Paul McCartney has discussed finding it difficult to properly grieve and put into words what John Lennon meant to him after his former Beatles bandmate was killed in late 1980.
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“It was difficult for everyone in the world, ’cause he was such a loved character, and such a crazy guy. He was so special,” McCartney said during a recent interview with SiriusXM’s The Beatles Channel about the making of his 1982 solo album ‘Tug Of War’.
“It had hit me, so much so that I couldn’t really talk about it,” McCartney said, explaining that he felt unable to share in the mass outpourings of tributes and collective grieving that took place following Lennon’s death.
“I remember getting home from the studio on the day that we’d heard the news he died, and turning the TV on, and seeing people say, ‘Well, John Lennon was this,’ and, ‘What he was was this,’ and, ‘I remember meeting him then.’ It was like, ‘I don’t know, I can’t be one of those people. I can’t just go on TV and say what John meant to me.’ It was just too deep. It [was] just too much. I couldn’t put it into words.”
McCartney then went on to describe how, after some time, “once the emotions had sort of settled a little bit”, he was partially able to process Lennon’s death through writing ‘Here Today’, which closes out the first side of ‘Tug Of War’. The song’s lyrics imagine what Lennon’s answers to hypothetical questions McCartney posted would be.
“If I say I really knew you well, what would your answer be, if you were here today?” McCartney asks on its opening verse. “Well, knowing you, you’d probably laugh and say / that we were worlds apart, if you were here today / But as for me I still remember how it was before / and I am holding back the tears no more.”
“I was in a building that would become my recording studio, and there were just a couple of little empty rooms upstairs,” McCartney said during the new interview. “So, I found a room and just sat on the wooden floor in a corner with my guitar, and just started to play the opening chords to ‘Here Today’.”
McCartney then explained one of the lyrics which reference “the night we cried“, explaining that it had to do with a time the pair were in Key West, in Florida. “For some reason, I think it was like a hurricane, something had been delayed, and we couldn’t play for a couple of days.
“So, we holed up in a little motel. So, what would we do? Well, we’d have a drink, and we would get drunk. We didn’t have a play, so we did. That night, we got drunk and started to get kind of emotional,” McCartney continued. “It all came out.”
“But on the way to that, there was a lot of soul-searching. We told each other a few truths. ‘Well, I love you. I love you man.’ ‘Oh, I love that you said that. I love it.’ And we opened up. So, that was kind of special to me. I think that was really one of the only times that ever happened.”
McCartney has, of course, spoken about his late friend and collaborator many times in the years since his death. Last year, during an event to launch his book The Lyrics, McCartney was asked what it was like to form such a close creative bond with Lennon.
“[Life] was like walking up a staircase, and we both went side by side up that staircase. It was very exciting,” he replied. “Now that The Beatles’ recording career has finished, I’m like a fan. I just remember how great it was to work with him and how great he was.”
In 2020, four decades after Lennon’s death, McCartney said he still struggles with his former bandmate’s “senseless” murder. “It’s very difficult for me, and I occasionally will have thoughts and sort of say, ‘I don’t know, why don’t I just break down crying every day?’ Because it’s that bad,” he explained in an interview.
Earlier that month, in a separate interview, he discussed the way his former songwriting partner still shapes his creative approach. “I now will often think, if I’m writing a song, ‘OK, John – I’ll toss it over to you. What line comes next?’ So I’ve got a virtual John that I can use.”
In other McCartney news, the singer recently penned an essay sharing his reflections on the “magical” experience of headlining this year’s Glastonbury Festival. “Festivals are special, but Glastonbury is particularly so and it’s a big event in lots of people’s year. Because it had been cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to Covid, it became more important to pull it off.”
It’s a pretty impressive scene for people in the audience, but we get the whole view up on the stage with the flags and the hills going back forever, so it was quite a big deal that they said yes to joining me in that experience.
“Then you’ve got the spirituality of the place, knowing about the ley lines and everything else. When you have an event like Glastonbury and everyone comes together with good vibes and energy, I’m very happy to be part of that.”