Yoko Ono is making headlines again when, as reported by the Huffington Post UK Friday, calling out Paul McCartney for trying to split up the Beatles.
“Paul was the only one trying to hold The Beatles together. But, then again, the other three felt that Paul was trying to hold The Beatles together as HIS band. They were getting to be like Paul’s band, which they didn’t like. There was an incredible period of unpleasantness for John, so he was in fact delighted that he was out of it,” she says in a quote that’s getting a lot of attention.
But the comments aren’t at all recent nor were they meant to spark any kind of feud. They were part of a series of historical interviews record company exec Joe Smith did with over 200 music industry folks over 20 years ago that have recently begun to be offered online in audio form by the Library of Congress.
The amazing (and highly recommended) book compiled from the interviews, “Off the Record,” includes a lot more quotes you won’t find in the stories and paints a much more complete picture than the excerpts being wildly reported. It’s apparently more fun to pull things out of context.
Here, Ono discusses the breakup. And it was more than just Paul’s doing.
“The Beatles were getting very independent, each one of them, and Johnny was not in fact the first one who wanted to leave the Beatles. Ringo and Maureen came to John and I one night and said, ‘Well he wants to leave.’ George was next, and then John. Paul was the only one trying to hold The Beatles together. But, then again, the other three felt that Paul was trying to hold The Beatles together as HIS band. They were getting to be like Paul’s band, which they didn’t like. There was an incredible period of unpleasantness for John, so he was in fact delighted that he was out of it,” she says in the interview.
“In a funny sort of way, I felt the weight of the breakup because he had been communicating and having an extremely intense and stimulating exchange with three very intelligent, very quick guys, and now he expected all that to be replaced by me,” she says.
Besides Yoko, there are interviews with Paul McCartney, George Harrison and George Martin. Martin is even more brutally honest than Ono is about what split up the group.
“Gradually, things changed. The boys went into their little spheres and there was more of a rivalry brewing between John and Paul. In truth, they were never great collaborators in the sense of sitting down and writing together. They were never Rodgers and Hart. One would have an idea for a song and he’d go to the other guy and say, ‘I need help on a line. Can you give it to me?’ That’s how John and Paul collaborated.”
And he was surprised it lasted as long as it did. “I was amazed it lasted so long,” he told Smith. “I mean it lasted eight years. It was 1962 when I started with them and we made the last record in 1970. That’s a hell of a long time for four people to live in one another’s pockets.”
In his interview, George Harrison says the breakup was everyone just growing up. “The saddest thing was actually getting fed up with one another. It’s like growing up in a family. When you get to a certain age, you want to go off and get your own girl and your own house, split up a bit. At the same time for me, it gave me the perfect chance to do my own records,” he said.
Ono also says John Lennon didn’t want a reunion because the magic of the Beatles wouldn’t be re-created.
“John’s feeling was that there was such a myth about The Beatles, and if they did get back together again it wouldn’t have been the same,” she says.
McCartney tells Smith the same thing. “I do miss it, and him. It’s very hard to replace someone like John. I should say impossible. I have worked with other people and I’ve had some fun with other people, and I’ve done some stuff since the Beatles, like “My Love” and “Maybe I’m Amazed,” which I think stacks up with the Beatles, but the co-written stuff has not been anywhere as good as the songs I wrote with John.”
The Joe Smith Collection in the Library of Congress contains over 225 recordings of noted artists and executives and is a veritable who’s who in the music industry. All types of popular music are represented from rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, rhythm & blues and pop to big-band, heavy metal, folk and country-western. It’s a historic collection of archival talks and shouldn’t be the source of hysterical media stories.
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