In its December 1980 coverage of the musician’s death, Time magazine noted John Lennon’s recent efforts to distance himself from his earlier breakup-era denunciations, particularly those regarding his former songwriting partner, Paul McCartney. McCartney, the magazine declared, was someone Lennon clearly loved and clearly hated” and described him as “the brother [Lennon] never had.”
Any thorough examination of Beatles historiography and Lennon’s public and private statements regarding McCartney provide evidence to reinforce this assessment. Lennon’s statements on McCartney over the decades run the gamut; expressing love, contempt, admiration, envy, scorn, and insecurity, (among many other emotions), but never indifference.
This relative balance between negative and positive statements is lacking in Lennon’s comments regarding McCartney’s spouse, Linda Eastman. While Lennon’s negative comments on McCartney can be/should be assessed alongside his words of praise, the reality is that, while Lennon expressed multiple negative views of Eastman and/or her family, almost no positive comments exist as a counterbalance. Rather, Lennon’s private and public comments regarding Linda McCartney primarily range from dismissive to contemptuous. His 1980 Playboy interview, when he equates Eastman and Ono and expresses outrage regarding the press abuse both women had endured, contains seemingly his most complimentary comments on his former songwriting partner’s wife.
Unlike the relative lack of evidence regarding Eastman’s views on Lennon, a significant amount of sources, of varying degrees of credibility, provide information regarding Lennon’s views on Eastman. These sources range from private letters to interview transcripts to hearsay. The significant majority of these sources indicate Lennon viewed Eastman negatively; however, these criticisms must be put into context.
First, just as the majority of his harshest criticisms of McCartney occurred in the midst of the band’s breakup, so too do his most negative comments regarding Eastman. In fact, the majority of Lennon’s overall public comments on Eastman occurred in the emotionally, politically fraught and legally contentious breakup period, presumably coloring his view of and statements on her. Second, Eastman was not the first, or only, woman in McCartney’s life whom Lennon evidently disliked: the musician also apparently had a strained relationship with Eastman’s predecessor, Jane Asher. With the seeming exceptions of Dot Rhone and Maggie McGivern, Lennon’s behavior towards and reactions to many of McCartney’s girlfriends could be described as unwelcoming. Joshua Wolf Shenk notes “the weirdness” between John and Paul over the women in their lives in Powers of Two, his examination of the Lennon/McCartney dyad. So does Chris Salewicz, in his mid-80s interview with McCartney, when he mentions how Lennon’s 1969 marriage to Ono followed so quickly, almost as a counterpunch, on the heels of McCartney’s earlier marriage to Eastman.
Lennon’s prevailing view of Linda McCartney appears to have consisted of three major elements: First, during the breakup period, he tended to equate her with her father and brother, with all the legal, political and financial disputes that entailed. Part of this included blaming Linda, and the Eastman family, for at least some of McCartney’s actions; particularly his rejection of Allen Klein. Second, he repeatedly expressed surprise at not only McCartney’s choice of Eastman, but also at the couple’s ability to stay together: on at least three separate documented occasions, Lennon implicitly or explicitly predicted the early demise of the Eastman/McCartney marriage. Third, despite his repeated surprise at McCartney’s choice of Eastman, and his predictions that the marriage would not last, Lennon cannily pinpointed, (in the same interview where he declared the marriage would dissolve after five years), part of her appeal for McCartney; her ability to provide the other musician with a stable, domestic home and family life similar to what McCartney had experienced and enjoyed growing up.
Unfortunately, Linda McCartney’s role, significant or otherwise, in the business and legal conflicts which characterized the band’s breakup (and particularly in McCartney’s refusal to accept Klein) has been relatively unexplored. At the time, Lennon and Ono largely failed to publicly separate Linda (who, throughout her life, professed repeated disinterest in business and finance; how accurate those disavowals were are up for debate) from their harsh criticisms of the unwelcome interference of the larger Eastman family. While, in his 1971 interviews with Peter McCabe, (which contain his most extensive comments on Eastman) Lennon attempted to distinguish Linda as a separate entity from his criticisms of her father Lee and brother John, in other interviews no such effort was made. This implicitly included (whether it was Lennon’s intention or not) Linda in his at-times vitriolic comments on the Eastman family.
