They remain the biggest band of all time. Yet the Beatles barely lasted a decade and imploded at the end of the 1960s amid rumours of feuds between the band members and their wives. When the devastating news was revealed in 1970, many fans blamed Lennon’s wife, Yoko Ono, for tearing the band apart. In a major unearthed interview from 1971, Lennon (with Yoko in the background) discusses the end of the band and the reports of fighting. But is he telling the truth?
Lennon immediately points out that he was with his first wife Cynthia when the Beatles started and it never affected the band. He said: “I was married before the Beatles left Liverpool and that never made a difference.”
The other Beatles would certainly have had some loyalty to Cynthia, who John married in 1962, and there was no denying Yoko was the reason that marriage ended. But many believed it was Yoko’s artistic career that drove a wedge between Lennon and the band as he put his second wife and her needs first.
Lennon admitted: “Cyn didn’t have a career like Yoko does.” But he pointed out the George Harrison’s wife had a very successful modelling career:” Patty (Boyd) had a career and that never upset it…”
But was there a growing division between the wives?
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Lennon and McCartney both married in 1969 and it has become common to associate this with the dissolution of the band.
Yet, Lennon said: “It has nothing to do with wives. If it is Yoko and Linda’s fault for breaking up the Beatles, can they have the credit for the great music each of us has made individually?”
He also insisted: “How can two women split up four strong men? It’s impossible.”
But did the wives fight among themselves?
Lennon is insistent: “Linda and Yoko never had an argument ever.” (Yoko can be heard in the background agreeing).
This may be true but later letters and interviews also reveal that both Lennon and McCartney were frustrated by the influence exerted by each other’s wives.
When manager Brian Epstein died in 1967, all the band members except McCartney wanted to hire Allen Klein. McCartney wanted to hire Linda’s brother and father, Lee and John Eastman, but was overruled.
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Over the next two years, relationships between all four band members deteriorated but the worst division was between Lennon and McCartney.
An angry letter from Lennon replying to a previous missive from his bandmate is filled with furious attacks on Linda and her family, who he believed had too much influence over McCartney and is also behind teh latest letter: “Linda – if you don’t care what I say – shut up! – let Paul write.”
He is also enraged that Paul and Linda continue to refuse to acknowledge Yoko, ending the letter “P.S. about addressing your letter just to me – STILL….!!!”
Yoko and Linda may not have fought directly but they had both pulled their husbands in new directions.
As Lennon said in the 1971 interview: “It’s like a rugby team. Sometimes you just have to get married and leave the boys on a Saturday night. That’s just how it is.”
Of course, George Harrison and Ringo Starr also had their own frustrations rooted in their desires to be more prominent and creatively involved in the band and all four members were increasingly unhappy at how little money they had ever received, due to bad management and unfavourable contracts.
Ultimately, though, all four really wanted to explore their own music and creative choices.
LISTEN TO THE FULL JOHN LENNON INTERVIEW WITH DAVID WIGG HERE
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