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Relationships Between The Beatles In Later Years

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Relationships Between The Beatles In Later Years

Postby Jourdan » Mon Nov 14, 2016 10:49 am

I would like to know if John and George ever reconciled before John's death.  I know John was hurt by George's book I Me Mine, and supposedly George did try to reach out to him.  Also, what was the state of John and Paul's relationship around the time of John's death?  Theirs was a very complex relationship that I have tried for a long time to grasp.

This is just for my own interest.  To think that there were hard feelings and unresolved pain among them is one of the saddest parts of the Beatles' story to me.
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Relationships Between The Beatles In Later Years

Postby Kalan » Tue Nov 15, 2016 2:50 am

Dear Lissa,

I can understand your interest in this aspect of the Beatles' interpersonal relationships. People seemed to feel a closeness to them that was enhanced by their music and lyrics; they seemed more like friends than remote icons. Whether with their original fans who watched them get married, have children, and grow musically or newer fans through the decades, fans felt they knew them.

A big part of the reaction was probably due to the intimacy of the friendship they shared, which was instantly obvious to anyone watching them in interviews, television appearances, and especially in their movies. When A Hard Day’s Night was released, many reviewers compared them to the Marx Brothers, which was an apt comparison since their relationship really was more like siblings than bandmates. They had known each other since they were 14, 15, and 16(they didn’t really meet Ringo until they were in their late teens) and had gone through all the usual adolescent events together, as well as shocks like the deaths of John’s mother and their friend Stuart Sutcliffe. Almost more importantly, they shared a seemingly indestructible faith in each other and the group and that saw them through some very, very rough times.

From the outside, their success seemed to be one of those ‘overnight’ successes from a movie. In reality, John and Paul met in the summer of 1957; George began playing with them in March of 1958 – their first record wasn’t released until October 5, 1962. Their first visit to America wasn’t until February 1964.  That’s a lot of years playing for no money, for food or beer and doing it when parents were pressuring them to stay in school or get proper jobs, when they lost repeated talent contests to a group with a dwarf who stood on a tea chest bass to play it or the old lady playing the spoons(really). They stuck together when they had to drag old, cheap and beat up equipment around themselves, when gigs were rare and sometimes the audience was, as well. They once played at a ‘dance’ in the south of England where only 18 people showed up. They played anyway.

This history is especially remarkable when you consider that they were all teenaged boys. It’s remarkably free of fighting over girls or fighting over money or just fighting – period. There are only a few instances of them ever even getting ‘fraught’ with each other – Paul and Stuart in Hamburg, John and George once, also in Hamburg. Considering that they were young, broke, living on their own in very rough circumstances, with plenty of alcohol and pills around, one would expect more pushing and shoving for primacy. It just didn’t happen. Over and over again, people who knew them and even those who were close to them remarked that they were each other’s ‘best friends,’ a ‘clique,’ with their own language and code. Mick Jagger once said that they were friendly, but they were like ‘a four-headed monster’ in a way that made ‘outsiders’ wish they could be included. He said, ‘it made me realize I was just in a band; they were in a family and I would never have what they had. It made everyone a bit jealous.’

Added to their long history by the time they achieved success, is the incredible pressure that success put upon them. It is a cliché to think of success as a golden cage, but the Beatles very literally were often prisoners – in hotel rooms, get-away cars, planes, theaters, and stadium dressing rooms. For as much traveling as they did around the world, they did no sightseeing. Years after staying there in 1964, Paul McCartney told the manager of the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver, Colorado that the main lobby was ‘a work of art’ adding, ‘you know we never got to see it – we were brought in through the service elevator in the alley.’ When they were in Japan in 1965, they were literally locked-in their hotel suite and souvenir dealers were sent up to see them with items for sale. In Las Vegas, two slot machines were delivered to their rooms because they couldn’t leave to go to the casinos. They ate, slept, wrote and played together. They played endless games of Monopoly and cards. They traded James Bond books back and forth during one tour. There were no DVDs or videos; they watched television until it went off the air at night. Sometimes, they took relatives on trips – John’s Aunt Mimi went to Australia in 1964; George’s sister went along for the Midwestern part of a US tour. It’s funny to look back at the interviews when a reporter would ask, “What do you think of ____________(insert the name of any city)?” and a Beatle would say, “Great,” all the while knowing it had been for them just as it was described in A Hard Day’s Night: a room and a car and a car and a room and a room and a room. John originally came up with that line when someone asked about their trip to Sweden: “It was great – a plane and a room and a room and a room and a cheese sandwich.” There were parties, but not as many as one would think and not as wild as the parties rock stars had in later years.