How much blame Lennon actually leveled at Linda Eastman for McCartney’s refusal to accept Klein is impossible to quantify, but various breakup-era statements indicate that Lennon regarded it as a factor in McCartney’s decision. 1971’s “How do you Sleep” contains lyrics, (evidently penned and performed with an utter lack of irony) accusing McCartney of being in thrall to his wife’s edicts. In one of Lennon’s predictions regarding the anticipated dissolution of the McCartney/Eastman marriage, the musician implies that, once McCartney’s marriage has dissolved, the other man will return to his former bandmates: “God help you out, Paul. See you in two years. I reckon you’ll be out by then.” In another of his predictions, to McCabe, Lennon makes the argument that, once McCartney’s marriage inevitably fails, he will come around on the Klein issue. “I give him five years. I’ve said that. In five years he’ll wake up.” Both these statements indicate that Lennon believed that, with Eastman out of the picture, McCartney could and would accept Klein.
In their 1971 interview with McCabe, Ono, with Lennon, professed initial respect for Eastman, which she argues then eroded upon the other woman’s obvious dislike of Klein. (Context: In the breakup period, Lennon and Ono seemed to regard distrust of Klein as a moral failing, with both emphasizing in Lennon Remembers how anyone should automatically know that Klein was the undisputed right choice). How long this initial respect endured is debatable. According to Doggett, in the 1971 Beatles booklet on which Lennon scrawled various comments, the musician captioned a picture of McCartney and Eastman’s wedding by crossing out the word ‘wedding’ and replacing it with ‘funeral.’ (McCartney mentioned this as a particularly hurtful incident in an interview decades later with Anthony DeCurtis). We have no evidence that Lennon ever explicitly declared that, had Linda Eastman never entered McCartney’s life, the other man would have accepted Klein as manager; however, it is an implication that can be drawn. (2).
- Lennon and Klein’s public comments indicating that, with Linda and the Eastman’s out of the way, McCartney would reunite with the other three Beatles need to be assessed in the legal and P.R. context of the time. A major part of Lennon and Klein’s initial version of the Beatles’ split (including their trial testimony) maintained that Lennon, Harrison and Starr did not want to dissolve the Beatles. Klein’s 1971 interviews with McCabe and David Vetter of Playboy ultimately portray the Eastman’s as the primary impediment to any Beatles reunion, with Klein offering an open invitation to bring McCartney back into the fold once he “learns to think for himself.” Dangling promises of a Beatles reunion therefore reinforced Klein’s desire to blame the Eastman’s and McCartney, rather than himself, for the band’s split.
This post was split in half: the next part, discussing the latter two points regarding John’s views on Linda, will be up within a week. Combined, the post was simply too long, and there were simply too many elements and points of discussion to post everything at once. Comments and questions are welcomed.
15 thoughts on ““Some Chick From New York:” Part II”
His 1980 Playboy interview, when he equates Eastman and Ono and expresses outrage regarding the press abuse both women had endured, contains seemingly his most complimentary comments on his former songwriting partner’s wife.
Lennon seemed to be maturing at the age of 40, which makes it even sadder that he was cut down just as he was approaching real manhood.
“God help you out, Paul. See you in two years. I reckon you’ll be out by then.” In another of his predictions, to McCabe, Lennon makes the argument that, once McCartney’s marriage inevitably fails, he will come around on the Klein issue. “I give him five years. I’ve said that. In five years he’ll wake up.”
I wonder if Lennon in his heart believed the other Beatles felt that way about his marriage all those times he sat alone in his room in the Dakota while Yoko went about her business.
In my experience, people who view the world a certain way assume EVERYONE views the world the same way. (Dishonest people believe everyone’s a crook, cheaters believe every lover will eventually betray them, con men believe everyone’s running a scam, etc.)
Maybe Lennon wanted to leave Yoko, but thought he would appear weak in front of Paul, George, Ringo… “Look, she was supposed to be the love of his life, and now he’s crawling back!”
