It was 43 years ago tonight (April 24th, 1976) that John Lennon and Paul McCartney last saw each other. Over the course of the previous two years, relations between the two chief Beatles had warmed considerably, with the pair spending time together both in Los Angeles and in Manhattan. Prior to returning to Yoko Ono after their infamous 14-month separation, in early 1975, Lennon was planning to travel to New Orleans to record with McCartney, who was then working on Wings' Venus And Mars album. Paul and Linda McCartney had last visited the Lennon's at their apartment in the Dakota apartments around Christmas, 1975.
On April 24th, 1976, Lennon and McCartney — with Yoko and Linda — watched Saturday Night Live as producer Lorne Michaels offered the Beatles a whopping $3,000 to reunite on the show. They briefly considered heading to Rockefeller Center where the show was being performed, as a gag, but in the end passed due to being too tired. The two last spoke on the phone in early 1980.
In 2011, Paul McCartney went on recall to The Express the last time he saw Lennon: “I was at John's place and Saturday Night Live was on and John said to me, 'Have you seen this?' I hadn't, I was living in England, he was living in America. He said, 'No, they're offering us money to get back together — Lorne Michaels came on the show last week.' And John said, 'We should go down, just you and me. We'll just show up. There's only two of us, we'll take half the money.' For a second we were like, 'Shall we do it?' I don't know what stopped us. It would've been work and we were having a night off so we elected to not go to work. It was a nice idea. We nearly did it.”
Sadly, the following day, McCartney turned up again at the Dakota to hang out with Lennon, who dismissed him, explaining that he was busy with his young son Sean, and that it wasn't “like 1956, and could you please call before stopping by?” The pair's relationship once again became strained following the incident.
A fictionalized account of Lennon & McCartney's final meeting, called Two Of Us, was premiered on VH1 in 2000. The movie, which was directed by Let It Be's Michael Lindsay-Hogg, starred Aidan Quinn as McCartney and Jared Harris as Lennon.
The end of the Beatles came in late-1970 when McCartney sued the other Beatles to dissolve their partnership — which ultimately saved the group its fortune. McCartney admits that Lennon quitting the Beatles in September 1969 left him devastated on multiple fronts: “The biggest trouble for me, I mean, there's no denying it, was the breakup of the Beatles, y'know? It totally screwed my head for years — and it would yours, too. In fact, I'm lucky to have survived it, in truth. 'Cause, it really isn't easy having the top job one second, the next day someone just says, 'We're breaking the group up.' And you haven't got a job. And I mean, I actually got with it to Scotland for a while, 'cause I just couldn't handle being around London and the music business and the people saying, 'Well, when are you getting together with the lads, Paul?' That was the big question.”
McCartney shed light on the personal demons Lennon dealt with growing up and spoke about the difficult family life Lennon came from: “Yeah, I mean, the truth is, John was really a great guy and really a nice fella; but fame is a crazy thing and when you get the kind of fame that the Beatles got, if you’re not that stable — it’s tough. Now, if you look at John for his stability, you gotta look at a guy whose mother left him. . . his father left home then he was three, he was brought up by his auntie and his uncle; his auntie was living but the uncle died. Then, his mother, who used to live nearby was visiting one night, she left, she got run over by a drunken policeman and got killed stone dead when he was 16, his first marriage failed, so, y’know. . . And on top of all that, it’s remarkable that he was as straight as he was, really.”
McCartney biographer Christopher Sanford told us that throughout the 1970's, the Beatles kept close tabs on each other's respective work — with John Lennon and Paul McCartney never missing an opportunity to pour over and analyze one another's solo albums thoroughly: “John always critiqued Paul's albums, either in public or between the two of them. And I found that one of the most poignant aspects of the whole '70s, y'know, relationship — or non-relationship. They always deconstructed each other's records. They had to have the latest album immediately shipped to them from the other party. And they would often do these very minute sort of deconstructions of each track.”
With artists now taking prolonged absences from the music business for a multitude of reasons, in the mid-1970's, for someone of John Lennon's stature to put his recording career on pause to become a stay-at-home dad for half a decade was simply unprecedented. Shortly before his death, Lennon admitted that it took a while to ease into his new life, and spoke about where his head was at in 1976: “The first half-a-year or year, I had this feeling in the back of my mind that ‘I ought to, I ought to’ –– and I’d go through periods of panic because I was not in the NME or the Billboard or being seen at Studio 54 with Mick and Bianca (Jagger). Y’know, I just didn’t exist anymore. I got a little fear of that would come, like a paranoia. And then it would go away, because I’d be involved with the baby, or I’d be involved with whatever other business that I’d be involved with. But that only lasted about nine months and then it was suddenly, like a . . . ‘oh.’ It just went away, and then I realized there was a life (laughs) after death. I mean, there was a life without it.”
John Lennon's mid-'70s companion May Pang recalled many nights during his infamous “Lost Weekend” when Lennon and McCartney socialized in L.A. and New York City. Pang's recent photo book Instamatic Karma features one of the only photos taken of Lennon and McCartney after the Beatles' 1970 split. She told us that a Beatles reunion — particularly a Lennon/ McCartney reunion — was never far from her mind: “Getting him back with Paul. Paul was the biggest, obviously. And I almost got them to write. It was in January of '75, we had seen Paul and Linda (McCartney), and we'd go out to dinner, they'd come by the house. And one morning he's thinking and he says, “Hey, I wanna ask you something' and I said 'What?' he said, 'Do you think I should write with Paul again? I was just thinking — what do you think?' And I said, 'The two of you, solo-wise, you're good, but when the two of you get together there's a magic that can't be broken.” He just sort of looked at me and went, 'Yeah.'”
Paul McCartney admitted that he and John Lennon making peace and eventually coming together as friends in the 1970’s helped him get through the horror of Lennon’s 1980 murder: “He and I eventually made it up. And I used to phone him in New York — y’know, after all the arguments were over. And we, we got to be friends again and it was nice — long distance friends — but still friends. And I could phone him and say, ‘What are you doin’ now?’ He’d say, ‘Oh, I’m just baking some bread’ — ‘Baking bread? Oh, I’ve done that!’ Or he’d say, ‘Oh, I’m just feedin’ the cats’ — he liked cats, y’know? I’d say, ‘Well, I’ve got a couple of dogs’ — and, y’know, we’d talk about ordinary things and that brought us back together again. Because, when we talked about business it always ended up: ‘Your business. . . my business. . . what are you doing. . . what am I doing (makes exploding sound).’ It was crazy. Business is like that — y’know, can be, anyway. But it was very good actually. It was the one thing when he died, was that we had got our friendship back together again. So, that was a big consolation for me.”
AUDIO: PAUL MCCARTNEY ON MAKING PEACE WITH JOHN LENNON
AUDIO: MAY PANG ON JOHN LENNON WANTING TO WRITE WITH PAUL MCCARTNEY IN 1975
AUDIO: JOHN LENNON ON RETIRING
AUDIO: CHRISTOPHER SANFORD ON JOHN LENNON & PAUL MCCARTNEY CRITIQUING EACH OTHER’S WORK
AUDIO: PAUL MCCARTNEY ON JOHN LENNON’S STABILITY
AUDIO: PAUL MCCARTNEY ON DEALING WITH THE BEATLES’ BREAKUP