John Lennon and Paul McCartney met in 1957. Their long and brilliant collaboration, though marked by deep friendship, was always vexed by competitiveness and conflicting personalities. Their problems came to a head in 1971, which is probably when the following long letter (only partly reproduced here) to Paul and Linda McCartney was written. Lennon seems to be responding to a letter from Linda about money, the breakup of the band, his relationship with Yoko Ono, and the MBE the Beatles had received, and which embarrassed John.
Dear Linda and Paul,
I was reading your letter and wondering what middle aged cranky Beatles fan wrote it. I resisted looking at the last page to find out. I kept thinking who is it? Queenie? Stuart’s mother? … What the hell – it’s Linda!
You really think the press are beneath me/you? Do you think that? Who do you think we/you are? The “self-indulgent __ doesn’t realize who he is hurting” bit – I hope you realize what shit you and the rest of my “kind and unselfish” friends laid on Yoko and me, since we’ve been together. It might have been a bit more subtle or should I say “middle class” – but not often. We both rose above it quite a few times – & forgave you two – so it’s the least you can do for us – you noble people. Linda – if you don’t care what I say – shut up! – let Paul write. …
Do you really think most of today’s art came about because of the Beatles? – I don’t believe you’re that insane – Paul – do you believe that? When you stop believing it you might wake up? Didn’t we always say we were part of the movement – not all of it? Of course we changed the world – but try and follow it through – GET OFF YOUR GOLD DISC AND FLY!
From The John Lennon Letters, edited by Hunter Davies (Little, Brown). All rights reserved