If he’s projecting that onto the other Beatles (and who knows, maybe that would have been their reaction after the way he behaved with her towards them) he would have been terribly reluctant to end the Jock&Yono™ saga.
Or maybe I’m wrong, and it really was the love affair of the century.
“Lennon seemed to be maturing at the age of 40, which makes it even sadder that he was cut down just as he was approaching real manhood.”
Agreed. There’s another interview with John, from the same period, where he makes some very mature comments regarding the nature of the evolution of relationships and how they take a measure of time and investment and work and how this is a realization that he has recently come to … which is particularly interesting, given that it’s similar to the conversation he’s having with Linda during the LIB sessions, when she’s reminding John that relationships take effort. John was unfairly robbed of many things.
“If he’s projecting that onto the other Beatles” …
Not just the other Beatles, but the whole world. John and Yoko had spent their time since Spring 1968 promoting their love affair; that’s why, as Doggett notes, when they separated for the Lost Weekend, there was no way to hide it from the press … despite Rolling Stone referring to May only as John’s “friend” in their booklet The Ballad of John and Yoko.
I think it was Seaman who argued that, in the moments when the Lennon/Ono marriage really clicked, it really was everything they claimed it to be; artistically and emotionally transcendent. The problem was that, post Lost-Weekend, those moments of transcendence were sporadic at best.
“Look, she was supposed to be the love of his life, and now he’s crawling back!”
I would speculate that the fear of having that flung in his face by Paul, in particular — given that it was basically what John had said regarding Paul and Linda — would have made John pause. Whether Paul would have said it to John’s face … So far as I know, Paul never directly said “I told you so” to John regarding the Klein issue … he just publicly gloated (in Rolling Stone, no less) when the others left/sued Klein.
Very true, Sam. And an interesting hypothesis when applied to John’s insistence that Paul’s relationship with Linda would end–was he merely projecting his own fears about the stability and longevity of his relationship with Yoko? We know John claimed that “How Do You Sleep” was really about him (which was an interesting comment in itself, because the lyrics are so clearly directed at Paul) but it does give one pause.
“We know John claimed that “How Do You Sleep” was really about him (which was an interesting comment in itself, because the lyrics are so clearly directed at Paul) but it does give one pause.”
We have an eyewitness claiming that at least half the song’s lyrics were written by Ono and Klein, so it would be interesting to know exactly which lines they offered, as opposed to the ones actually written by John. The “now you’re just another day” is a Klein one, but I think that’s the only one we know for sure wasn’t by John.
Obviously some of the lyrics are explicitly directed at Paul — “pretty face,” etc. — but some of them “So Sgt. Pepper took you by surprise” “Jump when your Momma tells you anything” can equally apply to both men: those I can certainly see John seeing himself in.
I tend to fall in the Ray Connolly camp regarding HDYS: The song’s intensity and the topics John uses to attack Paul over — “Yesterday,” Pepper, even “you must have learned something after all those years” (it was evidently Paul who taught John how to play guitar chords in the first place) tell us far more about John’s insecurities in regards to Paul than they do anything else. Even the “pretty face” line could be viewed that way, given Cilla Black’s claims that she always thought John evidently felt he couldn’t compete with Paul for girls, because Paul was cuter.
That’s really interesting, Erin.
Just for fun, I went through each line to see if any one of them could be a straight out Paul or John reference, or whether the line could be applied to both. It was fascinating to see just how much the lyrics of HDYS relate to John, rather than Paul:
So Sgt. Pepper took you by surprise:
(This sounds like a reference to John and his shock/jealousy/insecurity re Pepper’s success; it doesn’t seem to have much application to Paul at all, other than the fact that Pepper was Paul’s brainchild.)
You better see right through that mother’s eyes:
(I’m actually not sure what this line refers to. Seeing through Klein? Linda?)
Those freaks was right when they said you was dead:
(Definitely a Paul reference, although could be a veiled reference to John’s insecurities about his professional relevance since pairing with Yoko)
The one mistake you made was in your head:
(I’m don’t get this one at all–just a filler line to rhyme?)
