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Fans of The Beatles might have always been divided on who was their favourite out of the Fab Four during their heyday, but the acrimonious nature of their split and the petty fallout from it was something that no one could have fully foreseen. Although John Lennon and Paul McCartney might have always had something of a rivalry, for the most part, their friendship had come first, yet, after the band, their former closeness was an ever-distant memory.
When both embarked on post-Beatles solo careers, the pair made headlines by taking potshots at each other in their music and the media. Famously, McCartney attacked his former musical partner on his and his wife Linda’s 1971 album Ram, which kicked off another chapter of the feud with Lennon. This would lead to the ex-frontman of The Beatles replying with his own cutting swipes.
1970 was a significant year for Lennon and McCartney’s intense rivalry. It was the year that The Beatles ended. Following the mass of complex emotions, it involved for the quartet, all of the band members would release solo albums, diving headfirst into their futures and trying their hardest to put the past behind them. That year, McCartney released McCartney, Lennon arrived with John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, guitarist George Harrison produced All Things Must Pass, and even drummer Ringo Starr got in on the act with Sentimental Journey.
When speaking to Uncut in 2020, McCartney reflected on that momentous year. He was asked if he listened to his old bandmates’ solo material at the time. Here, he revealed that Plastic Ono Band stoked the “competitive” feeling he had towards John Lennon, who also reciprocated this sentiment when listening to McCartney.
“Yeah, I think we all listened to each other’s stuff,” McCartney recalled. “There was bitterness at the end of The Beatles, so we weren’t ringing each other up a lot. But then it gradually got better. It got better with all of them. I think we all just realised it was a bunch of bullshit, and we’d gone through it because it was a breakup which is like a divorce — very painful.”
“So, yeah, I did listen to George’s All Things Must Pass and everyone’s stuff,” he continued. “I would listen to John’s and think, ‘Ooh.’ That same old competitive thing would come back in.”
According to McCartney, Lennon still had the same competitive feeling a decade later when listening to ‘Coming Up’, the lead single from 1980’s McCartney II. This prompted him to write new music. Famously, the last album released in his lifetime was Double Fantasy, which arrived three weeks before his assassination in early December that year.
“I know it happened with him, but later on, because people who were working with him said when he heard ‘Coming Up,’ ‘Oh shit, Paul’s written a good one, I’ll have to write a good one,’” McCartney added. “So, yeah, we were aware of each other’s work.”The songwriting partnership had always relied on healthy competition, and now they had parted ways, that edge continued to leave its mark.
Listen to John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band below.