took place in the control room of Studio Two, the studio where The Beatles had recorded almost all of their songs. I tried not to show it but I was in awe not just of Paul but also my surroundings. Here it was, I remember thinking, that all four of them sat and listened to playbacks of everything from ‘She Loves You’ through Sgt Pepper to Abbey Road. If these walls could speak…

Although ostensibly to promote his new band and album, the interview strayed into Beatles-related topics and I certainly came away with the impression that there was no love lost between Paul and the other three Beatles, especially John. This probably explains why my subsequent story in MM was headed “Why Lennon Is Uncool.”              

“I just want the four of us to get together somewhere and sign a piece of paper saying it’s all over, and we want to divide the money four ways,” Paul told me. “No one would be there, not even Linda or Yoko, or Allen Klein. We’d just sign the paper and hand it to the business people and let them sort it out. That’s all I want now. But John won’t do it. Everybody thinks I am the aggressor but I’m not you know, I just want out.

“John and Yoko are not cool in what they’re doing. I saw them on television the other night and thought that what they were saying about what they wanted to do together was basically the same as what Linda and I want to do. John’s whole image now is very honest and open. He’s all right is John, I like his Imagine album but I didn’t like the others… there was too much political stuff on the other albums. You know I only listen to them to see if there is something I can pinch…”

Paul then touched on the song ‘How Do You Sleep’ from John’s Imagine album. “I think it’s silly. So what if I live with straights? I like straights. I have straight babies… he says the only thing I did was ‘Yesterday’ and he knows that’s wrong…”

When I asked about The Beatles’ live shows – or rather lack of them – Paul remarked: “I just wanted to get into a van and do an unadvertised Saturday night hop at Slough Town Hall or somewhere like that. We’d call ourselves Ricki and The Red Streaks or something and just get up and play.”  

This was the only substantial interview I ever did with Paul, although I would encounter him many times again over the years.

Chris Charlesworth – From Just Backdated: PAUL McCARTNEY – Here There And Everywhere, April 2014

Last updated on October 20, 2023


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