You live with straights who tell you, you was king:
(The “straights” reference is Paul, but the sycophantic suggestion could equally apply to John)
Jump when your momma tell you anything:
(The reference is about Paul’s conformity, but its application to John and Yoko is equally obvious)
The only thing you done was yesterday:
(an attempt to use Paul’s signature piece as a way to diminish his relevance, but could also be a projection of John’s anxieties)
And since you’ve gone you’re just another day:
A pretty face may last a year or two:
(seems like a straight Paul reference)
But pretty soon they’ll see what you can do
The sound you make is muzak to my ears
You must have learned something in all those years
(These lines strike me as a Paul reference, although clearly there’s projection about John’s insecurities regarding his relevance as a solo artist.)
And John’s comments, later:
“It’s not about Paul, it’s about me. I’m really attacking myself. But I regret the association, well, what’s to regret? He lived through it. The only thing that matters is how he and I feel about these things and not what the writer or commentator thinks about it. Him and me are okay.”
Aside from John’s characteristic dismissal of responsibility just as soon as he admits culpability, here’s a thought: If John realized that HDYS reflected more about him than it did about Paul–in particular, insecurities about his professional relevance–that would mean that John also realized that his alliance with Yoko wasn’t the perfect creative marriage he proported it to be.
I just have to say, I love this line of yours:
“Aside from John’s characteristic dismissal of responsibility just as soon as he admits culpability”
“that would mean that John also realized that his alliance with Yoko wasn’t the perfect creative marriage he purported it to be.”
I think May Pang makes that argument in one of her memoirs, that John had admitted as much to her, but I cant remember the context, and may be misremembering due to exhaustion. The baby was less than agreeable last night.
I seem to remember something along those lines too.
Now go nap!
Great analysis as always. I have been reading this website since the episode appearance on SATB, and greatly enjoy everything offered.
I understand its a separate topic, but in response to Erin’s final sentence above: “So far as I know, Paul never directly said “I told you so” to John regarding the Klein issue … he just publicly gloated (in Rolling Stone, no less) when the others left/sued Klein.”
I found myself muttering “but they eventually admitted Paul was right when they dumped/sued Klein, didn’t they?” every time a reference was made to a quote/inference that Lennon/Ono made about McCartney’s decision on Eastman/rejection of Klein. Klein plainly pandered to John’s vanity from the outset, during this time when John was so particularly broken (George’s quote: “But I think we didn’t really realize the extent to which John was screwed up.”) There is so much to show Paul working with, particularly George, in 1968-9, on the development of George’s songs, and physically contributing musically and vocally to all of George’s composition, while Lennon either does not, could not (car accident) or barely did. Yet, George, and in my opinion therefore Ringo, going along to get along, sided with Lennon on the management issue. I think the entire Apple fiasco, and the crush of everything they had become fueled their dysfunctionality and thinking. Why McCartney couldn’t/wouldn’t recognize that the simple appearance of nepotism would make Harrison, Lennon/One, and Starr reject the Eastmans, despite their seeming objective ability and experience; and why, when McCartney rejected Klein (could it be that McCartney was the only one who saw Jagger’s recommendation of Klein, despite the Stones’ own experience with him, as a backhanded foisting?), none of them suggested some impartial or objective process to find someone impartial, objective, competent, trustworthy and qualified to guide and relieve them of some of their business nightmares?
Anyway, I went tangential there: It’d be interesting to analyze the topic raised in this article, why the three went with Klein, and then why they rejected Klein?
Thanks for everything.
Hello, Shane! It’s always nice to hear from a new poster, and thanks for listening to the SATB podcast; I really enjoy doing those.
“I found myself muttering “but they eventually admitted Paul was right when they dumped/sued Klein, didn’t they?” every time a reference was made to a quote/inference that Lennon/Ono made about McCartney’s decision on Eastman/rejection of Klein.”
Paul (unsurprisingly) has contradicting stories on whether the others explicitly admitted to him that he was right on the Klein issue. In MYFN, he claims that George was the only one of them who ever admitted as much, and had only done so fairly recently — which would have been around 1997. Something to the effect of George saying “Thanks for doing all that” when the subject of the Beatles trial came up. Paul groused that that was all he got for saving the band’s fortune — a tepid “thanks for all that,” and then noted the Beatles were never very good at apologies.
