More from year 1981
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“Not long after John’s death, I had some strange conversations with Paul. He seemed so upset by so many things, not least of which was John’s death. This was in May 1981, and I jotted down in a diary some of the things he told me.
John’s death had grown into a sort of cult, with instant books appearing, and the papers were still full of it. Many people, in praising John, were at the same time putting down Paul, or so it appeared. He felt he had already been criticized in a book that had just been published, written by Philip Norman, a fine writer and formerly a colleague of mine on the Sunday Times. I had helped him, letting him see all my files, when he had come to talk to me, saying he was writing a book about the sixties as a whole. None of the Beatles had in fact given him any interviews for his book, subtitled “The True Story of the Beatles.”
Paul rang me on May 3, 1981, and went on and on for over an hour, all about how hurt he was. He had already been moaning at length to my wife, as I had been out walking on Hampstead Heath when he had first rung. He said he was fed up with all these people going on about him and John and getting it all wrong. Only he knew the truth. It wasn’t anything like the things being said.
Paul had a go at me for having gone on some TV program after John’s death. In my tribute to him, I had said that John was more the hard man, with the cutting edge, while Paul was more soft and melodic.
But what had really got Paul upset that day was an interview with Yoko in which Yoko was quoted as saying that Paul had hurt John more than any other person. Paul thought they were amongst the cruelest words he ever read.
“No one ever goes on about the times John hurt ME,” said Paul. “When he called my music Muzak. People keep on saying I hurt him, but where’s the examples, when did I do it? No one ever says. It’s just always the same, blaming me. Could I have hurt John MORE than anyone in the world? More than the person who ran down Julia in his car?
“We were always in competition. I wrote “Penny Lane,” so he wrote “Strawberry Fields.” That was how it was. But that was in compositions. I can’t understand why Yoko is saying this. The last time I spoke to her she was great. She told me she and John had just been playing one of my albums and had cried.”
So why don’t you ring her up, I suggested, and find out if she really made that remark?
“I’m not ringing her up on that. It’s too trivial. It’s not the time. I wouldn’t ring her up on that.”
What did he think then might have hurt John?
‘There’s only one incident I can think of which John has publicly mentioned. It was when I went off with Ringo and did “Why Don’t We Do It In the Road?” It wasn’t a deliberate thing. John and George were tied up finishing something and me and Ringo were free, just hanging around, so I said to Ringo let’s go and do this.
“I did hear him some time later singing it. He liked the song and I suppose he’d wanted to do it with me. It was a very John sort of song anyway. That’s why he liked it, I suppose. It was very John, the idea of it, not me. I wrote it as a ricochet off John.
“Perhaps I hurt people by default. I never realized at the time John would mind. At Ringo’s wedding (the previous week) Neil happened to say to me that Mimi was upset I’d never contacted her after John’s death. I’d never even thought of it. I don’t know Mimi. I probably hadn’t seen her for about twenty years, since Menlove Avenue. I was just the little kid that hung around with John. We didn’t get in her house.
“Anyway, I rang her up, in case she really was upset, and apologized for not ringing, saying I hadn’t got her phone number, and she was terrific and we had a good chat. We discussed Philip Norman’s book and she didn’t like it either. She said I should write and complain. I told her I’d been writing letters constantly, but I’d torn them all up. She said I should do something about it, stop all this sort of thing.
“‘In an earthquake you get many different versions of what happened by all the people who saw it. And they’re all true.’ That’s what I wrote in one letter. But how can you get the full story from someone who WASN’T there, nor has talked to the main people? But I tore that one up as well.
“Nobody knows how much I HELPED John. Me and Linda went to California and talked him out of his so-called lost weekend, when he was full of drugs. We told him to go back to Yoko, and not long after he did. I went all the way to L.A. to see the bastard. He never gave me an inch, but he took so many years and feet.
“He always suspected me. He accused me of scheming to buy over Northern Songs without telling him. I was thinking of something to invest in, and Peter Brown said what about Northern Songs, invest in yourself, so I bought a few shares, about 1,000 I think. John went mad, suspecting some plot. Then he bought some himself. He was always thinking I was cunning and devious. That’s my reputation, someone who’s charming, but a clever lad.
“It happened the other day at Ringo’s wedding. I was saying to Cilia [Black] that I liked Bobby [her husband]. That’s all I said. Bobby’s a nice bloke. Ah, but what do you REALLY think Paul? You don’t mean that, do you, you’re getting at something? I was being absolutely straight. But she couldn’t believe it. No one ever does. They think I’m calculating all the time.
“I do stand back at times, unlike John. I look ahead. I’m careful. John would go for the free guitar and just accept it straight away, in a mad rush. I would stand back and think, but what’s this bloke really after, what will it mean? I was always the one that told Klein to put money away for tax.
