Thursday, May 30, 2024

Paul McCartney Continues to Seek Peace with Yoko Ono


Paul McCartney continues his efforts to mend fences and seek detente with Yoko Ono. McCartney’s given David Frost (still going at it, god bless him) an hour long interview that will be shown on Al Jazeera, of all places. The UK Guardian reports that McCartney now absolves Yoko of breaking up the Beatles in 1969-70.

Most Beatles fans do blame Ono for the breakup. Part of the problem was that as the Beatles were breaking up, Ed Sullivan introduced a video (a music video) in March 1970 of the Beatles performing the song “Let it Be.” This mysterious, grave looking little woman was seated next to John Lennon– and looking quite ominous.

The “Let it Be” video speaks volumes: Ringo can’t be seen in it. George Harrison, always the diplomat, fakes a guitar solo. Lennon looks bored, is barely involved. The video is important because for the first and only time another musician appears in it: Billy Preson, playing the organ. Preston never received any royalties for any work he did with the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. But he’s the acknowledged “fifth Beatle,” the only person ever listed with them on a record label. (With the Stones, both Keith Richards and Mick Jagger have said that Preston invented the riff for “Miss You.”)

But for Yoko to be in that video was the height of audacity. It sparked worldwide hatred among Beatles fans. The acrimony between Ono and McCartney since Lennon’s death is legendary. But time heals all wounds. McCartney has softened considerably to her, and Ono has made the effort: she has been invited to all of his New York concerts, Grammy ceremonies,. etc. At first when you saw her at a McCartney event or occasion it was a shock. But people mellow over time. Ono for example was extremely cordial for the first time in print this year about Lennon’s relationship with May Pang.

As for the Beatles: they had gone as far as they could together. In retrospect, after making “Sgt. Pepper,” the white album, “Abbey Road,” and “Let it Be,” what more could they do?

However: there was a moment that tipped the group into oblivion. It involved Paul and his father in law, attorney Lee Eastman, having surreptitiously purchased a larger amount of stock in what was then Lennon and McCartney’s publishing company. Allen Klein knew this, and had it read aloud at a meeting with the main parties. Lennon became infuriated–he and Paul always had an agreement to have equal numbers of shares. When he heard that Paul had bought a huge number of shares, Lennon freaked out and left. That was the end.

In 1990 I wrote a profile of Paul and Linda McCartney, both of whom I liked and admired. I asked Paul if he could change anything, would he have told Lennon about the purchase or not even done it? He told me: “No, I was investing in myself.” I don’t know if he’s changed his mind since then but I doubt it. What was done was done. And at least financially, no one has suffered. The Beatles’ legacy has thrived. Of course, Lennon and Harrison’s deaths are the great tragedies. But it’s doubtful the Beatles would really have reunited– they could never live up the legend.

In the Frost interview apparently McCartney says he feels like retiring. But I doubt that will happen. He loves to perform live. If you’ve seen him in the last couple of years, you know how amazing his shows are. He makes zillions of dollars. But it’s his romance with the audience that propels him. Let’s hope he was just feeling wistful that day.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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