However, in a more recent interview (Sorry, I can’t recall with whom, but I believe it was within the last six years) Paul now claimed that everyone (including Yoko) had now personally told him he was correct regarding Klein. So either Ringo and Yoko gave Paul post-MYFN mea culpas, or Paul’s misremembering.
“Klein plainly pandered to John’s vanity from the outset, during this time when John was so particularly broken (George’s quote: “But I think we didn’t really realize the extent to which John was screwed up.”)
That line in Anthology from George always made me pause. Not only because what it says about John, but also because what it implies about George: if George realized in 1970/71 that John was more screwed than he thought, why was he still eagerly following John’s direction? He certainly seemed to regret it by the Lost Weekend.
“Why McCartney couldn’t/wouldn’t recognize that the simple appearance of nepotism would make Harrison, Lennon/One, and Starr reject the Eastmans, despite their seeming objective ability and experience;”
If you believe Paul’s 1971 Melody Maker interview, once it became clear the others would not accept the Eastman’s due to the nepotism angle, he did suggest alternatives to both the Eastman’s and Klein, but the others rejected looking at other candidates. How serious these suggestions were — whether they were a one-time throw away comment from Paul, or whether he actually researched and presented serious candidates — is unclear. I don’t think Paul has ever gone in-depth on the issue of the alternatives.
Interestingly, John did (begrudgingly) admit that perhaps Paul was right about Klein in a tv interview and also floated the idea that lawyers were to blame for the band’s inability to reach some sort of compromise:
If you haven’t already, you may find the discussion following the book review about the making of Let It Be interesting. Many of the questions you raised were bandied about there.
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I really do wish we knew more regarding Linda’s involvement in the business issues involving the Eastman’s and Klein. The evidence I have seen indicates that Linda’s role was basically introducing Paul to her father and brother and saying: “Hey, you need a manager; you’re bleeding money. My brother and father are good at that stuff; how about you try them.” It’s after that point that the picture gets fuzzy. The narrative in the breakup and in the 70s was that Linda and the Eastman’s were leading (and misleading) Paul; filling him in with misinformation and unfairly criticizing Klein and that Paul, because of his relationship with Linda and his middle-class sensibilities, swallowed it all. But, according to Klein’s version of the breakup, Linda was absolutely a key player in duping Paul into taking the Eastman’s’ and refusing Klein.
But how much Linda actually involved herself in the business/legal issues and/or pressured Paul to refuse Klein is very difficult to determine. (Not to mention that, in Lewisohn’s interpretation of Paul, his first reaction to being told what to do is to do the opposite, so if Linda started her relationship with Paul going “You will take my brother and father as managers,” Paul may have ignored her and gone with Klein.) We don’t have, so far as I know, any letters or diary entries indicating that Linda was highly involved in the business affairs; in later, 1980s interviews, both Paul and Linda claim that Linda is entirely uninterested in business and doesn’t even know what her and Paul’s income is. Its reasonable to assume that Paul felt some implicit pressure to at least consider his new girlfriend’s father and brother, but quantifying Linda’s influence from there appears to be very difficult. And when Paul mentions his major business decisions — such as deciding to sue the others — he doesn’t refer to discussing the issue with Linda, but with Lee.
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“There is so much to show Paul working with, particularly George, in 1968-9, on the development of George’s songs, and physically contributing musically and vocally to all of George’s composition, while Lennon either does not, could not (car accident) or barely did. Yet, George, and in my opinion therefore Ringo, going along to get along, sided with Lennon on the management issue.”
This is true and an interesting discussion.
I have thought that the Let it Be/Get Back sessions are a study in almost everyone trying to not tip the balance with John- that he has been since the beginning the one the look up to- their original gang leader and jokester and the one they tried to please to stay in the group. As adults they don’t quite know what to make or do with him and the sessions and after the break up play out because of that.
There are times in LIB/Get Back where John is clearly disinterested in George’s music for whatever reason (too many chords says John, the songs seem to make John worried that George might be showing him up while he struggles to write songs, etc.) and so John belittles them or ignores them. Paul in order to try to placate John or keep him interested tries to move things to something that will interest John- to the detriment of George. When John isn’t around Paul gives George lots of help. He still does when John is around but less so.