“I don’t LIKE being the careful one. I’d rather be immediate like John. He was all action. John was always the loudest in any crowd. He had the loudest voice. He was the cock who crowed the loudest. Me and George used to call him the cockerel in the studio. I was never out to screw him, never. He could be a maneuvering swine, which no one ever realized. Now since the death he’s became Martin Luther Lennon. But that really wasn’t him either. He wasn’t some sort of holy saint. He was still really a debunker.
“For ten years together he took my songs apart. He was paranoiac about my songs. We have great screaming sessions about them.
“In the beginning he was a sort of fairground hero. He was the big lad riding the dodgems and we thought he was great. We were younger, me and George, and that mattered. It was teenage hero worship. I’ve often said how my first impression of him was his boozy breath all over me—but that was just a cute story. That was me being cute. It was true, but only an eighth of the truth. I just used to say that later when people asked me for my first memory of John. My first reaction was never simple—that he was great, that he was a great bloke, and a great singer. My REALLY first impression was that it was amazing how he was making up all the words.
“He was singing “Come Go with Me to the Penitentiary,” and he didn’t know ONE of the words. He was making up every one as he went along. I thought it was great.
“He became so jealous in the end. You know he wouldn’t let me even touch his baby. He got really crazy with jealousy at times. I suppose I’ve inherited some of that…..
“It’s true I didn’t care for Stu, but I wasn’t against him personally. He just couldn’t play bass. That was all there was to it. I had a functional, ambitious-for-the-group sort of objection to him. He knew he couldn’t play. I was the one that told him to keep his back to the audience, as that photograph shows. I didn’t want him out to get the bass job. Stu himself left us, to stay on in Hamburg. John asked George first to play bass. I’ve checked that with George the other day. He remembered it well. George refused. So he asked me. I got lumbered with playing bass. It wasn’t my scheme.
“It was the same with Pete Best. I wasn’t jealous of him because he was handsome. That’s all junk. He just couldn’t play. Ringo was so much better. We wanted him out for that reason.
“The idea of Brian’s murder is crazy, but all that merchandising trouble was true. We got screwed for millions, but in the end it wasn’t worth suing everybody. We’d never get it all back and it would take such time. We knew most of them would in the end get away with it. It was all Brian’s fault. He was green. I always said that about Brian. Green.
“We knew he was gay, but it didn’t matter. For awhile he didn’t know we knew, and we pretended it that way. It didn’t matter. We never discussed it with him. He kept it very private. It didn’t matter. We might make faces at each other behind his back, you know if someone was dressed up in drag. We’d try to catch Brian’s eye, to see if he was blushing. But we didn’t say anything. It was all affectionate. As for that drawing with Brian in the middle of a row of kids in the Cavern, SALIVATING, that is not true. I’ve heard of artistic license, but that’s ridiculous. The other drawings were meant to be true, as they started with one based on a photograph, so you took this as being true. It’s just part of trying to build up Brian’s gay thing. He NEVER sat in the Cavern. He never mixed anyway. He just stood at the very back, so no one could see him or knew he was there. There was no salivating.
“I idolized John. He was the big guy in the chip shop. I was the little guy. As I matured and grew up, I started sharing in things with him. I got up to his level. I wrote songs as he did and sometimes they were as good as his. We grew to be equals. It made him insecure. He always was, really. He was insecure with women. You know, he told me when he first met Yoko not to make a play for her.
“I saw somewhere that he says he helped on “Eleanor Rigby.”. Yeah. About half a line. He also forgot completely that I wrote the tune for “In my Life”. That was my tune. But perhaps he just made a mistake on that. Forgot.
“I understood what happened when he met Yoko. He had to clear the decks of his old emotions. He went through all his old affairs, confessed them all. Me and Linda did that when we first met. You prove how much you love someone by confessing all that old stuff. John’s method was to slag me off.
“I’ve never come back at him, not at all, but I can’t help hide my anger about all the things he said at the time, about the Muzak, about me singing like Englebert Humperdink…..
“If I had to start listing all the times when HE hurt me. Doing that one little song on my own, compared with what he said about ME….
“When you think about it, I’ve done nothing really to him, compared with that. Anyway, he did the same with “Revolution 9″. He went off and made that without me. No one ever says all that. John is now the nice guy and I’m the bastard. It gets repeated all the time.”
But until John’s death, I said, the general image was that you were the nice guy and that John was the bastard. Neither of course was true, not completely. Things will shake down. Don’t worry. Keep cool.
“But people are printing FACTS about me and John. They’re NOT facts. They will go in the records. It will become part of history. It will be there for always. People will believe it all.
“Anyway, me, George, and Ringo have promised to be nice guys to each other from now on. When we meet and talk now I never mention Apple. I’ve learned that. Any mention of Apple just leads to rows and slagging off…
“I apparently hurt George Martin by default as well. I didn’t know that till I read his book. I didn’t let him do “She’s Leaving Home.” I rang him up, but he was busy, couldn’t make it for two days, or two weeks or something, so I thought what the hell, if he can’t fit me in, I’ll get someone else. I was hurt at the time, which was why I got someone else. Now he says I deliberately hurt him. Well, if that’s the only hurt I’ve done him…
“John and I were really Army Buddies. That’s what it was like really. I realize now we never got to the bottom of each others souls. We didn’t know the truth. Some fathers turn out to hate their sons. You never know.