It was natural for us to see them as ‘The Mates.' Far from complete fiction, when they first moved down to London from Liverpool, Brian Epstein rented an apartment for them to share – not quite the row house in Help!, but not too far from it, either. When they married, they served as each other’s best men, and then when they began families, John and Ringo moved to the same area and were practically next door neighbors; George lived only ten minutes away. The wives were friendly and they vacationed together – not just for security reasons, but because they truly enjoyed each other’s company. Paul was especially close to John’s first son, Julian, and took him to France for a short trip once so John and Cynthia could have a bit of ‘alone time.’ It isn’t unusual to see photographs of Julian as a toddler with Paul or Paul and Jane Asher. Something that I have just begun to learn is that they remained close to their families in Liverpool. George’s mother was very, very fond of John – she was very fond of all of them, but felt a special bond with John – and there is a wonderful photograph of John in a tuxedo dancing with Mrs. Harrison at the party following the premier of A Hard Day’s Night. Still, even the families remarked that the Beatles themselves were like their own family – they were that close.

So, it does make sense that when we see all that and then we listen to the harmonies and sing along with their lyrics, that their sense of brotherhood and friendship emerges as something that touched us. A lot of their appeal lay in people wishing they could be a part of that camaraderie and just enjoying it from a far. We perceived a lot of loyalty – and we were right. When Ringo was hospitalized and unable to begin a tour in the summer of 1964, their contractual obligations forced them to find a temporary substitute and go ahead without him; George was so furious that he initially refused to go on the tour himself. When they did disagree, the unspoken rule was that a unanimous vote was required for anything from the title for an album to where to eat dinner; there was no ‘majority’ rule – it was all or nothing. It looked like a modern day version of the Three Musketeers – plus D’Artagnan, and it was.

They also made no secret of their mutual respect – and I think this was a big part of their success and, from the public’s viewpoint, a huge source of unhappiness when they broke up. There were never rumors of this one leaving or someone from another band replacing a Beatle. They were a cohesive unit and always behaved that way. George once said that any of them playing ‘without the others, would be pointless.’ John was more to the point saying, ‘Why would I want to play with anyone else when I’m with the best in the world?’ They were all unequivocal about how lucky they had been to get Ringo when they did(he was with the top Liverpool band when they were still going nowhere) saying, ‘He was very grown up and even had a car!’

As you can imagine, people didn’t want to believe, couldn’t believe that they were really breaking up. Although it was natural for them to spread their wings, it was unthinkable to the public who felt it had known them, and almost owned them, for 6 – 8 years.

Complicating the situation, of course, was the arrival of Yoko Ono, John’s very public infatuation with her and his divorce from his wife. If the public had to explain it, how better than by blaming it on ‘those wedding bells are breaking up that old gang of mine,’ cliché?  John, being John, added insult to injury when he embarked on some very ill-advised interviews in the first few years after the break-up. Sometimes the worse for drugs or alcohol, John always perceived interviews as performance art – something perfected in the moptop days when they faced the same mind-numbing questions day after day after continent after continent.(“When are you going to get a hair cut? How many of you are bald? Why do you think people like your music? Do you really like jelly-babies?”).

In the period right after the break-up, John often made outrageous and obviously untrue statements merely for effect or shock value and frequently didn’t remember saying them when he read them in print later. A couple of examples: “George Martin’s a hack. A no-talent  who never did anything without us and never will. Show me one thing that George Martin ever did – one thing.” Martin, as you can imagine, was cut to the quick and only several years later approached the subject with John during a dinner saying, ‘You were a bit harsh with some of that, John.’ Martin said John was stunned and said, ‘Oh God, you didn’t take any of that rubbish seriously, did you? I was stoned off my ass. You know I just say anything. How could you think I believed that?’ You don’t have to go much further than the horrible lyrical insults he directed at Paul during that period.

A more astute observer of human behavior has noted that sometimes when separation is too painful, people will denigrate the relationship to make it easier to bear the end of it. This fits in with John’s repeated assertions that ‘the Beatles were crap’ and 'the Beatles were bastards.' And ‘we were just four guys who made it very, very big - that’s all.’ And ‘Ringo was not only not the best drummer in the world, he wasn’t even the best drummer in The Beatles – Paul was.’

