Paul McCartney: "I had been able to accept Yoko sitting on a blanket in front of my amp… but then when we broke up, John turned nasty"

(Image credit: Cummings Archives/Redfern)

Paul McCartney's recent BBC Radio 4 show yielded some fascinating insight into the Beatle's mindset during the band's 1970. 

We've already heard from him that it was John Lennon who instigated the split, but now on the Inside The Songs programme he's spoken out about the acrimonious situation following the dissolution of the band and the solo songs inspired by it.

"'Too Many People, this song was written a year or so after the Beatles break-up," McCartney explains of the track from his 1971's album Ram. "At the time, John [Lennon] was firing missiles at me with his songs, and one or two of them were quite cruel.

"I don't know what he hoped to gain, other than punch me in the face, the whole thing really annoyed me," McCartney admits, reading from his commentary in new book – The Lyrics: 1956 To The Present. 

"I decided to turn my missiles on him too, but I'm not really that kind of writer, so it was quite veiled. It was the 1970s equivalent of what might today be called a diss track.

We had a lot going on for us in The Beatles, and what actually split us up is the business stuff

"An idea of too many people preaching practices, it was definitely aimed at John telling everyone what they ought to do," continues McCartney in the reading. 

"I just got fed up being told what to do, so I wrote this song… The first verse and the chorus have pretty much all the anger I could muster, and when I did the vocal on the second line, 'Too many reaching for a piece of cake,' I remember singing it as 'piss off cake,' which you can hear if you really listen to it.

 "Again, I was getting back at John but my heart wasn't really in it. 'You've made this break so good luck with it,' it was pretty mild, I didn't really come out with any savagery. 

"It's actually a fairly upbeat song, it doesn't really sound that vitriolic. And if you didn't know the story, I don't know that you'd be able to guess at the anger behind its writing.

"It was all a bit weird and a bit nasty, and I basically said, 'Let's be sensible,' continues McCartney. "We had a lot going on for us in The Beatles, and what actually split us up is the business stuff, and that's pretty pathetic, really. "So let's just try and be peaceful, let's maybe give peace a chance...

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"'Too many people sharing party lines," quotes McCartney from the lyrics, "too many people are grabbing for a slice of cake and a piece of the pie...' The sleeping late thing, whether that was accurate, whether John and Yoko [Ono] actually slept in late or not, I'm not sure. 

"The thing is, so much of what they held to be truth was crap. 'War is over', well no it isn't. But I get what [they were] saying, war was over if you want it to be. So if enough people want war to be over, it'll be over? I'm not sure that's entirely true but it's a great sentiment.

John showed up and said he'd met this guy Allen Klein… and then the matter of fact, John told us he was leaving the band

"I had been able to accept Yoko in the studio sitting on a blanket in front of my amp," continues McCartney. "I worked hard to come to terms with that, but then when we broke up and everyone was now flailing around, John turned nasty. I don't really understand why. Maybe because we grew up in Liverpool where it was always good to get the first punch in the fight.

The Lyrics: 1956 To The Present, written by Paul McCartney with Irish poet Paul Muldoon as editor, is out now. 

Hear McCartney's full Inside The Songs episode on BBC Radio 4.

5 songs guitarists need to hear by… The Beatles

Paul McCartney

(Image credit: Allen Lane)
Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.