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This February 11, 1964 photo provided by Christie's auction house, from a collection of photos of The Beatles shot by photographer Mike Mitchell at the Washington Coliseum in Washington, D.C., shows Paul McCartney, left, and John Lennon during group's first US concert, two days after their Ed Sullivan appearance.

Mike Mitchell/AP

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!

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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

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