“At Ringo’s wedding, I happened to go to the toilet, and I met Ringo there, at the same time, just the two of us. He said there were two times in his life in which I had done him in. Then he said that he’d done himself in three times. I happened to be spitting something out, and by chance the spit fell on his jacket. I said there you go, now I’ve done you three times. We’re equal. I laughed it off. It was all affectionate. It wasn’t a row. It was slagging off. He just suddenly said it, and we moved on. But NOW, I keep thinking all the time, what are the two times that Ringo thinks I put him down…
“I suppose we all do that. We never publicly come out with little hurts. George told me the other day of a time I’d hurt him. He’d done worse, I think, like saying he’d never play guitar with me again.
“I was very upset when they said I was just trying to bring in Lee Eastman, because he’s my in-law. As if I’d just bring in a member of the family, for no reason. They’d known me twenty years, yet they thought that. I couldn’t believe it. John said, ‘Magical Mystery Tour was just a big ego trip for Paul.’ God. It was for their sake, to keep us together, keep us going, give us something new to do…
You were justified over the Klein case. In the end, they all came round to your opinion. You won in the end. I’m sure the truth will come out this time. So just wait, forget it…
“Yeah, we lost four million dollars every year. Legally, we were mugs. I still have Lee Eastman, and he’s made me a fortune. For me, I was forced to sue the Beatles, in order to prove what I knew. I didn’t want to. I went up to Scotland and agonized for three months, cut myself off, before I decided it was the only way. To sue the Beatles. It was a terrible decision.
“I still get slagged off for it. In the history books, I’m the one who broke up the Beatles.
“I didn’t hate John. People said to me when he said those things on his record about me, you must hate him, but I didn’t. I don’t. We were once having a right slagging session and I remember how he took off his granny glasses. I can still see him. He put them down and said, ‘It’s only me, Paul.’ Then he put them back on again, and we continued slagging…That phrase keeps coming back to me all the time. ‘It’s only me.’ It’s became a mantra in my mind.
“I have some juicy stuff I could tell about John. But I wouldn’t. Not when Yoko’s alive, or Cynthia. John would. He would grab, go for the action, say the first thing in his head. We admired him for that. It was honesty; but it could hurt. And it wasn’t really all THAT honest. He KNEW he could hurt. He could be wicked. But I’m always sensible. That’s me. I would never say the things he said.
“No one else knows the truth, such as it is, that’s the trouble. I was talking to Neil the other day, having a laugh and remembering some incident, a funny story. We remembered everything exactly, what we said, what I was wearing, that someone had a fan. We were absolutely exact on seventy-five percent of the story, except on one vital thing. I said it took place in Piccadilly and Neil said it was Saville Row. I can see it so clearly, every detail as it happened—and so can Neil, yet it’s in different places.
“Until I was about thirty, I thought the world was an exact place. Now I know that life just splutters along. John knew that. He was the great debunker. He’d be debunking all his death thing now.
“I can’t really remember the sixties anyway. I went through it in sort of a purple haze. The other day we are at a place, me and Linda, and this gorgeous blonde came up to me and flung her arms around my neck. ‘Remember me, Paul?’ I said hmmm, yeah, now, let me see, but I had no knowledge of ever seeing her before. ‘But Paul, we made love in LA…..’ Oh, I said….’Really. Meet the wife. This is Linda….’Scuse us, we’ll have to go….’
‘It happened before of course. It was before I was married. It can be dodgy, but Linda’s a good skin.”
Why don’t you write it all down, or tape it all, put down what YOU think was the relationship between you and John, exorcise it once and for all, then stick it in a drawer and forget it?
“I might. I did that after being in jail. I’ve written my feelings about that. I wasn’t allowed pencil and paper in jail, and it was all I wanted, so when I came home, I wrote it straight out. I don’t know what to do with it. I don’t want that usual publishing scene. It’s just for me. It’s about 20,000 words. Linda and one or two other people have read it and think it’s good. I got a private printer, just to print for me one copy, one only. I’ve got it. I just wanted a plain white cover, and inside just black words on white paper. On cheap white paper. I wanted an Olympia Press book. Just a cheap little thing. It fits in the pocket, just six inches by four. I did for a time think of publishing a few and selling them off the back of a barrow. Telling no one, just suddenly selling them in the street, for a few bob. But I don’t want a big thing. Then I heard that some pop musician had ready done this, so I didn’t want it to look like copying. So I just have the one copy. I’ll let you read it someday. Tell me what you think.
“As for me and John, yeah, I might write it down. You know I helped him with his first book. That’s never been mentioned by anyone. Not by John anyway…..”