And meanwhile John is worried he is losing control to Paul but doesn’t know how to stop it while he has Yoko and drugs to carry him. And so to him the easier thing to do is to break up The Beatles… then Paul isn’t in control… burn it down… isn’t it good, Norwegian wood? John thought he had the power to quit and when Paul got fed up with them not getting back together, and them wanting to push around his first solo album and the producing of the Let it Be album without his say… he thought long and hard and with advice decided to sue The Beatles to break them up.
After the Beatles broke up George still was trying to placate John and so then blamed Paul for him quitting Let it Be when it was John that was at least the last straw when George walked out. George looked up to John all the way to the end in a way he didn’t with Paul because John was older and Paul he thought of as his same age. Later John said some bad things about George after I Me Mine but George never said anything back in the press, that I remember. We know John said bad things about Paul that Paul didn’t reciprocate with or at least as much.
Ringo after the Beatles broke up needed to placate them all but tended to do what George did because George brought him in. All because
I think that is because they still thought John was their gang leader because he was when they were young. And much like you are your parents’ child when you go home no matter how old- they were still in John’s gang or wanted to be even after they had grown up.
In some ways- I think that if there hadn’t been that clear line to John as their leader from when they were just kids even though, by the time, they were adults and John was no longer leading them- Paul, George and Ringo could have kept going without John as The Beatles.
I know SACRILEDGE (!!) but there are so many songs in their catalog at the end that John did not play on and we don’t really consider them lesser Beatles songs. When John declared that he was leaving privately- If Paul and George could have come to an agreement going forward, Ringo would have joined in.And if that had happened I think John would also have come back at some point.
But perhaps that couldn’t have happened because of the way the band came together to begin with and the way they looked at each other because of that when they were youngsters.
Anyways- hope that all makes sense. I am enjoying reading all your comments to Erin’s blog.
I definitely think George lobbying to stay in John’s good graces — esp. after they had reached such a low point during the LIB sessions — factored into George’s decision to choose Klein rather than the Eastman’s. And you can make the argument that George could choose John’s guy — not only because he simply liked him better, which he did — because John would/could be willing to replace him if things got bad enough (Eric Clapton, anyone)? — whereas Paul always shot that idea down. In a perverse way, it demonstrates that George may have been more secure of his position with Paul (perpetual younger brother) than with John. (What ever happens with Paul, he won’t boot me out of the band, but John might, if I don’t side with him on this managerial dispute). That, and Joshua Wolf Shenk has a great quote on the matter in his book, describing George and Ringo’s decision to go with John’s choice of Klein as “Pure Primate Politics.” They were following their alpha male’s decision, but Paul balked.
At the same time, regarding George’s and Ringo’s decisions regarding Klein or the Eastman’s: What I think sometimes gets overlooked is just how much John, George and Ringo personally liked Klein. Ringo is still talking, in Anthology, about how much fun Klein was. In The 1971 Playboy interview with Klein, where you have asides from John and Ringo (and maybe George, I can’t recall) the interviewer talks about how Klein’s interaction with John and Ringo is warm and friendly and charming. Klein’s become so vilified among the fans that its hard for some of us to understand, because so much of the image of Klein we have is so negative. But he was evidently a lot of fun. He was very good at developing close, personal relationships with his clients; it was evidently one of his greatest strengths. Add to that the issue that John saw aspects of himself in Klein; George believed he had a manager who wasn’t going to overlook him, and Ringo had found one who was to promote his movie career, and that he promised them that he’d give them a “fuck you, money” attitude towards business for the rest of their lives … and the alternative for manager happened to be the brother/father in law of your bossy co-worker — and you can see some of Klein’s appeal.
And now in going backward through the blog- I realize you all have come to much of the same conclusions about this in the “GET BACK: THE BEATLES’ LET IT BE DISASTER” blog comments. Sorry for any repetition i might have created.
It’s fine; bringing up the subject can bring up new nuances, and new voices add different aspects to the discussion. I’m glad you are posting!