Paul’s touching speech inducting John into the 1994 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In the early ‘90s, Harrison and Apple Records manager Neil Aspinall asked Yoko Ono if she had any unreleased Lennon demos the other Beatles could use as the basis for possible new Beatle songs. When McCartney came to New York to induct Lennon into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, Ono gave him two cassette tapes that featured demos of “Free as a Bird,” “Real Love,” “Now and Then,” and “Grow Old With Me.”
The reunited Beatles did not gravitate towards “Grow Old With Me,” perhaps because it was strongly linked to Ono, and had already been prominently released on 1984’s Milk and Honey. The group tackled “Free as a Bird,” then “Real Love,” and McCartney was keen to tackle the final and most incomplete of all the Lennon demos, “Now and Then.” However, Harrison didn’t like that one. He and McCartney tried to write a song together called “All for Love” in the spring of 1995, but the session ended in fierce argument. “It’s just like being back in the Beatles,” Harrison cracked dourly, and the threesome never recorded together again.
McCartney loved harmonizing with Lennon on “Now and Then,” and has since expressed a desire to do a version with Starr. While he has never formally attempted to do a version himself, he may have also borrowed a moment of drama from Lennon’s performance for the final song of his 2005 album Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, “Anyway.” The pregnant pause of “Anyway” at 1:40 sounds vaguely reminiscent of the haunting piano passage Lennon plays 4:30 into “Now and Then” …
Yes? No? Not buying it? Well, anyway, when arranging “Anyway,” McCartney pretended he was a Southern Randy Newman, with a little Curtis Mayfield thrown in. From the earliest days McCartney would imagine himself to be the artists he loved when writing a new song, like when he pretended to be Ray Charles and Little Richard while composing “She’s a Woman” on the way in to Abbey Road Studios. Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich gave McCartney a pure, classy piano sound, then upped the emotion even further at the bridge with the addition of the Millenia Ensemble strings, a Moog synth, and harmonium mixed just right.
1970: Not the happiest year for either of them.
Even though they had just split up as a band, Lennon and McCartney’s debuts were very similar — dark, stripped down albums. They were both extensions of what the Beatles had tried to achieve with the Get Back/Let It Be sessions, which had been inspired by Bob Dylan. In 1967 the orchestral grandeur of Sgt. Pepper had stunned the public, and most of the rock community slavishly attempted to imitate it. Dylan, however, went in an entirely different direction with John Wesley Harding, a rustic, folksy album that featured just him, a bassist, and a drummer. The Beatles realized they had lost connection with the raw power of their roots and made their own back-to-basics album with Let It Be. Both Plastic Ono Band and McCartney continued this approach. Plastic Ono Band featured just Lennon, Starr, and Klaus Voormann on bass. McCartney went one better by playing every instrument on his album. Along with the minimalist sound, both albums share a theme of isolation.
Lennon chronicled the feelings unleashed by the Primal Scream psychotherapy he was undergoing at the time. During the recording sessions, Lennon would sometimes break down crying, but found the process to be one of the most empowering experiences of his life.
But while Lennon was excited to face a new era, a heavy depression pervades McCartney. The album’s cover features “life’s cherries” scattered outside the bowl.
Released just half a year after Abbey Road, half of McCartney’s tracks are instrumentals, since McCartney had not generated enough new songs to fill an album. Thus his album continues to receive mixed reviews, while Lennon’s is now recognized as a classic, though it was mercilessly spoofed at the time by National Lampoon as “Magical Misery Tour.”
In marked contrast to the minimalist Lennon and McCartney solo albums, Harrison stood out with the explosive bombast of his triple album set All Things Must Pass, just as he once stood out from the others through his use of Indian music. Its Phil Spector-produced Wall of Sound was the perfect backdrop for a musician who had been ignored and was now determined to make as big a splash as possible. (Though Harrison would later regret using so much echo.)
In 1976, promoter Bill Sargent offered the Beatles $50 million for one reunion show. Then Sid Bernstein, the promoter of the Beatles’ Shea Stadium concerts Sid Bernstein, asked them to reunite for a benefit concert for Cambodian refugees, which he estimated would raise $230 million.
So on April 24, 1976, Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels appeared on the live show to offer the Beatles $3,000.00 to reunite. “Divide [the money] up any way you want,” he said. “If you want to give less to Ringo, that’s up to you.”
Lennon told Playboy, “Paul and I were together watching that show. He was visiting us at our place in the Dakota. We were watching it and almost went down to the studio, just as a gag … He and Linda walked in, and he and I were just sitting there, watching the show, and we went, ‘Ha-ha, wouldn’t it be funny if we went down?’”
McCartney later recalled, “[John] said, ‘We should go down there. We should go down now and just do it.’ It was one of those moments where we said, ‘Let’s not and say we did.’ “[i]
Lennon said, “We nearly got into a cab, but we were actually too tired …”
The SNL night was the last time Lennon saw McCartney. “That was a period when Paul just kept turning up at our door with a guitar. I would let him in, but finally I said to him, ‘Please call before you come over. It’s not 1956 and turning up at the door isn’t the same anymore. You know, just give me a ring.’ He was upset by that, but I didn’t mean it badly. I just meant that I was taking care of a baby all day and some guy turns up at the door.”[ii]
In 2000, VH-1 made a good movie about the SNL evening called The Two of Us, written by long-time fan Mark Stanfield. The movie was primarily one long conversation between Lennon and McCartney over the course of the day as they hang out at the Dakota then wander around New York and return in time for the show. (Linda and Ono are not present.)
It was directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who had done the Beatles film Let It Be. As he actually knew Lennon, he was able to help Jared Harris in probably the most convincing portrait of the prickly Lennon yet to appear on film. Aidan Quinn did well as Paul McCartney, and McCartney later told him that he liked the film. (A 2000 British TV movie called In His Life: The John Lennon Story starring Philip McQuillen also did a good job of showing all facets of his personality.)
Here’s a clip of the ending. (As I got it off You Tube, it starts in the middle of the prior scene …)
Though they no longer hung out in person, the ex-partners still spoke on the phone about cats and babies, though their relations could be rocky. After one heated conversation, McCartney thought Lennon was affecting a “tough American” pose, so Macca snapped, “Fuck off, Kojak!” and slammed down the receiver.
One Beatle did make it to SNL in 1976, however – George Harrison, who did beautiful duets of “Here Comes the Sun” and “Homeward Bound” with Paul Simon.
Here’s an interesting fan clip from You Tube:
“This is how I think it would have sounded if they went forward that fateful moment. I took John Lennon’s original track from 1975’s “Rock and Roll” album and Paul McCartney’s live performance from the 1991 “Unplugged” bootleg. I had to speed up Paul’s track to match John’s as he had performed it significantly slower.”
1. “And in the End …” Vh1.com 2000, http://www.vh1.com/artists/news/1436073/20000201/beatles.jhtml (10 Oct. 2011).
2. David Sheff, “January 1981 Playboy Interview,” John-Lennon.com, http://www.john-lennon.com/playboyinterviewwithjohnlennonandyokoono.htm (10 Oct. 2011).