In an interview published in GQ on Tuesday, Paul McCartney confronted what he considers to be the biggest misconception about him: that when The Beatles broke up, “we all sort of hated each other.”
The former Beatle and rock royalty opened up with GQ about what quarantine life has been like for one of the most recognizable figures of the 20th century. He also discusses the forthcoming Peter Jackson-directed documentary The Beatles: Get Back about the recording of Let It Be, British slang, soccer, and more.
McCartney’s clarification of the misconception that The Beatles departed on bad terms goes hand-in-hand with the mission of Jackson’s Get Back, which is now expected to premiere in August 2021. There has already been one documentary made about the recording of The Beatles’ final album, Michael Lindsay-Hogg‘s 1970 film Let It Be, and it didn’t paint the band in the most flattering of light. Petty bickering and a general air of disagreement and let’s-just-get-this-over-with mentality abounds throughout the recording of the album. Yet, both Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr state that this was not an accurate depiction of the band in its final days.
“There was hours and hours of us just laughing and playing music, not at all like the version that came out,” Starr said in an interview on The Beatles’ SiriusXM channel. “There was a lot of joy and I think Peter will show that. I think this version will be a lot more peace and loving, like we really were.”
McCartney maintains that the release of Get Back, along with many remastered versions of Beatles albums, wouldn’t be possible if he had not dove on the sword and done something highly controversial: sue his own band.
So I think what came about after [The Beatles broke up]… the only way for me to save The Beatles and Apple – and to release Get Back by Peter Jackson and which allowed us to release Anthology and all these great remasters of all the great Beatles records – was to sue the band. If I hadn’t done that, it would have all belonged to Allen Klein. The only way I was given to get us out of that was to do what I did. I said, “Well, I’ll sue Allen Klein,” and I was told I couldn’t because he wasn’t party to it. “You’ve got to sue The Beatles.”
In the complicated and never-ending blame game of “Who Broke Up The Beatles,” McCartney said that he initially bore the brunt of public opinion due to this unpopular, yet necessary, decision.
So to answer your question, because I had to [sue The Beatles], I think I was thought to be the guy who broke The Beatles up and the bastard who sued his mates. And, believe me, I bought into that. That’s the weirdest thing. It was so prevalent that for years I almost blamed myself. I knew that that was stupid and when we eventually got back together I knew it was silly, but I think it spawned a lot of people who thought that of me. “The stupid bastard.”
While McCartney takes credit for creating some of that lore that he was the one who tore the world’s most famous rock group apart, he acknowledges the presence of outside factors. And, unsurprisingly, all roads lead back to Klein.
But, come on, man, there were certainly things that didn’t help. I remember reading an article, an interview with Yoko, who, OK, she was a big John supporter, I get that, but in this article she goes, “Paul did nothing. All he ever did was book studio.” And I’m going, “Err? No…” And then John does this famous song, “How Do You Sleep?”, and he’s going, “All you ever did was ‘Yesterday’…” And I’m going, “No, man.”
But then you hear the stories from various angles and apparently people who were in the room when John was writing that, he was getting suggestions for the lyrics off Allen Klein. So, you see the atmosphere of “Let’s get Paul. Let’s nail him in a song…” And those things were pretty hurtful. But, hey, you know, character building…
McCartney goes on to say that this immediate post-Beatles period threw him into a spiral of alcohol and depression. But it was these same feelings of depression that drew him into the arms of his future wife Linda, who was battling with her own issues as a recently-divorced single mother.
It’s funny, I remember when I first met Linda, she was divorced with a child and living in New York and having to fend for herself. She got depression and I remember her saying she made a decision. She said, “You know what? I’m not going to have this depression, because if I do I’m going to be in the hands of other people. And I’m not going to allow that to happen.” So she sort of picked herself up by her bootstraps and said, “I’ve got to get out of this myself.” And I think that was what I was able to do, to get out of the depression by saying, “OK, this is really bad and I’ve got to do something about it.” So I did. And I think that’s my way, almost by being my own psychiatrist. You say, “This is not cool. You’re not as bad as you think you are” and all of the things. So you start to think, “OK.”
Read the full Paul McCartney interview with GQ here.