With all that as background, here are a few things you can reflect on for perspective.

First, when the Beatles broke up, they were roughly 27 – 30 years old and had already accomplished every thing they had set out to and achieved more than they could have imagined. When they started, there was no imagining the level and scope of the success they experienced. Period. Paul has said he was devastated by the break up – drank too much, became morose and depressed, and withdrawn. He said, ‘Here I was 28 years-old and what was I supposed to do? I’d lost my best friends, my partners, my songwriting partner, and my constant companions for one half of my life. What was I supposed to do – retire?’ He wasn’t exaggerating – he’d known John for 14 of those 28 years.

Second, speculation about who would emerge as a leader of a new group or as a hit solo performer was rampant. They all tried various solutions – John was with Yoko and various radical elements who attached themselves to him; Ringo was in huge demand as a session drummer and actor; George gathered together groups of musicians from all styles of music; and Paul did turn into a bit of a recluse up in Scotland devoting himself to Linda, the family, and only after awhile did he emerge with renewed self-confidence.

During this period, when Paul was forced to sever the business relationship by suing the other three in court, they were instructed by their lawyers not to talk to each other or discuss the details of the case with each other. I’ve been told that there were many, many times when they would call each other and say, “F*** this, why don’t we just go to the pub, have a few and sort it out ourselves?” If that’s true, and based on my source, I have every reason to believe it’s completely true, they wouldn’t be the first people to have found that an ‘amicable divorce’ can turn very prolonged and nasty when attorneys become involved. Please do not misunderstand me – I was an attorney, myself. But I think we can all relate to the way cases can get dragged out and very ugly when legalities cloud the real issues.

It’s also important to look at what some people in their business lives have said. The staff at Capitol and Apple in NYC was at all times required to let John Lennon know if Ringo or George were there and ‘needed anything.’ The initial ideas had been that Paul and John would emerge as the major talents. George was still an unknown quantity who might now choose to continue recording; and as for Ringo, well, a drummer doesn’t really have much of a solo career to look forward to. It was the impression of the people at Apple that ‘nothing was too good for George as far as John Lennon was concerned. And anything he could do for Ringo Starr went without even being asked for. It never even seemed like they had broken up.’

Of course, George had the first major, major hit with his album All Things Must Pass and Ringo, as I’ve written was much in demand and had a very successful career initially. John and George wrote and recorded with Ringo.

George asked John to appear at the Concert for Bangladesh and initially John agreed, backing out at the last minute over – you guessed it, the lawsuit. By the end of the second day, Paul came up with an arrangement that solved the problem and they made up. Julian went to the concert and John and Yoko joined up at the party afterward.

This pattern more or less continued through the 70’s.

Paul and John saw each other in LA in 1974 – there is(or is not – it’s authenticity is in doubt) a ‘bootleg’ of them jamming that makes its way around youtube; in any event, it’s not very good. Paul has said that he and Linda had just seen Yoko at that time, and he talked with John privately to see if they could ‘help get them back together, if that’s what John wanted.’ Paul did not know that John’s companion, May Pang, had been instrumental in arranging for John to get together with Paul again, and that they were planning to surprise Paul and Wings in New Orleans with John appearing onstage in what would have been more than just a surprise to Paul – it would have been a surprise to the world! Of course, John and Yoko did reunite and that was, as they say, that.

But there are little known twists to it. John and Paul lost their fathers within two weeks of each other in the spring of 1976 and spent some time with each other in NYC right afterward. That was when they ‘almost’ took a cab over to NBC studios to accept Lorne Michael’s ‘offer’ for the Beatles(or at least a few Beatles) to reunite on Saturday Night Live. By both accounts, they were very close to doing it, but decided ‘we were too tired.’ What is and will always remain sad, is that the voices who sang, ‘life is very short and there’s no time for fussing and fighting, my friend…’ thought that they had so much more time to ‘work things out’ than they did. George’s book did hurt John’s feelings, but how like John to forget that he had done his own fair share of hurting feelings, as well(when asked what he thought of All Things Must Pass, which was then the #1 album in the UK, the US and all over the world, John responded by asking the interviewer, ‘Do you like that kind of music? I don’t. I think the whole thing is rubbish; that’s why we only let him have one song per album.’). Problem is, as John would have said later, he didn’t really think that at all and George’s output on the albums had nothing to do with them restricting him from writing, his ability just didn’t develop at the same pace as that of Lennon & McCartney – a duo that would have intimated Rogers & Hammerstein in terms of sheer output and quality.

George did say in an interview that he didn’t hear that John was hurt by the omissions in his book until after John had been killed, but that it didn’t matter because he was ‘fairly certain [John] knew how I felt about him, and besides, it’s not like he’s dead to me anyway, he’s still just as alive as ever.’ The eastern philosophy that death is merely ‘taking off one set of clothes and putting on another’ seemed to give him a great deal of consolation about John’s death, although he said he never got over his anger and outrage over the way it happened.

And you’re right, of course, Paul and John’s relationship was much more complicated. George was the youngest in his birth family and with two older brothers he had certainly learned how to give as good as he got in terms of teasing and such in ways that must have worked in the group dynamic of the Beatles where he was the ‘baby’ Beatle. Paul and John didn’t have that dynamic. Even though John was older, he had recognized from the day they met that Paul was more gifted musically, more adept at composing. He could have been tempted by teenaged insecurities to ignore the new kid’s talent and not ask him to join the band, but he didn’t. Something in him recognized a kindred spirit. John was as much 'push' as 'pull' in his relationships and when Paul tried to reach out to him, John could be cold and brusque. Paul has said on numerous occasions, however, that at the end, which of course, they didn’t know was the end, things were very friendly. They talked on the phone about their kids, pets, their families in England, Scotland(which they both loved). Again, Paul mentioned this frequently and has even said it is his ‘only consolation.’

I can suggest some interviews on youtube, if you like that would shed some light on the depth of feeling when the others talk about John. There’s a lot of honesty(Ringo once said, ‘The man had the biggest heart in the world. He was crazy as hell some days, too, but I loved him.”) and George, in trying to describe how different Julian Lennon was from his father said, “Julian is very soft. John could be like… like… acid.  He was lovely, too, but he could be quite hard.”). I think that’s a good sign – the honesty and the refusal to paint John as ‘St. John,’ which let’s face it, John would have hated and then gone out of his way to prove how ‘horrible’ he was!

Two final points that are comforting. John’s half-sister, Julia Baird, has written several books about John and says in her latest that after a period of John trying to reconnect with his family in England and Scotland – the cousins he grew up with and his two half-sisters, he did become reclusive for a few years before he died. She intimates that Yoko was keeping him apart from his family, but you’ll have to read it yourself to see how you interpret it. But she does say, repeatedly, that John told her he had plans to traveln to England and Scotland after the new year – that would have been 1981, so Sean could meet his English family. And lastly, there is a tape – very brief, but instantly recognizable of John playing Octopus’s Garden for Sean and talking about the song… happily, lovingly. A little forgetful of the words(but John was always like that), but it’s a lovely moment and must have been taped very near to the time he was killed. It’s nice to imagine that had he gone home to England for that visit after New Year’s, he would have included his ‘Beatle brothers’ among the family he introduced to Sean.

Finally, if you can, imagine John’s reaction had one of the others been killed instead of him. Although John was an idealist, he seems always to have been a fatalist about his own life and yet, George was attacked in his home and Paul has had problems with stalkers, as well. Had it happened another way, John would have had a lifetime of regret for some of his words that he was just beginning to correct when he died. ‘Life is very short…’ indeed.


I did find the youtube clip I told you about with Paul at John's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. You have the text; these are excerpts from his presentation at the ceremony. I might note that it is a nice moment, but it was also to announce the Anthology project the next year, so I'm cynical enough to mix Paul's obvious emotion in putting the past aside with some realistic playing 'nice' for more practical reasons.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zno3x81HI08  
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Relationships Between The Beatles In Later Years

Postby Spengler » Tue Nov 15, 2016 5:34 pm

I would like to know if John and George ever reconciled before John's death.  I know John was hurt by George's book I Me Mine, and supposedly George did try to reach out to him.  Also, what was the state of John and Paul's relationship around the time of John's death?  Theirs was a very complex relationship that I have tried for a long time to grasp.

This is just for my own interest.  To think that there were hard feelings and unresolved pain among them is one of the saddest parts of the Beatles' story to me.
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